Felt Like A Royal Wedding
I have to say, I’m pretty confident with my skills as a photographer, but I still get a little butterflies, especially before a wedding. Because I know how important every image I create will be. I like to think this helps me push myself and stay on top of my game.
Of course I’ve photographed events before where even an 89 year old grandma with an iPhone could bust out a dozen good photos and this was very much the case for Katie & Shawn’s wedding. As the day started I just couldn’t help but fall backwards into amazing photo ops.
At one point during the ceremony I literally felt like I needed to do a double take after looking at a couple of shots I took. It was like a royal wedding; Katie in an spectacular dress, the gold plated wall behind the alter at the Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano and the Shawn in his Air Force dress uniform. And I hadn’t even seen the finishing touches put on the reception area yet.
I was briefly afraid as images were almost coming to easy and I knew there were probably hundreds of other professionals who would have bent over backwards to photograph this wedding, which was one more reason I was really touched that Katie had asked me if I would shoot her wedding before she really even had the wedding date set.
Here’s my offer; I’ll show up at your wedding and take pictures with an iPhone for $150. Email me your wedding date & ceremony time and I’ll let you know if I’m available.
Don’t think it can be done. Well check out these images taken at the Olympics by from fellow photojournalist Dan Chung , or the portraits of the New York Yankees shot using the Instagram app that are licensed by Getty Images. The iPhone is being used in amazing ways and I know several professional wedding photographers, including myself, who take a handful of cell phone photos at weddings. It’s really more of an experiment, or a chance to be arty, but it could be and I’m sure it has been done already a way to shoot an entire wedding. So why not your wedding?
Ok, I’m not really expecting to have any takers on this offer and if there are please know I don’t have an iPhone and that isn’t a real offer. The reason I made that offer is to show an extreme of what a lot of people are thinking these days. That just having a good camera is what you really need from a photographer.
The reason those iPhone photos are so amazing is because the photographers using them are not just professionals, but craftsman at what they do and they could make great wedding photos with a disposable camera from Walgreens.
The best advice I can give for finding a photographer who truly is great at their craft is:
- Ask to see at least 100 images from a single wedding.
- look at their non-wedding work
- go for someone with at least 5 years of professional experience
- look for a background with formal training, basically more than just “self taught”
- Ask if they shoot film and if you can see samples
It was a busy wedding season and I haven’t been posting as many tips and advice for couples about to get married, but there are a bunch of things lined up.
•Things to look out for with group photos
•Google for weddings
•Why you have a better eye for photos than your photographer
•Tips for the Groom
Plus ways to make your wedding more image friendly.
Royal Wedding with Princesses
Tara & Irvine got married at what I think is one of the most spectacular churches in the Chicago area; Rockefeller Chapel, on the campus on the University of Chicago. If you’re not familiar with it, that might be because it’s located in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the city’s south side, at a school many get confused with UIC.
I was extremely excited to photograph this wedding for two reasons, first, while I’ve photographed couples in and around the chapel, I’ve never actually shot a wedding there. Second, Tara, runs the home daycare that my son attends and her and her family are wonderful. Their two little girls adorable and the three of them together were like princesses with Irvine in a church that reminds me of a recent royal wedding.
I had to throw this one in because it makes me smile.
(Please contact the couple if the gallery is password protected)
Surrounded by ArtKate & Alex, tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony at the Smart Museum of Art, on the University of Chicago’s campus in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It’s a location I’m very familiar with, since I am an artist and the museum is only 5 blocks from my home, I’m there quite often (my son on a recent trip there, you may recognize the painting from the ring photo top left).
The couple and their guests were truly in luck, as gloomy morning skies gave way to clear blue and sunny. While the reception and ceremony were held outside, the museum was open to all guests and the ketubah signing & cocktail hour were held inside the museum, allowing for a unique backdrop for any event.
(Please contact the couple if the gallery is password protected)
An Amazing Wedding Speech
[Angela, please correct me if I've gotten any part of this story wrong]
It’s no secret, weddings are extremely joyous & emotional events. Especially for the friends and family that are involved with the couple.
