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Crystaline Photography and Video
How does one go about choosing a photographer for their wedding… there are a lot of lists out there to give you some ideas on what to look for. Most of them say to look for someone with experience, insurance, back-up equipment, etc. So I’m not going to touch on qualifications in this blog post. I figure once you weed out the contenders by their qualifications and the price point for your budget the next thing you are going to look at is their style of work. And really there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s really choosing the photographer whose photos speak to you and what you like.
Last week I overheard a bride talking to her bridesmaids at a bridal show we did and her conversation went something like this ” I looked at the venue’s preferred photographer and his work was so bright and washed out. I don’t know, I didn’t like it so I went to such and such’s site and and their photos were bright and colorful….” Just listening to her talk I knew immediately that my blog post was going to be about “Style” this month! From early on while I was in photography school myself and fellow students were encouraged to develop a style. In other words, ” a way we saw the world in our photographs.” Close to twenty years ago there were only two categories for wedding photography: Film or Digital and then in the last ten-fifteen years or so film sort of went out the door and it became traditional or photo-journalistic. Now there has become a wide arrange of photographic styles and even a resurgence of film photography! I can kind of see the appeal for film photography again since it is so different from what’s out there nowadays. Film photography has such a different feel to it than digital, but it also has a lot more challenges. The number one challenge is not being able to see the image until it’s processed after the wedding! So if you go this route you better make sure the photographer you hire knows what they are doing because they won’t be able to double check the image as they are going along! This is the number one reason photographers would get out of shooting weddings in the film years! And the other large hurdle is the cost of film and processing. When I started out photographing weddings twenty years ago if you shot it with film you maybe took 100-300 images and they had to be very deliberate. One photo of the cake, two photos of the first dance. With digital I can take as many as I want to get the best shot… and probably the number one reason I will never go back to shooting film for weddings! While I love the feel you get when you are processing an image in the darkroom, I hated the stress of waiting to see if I got a usable shot for someone’s wedding! No thanks!
As far as digital goes… there are so many ways you can shoot a wedding with a digital camera and the look is pretty much all done after the wedding in the post processing through Photoshop. I thought I’d touch on what’s most popular right now and what my style is and why I prefer it! But first touching on the three different approaches to actually photographing the wedding:
Traditional – A traditional photographer typically will photograph the parts of the wedding that are most important. They may go off a list of the most important shots to the client and may focus heavily on posed portraits. They might have a modern take on the posed portraits, but a lot of what you will see is basic wedding coverage. Someone who considers themselves only a traditional photographer might spend a lot of time with setting up groupings and poses and might not be very good at capturing the emotion of a moment.
Photo-journalistic – A true photo-journalist will never stage a photograph. They will only document things as they happen. Since the term comes from newspaper and magazine photographers you may want to imagine the style of someone documenting an event purely for shock and awe. If having some family photos taken at your event is important to you then I would stay away from someone who says they only do photo-journalism style of shooting. Photojournalists usually do not like taking staged photos at all and may not be willing to do any group portraits.
Mixed Artistic & Documentary – This is the best of both styles. This is a person who is willing to photograph what the client wants, while putting their own artistic spin on the photographs. They will also focus on documenting the entire day much like a photo-journalist. Sometimes a photography company will offer two photographers. One photographer will concentrate mainly on getting the must have traditional shots while the other may spend more time capturing candid moments. This is the way we approach every wedding we’re hired for (even if it’s just one photographer). We do a little bit of the “traditional” poses because it’s the only way to guarantee a shot with grandma and then a whole lot of documenting everything that happened on your special day. From close-ups of your wedding accessories to fun photos of your guests dancing!
Styles of Post-Processing Photos After the Wedding –
Straight Out of the Camera – This will be the cheapest available from the photographers out there… If someone is charging $500 or less for a full day of shooting 6 Hours or longer, more than likely this is what you will be getting. They are what we call the shoot and burn photographers. They will download your images and hand you a disk with the photos with nothing done to them to improve the image. If you find someone who will do more than that for that price snatch them up because they will be burnt out before too long!
Light & Airy – Or what I like to call bright and overexposed. Sometimes I really like these images and then other times I look at them and think how much better the photos would look if the background was just a bit darker and not washed out. Often times the photographer will de-saturate the colors in the photos to make the colors more pastel in tone. The photos tend to have a dreamy feel to them, which I think can work for some photos (including the one below), but if it’s done on an entire wedding can be a little bit too much. This trend typically leads to images with super bright highlights, little contrast, and a more whimsical feel.
Moody & Dark – A relatively newer style in wedding photography is the dark and moody way of editing the images. So it’s the exact opposite of the light and airy look. I sort of compare it to watching a dark Batman movie or murder mystery flick. Really, what the photo editor is doing is editing the photos so that the color is gone and replaced with greys. Again, with some images this can be cool, but doing it on an entire wedding I think is going to date your photos. Much like selective coloring on black & white images back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a fad. Do you really want to go back and look at your images and go, wow I should not have gone so trendy!?
Classic/Natural – This is processing the photos closest to the truest color and exposure of the day so that the photos match the natural look of the surroundings. I say that the images will look classic which means ten years from now you won’t be going through your wedding album and go “ugh” look at how dark my wedding images were because I went with the trendy fad that was popular at the time. Your photos will look as good as the day you took them! This is the style that we aim for… correct exposures, colors that are true to how they looked on the day of your wedding which will give you timeless images that you will cherish for years to come!
So after 18 years in the business, I really have developed a style! It’s a hybrid of the traditional and photo-journalistic styles… Or what I like to call documentary storytelling! Along with an appreciation for classic naturally edited images! So now you know what the different types of “styles” there are in wedding photography… I even think there are more than what I listed as I also found one called “Adventurous Style” which I guess is like hiring someone who works for National Geographic to photograph your wedding (often times an elopement because I don’t think many guests are going to hike a peak to watch you get married). Hopefully, this will help you discern what kind of photographer will work the best for your vision… and if my style appeals to you please check us out!
