I shot the Horton’s family session at one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas and I arrived early to look around and set up some shots. It was crisp and cool outside and the location was completely empty. It was calm and beautiful. The Hortons arrived a short time later and we had a peaceful session.
When I was a child, my cousins and I were very close. They are some of the most imaginative, clever and fun people that I know. We used to play together for hours and hours on end, exploring the great outdoors or making little movies or putting on plays for our parents. My favorite childhood memories stem from times that I spent with them. Katie is the second eldest of the clan and she was my absolute best friend growing up. Even now, we make a fantastic pair. I’m overly talkative, excitable….she is calm, sweet and patient. She is also a world class flautist. I could go on and on about her but that isn’t the point of this post. Katie and I, as seven year olds, decided that when we grew up, we would go to Purdue University together. We would both live with my Grandma since her house was walking distance to the university. We would later marry twin brothers and be neighbors and be the maid of honor in each other’s weddings. These were the only wedding plans I ever made as a child or adolescent. I wasn’t one of those little girls who holds a Barbie wedding everyday and has the first dance song and color and brand of her wedding shoes picked out at the age of six. Not at all. Katie and I didn’t end up going to Purdue University together, nor did we marry twin brothers. However, she did become my maid of honor. My only realistic childhood wedding plan did come true!
When I figured out who all of my bridesmaids would be, I wanted to ask them creatively. First, I figured out what I wanted them to wear. I wrote each girl a letter, thanking them for the positive impact that they have made in my life and asking them to be a bridesmaid. Then I included the outfit details that I wanted them to have at the wedding.
– Any knee length blue dress. It could have been any style and any shade. I wanted my girls in dresses that they could afford while feeling beautiful and comfortable wearing. Plus, I wanted them to be able to wear the dresses again to other events.
– Silver strappy shoes
– Silver earrings
I wanted to give the girls all a special necklace on the wedding day as both a favor and a matching accessory so I didn’t specify any type of necklace that they should wear. After I was done with the letters, I made a paper doll to represent each of the girls. I grabbed some cardstock, scissors, a silver Sharpie, some sticky gems and some cards and got to work. I cut out different shades of blue dresses and glued them to the little dolls. I created a hair cutout that matched the shade and style of each bridesmaid. I drew little silver strappy shoes and a silver necklace onto each doll. Then I glued a gem to the middle of each necklace.
I figured that this would be a sweet personalized little visual of what to look for when wedding shopping. I added each girl’s paper doll to their card and mailed them out.
My mom found the necklaces for each girl at Brighton Outlet and we placed each one in a small carved box.
I wrote them a thank you the night before the wedding and they opened the necklaces while we were all getting ready on the wedding day.
When I first met with the Blair family I could tell right awaythat they were an incredibly close little family. Morgan is a freshman in college, so this was her first visit home and you could tell that she and her parents were so excited to be able to spend time together. I love families that love each other!
It’s rare that really good professional photographers will sell you the DVD of edited images with a copyright release of all your edited images. I lucked out. My wedding package came with our engagement session as well, and we purchased the DVD with the session on it. Not only do I get to have all of those special photos forever, but I also used them to create our guest book. Even though Julie sold us the DVD with the images, I wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t be offended if we used them in our guest book (because she would have been able to make a profit off of designing our book and I didn’t want to step on any toes). She was totally fine with it though, so off to the Walgreen’s photo site I went. I designed a book with plenty of empty space for signing and paid $29.99 for our guest book. We bought silver Sharpies, stuck them in a cup next to the book and voila. I absolutely love it!
We actually decided to make part of the engagement session into a supplemental part of the wedding. We brought color coordinated candy, a mini cake and some presents to our session. We took pictures throwing candy around, cutting the cake and opening the gifts. Then at the wedding, we had framed 8x10s of each activity at their corresponding table. So we had a gift picture on the gift table, candy raining down around us on the candy table and a cake cutting picture on the cake table. I thought it was a cute way to personalize the spots instead of making a sign.
To me, having a great photographer was one of the most important details of my wedding day. We spent a quarter of our budget on the photographer, which was more than we spent on any other thing. And I absolutely stand behind that decision. You can create the most gorgeous details and have wonderful ambiance at your wedding. And many of those memories will be with you forever. But one of the reasons that I love photography so much is that it captures little atoms of a moment. It is a jumping off point for your brain to go down the trail of memories that follows the spark of the moment in a photo. The time and effort that I put into my details is perfectly captured in beautiful, well-exposed, sharp pictures.