You’ve got a quivering bottom lip from the father of the bride as he walks his darling little girl down the aisle, a stuttering groom as he recites his vows and of course what wedding is complete with out tears from the mother of the groom and crying bridesmaids.
Seeing over a dozen or more weddings a year I don’t often get choked up, so I tend to remember the one, or two times it does happen. I find it a little funny, as earlier in the day I had mentioned this fact to Angela (the bride), and thinking about it now, I can picture her saying in the back of her mind “Oh. I’ve got something for you later”. That is assuming she knew how emotional the room would be.
Angela was the last to give a speech that night and the story she would tell would be set up perfectly by her father, whom had mentioned in his speech about Angela’s issue of not being noticed by, or being able to find the right kind of man.
Angela, continued on with this story as she took the mic. Explaining that she was depressed about not finding that one true love. So one night she sat down and started writing love letters/poems to this yet unknown man who she was sure was out there, in hopes of one day being able to give them to him.
Admitting that the whole idea sounded like something a crazy person would do, she then produced one of the poems and read it aloud in front of everybody and to Ben, for the first time.
As Angela, read her poem, she cried and sniffled through quite a bit of it, but finished strong in a giant embrace with her new soul mate.
To say there were very few dry eyes in the house would be an understatement. My own eyes were filled partially with tears and I had that dry feeling in the back of my throat. It was a wonderful moment and I was glad they allowed me to be the person to photograph it all.
A Midsummer Night’s Wedding
Meredith and Joe, were married at the Millburn Church in Lake Villa and celebrated afterwords at the Lehman Mansion. Both beautiful locations that played along nicely with the theme of a Midsummer’s Night.
I’ve heard all sorts of wedding nightmare stories, although I will admit most of them are actually more like a wedding hiccup than a full blown nightmare. Which is why I think I’ve actually been paying attention to stories I’ve heard or read about brides who had their dresses on hold at Eva’s Bridal shop in Oak Lawn, Il.
If you haven’t heard the story already, Eva’s is a well known dress shop that regularly gets good reviews from it’s brides, but on Nov. 17th, a fire started at the shop and the building went up in flames and the roof came down. I was tempted to write about this before, but I was busy relaunching the blog, so now a few weeks after when I heard the story about Melissa Conley, while listening to the news on the radio, I had to share this story.
It seems that not only was Melissa, one of the brides who’s dress went up in smoke, but another bridal shop lost her bride’s maids dresses and then to top it off the venue she had booked for rehearshal dinner, Harry Caray’s in Wrigleyville, closed down out of the blue.
While one might think how does a bar themed around the former voice of the Chicago Cubs go out of business just block from Wrigley Field? I’d say the real thing to think of is Melissa, if the only issue you have on your wedding day is rain.
Also, if you are already married and still have your dress, but really don’t foresee it doing anything but hanging out in your closet. Eva’s is taking donations for brides who lost dresses and are in a pinch. Visit their website for more info http://www.evasbridalsofoaklawn.com/
It had been two years since I had shot a wedding in Milwaukee, and it was nice to be back. Ironically the last wedding I photographed was the sister of the bride, and just like I had two years ago, my day started off in the town of Wauwatosa, a cute little burb of Milwaukee, nestled along the banks of the Menomonee River. What wasn’t so cute was that after having one of the most perfect Octobers ever weather wise, the forecast for the day was for serious rain.
Luckily for the both of them the weather man was wrong and the most of the rain came before the end of the ceremony. Emily & Matt had picked out a bunch of great locations outdoors for some bridal party photos, so the weather cleared at just the right time and we were even lucky enough to get some great late afternoon sun.
For more photos from this wedding please visit my Facebook page. (Don’t forget to click like).
Being a city person, I hardly get out to the suburbs unless it’s on assignment, or for a wedding. However, there is one place myself & most wedding photographers who work around the Wheaton area know all to well and that is Cantigny. I know that almost sounds like I’m rolling my eyes when I say it, but there’s a reason why this place is so popular with brides & Photographers. It’s beautiful and you’d have to photograph 2 dozen weddings there before you’d run out of new places to take pictures at and that’s not including different seasons.
