Wedding tips, ideas & stories, from The Photographer

Posts tagged “photos

Brett Surprises Kelsey at Starved Rock – Proposal Photography

Fall Colors & A Pro-Photographer Dressed Like a Tourist

For the second month in a row I found myself at the Illinois State Park Straved Rock to shoot a proposal. Luckily for me, this time I wasn’t the rouse in-front of the proposal. It was actually pretty easy this time around. Especially once the weather held out and the couple came away with some beautiful moments captured on camera.


Brett got in touch with me about doing the hidden photographer thing while he popped-the-question to Kelsey on one of the paths at Starved Rock. His plan was to find the right moment when nobody else was around on the path and get down on one knee. I just had to look as ordinary as possible so as not to create any suspicion. So I threw on some hiking boots, cargo pants and a backpack and made my way out to the path he planned on using.

I made sure to arrive nice and early and the place was already packed, as the fall colors were just starting to come out and I was worried that Brett was never going to find the right time to pop-the-question as the trails were almost as busy as the Chicago lake front path in the summer. A few text messages after they arrived I spotted the couple walking down some stairs towards me. Ironically I was giving some camera tips to some other fall color fans and I’m sure that helped me blend right in.

161015-engagement-1029I kept watch out of the corner of my eye as the two walked past. It really is a wonderful part of my profession to be able to be in on the secret and know something like this is about to happen. After a brief walk up some stairs Brett slowed down and dropped to one knee at the end of a long straight-away. Prefect placement on his part as I was far enough back to not be noticed and yet still have a perfect view. It took Kelsey a few steps before she realized Brett had stopped, at which point her phone just dropped right out of her hand.

I think the images below will help fill in the rest of the story. Like “did she say yes?”

Also, I have to give a big thank you to the random family who helped make the photo shoot even better, by helping me make it rain leaves in front of the recently engaged for one of the portraits we took.



Hey, random family at Starved Rock, I don’t know who you were, but thank you for throwing some leaves in the air to really make this photo.




See more photos from the engagement here.

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Hannah’s Surprise at Starved Rock – Proposal Photography

Hannah’s Surprise Proposal

Most of the time when I’m photographing a wedding proposal my job is to hide, or blend in with the crowd, so the person being proposed to is none the wiser. On this day however, not only was it not required for me to be hidden, I was the ruse for why Stephen & Hannah were in Starved Rock.  The guise of this proposal scheme was that I, a rugby teammate of Stephen, was in need of a couple to photograph at Starved Rock. Stephen, using the old “I have to work, I’ll meet you there” trick, had his friend & roommate Rich, drive Hannah to Starved Rock and meet us. Below is how the day unfolded in pictures.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

The ring ready to go in a Batman themed box Stephen made. Yes, believe it, not Hannah’s a huge Batman fan. (Lucky guy).

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

List of friends & family who will be holding signs on a path to Lover’s Leap.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

A video & slide show of friends, family, and a dog, who couldn’t make it.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Lots of tears & joy as Hannah is kind of figuring out what might be going down at the end of this trail.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

All is about to be revealed and luckily for Hannah, it’s Stephen & not the Joker.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

In the canyons of Starved Rock.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.

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If You Don’t Have An Album, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I really need a photographer at my wedding for?”

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson.


“You Can’t Print An Excuse”. It’s been almost 20 years since I heard those words for the first time. It’s what every photo editor, at any publication will tell you if you don’t get the shot, or miss the assignment all-together. Hopefully for your wedding you received photos and not an excuse, but chances are you’re like so many couples today who stopped at “getting photos” part of the process and didn’t move onto the “print” part.

 My wife & I paid for the majority of our own wedding, so I understand budget reasons when it comes to getting a heirloom quality album you can pass on to future generations, but if you’re thinking just sharing them on the internet is good enough, then I have to tell you “you’re doing it wrong“.

Putting all snark aside, I’m not suggesting you need to get an elaborate album like the one I just finished for a couple who’s wedding I shot last year (above photo). Believe it or not, while my wife has put together 3 small albums with various 4×6 photos printed out, ten years later we still have nothing close to the amazing albums I make for my clients, but we have something that is tangible.

What I’m really getting at is your phone, or laptop are no way to show off your wedding photos when you have guests over, or once your children are born and old enough to look at them. I bring this up because it just so happens that the day I was shipping off one of my latest albums, I also read an article from a journalism school on how text is making a transition to mobile, but photography might be getting skipped over.

Why spend all that time on picking out the perfect locations, design pieces, cake, dress and more? Securing a good photographer for your wedding day is a waste if you never print up the images beyond a few photos for your wall, or office desk. Beyond the love & vows of weddings, the day itself, above all else, is a spectacle and is designed to be photographed and displayed larger than the palm of your hand.


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Personal Gripe: Wedding Planners Please Move!

Let me just start off by saying, I love wedding planners and event coordinators. They make weddings go smoothly and allow the couple to enjoy more of the day. I highly suggest if you’re doing any type of large wedding with lots of logistics you work with one.

That being said, their penchant for making sure every center piece is measured by the exact radius of the table and rooms are at a perfect temperature to stop flowers from wilting, doesn’t just remind me of my German mother, it also means they have a tendency float around like helicopter parents at a cement play ground. Which in quite a few cases means they end up in the background of more than a few of my photos.

I should have removed the thermostat from this photo as well as the wedding planner who stayed behind the bride after opening the door.