If you go to a poorly executed website with poor pictures and hire the photographer because of their pricing, do not complain about the quality of photos you get afterwards. If they showcase underexposed grainy photos with selective color bouquets and goofy poses, just remember that those are their best work. Unless you can find a talented photographer who is just starting out and needs to build a portfolio and client base, photographers charging under $1,000 might not be your best investment. Repeat. Hire the young talented photographer who is building their client base? Yes. They can afford to be paid only $1,000 because they have to make due and it’s temporary pricing for them. However, professional full time photographers cannot make a decent living by charging that little unless they never get a weekend off. Four thousand dollars might sound like an insane cost for a day of shooting and it was certainly more than our budget.
Remember that your wedding photographer will not actually make four thousand dollars. They have to market, to hire a second shooter, spend hours editing, meet with you, prepare your proofs, e-mailing you, booking you and planning out the photo aspect of your day. Add paying tax on the bookings, gas money to get to the location, equipment and business insurance, website costs and more. If you break down their charges per hour, you might be very surprised at how much they are actually making. I only explain all of this because I keep hearing that people think photographers overcharge just because they can. That may be true of some, but professional photographers are worth the money.
How can you tell who is a fantastic professional photographer and who you should avoid? Below is my list of warning signs when searching for someone to capture your wedding day. Keep in mind that this list is my only a list of my opinions, created to identify what I wanted in a photographer.
Avoid Wedding Photographers Who:
– Have terrible websites: Photographers are artists, and if their marketing “canvas” is a hard-to-read, non-intuitive mess, I click the red x.
– Use color selection often: This warning sign might only scare other photographers, but unless it is done really well, it usually looks really tacky.
– Photos with too much flash: I’m a natural light photographer who uses reflectors and low apertures keep my photos lit. There is nothing wrong with using flash if it is done appropriately. But I don’t think that every wedding day photo should have a full fill flash in it. It can create some stunning images, but it can also eliminate some of the soft and natural beauty of a setting.
– Blurry photos. I love sharp, well composed photos. In the picture below, you can see that one person is sharply in focus and the photo is well set up. I feel like I’m almost standing there listening to their conversation!
I’ve been following the blogs, tweets and websites of photographers for years. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the pleasantries and gripes that wedding professionals within the industry have experienced.
One piece of advice when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer? Do not go download an insane list of questions from a wedding website. I’m not even a wedding photographer and just reading the number of insulting, insanely high maintenance and totally inappropriate questions that some bridal bloggers suggest asking your potential photographer made me feel kind of furious. DO NOT be that bride, for the love of Zeus. I’m referring to the one who meets a photographer and asks her for eight hundred specific poses. Don’t do it. You need to hire a professional if you want professional pictures. You don’t go to the dentist and give him/her drilling tips. You don’t go to the gym and correct your trainer when he/she takes you through your exercises. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask for ANY specific shots. If you have some special requests, I’m sure that your photographer will be more than happy to spotlight what you value. My photographer asked specifically if I had any important details or family moments that I wanted to document. I had three and she captured them perfectly. But do not bring an insulting list of poses like “hand on spouse’s shoulder” or “arms around one another’s waist”. These people are professional photographers. They actually do this for a living. If you can’t trust that they know what they are doing, you definitely shouldn’t be hiring them. I’d rather hire an artist and trust their vision than give them a paint by color any day.
On that note, here is the list of questions that I brought to my meeting with Julie Branyan:
- Photography style? Photojournalistic, posed, formal?
- Do you like whimsy, DIY, farmhouse, desert weddings (like my venue’s setting)?
- Do you use a shot list? How does a typical wedding timeline go for you?
- Do you feel comfortable with nighttime outdoor shots? There should be plenty of light but you never know!
- What equipment do you have?
- Confirm: the cd with full print rights means that I can print my pictures anywhere with your consent form, and this comes with every wedding package.
- How many shots do you get from a wedding before you cull?
- Have you shot weddings in such a unique setting with so many people? We might have between 100 and 300 and we’re eating on a porch in the desert. Weird right?
- Do we need to pay mileage/expenses if you’re driving out of Phoenix? The venue is just past Fountain Hills.
- Do you mind if other aspiring photographers take pictures around you? I don’t think they’d be invasive, but you’re not bothered by a couple other DSLR’s floating around right?
- We have a written contract – review – discuss worst case scenarios
- Who is your favorite photographer? Or a few?
- What is the sales tax here?
- Do you want to make a scouting trip to my location or are you comfortable just showing up that day? It is a little bit off the beaten path.
- Do you have liability insurance?
- Do you do “First Looks” and the like?
- Do you have a wedding that I can see in its entirety?
- Thank you for meeting with me! + Thank You Card
Let me explain a little bit about the questions I asked. First, many of these questions are more detailed than a non-photographer would need to ask a photographer. You probably don’t need to ask about equipment unless you know what constitutes good equipment. I would definitely ask if guests using DSLRs around the photographer bothers them. If you have a relative that will bring a giant camera to your wedding and give you some great shots, fantastic. But you might need to talk to some of them beforehand about making sure that they give your professional photographer some space. Some well-intentioned relatives have been known to invade the set ups, shots and space of professional photographers and it usually drives them nuts. After all, you do not want your first kiss shot ruined because Uncle Bob jumped in front of your photographer as they snapped the picture!