Oh and by the way, I’m not opposed to adventure… just haven’t had much opportunity for it in the wedding world! I would love to go climb a mountain top with the right couple! Most of us photographers are willing to do just about anything to get “the” shot!
Almost every girl dreams of having a spectacular wedding when they are little. Maybe for my age range seeing Princess Diane’s big day televised created an idea in our heads about large elaborate affairs with cathedral length gowns! Whatever it is was we all have some idea of what we want, but when it comes to actual execution and spending the money than we can’t always afford it. I’ve helped a few friends keep their dream weddings in the realm of something they can afford without having to take out a loan so I thought I would also give a few tips to those looking to keep their wedding at $10,000 or less. Here are some ideas –
1.) The First Big Expense is the Venue! If you blow your entire budget on this then you won’t be able to afford much else so I think the trick to this is to be open to many possibilities. In Colorado the most expensive venues are going to be the most beautiful and probably in the mountains. So if you dreamed of getting married on a mountain top, but can’t afford Vail prices then here are a couple ideas.
Sapphire Point in Dillon, CO – This is an overlook point in between Silverthorne & Breckenridge that looks over lake Dillon. It has a stunning view which is amazing for photos and right now only costs $120! Here’s some of the downsides: 1.) It’s an incredibly small area so you can’t have a lot of guests. 2.) You can’t do a whole lot of decorating, etc. 3.) It’s still remains open to the public so you can have hikers and other lookey loos walk through the middle of your ceremony. If you’re having a small event and are willing to deal with some of the pitfalls it’s an amazing place to hold your wedding ceremony!
State & City Parks – There are a lot of amazing places to hold weddings in the city parks that won’t cost an arm and a leg. City Park Pavilion, Washington Park Boat House and Cheeseman Park are just a few that I know of in Denver. Again one of the things that you can not avoid using one of these locations is that the parks remain open to the public while you are hosting your event, but at these locations I tend to see most park goers avoid the party out of respect for the people getting married. The costs of the Denver parks have gone up over the years, but are still going to be less than a facility that caters specifically to weddings.
A Private Residence or B&B – Do you know a friend or a relative with a rather large property that can host your event? I’ve covered weddings in back yards of all shapes and sizes! One couple got married at the Denver Botanic Gardens and held their reception in the back-yard of their modest ranch style home. Another held their ceremony in their parents’ lovely landscaped back yard complete with ponds, trellis, etc and then had their reception at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center’s Ballroom. Rec Centers are very inexpensive and sort of a well kept secret!
2.) The Food – The next big expense you will have outside of the venue and sometimes it’s more than the venue itself is the food for all of your guests. I’m not going to lie… catering is expensive! And before you start complaining about how can these places charge so much you have to be in their shoes for once. It costs a heck of a lot of money to stay in business as a caterer! And really great companies fold under all the time because they underestimate the amount of money it takes to stay in business. They have to keep large insurance policies to cover everything from the damages they could possibly do at the facilities they work at to if their employees get hurt on the job! Then there are wages, food costs, food waste, breakage of china, etc. All of these things have to be taken into account and when it’s all said and done the profit margins are actually pretty low. You do get what you pay for, so the more expensive the company is, probably the food and service is going to be better. In order for an employer to be able to get really good workers they have to be able to compensate their staff really well. If I was going to budget for anything it would be for this service (right after photography! LOL!) because you don’t want to have to worry about the food on your wedding day! If however it just isn’t in your budget here are some ways to cut the corners.
Pot Luck Wedding – I’ve covered a few weddings where either the family of the couple cooked the meal or guests were requested to bring a dish to share. It’s by no means glamorous, but it gets the job done! If you have a venue that will allow this and you also have a person that can act as your contact person (not yourself, it’s a great job for an aunt that wants something to do) then by all means go for it. A potential issue would be having duplicate dishes so maybe a sign-up sheet for requested items would be best.
Barbecue – A company that caters BBQ is usually going to be on the lower end of per a plate pricing. Most of these companies might not provide servers for their meals so you may have to hire a staff of some kind to serve the guests. But here is another idea… sometimes youth programs have some sort of service where they can provide young adults to help serve your meal for less than hiring a company. Check out 4H and scout clubs or even your churches youth group. Some of these groups might even just do it for a small donation to their organization!
3.) Decorations & Floral – In my opinion this is where you can cut the most money from your budget. Is it nice to have elaborate centerpieces on all of your tables, sure! But is it needed? Absolutely not. While I’m kind of tired of seeing the trendy “mason jars” at every wedding that I’ve covered for the past few years there’s a reason people use them… they are cheap and can be filled with almost anything!
Other ideas for saving on decor is to check out Recycled Wedding Facebook groups where previous couples go to sell slightly used wedding decor. I’ve seen some pretty great deals on some amazing items. Everything from an entire paper flower flower wall built for a photo-booth backdrop to wedding gowns are on these sites! Craigslist, Ebay, Let go etc. are also more great resources for used decor. Keep an eye open for coupons to fabric and hobby stores. Hobby Lobby almost always has a 20% coupon on their website so if you download it before you go shopping for decor in their wedding aisle it can help save you some!
Floral arrangements – Now this is something I would never tackle myself because I just wouldn’t be very good at it, but I’ve seen some amazing floral arrangements done by crafty family members and even brides themselves! If you’ve done this before than by all means go for it. What you should not do is think you can do this if you’ve never done it before and wait until the night before the wedding to put the flowers together! Bad, bad idea! I’ve seen this on more than one occasion and while an ugly floral bouquet will not ruin a wedding. It’s better just to put this stress on someone else. Some people even do fake silk flowers. The benefits to these is you can do them months in advance prior to your wedding and not have to worry about them wilting. Here’s an idea I did for my own wedding to save money. Skip the bridesmaids bouquets all together and do a tasteful flower for the hair and have them hold something else like a parasol!