Don’t get me wrong, your wedding planner should be on top of their game as the ceremony starts, but planning a wedding to be great is all for naught if your photos & video get photo bombed on accident by the people you hired. When I work with a second photographer, it’s almost like watching ballet. We move in unison, knowing exactly where to stand so we do not end up in the others image. Same can be said for the videographer.

So to all you wedding planners out there, I look forward to seeing the magic you help create at the next wedding, but realize if you can see the lens of the photographers at your event, chance are they are screaming inside “PLEASE MOVE!”

Wedding planners are always hovering as the bride walks down the aisle.

Where’s Waldo? Sometimes I can actually move in a way that hides the planner. See next photo.

Before Photoshop, this was how you took unwanted things out of your background. You changed your angle.

15 Questions for a wedding photographer #2; Photo Copyright


15 Questions Brides Want to Know About Wedding Photography #2

One of the interesting parts of being a professional in a field for a while is you get requests from the media for comment on events, or topics relevant to that field. Recently I was asked to answer some questions for an upcoming book geared towards future brides.

I was one of several professionals who were asked questions specifically for wedding photography, so I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything by revealing my answers, since I’m sure they’ll use others for some of the 15 answers, plus I wasn’t asked anything about catering, or how to preform a traditional religious ceremony.

I’ll be sure to post up link when the book is published, but for now I’ll be spreading the questions and my answers (plus maybe a little extra) out over the next 15 days.


Question #2

Why do wedding photographers copyright the pictures they take at weddings? Is this common?

Copyright is common, because technically everybody who takes a photo, writes a poem, creates a computer program, ect. has a copyright under the law for what they’ve created. Professional photographers, musicians and movie makers are just a little more upfront about it because it’s part of their business. I get clients who tell me they want the “copyrights” to the photos without ever really knowing what that means. When in fact what they really want is usage rights.

Usage rights can allow a couple to reprint images as they see fit, but allows the photographer to be able to display the images (as part of their portfolio, or in an advertisement, as examples). Without writing a small novel, there are almost no reasons a couple should ask for the copyright to all the photos, over just getting usage rights. Asking for the copyright is like a Ford asking the Beatles to let them own a song just so it could be used in one car commercial.




Can't touch this.

Coming up tomorrow

Question #3

Is it better to book a wedding photographer who uses film or digital Equipment?


Previous Questions

#1 What are the advantages of hiring a professional wedding photographer as opposed to having a friend or family member take the pictures?

Image Friendly Wedding Tips #2; Dress Code

Dress Code? Or Dress Theme?

I will say this tip isn’t for everybody, but requiring, or suggesting a dress code isn’t as far fetched as you think.

There are two main reasons why you may want to have a dress code; First, either the you, or the reception venue want to maintain an appearance fitting for the location. Second, you feel there may be some confusion by your guests about how they should dress.

Black Tie & Jacket Required

Although not very frequent, there are still Black Tie & Ultra Formal weddings. Also, some country clubs & high end hotel venues may also have a “Jacket Required” policy. And while most venues might not stipulate that the policy be in effect for your guests, your guests eventually will have to enter, or leave the reception area and could end up feeling out of place, so a suggestion, or request to dress appropriately should appear on your invitations.

General Wedding Attire

Let be honest, in most cases, women are pretty clear on what to wear to a wedding, us men on the other hand can fail miserably. A personal shameful incident came while I was in college and after asking to be invited to a cousin’s wedding reception at a fancy country club, I showed up in mock turtle neck & a bad multi-colored sweater vest. I looked like the offspring of Steve Jobs & Bill Cosby, while everyone else was in suits & ties.

The point of that story is, even though I was well intentioned, I wasn’t aware at the time that most men wear suits & ties to weddings. Especially if you’re a young couple, you will most likely have guests who are at their first wedding where their mothers aren’t dressing them. Once again a suggestion on your invitation will help insure you don’t have any photos of you rolling your eyes when you see a friend in a work polo, or your cousin in a club attire.

Weather & Locations

The two examples above are both related to how you & the venue you might want the guests to dress, but what about how the guests themselves would like to dress? If you’re getting married outside in the summer, especially if the reception is outdoors as well, you might want to seriously think about letting guests know if you’re ok with dressy casual attire, so nobody shows up in a dark suit & tie for a beach wedding and women aren’t in high heals on the beach.

Themed Weddings

I’m not talking costume party here, but on occasion some couples like to have a theme, or style to their wedding. Often it sticks to decorations and the venue, but I have seen it incorporated into the guests attire. Last summer, Jinnel & Randy (pictured above) had a 40’s style swing theme to their wedding. While many of their friends showed up dressed to play along, it wasn’t a mandatory thing, but enough guests played along so that combined with the swing band & the ball room at the Mayslake Peabody Estates, the wedding took on the vibe they were going for.

Above all make sure your guests know they can come to you, or your wedding planner with questions about how they should be expected to dress.

Remember, keep it simple if you do a dress code. There may be one or two people annoyed by it, but best scenario it stops a few people who would only RSVP for the open bar from coming. Although chances are you still won’t be able to stop uncle Charles from wearing the fish tie.

Did you include a dress requirement for your wedding, or did you have any wedding attire nightmares? I’d love to hear about them, post in the comments section.

For a breakdown of wedding dress codes, check out this post from the You Look Fab blog

Doing an homage to your love for Star Wars as part of your first dance… Cool & funny.

Making your grandma dress up like a Jawa… Not cool.