Wedding tips, ideas & stories, from The Photographer

Posts tagged “photojournalism

Photojournalism at Your Wedding

Photojournalism at a weddingWith an open door policy, the First United Methodist Church is a resting place for some of the city’s homeless.

I’ve heard stories of wedding photographers who’ve had car accidents, fires, or other news worthy type events take place at them, but luckily for the couples & myself, most if not all of the weddings I’ve photographed have gone off without a hitch.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where I see things that tell other stories outside, or intersecting with the narrative of the wedding, what those of us in journalism might call a feature story. So I just thought I’d share this really quick post about two of those moments that happened at the wedding of Laura & Chris.

The First United Methodist Church, is right in the middle of downtown Chicago. It’s a beautiful wood lined church with stained glass windows on the first floor of what looks like an office building, and like some churches they have a policy of welcoming anyone to come in and stay for awhile. This often means homeless or transient people will find a safe place on hot and cold days. They are asked to leave before the ceremony starts, but I was early and was able to take this image before the bride & groom even arrived.

First United Methodist Church ChicagoThe First United Methodist Church is a frequent stop along the way for many downtown walking tours.

Also, because of the beauty of the building and it’s two chapels (there is a sky chapel as well), it is a frequent stop on some downtown walking tours. This group happen to be touring the second floor art gallery, where the bride and groom were waiting till the ceremony began on the first floor.

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WANTED; Wedding photog, $500 or Less, Students Welcome Part 1


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 there will be more of these articles popping up in magazines and web sites like theKnot.com.

In regards to photography though, somewhere the 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 someone 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 Important 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 understand 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. Consider this fact, 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.

See Part 2


WANTED; Wedding photog, $500 or Less, Students Welcome Part 2

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.

Alternative suggestions.

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.

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The 3 Most Important Things You Will Choose

Every couple I ever sit down with I tell them about the three most important things you will choose for your wedding in order.

1. The Dress

2. The Location
Chicago Skyline wedding photo

3. The Photographer

Explanation;
The Dress
– Honestly if the bride doesn’t fell like the most beautiful/important woman at her own wedding, people will know. It will show up in photos, videos and the bride sets the tone for how the guests behave and in general whether or not everybody is having a good time.

Brides, this does not mean you need a $50,000 D&G one of a kind dress. It just means you need to be happy and comfortable with what you’re wearing. If you have somebody with you whose opinion you value, take stock in what they think, but go with your gut whether it’s the first, or 20th dress you’ve tried on.

About half the brides I shot in 2008 got their dresses at David’s Bridal (unpaid plug). And I’ve seen everything from designer dresses to individual one of a kinds ( OnlyJangMi.com shameless plug for my wife’s web site), but once the dress goes on and brides see themselves in a mirror, they know why this is number 1.

The Location – I’ve seen backyard weddings that are beautiful and Luxury Hotel Receptions that are awfully tacky or bland. While renting out Millennium Park in downtown Chicago might not be an option for most of us, intimate or unique locales also set a tone for your wedding.

In a sense your wedding is as much about the day as it is about remembering the day. Is your location something that people will be talking about? Do you feel that it’s a perfect setting for your perfect day? Or is it more of a place of convenience?

Finally, will it add to, detract from, or be a non-factor in your wedding photos? Which brings us to the third most important thing.

The Photographer – Yes, I do seem a little biased on this third most important factor, but honestly it’s true. Your wedding photos will live on long after you do. Family tree albums, anniversaries. Wedding photos of deceased grandparents have been displayed at many welcome tables at weddings. The only other thing that last as long if not longer than your photos are the rings.

Not everybody you want will be able to attend your wedding, they will however want to see images from that day. You will of course want to see images from that day too, but often some of my couples’ favorite photos take place before the ceremony, or in the little moments between. Having the day documented and also having formal group photos to go along with that is the key to why photography is #3 on the list.

If you think of your wedding as just a “Day” event, then food and band selection might be more important to you, but if you realize that a wedding actually will come to symbolize so much more than just one day, you’ll make decisions based your feelings in the future.