4.) Cake – Ten years ago at the first bridal show I went to I got a quote for over $1000 for a small cake and I nearly cried… it’s cake for pete’s sake! But there must be a market for it because the company is still in business. Prices for cakes are all over the place. And again this is something you either spend a lot on or nothing if your grandma insists on making it for you! Just make sure that if someone wants to gift you a cake they know what they are doing. Ways to save on your desert… Buy it from a grocery store. Bakeries at grocery stores will make wedding cakes. I’ve seen some great ones and then some not so great ones. It might be good to get one of their $20 party cakes to sample it first before making a decision. Do a small cake for just you two to cut for photos and then do cupcakes for the guests. This might even save you a cake cutting charge with your caterer since they wouldn’t have to cut it up for you!
5.) Music & Entertainment – Because my husband is a DJ I’m sort of biased in this area… In most circumstances do not skimp in this department! I’ve seen many weddings where the couple chose to do something like iPod for their only musical entertainment or chose to not have any music at all. The only time I’ve seen this successful is for elopements or small 20 person weddings where they were going to do a daytime ceremony and maybe have brunch afterwards. If you want your guests to stick around and enjoy themselves you need someone to run the music for your event. The bonus also is they are there to make announcements and facilitate the reception events.
Live music is awesome, but in most cases it will be more expensive than a DJ. If you are planning to do a DJ for the reception and let’s say a string quartet for the ceremony that’s also a great idea, but be aware the cost to have a DJ play recorded string music at your ceremony will be far less than having to pay four musicians and you may still need to pay a DJ to be there for a sound system anyways so that your guests can hear the officiant. You may even feel like your crowd is not really a dancing crowd, but they may surprise you! It’s better to have entertainment than to have nothing at all. If you are interested in finding out more about the discount we offer for booking Photo, Video & DJ together please contact us!
6.) Photography & Video – And this will be my last piece of advice for the budget bride. I understand that prices are all over the place again for photographers and videographers and nowadays you are really going to be able to find someone in almost every budget. Again the old adage that you get what you pay for still rings true. Someone in the hundreds of dollars price range rather than the thousand of dollars price range is either very inexperienced or they don’t value the work that they do. I’ve been in the business for 17 years. There is no way I would still be doing what I do if I was even in the $500 price range for a full 6 hour or more wedding because it’s just not sustainable for the amount of work that it is involved. I would have to be doing 4-5 weddings a week at that price point to pay my bills and couple’s would be waiting 5-6 months for their images because of all the work I do in post production. Not to mention I would burn out doing that for more than a year! So again, someone charging that low of an amount might not be doing anything to enhance their photos either after the wedding. While people who hire us may only see us for the 6-8 hours that they hire us for the day of their event there is many, many more hours of work on the front and back end of the actual wedding probably close to 40 hours of work per a wedding or more. Take out the cost of products included in your packages as well as the costs of someone legitimately in business and not just some fly by night such as insurance and taxes and again the profit margin can be low. All things to consider when shopping for a photographer.
So how can you save money with these services…. Look for someone in your budget range, but be open to going a little over if you really like their work and they have a lot of experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For instance if you like a package that they offer, but maybe not one of the items that comes in it ask them if they are open to substituting something else in place of the item you don’t want. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for discounts, the vendor may say no, but again it doesn’t hurt to ask. Do you offer military discounts or weekday wedding discounts or an incentive if we use you for both services? And don’t discard a photographer just because they don’t offer discounts. Maybe a vendor might charge a travel fee to travel 100 miles to your event and you don’t want to pay travel fees, but maybe they are less expensive than photographers in the area you are getting married in.
And do hire a photographer even if it’s a cheap one! Don’t just rely on wedding guests to take and send you their photos. Treat guest photos as bonus photos not your main ones! Whenever I talk to a bride who didn’t hire a photographer their biggest regret was not having some professional images to remember their day even if you can only afford a photographer for two hours which would cover the ceremony and some formal portrait afterwards you should do it! I do a few of these type scenarios a year, but here’s my stipulation for these bookings. I won’t book them on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday during prime wedding months three – six months out from your event as I need to fill in clients willing to pay my full price first. If I still have availability a month or two out from your event or you are getting married on a weekday I’m more likely to do a short hourly charge. Again it doesn’t hurt to ask…
One last thing skip the disposable cameras on the tables… that’s so 80’s & 90’s and a waste of money. In this day and age where everyone has a smart phone with a camera that takes better photos than a disposable film camera that costs money to develop it’s better to utilize their cell phones. Create a hashtag for finding photos through social media networks. Set up a “drop box” that friends and family can upload their photos to you after the wedding or if you still have some family members that are “old School” that at least know how to burn a disk or transfer photos to an USB drive provide those items for your guests along with a self addressed stamped envelope so they can mail them to you after the event!
Happy Wedding Planning! You can keep it within your budget!
After many years photographing weddings in every type of wedding venue imaginable I started thinking about some of my favorite venues to photograph in and ones that are really challenging to work in. The challenging ones have many different reasons that make them challenging and are not necessarily reasons to completely take them off someone’s list of choices, but knowing what the obstacles are beforehand would help facilitate an easier day on both the photographer and possibly even your guests! This post is going to be about some of the criteria I would use for choosing a wedding venue (as a photographer) as if I was choosing it for my own wedding… it’s some of the things I looked for in a venue when I was planning my own wedding more than 10 years ago because well, photography was my number one priority after marrying my husband! Hope these tips help!
1.) Picturesque Views – Colorado is full of amazing venues with equally amazing views… the better the view, the higher the price the venue commands (most of the time). Most couples want something in the mountains, but there are also a lot of venues in the Front Range that have mountains in the background as well. If you can’t afford a venue with a view then finding a park near the venue with some great photo opportunities is also another way you can still get beautiful photos with lovely scenery. We plan a lot of park visits in between the ceremony and reception especially if couples are getting married in a church, but still want beautiful outdoor photos.
2.) A Lot of Available Natural Light – Now there’s nothing wrong with having a church basement reception. I’ve covered a lot of events in some of the most plain establishments ever designed. A great photographer can use angles and lighting to make even the drabbest areas more interesting and there’s a lot to be said about decorating. But I’m talking to all of those people looking to have the most amazing photos ever! Lots of window light with beautiful views makes it so the photographer doesn’t have to use a lot of additional lighting unless he/she wants to. It also makes your event feel more airy and romantic. The key to this though is to not choose a space that is really dark inside with a lot of bright light pouring in, particularly behind the head table so that all of the wedding party is back-lit because even with a ton of fill-flash the area behind the people will still be very bright. Look for light and airy spaces for the best photos!