While I’ve shot bridal parties inside the park before, Suzi & Dave, were my first couple who were actually having their ceremony at the park half of Cantigny. Complete with our own golf cart & driver we made our way around the park and got some great photos.
The peacefulness of the park really lent itself nicely as a back drop beyond posed photos once the ceremony started.
See more photos from this wedding on my Facebook page. (Don’t forget to like me)
I photograph a dozen or more weddings each year and 99% of the time I feel that I’ve formed a very good relationship with the couples I’m working with and while I’ve never had any disasters, forming a bond with the wedding party & close family doesn’t always happen as easily. With Adrianna & Jame’s wedding that was not the case.
Tagging along side of the bridemaids & groomsmen was a blast. I even have to make special mention of the bride’s sister Marika, who was a blast to be around. Just look at some of the photos from the reception which was held at the Walter Payton Round House in Aurora, and I think you’ll see how lively this group was.
On another note, I’ve had a few weddings where the groom, or bride had served, or was serving in the military, but Adrianna & James, was actually the first wedding I’ve ever shot where the groom was dressed in uniform. While a uniform isn’t an option for every groom, it a great reminder that you don’t need to stick with just the same old tux or suit. My personal favorite, mostly because it’s what I wore, is a white dinner jacket instead of a black tux jacket. This works great for summer & spring weddings.
See more photos from Adrianna & James’ wedding on my Facebook page (don’t forget to click like)
This will be one of the few posts I will do with no photo (as not to incriminate the brides who have done it), there are few things that will ruin a good photo the way chewing gum does.
I will say right off the bat I am not a gum person and I don’t understand the need to constantly chew gum, but in general it doesn’t bother me until it shows up in my photos.
When it comes to taking portraits many people stress about a a pimple, or blinking and while blinking can’t be corrected it’s usually a one off thing, only the worst acne outbreak isn’t fixable in Photoshop, but gum on the other hand just makes your face do all sorts of weird things.
Talking is another one one that will ruin a posed photo, but unlike chewing gum it can often become part of a candid photo, making it more realistic.
So unless you’re doing a cute bubble blowing photo. Spit the gum out.
(No brides have ever chewed gum during the ceremony. At least that I know of).
I don’t read a lot of Wedding or Bridal Magazines. Ok, I don’t read any, but I do know that there are articles on the topic of “Budget Weddings” & “Fantastic Weddings on a Shoe String Budget” and so on. With the current economic outlook, I’m sure their will be more of these popping up in magazines and web sites like theKnot.com.
In regards to photography though, somewhere the recent myth of the student photographer shooting a wedding took off, but unlike Unicorns, there are actually college students who take good weddings photos. But there is a huge difference from finding some one to shoot your wedding for cheap and finding someone to shoot it cheap and good. If you are one of those people looking for that, read this before making you post on Craig’s List.
As a couple, the 3 most important things you will choose for your wedding in order are; The Dress, The location & The photographer. (see my previous blog post The 3 most Imporant Things). Those stories you’ve heard about someone having a student or a friend shoot their wedding and they got the most amazing pictures back… well they are real, but are few and far between.
If you want a great way to save a few bucks, start by not spending $15 each on a handful of magazines. Now before I get to far off topic, the reason of this post is about my arch enemy… The student photographer.
Well not really, I like student photographers and think any chance they can get for real world experience they should take it. I think a student photographer isn’t something that every bride wants, as much as I think that paying a lot for a bad photographer is something every bride wants to avoid.
All to often people look at photography as something they themselves can do and in turn are astounded by the cost of hiring a professional. While most people under stand that taking 1 great photo out of 100 does not make them Ansel Adams, thinking someone who has a little bit of schooling will definitely be better at it than you is a sound thought, but thinking they may someday be the next Ansel Adams isn’t exactly on the mark considering only 7% of people with a degree in the arts go on to make it a career.
