Archive for Planning Tips

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!

~Jamie

 

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!