3.) Lots of Ample and Available Parking or a Solution to a Venue without a Lot of Parking – This year was really a difficult year for me with parking and at more than one event! The one that stands out the most is the one I’m about to describe… I showed up to a high-end resort for preparation photos and because there was a festival going on there was no parking to be had anywhere! The hotel was not going to let me valet my vehicle even for an hour. I had to call the bride and get her involved… trust me a call to the front desk from a bride who was paying a ton of cash to stay at the facility got me a parking space pronto! Magically, they were able to find space for my vehicle, but again not without a lot of stress and having to bring the bride into the situation. This was one of those almost not foreseen circumstances that I hadn’t ever encountered in 17 years of covering weddings. However, with a little foresight it is something that could of been addressed before the big day. Check with the place that you are staying at or having your event at to make sure that there will be parking available for all of your guests beforehand. If they only provide parking for registered guests make sure that you pay or arrange for parking for your vendors because you don’t want them to be running late due to having to find a place to park.
4.) Large vs. Small Venues, Reasons to Consider a Second Photographer – Weddings can even be held in stadiums now! For a baseball enthusiast getting married at Coors Field is amazing, but it to is not without it’s challenges. I found this out the hard way years ago when I covered my first event there. When the bride and groom are getting ready they put each person on opposite sides of the stadium! Do you know how large that venue is?! Also because of security concerns they will not allow you to walk anywhere in the stadium without an escort. I spent needless amount of time looking for my escort (who kept leaving) to walk me back and forth between the getting ready areas as well as the amount of time it took to walk back and forth between the areas (time that I could’ve used taking more photos). I now know… don’t book a wedding there unless a 2nd cameraman is hired so one can be with the bride and the other with the groom. When choosing a venue think about how close the separate getting ready areas are to each other. Perhaps you will be getting ready at a hotel and then traveling to the venue. Would it be more economical to go with a venue that provides both rooms on site near each other or would it be better to hire a company that provides two photographers so things don’t get missed?
5.) Consider How Well the Venue will Work for Inclement Weather – I’ve had previous posts on how to deal with bad weather, but this one has to do with choosing a venue that will facilitate Amazing Photos in any type of weather. Look for venues that also have great areas indoors for photography too. A nice fireplace or staircase to take your family photos in front of due to a storm is a great back-up plan. Does the venue have a place to hold a ceremony indoors should you need it? Crossing your fingers and hoping for a Sunny day is not really a good plan unless you are ok with having a drenched cake and guests.
6.) Pay special attention to the lighting. If a venue is too dark, it can make it tricky for your photographer to capture all of the details that you worked so hard to plan. While a great photographer still has ways to work around this, your photos will still look a lot darker if the walls and ceilings are all cherry wood as opposed to walls painted white. I’ve been in churches that won’t allow any flash photography during the ceremony and then their hall is super dark without additional lighting. Modern cameras can take better photos in low light situations, but you won’t be able to see much of your background in the absence of light and it’s something to consider. I also recently took photos at a wedding that was held outdoors after dark. The only thing the couple lit was the gazebo they were getting married under. While it was different and really dynamic, it was very difficult for photography. We had to add video lights on either side of the couple so we could see their faces to focus as well as use a handheld light to light them coming down the aisle. And no amount of light that we added would show off a completely dark background. I’m sure the couple thought it was an amazing idea, but didn’t consider that every single photo taken would have to be with flash photography or that we would have to add lights to even be able to see them!
7.) Ask if you’ll have exclusive use of the venue. It’s important to know how many functions they’ll have going on at once and how much interaction there will be between your guests and theirs (if any). The privacy factor differs for every space; some venues may offer separate restrooms and parking areas for guests from different events, while others have the rooms set close together, so you might hear the other party’s music pumping from down the hall. Will you have to compete with the other events for the most picturesque areas to do photographs? If you’re getting married outdoors in a public space, such as a park or beach, be aware that strangers may stop to give you their good wishes or find their way into the background of your wedding photos.
8.) Time Allowed for Your Wedding – Venue packages widely vary and so do overtime fees. Some venues will let you party to the wee early morning hours, while others are in neighborhoods with noise restrictions and have to be shut down promptly by 9pm. Nothing is worse than having a kicking party going on and then having the owner of the venue shut down your dance party because it’s too loud! (Sadly, I’ve seen this on more than one occasion) If you are looking to have an awesome dance party it’s good to know the venue’s policy before signing the contract. Also if overtime is allowed what their fees are. If your event starts to run behind because of some unforeseen circumstance, will the venue charge you a lot more fees and will the other vendors as well. Because every extra minute that a clean-up crew has to wait before they can start on their duties they are still getting paid by their employer.
9.) Does the venue Restrict Where You Can Take Photos At? – What if you choose a beautiful country club with many gorgeous views with plans to walk out on to the course to take some photos and then the day of the event find out that you and your guests are suppose to stay in the area you rented and are not allowed to go out on to the course what so ever. Most venues would be up-front with their restrictions before you sign the contract, but it never hurts to ask ahead of time. Maybe you saw a really neat barn and silo next to the club and assumed it could be used for photos as well, but come to find out it is not on the venue’s property. Find out if you can contact the other owner for special permission to take photos on their property. Don’t just assume that you can or plan on getting a trespassing ticket. Also churches may have restrictions on where a photographer can be during the ceremony, some just forbid a photographer from going on the alter area during the ceremony while a few will only let the photographer take photos from the back of the church without a flash! Asking questions about restrictions will help you quickly weed out venues that don’t work with your vision.
10.) If You Have a Photographer in Mind Before You Choose Your Venue Ask Them What Their Favorite Venues to Work At Are. If they’ve been working for a number of years then I’m sure they have a short list of venues that are awesome to work with. Maybe they have a lot of great spots to take formal photos at, or they know how easy the staff is to work with or can give you lots of tips and hints about their faves and maybe they can even steer you away from venues that won’t fit your vision or better yet can suggest ones that they know will come out under your budget!