First; Most people who’ve had luck with a student usually knew the photographer and were already impressed with their work before hand. If your cousin isn’t studying photography at an art school, or you don’t have a friend who’s roommate freelances for the local paper, chances are you aren’t one of the lucky few who can save money while still getting great results.
You should probably then be looking at getting a profession who’s work you like and who’s price you can afford.
Try getting someone who doesn’t require an album to be purchased, or if you want to buy the digital copies of the photos, see if you have an option to buy them after the wedding. Try putting off as much as you can till after the wedding.
While most vendors will want some type of payment (be careful when vendors want full payment up front), deposits that aren’t due at signing help in making a budget spread out.
But if you’re still hell bent on going this route here are a few suggestions.
So you’re still hell bent on going this route here are a few suggestions. (continued from part 1)
1. Know where to find your student photographers. Realize that the world is a big place and photo students aren’t as numerous as accountants. Colleges and universities that have photography programs are few and far between, or are concentrated in one area. While the wedding might be 50 miles from a city like San Francisco, or New York, with a lot of photo students. Students don’t always have transportation, or at the vary least reliable transportation. Living in Memphis might yield few photo schools, but the small towns of Columbia, Missouri, Missoula, Montana, or Bowling Green, Kentucky are home to some of the countries better photojournalism programs.
2. Also, not all photography students want to shoot weddings. My senior year I turned down $800 from a relative to shoot their friend’s wedding (this was in 1997).
3. Have patients. When you use non-traditional avenues for wedding vendors, you have to remember you will no longer be dealing with professionals. Hobbyist/students most likely will not know half of what a full time vendor does on the business side of things. So set time aside for portraits sessions to be longer and don’t expect full-on pre & post ceremony consulting. Also, while couples with graphic design knowledge will cry “not fair”, third party vendors like album publishers will not sell to clients not already in the industry. This means the hi-end magazine style album you wanted probably won’t be available through the student, or amateur photographer.
4. Ask to see a portfolio. Realizing you know nothing about what makes a good non-wedding portfolio, look for photos that capture people. Great photos of trees, lake views and sunset do not translate into great photos of people. Look for somebody with a knack for documenting events like a photojournalist. Believe it our not, great photos from a party or night club on their flickr page, may say more about their talent than that amazing sunset.
1. Buy somebody a good camera. Find a relative or close friend who is into photography. Take the $400 or $500 (or more) and use it to help them buy a new camera like the Canon Rebel, or Nikon D70 with a kit zoom lens package, or if they have a nice digital already, upgrade with a better off camera flash or fast glass lens. Or if they have good equipment now, pay for an advanced photo class with a pro. I actually know a dentist who has always had more expensive equipment than me, but I still get better pictures. Make sure your wedding is at least 3 or 4 months away so they have time to use and get used to shooting with it. You’ve just strengthen a bond with someone and found a photographer.
2. (This should be done in conjunction with suggestion #1)
Ask guests to bring their point and shoot digital cameras and up load the photos to a photo sharing web site like flickr or photobucket. Or better yet, ask them if they’d mail you a CD of the images. Two of my favorite wedding photos came from my father and a friend’s husband. While they took some good photos the rest of the wedding our hired photographer beat everything else they had hands down. But you can’t go wrong with 10 cameras vs. 1. (Do this even if you hire a professional).
3. Do a destination wedding. I know three different people who just took themselves, their best man/maid of honor and went for broke on a beach in Mexico or Hawaii. Most resorts have a photographer who will take a few handful of photos for a hundred or two hundred dollars, but basically by eliminating the pomp and circumstance with your wedding you’ll eliminate the need for serious photography. Oh and flowers & dinner for 300 people & a limo & so on and so on. Plus you already on your honeymoon.
4. Move the date back. If all these ideas don’t seem like such a good idea now that I’ve spelled them out, move the date back. There’s nothing that can be more catastrophic to a wedding than squeezing it into an unrealistic time frame. While you might find a few deals, weddings are expensive and if you are doing it solo (like my wife & I did) you either need to scale your plans down (150 guests in stead of 400) or save some more money. Unless you need to be married at home plat in Yankee Stadium before it’s torn down, the best thing you can do is wait a little longer & save.
