Harber Photography: San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photography

Gabriel Harber of Harber Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area is one of those photographers that I’m sort of consistently surprised that the APW community is lucky enough to be able to hire to shoot their weddings. Gabriel’s work is so amazing that it always seems to me that he should only be selling his work in art galleries, or that he should be one of those crazy “celebrity” wedding photographers that I assume wear funny sunglasses indoors at all times and charge $20K just to show up and stand near your wedding. But Gabriel, in fact, only wears funny hats and sometimes a funny moustache, and charges a totally reasonable amount to show up and shoot the shit out of your wedding.

The thing about Gabriel’s work is that it flat out doesn’t look like anyone else’s work out there. If I had to pick a few things that I thought he was dead brilliant at, I would say that he does really soulful portraits in an amazing way that I never see anywhere else. And I’d also tell you that his party shots are hands down amazing, possibly because this is a person who knows how to get in the middle of the party and work it. Oh! And men. He shoots guys and just nails it. Want sexy or just damn good-looking pictures of (depending on your wedding) your partner, groomsman, all the men you love in your life? Harber Photography is going to make that happen. And all of Gabriel’s work has this crisp, art house quality that somehow captures something happening way below the surface.

But! But! Today is not just talking about Harber Photography and how great Gabriel’s work is. There is also news! The thing is, I actually met Gabriel the year he decided to become a photographer. In, uh, 1999. (We’ve known each other a long time, now, it seems. Possibly I am no longer nineteen, in fact.) Back when I met him, Gabriel was shooting on all film, because well, that’s what you did if you were a serious photographer in 1999. He shot these amazing fine art photos, he shot on film, and developed all of his own work in the darkroom. I have a small obsession with film (I think it captures something that digital doesn’t quite) and with photographers who are darkroom trained (I somehow think their eyes work differently). So I’ve been on a campaign to get Gabriel shooting film at your weddings. Well. Never say APW doesn’t work for you, because I teamed up with Elizabeth at Lowe House just to convince him to bend to our will and shoot film. And now, you guys, HE IS. So if you didn’t have reason enough to book him before, now you kind of have to.

I asked Gabriel to explain to us what it is about film, why he shoots it, and what the magic thing about it is, and he explained thusly, “I started shooting film as a kid… because that is all that existed back then. Once I started getting ‘into’ photography, I took some black and white photo classes and developed my own film and made prints in a dark room. It is funny shooting with people who started shooting digital and have now recently discovered film. Film is great, and it sucks. The sucky part is having to deal with the physical negatives and film. Where to put it, how to keep it dust free. Etc. It is awesome for lots of reasons. But that is neither here nor there. When I shoot film I have to imagine what the picture I am taking will look like. I feel like it forces me to more keenly observe action. There is no immediate feedback from the back of the camera… and that is kind of cool. I actually don’t feel that it is that different from shooting digital (while being totally different). There is something incredibly sexy about the sound and feel of the shutter from my little Minolta X700.” Also? There is something sexy about photos taken on film, if you ask me, and obviously you want sexy film wedding photos to put on your wall.

But I don’t want you to just take my word on what working with Gabriel is like. APW-er Beth (she of the two kick-ass wedding pictures above), said this, “Gabriel has an amazing eye, and was able to anticipate potential lighting and visual problems, as well as unique opportunities, before and during our wedding. He was able to capture the emotional essence and beautiful moments of what our wedding day felt like to us, as well as provide us with dynamic portraits of our family members. Beyond his talent for taking stunning photos, Gabriel is a joy to work with, bringing positive energy, hilarious stories and solid communication. He puts his heart into what he does, and it shows. Thank you Gabriel, it was a privilege to have you photograph our wedding”

It’s been a joy for me to watch someone that I’ve known, and whose work I’ve admired since I was a teenager, find his place within the APW community. It’s like watching worlds collide (the best feeling). It makes good sense to me that someone I like to hang out with is also someone who you guys love having shoot your wedding.

I mean, Gabriel is not your average wedding photographer. He may show up to your meeting coming straight from trapeze class with a baby in tow. (Ok, that’s cheating. He might not bring babies to meetings, but that really just means you miss out.) He’s no bullshit, in the very best way. And half the time he has a handlebar moustache. Why wouldn’t y’all click with a photographer like that?

I asked Gabriel why he liked APW couples, and bless him, he told me why he liked working with you guys… and why he liked working with all his clients (you have to love that kind of loyalty). He said, “I want to say that APW couples are the bomb, that they tend to shrug off convention and create the type of wedding that they want and not the type of wedding that they feel that they are suppose to create… but to be honest, I think most of my couples fall into that category. For the most part the people who hire me are laid-back, interested in doing things their way, and not super attached to having the ‘perfect’ anything.  They typically are somewhat budget aware, have an aspect of DYI, and generally want to have a fun party.”

But it’s not just that Gabriel genuinely enjoys working with you guys, but that the greater APW community likes working with him. Beth loved him, and Elizabeth of Lowe House Events (my partner in crime for the “please shoot film at weddings” conversation) said, “Gabriel is one of my favorite photographers to work with—his finished photos are consistently stunning (as in, I want to hang them on my wall), he always gives me clear input on what he needs leading up to the wedding (i.e. more portrait time built into the schedule), and is gracious about taking direction and suggestions from me (i.e make sure you get shots of those place cards, because the bride spent a bunch of time on them). He’s also become one of my favorite people to hang out with over a vendor meal—things are never boring when he’s around.” (And on the last point: truth. And having someone fascinating as your wedding photographer? I’d argue it’s always a good thing.)

And finally, let’s talk money. Harber Photography‘s wedding packages start at $1,500 for city hall weddings (yay!), $2,900 for small weddings with guest lists under forty people, and at $3,800 for the whole big thing.

And those photos? They’ll last you a lifetime. (Literally. I have photos of Gabriel’s from a decade ago hanging around, so scout’s honor).

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