11.) Finally, Be sure to go to the venue, especially for outdoor weddings, at the time and around the date you plan to get married. You will want to see how the sun shines during different times of the day to avoid you, your fiancé, and your guests having to stare directly at the sun. Squinting eyes don’t make for the best wedding photos! You may have picked a venue because of it’s beautiful views, but if you choose a time of year when the patio that you are holding your ceremony on has absolutely no sun and the background is very bright the photographer is going to have to choose whether or not to expose for their subjects (which is you) or the background. I’m guessing they will want you to be visible in the photos so they are going to choose exposing for the subjects and let the background go white thus eliminating the mountain backdrop in most of your photos that you worked so hard to find. If you don’t know a lot about photography then arrange for a walk thru at your venue with your photographer even if it costs a little extra so you can avoid potential pitfalls before the big day!
So I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while…. The photography industry has changed a lot since I started my business 17 years ago and even more so from when I got my start doing photography with my mom and developing photos in an actual darkroom! And here’s what I see… cameras are becoming more and more user friendly with automatic settings on them, so much so that now someone with absolutely no photography experience could pick up a camera and set it on auto and get some half way decent images. Which leads to a huge influx of newbie photographers who think it would be loads of fun to snap photos all day at a wedding. In my experience those people don’t last long. All it takes is one unhappy client, or they realize charging $100-$500 to shoot an entire wedding will hardly let them break even. And here’s why –
1.) Photography Equipment is Expensive and So is the Upkeep.
I’ve invested thousands of dollars in all of my gear and yearly I’m also probably spending close to $2000 or more in just upgrades and upkeep on my gear. I send my gear in frequently to get it looked at, cleaned and repaired. My latest one cost me $580 to replace a shutter that was past it’s life (because shooting 1000+ images a wedding wears a camera out in 2-3 years!)
2.) A Professional will Carry Back-Ups of Everything!
Cameras will eventually break down and I’ve had it happen at events, but couples will hardly know it’s a problem because we carry 2-3 back-ups of everything. Someone who hasn’t been doing this a while or doesn’t know they should do this may only have one camera body… Do you want to trust a once in a lifetime event to someone with no back-up gear? Make sure you ask if they do and/or ask them to show you their gear when you meet.
3.) Insurance –
A professional will carry liability and equipment insurance. Some venues are now requiring proof of liability insurance from all wedding vendors before they are allowed to step on to the property. And like all insurances this isn’t cheap either and you have to pay for it even if you don’t use it. A seasoned pro will have all of this covered!
4.) Computers & Computer Software –
So you have a fancy camera… now you need the latest and greatest software to edit those photos and video. Along with continuing education to keep up with all the latest trends and changes in said software. There are many other types of software that you may also need to successfully run a business such as: semi regular updates to bookkeeping software, Office Management Software and more! Additional Photoshop classes cost money too!
5.) Advertising –
You can take all of the pretty photos that you want, but if you don’t advertise how are these people ever going to find you. Magazine ads are spendy and so are advertising on all of the popular wedding planning websites. There are have been some years in the beginning of my career where I spent more on advertising than I made! Really! It’s an unfortunate reality of being in business.
6.) Training & School –
Photography is not an industry that requires any special licensing or proof that you know what you are doing, yet there are tons of ways to educate yourself in this field. College, online classes, workshops and more. I decided early on in my career that getting the knowledge from the professionals in a teaching environment was the best route for me. At the time I spent way more on my education at the Art Institute than most people spent on a traditional college degree. I learned a lot and I understand lighting, and posing in ways that someone just starting out may not have the grasp on yet. Since technology is ever changing so to is our ability to use it. Continuing education is also something a great photographer will invest in.
7.) Experience –
Just as you probably wouldn’t want an intern that is training to be a doctor to do a surgery on you all alone without assistance. You probably do not want someone who just picked up a camera yesterday to photograph your special day. This requires a lot of vetting… you need to look at the work of the individual that you are planning on hiring. Look for consistency in their work. Make sure they can take photos indoors as well as outdoors. Ask them how long they have been in business and what their training has been. Ones that have been around a while are going to be charging more than someone just starting out because their experience is worth more.
Even though I really enjoy what I do for my chosen career, myself and other photographers do have to make a livable wage. Even if we work from home there is still overhead to consider just like any business you have to account for all the utilities, the cost of rent or house payments, gas to and from your event and more. Once the day is over the job of the photographer is not complete either… Six to eight hours of photography is around 20-40 hours of additional work in editing depending on how proficient you are at it. So a photographer is not making $2000 off your wedding! After they also pay their assistants, 2nd shooters, pay for the items included in your package like an album and everything else all said and done they are looking at maybe $10-$15 an hour! Really! We could all go work at McDonald’s for a lot less hassle. But we don’t because we love what we do. We give up our weekends to do what we love! I haven’t been to a Summer concert in over 10 years! Because anyone I’d like to go see is over a busy weekend for my business! I lose touch with some of my 9-5 friends because they only have weekends to hang out. But again I do it because I love it! Nothing better than hearing from a couple after the wedding how excited they were when they saw their photos and/or video for the first time!
In conclusion… I’m not saying don’t hire a photographer because they are cheap. Put everything into perspective… How important are the photos to you? If you realize the only thing after the wedding you have besides the marriage are the photos and video and that’s extremely important to you than don’t go cheap. The old adage you get what you pay for is also true. If you are a person that could care less about your images and your budget is really small than maybe take a chance on that young budding photographer (I was there once upon a time and thank the people who took a chance on me) but don’t expect your images to look like the ones that grace the cover of a bridal magazine. I’ve also done many a backyard wedding where I know I was the most expensive vendor there because the place the couple got married at wasn’t as important as capturing the special memories for the couple. There are ways to fit the photographer of your dreams into almost any budget… spend less on some other aspect of your day, ask for people to contribute to your photography fund rather than give you a gift you may not need, or work out a payment plan with said photographer.