Chances are if you are reading this, you have at least heard of the term “Photojournalistic Style Wedding Photography”, but what is it and why is it so popular?
Back in the day wedding photography consisted of a trip to a photo studio where a formal posed photo would be taken after the wedding. Mainly because cameras were far to large and churches were a lot more strict. When cameras got smaller, formal photos went from the studio to the aisle and eventually the reception. Since most of this work was done by studio photographers, it retained much of the look and feel of studio work. Heavily staged & formal. You can read more about the changes in wedding photography here.
So why did brides start to prefer a “Photojounalistic” look, over a glamorously posed photo studio session?
One big reason as mentioned in the article I linked to above was magazine coverage of royal weddings in England & Marolyn Monroe’s wedding by magazines like Life & Look. What’s more glamorous than having your wedding covered like a newspaper or magazine story.
Another was back in the 60′s & 70′s photojournalists started to photograph weddings out side of their newspaper work and it was often done using black & white film only and shot mostly as unposed candid images. They’d go back to their darkrooms and develop and print images up at a much lower cost than color film would allow. Why do you think they call it Photojounalistic Style.
Well the natural look of it took off and some in the Photojournalism industry left and started shooting weddings full time. Some wedding photographers never even worked in the industry, but employee similar techniques. Since Photojournalism isn’t really a style, it’s a field in photography, you’d truthfully be better off and I actually prefer to call it what it really is, which is “Documentary” style photography.
As I mentioned before “Photojournalistic Wedding Photography” has kind of become a buzz word in the wedding industry, but many outside of the photo world often mistake it for several things. Make sure when you are looking for a photographer who says they shoot “Photojournalistically”, that not only do they shoot documentary style, but that you actually know what that means yourself.
First a little bit about what “Documentary” style isn’t
1. A wedding shot in all black & white, is not documentary style. Black & White film was a cheap alternative to color film and many of the photojournalists I talked about above, started out shooting just in black & white. This is a film choice not a style. Although there is a different astetic to black & white photography. It is not a style in itself.
2. Different angles, close up & purposefully blurred photos, doesn’t make it documentary. All photographers strive to get different looks of a subject, myself included. These are part of a photographer personal style.
3. It has to be candid? No not really. It’s very hard to not notice somebody standing 2 feet from you with 3 cameras wrapped around their neck, but it’s easy to get use to that person being there and in time forgetting about them. Plus, all good documentaries have head shots or group photos. Looking at the camera isn’t a sin in this style, but doing the old “buddies with their arms around each others shoulders” photo isn’t what it is about.
So what is documentary style?
Basically it is the idea that what you are taking photos of will eventually have a final output, and ending if you will. Your wedding is essentially a story and capturing moments that happen during it are very important. Detailed images of rings, glasses, hands and so on are elements of that story and when laid out in a book or slide show, these images should flow together like a story without words, or voices.
A photographers personal style is their own, you can see this in their portfolio, as chances are it is a collection of the work they have done that they feel represents what they do best. A sample of how they photograph a wedding from start to finish,is a good indicator of the overall style they shoot in. Are they Documentary? Artistic? Commercial?
And while you may not have the eye that a photographer has to tell the difference, just know if you see a lot of straight on photos of people looking right at the camera, chances are that photographer won’t be laying upside down on the dance floor to get the guys diving for the garter. And if you see an image like the one at the top of the page, chances are that photographer isn’t going to grant somebodies request for a grip and grin photo.
There’s a photo I show in my full wedding presentation. It’s of a groom on the ground with his butt in the air looking under a bed. I love the weird look I get from brides, but the next photo is his cat, under the bed, because he was looking for it as friends and family gathered at his home prior to the ceremony. I always say that there’s a method to my madness. Make sure you ask about that method and figure out whether it’s right for you or not.