Also, several of my questions were more about learning how Julie shoots, who she is and what her temperature as a person is. I’m an anxious person and I would not have been able to handle a photographer who was snippy or rushed me around. Julie was absolutely perfect. She kept me sane during some of the wedding day moments that I felt absolutely ready to melt. I can’t promise that most photographers will do that (so hire Julie!) but she gave me that huge gift on my wedding day. She was comfortable, intelligent, hard working and self motivated. Of course I wanted a talented photographer, but not at the cost of having someone unpleasant or pushy. Everyone who was involved in our wedding day was special to me in some way. I wanted to have a consistently personal and loving group of people to celebrate with us on that day. And whether or not you realize it, your wedding professional team is celebrating with you. They are supporting your dream of a wonderful day with their very physical movement! Don’t hire someone that won’t support your dream.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the warmth of Christmas lights flickering, of glittering ornaments and little mittens sticky from candy canes. I love the way that most of humanity chooses to be kinder and more generous for almost an entire week out of the year. My absolutely favorite part of Christmas has to be giving gifts. I love watching people’s faces light up when they open a present just for them.
There were so many different reasons that Christmas was extra special this year. It was the first Christmas that D and I shared as a married couple. It was also the first year that my brother, being halfway through his freshman year at college in Colorado, came home to visit. It’s been rough to have him so far away and that means every minute that he’s home feels extra special. This Christmas also marked a year that we’ve had our sweet little Penelope puppy.
I really enjoyed decorating our apartment for Christmas as well.
Some of our gift opening highlights from this Christmas included the mini Nerf guns that my parents gave to KJ and D while giving me extra foam bullets so that I could provide support to whichever team I decided to back. I also got KJ a “Hobo Tool” that he used to open his presents for the remainder of the morning.
We spent most of Christmas Eve with Dustin’s parents, sister and cousin. We had a delicious home cooked meal after attending a Christmas Eve service at Desert Springs Bible Church. We spent Christmas day with my family, opening presents in the Christmas morning, Sherlock Holmes in the afternoon and dessert with our good family friends in the evening.
The holidays this year were deliciously low-key. I can’t wait until next Christmas!
You’ve chosen your date. You’ve chosen your venue. You’ve done your initial fact finding. You’ve chosen your colors. You’ve made your wedding website. You’re working on your registry. What next? For me, it was sending out our Save the Date. My hb (husband) and I had been dating for four years at that point, so when we got engaged in August, we didn’t give ourselves a big time budget before the wedding. Six months to plan. And honestly, I liked it that way. I don’t think I could have handled waiting a year! I’m just too impatient.
While most of the details still need to be nailed down, the date is already concrete now. You can take care of these and mark them off the to do list if you so wish. I wanted affordable and simple Save the Dates. I wanted to make them if it would be more cost effective. So my mom and I went to Michaels, bought a flower stamp, glue pen, glitter, yellow cardstock, an embossing stamp pad and embossing powder. My mom already owned an embossing tool (which is pretty much a high powered blow dryer) but if you wanted to get one, I’ve seen them priced between $10 and $20.
I designed the Save the Date in Word. First, I looked for an orange/lime/lemon since that was part of our theme. Google Images brought me a plethora of options. I created a title, color theme and layered shapes before adding my text. I tried to use dynamic differing fonts and focused on making sure everything made spatial sense. This is what I came up with:
My mom and I used some paper slicers and cut our cardstock into postcard size. I set our printer to postcard size and ran them through. My dad, fiancee, mom and I all worked different stations together and it was actually pretty fun! While one of us kept loading the printer, another brought the newly printed cards to the embossing station. One of us stamped the cards and dumped embossing powder on them while another used the embossing tool to get the powder to rise.
Note: Embossing ink and powder are awesome. If you want a bit of texture added to any of your paper products, you can emboss them. I love watching the heat make the powder melt into the 3-D art it becomes!
Once we had finished all of the embossing, we grabbed our glue pens and went to town. We drew tiny little loops in the corners of each card and filled in the center of the flowers. After grabbing a Rubbermaid tub to catch all the glitter, we poured glitter onto our glue-d spots, dumped the cards off and let them dry.
The final step? Adding stamps and address labels to the text side of the postcard. I can’t give any advice on the address labels since obtaining and printing those darn things might have been one of the most frustrating parts of wedding planning! 😉
Now, send those Save the Dates out and the e-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages and tweets will start pouring in!