Hopefully, if you read this to the end you have a little more perspective on why photographers charge what they charge and possibly other vendors in the industry as well. We don’t look at our wedding clients as “Cha Ching” “Pay Day”. We look at them as someone who we want to make happy, and we’re incredibly honored that they have chosen us to be with them and capture their memories on their special day.
Happy Wedding Planning!
So thinking about my wedding blog post this month and chatting with a venue coordinator we got to talking about the trend to have a sign for almost everything at your wedding… and well, do you really need all of those signs?! It used to be if your wedding was in an out of the way location maybe there was a sign stuck to a post with an arrow and maybe even some balloons to mark the spot… not anymore! There are signs everywhere at weddings nowadays! Direction signs, table seating assignment signs, reserved signs and more! It seems like signs have become just as much of the wedding decorations as the flowers themselves! So I thought I would put together a list of the most common wedding signs that I’ve seen the past few years and a few of my thoughts about them… Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on what you can use signs for or if you may want to scrap the idea because of time and money restraints.
1.) Direction Signs – Again if your wedding is in a hard location to find or internet maps send you in a funky direction perhaps you may need a sign at the gate or the turn off point of your wedding. Or perhaps you are having an outside ceremony located just a short distance from the venue’s reception hall and you just want to send people in the right direction when you don’t have a greeter. I can get on board with these signs as it takes away the guess work for the wedding attendees and also offers a great photo opportunity.
2.) “The Choose a Seat Not a Side” sign – Gone are the days of the Bride’s friends & family sit on the left and the groom’s on the right (at least for the guests) parents and immediate family still tend to sit in the first row of the side of the family member that’s getting married on. It used to be a fairly new idea to just have everyone pick a side. And if the wedding isn’t having ushers than I think this sign is still a good idea. Although it can also have it’s pitfalls… I’ve been at a few weddings where one side is completely over seated compared to the other side and it looks off. It’s better to have fewer guests in the back then everyone seated on one side. This particular sign is one that I think you can forgo all together if you have ushers. A great reason to consider using ushers is so they can even out the seating especially if you are not having people pick a side. Also a “reserved” sign on the front row reminds guests that those seats are for immediate family.
3.) Reception Seating Arrangement Signs – Sometimes a seating arrangement is an absolute necessity, especially if you are doing a plated dinner and the catering staff has to figure out where each meal goes. Most people can figure out where the seating chart is, but if you are doing something elaborate, for instance a rock with everyone’s name painted on it. Then it helps to have a sign next to your seating cards to explain how the seating is going to work.
4.) Guest Book Sign – A sign telling your guests to please sign your guest book is not needed as most weddings have some sort of guest book to sign and people expect it… unless you are doing something unique like asking for guests to give marital advice, or put their thumbprint on a tree. Also it helps to have a designated person to sit next to the “guest book” as your friends and family enter the reception to help them to know what they are suppose to do… especially, again if you are doing something out of the ordinary.
5.) A Place for “Cards” Sign – Again this is one that I think is completely unnecessary because if your card holder is sitting on the gift table it’s implied, but nevertheless can be cute! Especially if you are using a non-conventional card holder like a suitcase or a bird cage.
6.) Food Labels & Menus – I thought I would lump these two together… Does there have to be chalk board sign stating that there is a candy bar located on this table? Probably not. It’s self-explanatory. Does the chicken need to be labeled in a buffet? Again these are some of the signs I feel like you could skip. Is it nice to know what’s on the entire menu before you go through the line, yeah, but again not a necessity unless you know a lot of your guests have food allergies or special considerations for what they can eat. A chalkboard sign can make another cute detail for photos, but it’s one of those items I feel can be left off the list to save money.
7.) Signature cocktails & Beverage Lists – If you plan on doing a signature cocktail for your guests than I think a sign explaining what is in it is a great idea. This will help the bartenders from having to explain to each guest what’s in each drink and thus taking them away from getting those drinks made for everyone. Also if you spent a great deal of money purchasing the specific liquors that go into your special concoction than you probably want those drinks to go first before people break into the other liquor. A beverage list of all that is available from the bar is also nice, but again not a necessity.
8.) The wedding Hashtag # – It’s still going strong! And one of those things that’s still fairly new to society and may have to be explained to your parents and grandparents. If you have one then by all means make a sign for it, put it on your wedding website, or wedding program, but make sure it gets out there because if people don’t know about it than they won’t use it!
9.) Favors & Thank You Gifts – If you purchased a wedding favor for each of your guests I believe the best way to distribute those gifts is to place them on each and every person’s place setting because this ensures everyone has seen them and will remember to take them with at the end of the night. If that’s not very practical because let’s say you bought a bottle of wine for everyone and you want them to take it home and not drink it at the table then putting a separate table by the door with the favors is a good idea along with a “Help Yourself” Sign.
10.) Other signs – Poems, Love Stories, Bible Verses, Etc. – These signs fall into the completely non- essential category. These would be purely for decoration, to remember a loved one or to share how you and your fiance’ met. And while they are completely for esthetics rather than a pragmatic reason they really do give you a sense of the couple’s identity. Whether they are loving, funny or religious… they are just fun to have! If it’s not a “saying” that you plan on displaying on your wall after the wedding choose a really nice frame that can be used afterwards to display some of your wedding photos after the big event!
1.) The day goes by so quickly and afterwards you will look back on it and say “What just happened!” While photos are a beautiful memento to hang on your wall (and being a photographer I totally understand the appeal) the only way to remember all of the details in living sound and moving pictures is through video coverage.
2.) It’s a great way to share your event with friends and family who could not attend. Most video companies also will now provide a highlight clip to share via the internet so you don’t even have to worry about getting your copy back from grandma!
3.) To view things that happened behind the scenes. The couple usually choose to get ready in separate rooms. Family and friends are maybe doing all of the decorating while you are getting ready. If you truly want to see what’s going on in areas you wouldn’t otherwise be present during then hiring a videographer or two videographers (to make sure you see the preparation of both the groom & the bride) to capture your event will ensure every moment gets covered.
4.) Capturing special people in your life on film! I’ve been married long enough to know the benefits of having had a videographer at my own wedding. Having footage of people who have passed on or who were young children, but are now all grown up is amazing. It’s truly a way to bring the memory of someone special back to life.
5.) Having a Pro shoot your video helps to make you the Star that you are! We know the right angles to shoot at, what events must be included, and not to mention professional editing gives it a more finished look like a cinematographic movie! I’ve also been the photographer at events where “Uncle Bob” was doing the video… sometimes it can work out, more often than not though issues happen… and here are some that I’ve seen: Oops, I forgot to charge my camera battery, didn’t bring the camera cords, don’t have a tripod so the camera is hand-held through the whole ceremony which gets really shaky, or when the reception starts Uncle starts to drink and forgets to film parts or most of the reception. I think it’s better to put this job in a professionals hand so you’re not mad at Uncle Bob for the rest of his life!
6.) Actually hearing the speeches, toasts and more that were made in your honor. Again, I will mention how quick the day goes by and sometimes these go by in a blur and they are hard to remember. Having the actual voice of the person speaking along with the laughs and tears of those listening to the speech is priceless.
7.) Getting to see the wedding from another point of view. Wouldn’t you love to be able to see the expression on your father as he walks you down the aisle. You will be focused on just making it to the alter without tripping and on the face of your beloved. Seeing the wedding as others got to see it is also pretty amazing!
8.) Being able to show your children how mom and dad’s life started out! Not to mention it’s a pretty good reminder of how much in love you were when the relationship gets a little rocky. A video is a great way to share this special moment with those that don’t exist, yet or to rekindle a romance!
9.) The number one regret of most couples after their wedding is not having hired someone to video the wedding. When sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc. poll brides about their regrets after the big day they always mention how quickly the day flew by, how busy they were, and how much they didn’t realize they would of loved to be able to sit back and watch the day all over again. Try to prevent this regret by incorporating it into your budget early on!
10.) Video is one of the few items that you actually get return on your investment. Will people remember if you provided a wedding favor? Ahhh, probably not unless it’s a really over the top gift. Or if you had fancy chair covers on all of the seats? Not really. If cutting some of these items from your wedding makes room in your budget for a videographer than go for it! If you want to be able to re-live your wedding again and again video truly is the only way to go!
1.) Rent a Tent for an All Outdoor Location
If you are planning your wedding to take place where shelter is not readily available the most sensible idea is to plan for the worst by renting a large tent where both your ceremony and / or reception can be held. Even with great weather a tent provides shade for you and your guests and protection against wind and other elements.
2.) Consider Wedding Insurance and Keep a Phone Number of a Restoration Clean-Up Crew Handy
An event like a wedding can get quite expensive and while emergency situations don’t happen often they do happen! A few years back when the Platte River overflowed it’s banks here in Colorado quite a few wedding venues in the vicinity of the river lost their structures and or access to their venues by bridges washing out and more. Lots of couples ended up rushing to find new locations to hold their event since many guests had already bought and paid for their plane tickets to attend. Event insurance would alleviate the stress of coming up with money for new deposits on locations, because not all venues are quick to refund money in a timely manner. I also attended a wedding once where the entire facility flooded due to a quick and large rain storm. The groom had just happened to work for a restoration company and called his boss to have them come and clean up the hall so the party could continue. They had the whole facility cleaned up and back up and running for dinner and dancing in under an hour! Wow! While I know not everyone might have the same sort of pull with a restoration company, keeping a number of one near your venue close just might come in handy.
3.) Contingency Plan Information
If you have a back-up indoor location planned for if the weather is bad, it’s important for guests to have that information in advance. Including that information with the invitation is a great idea especially if the location is not on site to your original wedding location. If the venue doesn’t have an indoor location for a ceremony ask them for suggestions for places to use as a back-up plan nearby. Some ideas are non-denominational churches, clubs like Elks, VFW, or even a hotel with a nice lobby area. Paying a small fee to reserve a back-up location might be worth it even if you don’t end up using it.
4.) Write Out a Delayed Timeline of Events
Be sure to schedule enough time for each event planned that there is a little wiggle room for delays. Colorado is notorious for quick rain storms that blow over in a short amount of time. Write out a delayed time-line that maybe skips some reception events that are not overly important to you so that you can have a little extra time if a ceremony has to start 30 minutes late due to a rain storm. Give this timeline to someone in charge of helping so you can relax on your big day.
5.) Make Your Make-Up Rain Proof
Use waterproof mascara which will not only help keep your face looking fresh in bad weather, but in case you get a little teary eyed! Ask your make-up artist and hair stylist if they are flexible and can stay for touch-ups even if it’s just for some quick touch-ups right after the ceremony before you do your formal photos. I know most couples only allow for a short amount of time to do photos between the ceremony and reception so ask the make-up artist to stay and apply touch-ups where you are doing the photographs at rather than have you go all the way back to the “getting ready” room. It may not seem like a lot of time, but doing this can save 20-30 minutes of time.
6.) Scout Out Some Locations to Do Photographs If it Rains
Overhangs with decorative elements, Indoor staircases and more all work great for spots to take photographs if the weather isn’t cooperating. Be a little flexible with your photography timing as well. If for instance it starts to downpour right after you say “I do” and everyone goes rushing into the reception hall take a moment to go greet your guests while you wait for the rain to subside and then venture out to do your photos when the clouds have passed and maybe opt to do all the family group photos indoors so grandma doesn’t freeze!
7.) Bring Items to Help Facilitate an Outdoor Ceremony & Outdoor Photos in Bad Weather
Umbrellas make for cute props in wedding photos along with colorful rain boots. Some rental companies might even rent a lot of them for all of your guests. Ushers can be in charge of handing them out if dark clouds are looming. Have the men in your wedding party be gentlemen and let the ladies wear their suit jackets (also makes for a cute photo). If you are concerned about your dress getting dirty bring a white sheet or white plastic bag that can be tucked under the dress after it is fluffed out for photographs. Also include a tide pen in your bridal emergency kit to get out mud stains (I had to use this at my own wedding!) If your wedding is more of a “do it yourself” type of event make sure you bring a pile of towels to wipe down chairs if one of those quick rainstorms passes through and assign someone to help coordinate helpers to do that should you need it.
8.) Smile and Don’t Despair!
Cloudy skies make for really even lighting for photography. Guests don’t have to squint in photos and dramatic clouds, rainbows and more can add a depth to your wedding photos you wouldn’t otherwise have had. If you are flexible there will almost always be a time when the rain stops long enough to get some amazing photographs! And hey, they say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day!!
#1 – The Dress as Art
Buy a creative hanger or make your own and make sure your dress is out of the protective covering that you kept it in to get it to your venue. Have it setting out along with your veil, shoes, garter, jewelry and any other accessories that you would like your photographer to photograph. There are so many creative ways to make your dress the star in it’s own right: hang it with the bridesmaids dresses like in the photo above, tell the photographer to hang it outdoors or off a beautifully framed mirror. This is a great way to showcase your wedding gown.
#2 – Preparation Shots of Both the Bride & Groom
It used to be all about the bride, but not anymore. If you and your groom are getting ready at the same location or if you hired two photographers one can be with the bride and her gals and the other with the groom and his guys. Touch ups of the bride’s make-up, putting on the veil, etc. all make for interesting shots that tell the story of your special day. The men usually don’t take very long to get ready, but there are some great candid opportunities there as well, such as buttoning cuff links, straightening ties, toasting to the groom and even something that was unique about your wedding such as each groomsman wearing different color socks all make for fun elements to photograph.
#3 The First Time Others See the Bride
A reaction shot the first time your dad sees you in your dress or your bridesmaids checking you out in a mirror all make for emotional storytelling images. A great photographer knows this and will stay by your side as much as possible to make sure they get these special once in a lifetime moments.
#4 The First Time The Groom Sees His Bride
Whether this is a staged shot before the ceremony called a “First Look” because you want to have a quiet moment between each other before the festivities begin or you’re doing it because you are trying to knock out the majority of the formal photos before the ceremony or even if the first time he sees you is when you walk down the aisle these are great shots to get… Getting the expression of both the bride and the groom is made even easier with two photographers covering your ceremony! One will be concentrating on the bride’s big entrance and the other on the groom’s reaction.
#5 Close Up of the Hands During the Ring Ceremony
It’s always great to get a close-up shot of your hands as you are exchanging your wedding rings. A great photographer will do this unobtrusively using a longer lens either from the back of the ceremony site or from the side if there is room to do so without taking the focus of you as a couple.
#6 The Big Kiss
This is the shot of all shots to get! And different cultures, religions will have this at different points in the ceremony. If you are not doing the traditional big kiss at the very end before you are presented as man and wife let your photographer know when this is suppose to happen so they can anticipate the big moment and get this crucial must have shot! Another great suggestion is to ask your friends and family to not take photos at least during the ceremony and to leave it to the professionals. In these modern times everyone has a cell phone that takes photos and they also think it’s a great idea to pop up and take a photo just as the couple are about to kiss. I don’t know how many times I’ve been all set in the perfect location to take this shot only to have to move and not get the best photo that I could have gotten because someone decided to hop up in front of me. If you have your officiant say something in the beginning or just add a line to your wedding program something like: “We invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — We encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.” I guarantee you won’t regret adding this small request to your wedding program!
#7 The Reception Hall Before Guests Enter
Make sure your photographer gets photos of how the reception area is decorated before the guests are allowed to enter, if at all possible. You spend a lot of time and effort deciding on a color theme, centerpieces, etc. and more than likely you won’t get a chance to see it until you enter and the guests are already seated. It’s a wonderful way to remember how beautiful everything was and to record your hard work!
#8 Fun Casual Photos of the Wedding Party
While every photographer should take a standard traditional pose of everyone looking and smiling at the camera. Couples getting married today enjoy keeping it lighthearted, fun and playful. It’s a lot more memorable for your wedding party if the last few photos taken in your formal session are creative and and fun to be a part of. There’s no reason wedding photos have to be stuffy! Choosing the right photographer who has experience with organizing and posing groups can also make this portion of the portraits go faster so you can get on to the party quicker; and who doesn’t like that?! You may be the type of person who hates this part of wedding photography and if so I implore you to still do a few group shots even if it’s just one shot of the entire wedding party. Without a designated time-frame to take some traditional wedding group portraits there’s no guarantee you will get a shot with some of the important people in your life ie. mom, dad and grandparents. I’ve spoken to a few couples who went with a photographer who only did photo-journalistic style coverage and their biggest regret was that they didn’t have any shots of their families or wedding parties. The ideal situation is to pick a person who can do both styles and do it well so you get the best of both!
#9 Romantic Shots of Just the Two of You
When planning out the time-frame needed for taking photos after your event don’t forget to schedule at least 20-30 minutes for photos of just the two of you alone without any one else except the photographer. It’s a lot easier to do some romantic poses without an entourage! Plus it’s a nice little break before you start schmoozing your guests again at the reception. These will probably be some of the most important photos taken the entire day and often times they are the ones couples leave little time for…. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and plan a little more time for formal photos then you think it will take because stuff can happen to push your timeline back. With a little wiggle room photos don’t feel rushed and hey you might even have some time to use the restroom in between!
#10 The Sunset Shot and/or The Send-Off Shot
If you are planning a grand send off at the end of the night and have budgeted to have your photographer cover your event until the end then a Send-Off shot is a great way to end any wedding album. If you plan on having a really long dance party and think you won’t have many guests left at the end to do a send off or you plan on the photographer being done earlier because of your budget than opt for a sunset photo instead (especially if you are doing a mostly outdoor event). Sunsets are the best time of day with the most amazing light for photographs and will give you some of the best photos from your day. Discuss it with your photographer beforehand and make sure he or she grabs you from the reception about 20 minutes before the sun is slated to go down… Even though I just mentioned the pitfalls of everyone having a smart phone above… there’s also an advantage for wedding photographers unlike we’ve ever had in the past… We can follow the weather by radar on our phones to see when there will be a break in the rain and there’s even an “app” for sunrise and sunsets in every part of the world! What an amazing time to be living in!