Say No to Amateurs. Hire a Pro Photographer

Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event and naturally you want fabulous photographs to document this special day. With all the preparation and expense involved you don’t want to risk dropping the ball by leaving the photography to an amateur, no matter how much ‘Cousin Tommy’ swears he’s a whizz with the camera.

Say No to Amateurs. Hire a Professional Photographer

Cousin Tommy may be cheap, or even free, but why take a gamble on one of the happiest days of your life?

Say No to Amateurs. Hire a Professional Photographer

Professionals notice the details, which will ruin a perfectly nice photo.

There is a world of difference between a professional with top of the range equipment and your friend ‘Sally’ with her mobile phone or ipad. Even if Tommy and Sally have shown off their great vacation pics they won’t necessarily be experienced in posing the bride and groom for romantic shots or well versed in the latest trends of reportage or artistic photography.

Professional wedding photographers are an expense to be included in the overall budget. Although you may be tempted to slash the cost by letting friends or relatives loose with their digital cameras, it is a false economy if the photographs they take are a disappointment. Wedding photographs hold precious tangible memories of the day and if the results are a flop you can’t re-do the day: those precious once-in-a-lifetime moments are lost forever.

Over exposed, unfocused photograph

Amateurs tend to forget about the basics such as lighting, focus and content; such as who let the goober in the little boy shorts in the frame?

Photographers with wedding experience and impressive portfolios work hard to ensure the lighting is just right, a skill demonstrated if the light in the church is a tad gloomy or the sunshine is too bright. They know how to position you to avoid shadows, how to work in the sunshine so you don’t end up squinting into the camera, and when using a flash is necessary.

example of photo with poor lighting.

Very Poor Lighting. A professional would have had indirect lighting to eliminate the shadows effect.

If Ted and Sally are still pressuring you into cutting corners by offering to photo-document your wedding you can let them down gently by persuading them they are there to enjoy the day. Wedding guests will want to eat, drink and make merry, and won’t be on hand all the time to capture every special moment. As Uncle Ted tucks into his salmon he is likely to miss a never to be repeated moment, or Sally could dash off to touch up her make-up, missing that romantic shot of the two of you in the first flush of wedded bliss. A professional photographer will dedicate every moment of their time to the job you have engaged them for and will be experienced in knowing exactly what makes a certain moment worth shooting.

Snow falling on newlyweds.

Amateur photographers become victims of their environment. Their success depends mostly on luck.

Another reason to go with the professionals is they won’t be distracted by the guests, being experienced in taking photographs in group settings. Additionally they will know how to round up the guests for those all important group shots and how to direct you in magical bride and groom poses. One underestimated skill professional wedding photographers offer is their ability to put people at ease and thus bring the best out of them for the photographs. The group dynamic may not react well to Uncle Ted barking orders.

Photo bombed ring ceremony.

Ruined pre-planned photos, like this ring ceremony, are particularly disappointing. Amateurs don’t usually look beyond the action immediately in front of their camera. A professional would have either shifted positions to cut the photo bomber out of the frame, or would even have quietly asked the couple to pause the ceremony until the distraction in the back moved on.

Of course the job of a wedding photographer does not end when the lights go down with the final dance. The shots need to be skilfully edited into images you can cherish and they have the expertise needed to create photographic images you will treasure forever.

Questions to ask your wedding photographer

As you narrow down a shortlist of wedding photographers with a style that suits your vision there are some key questions to ask which will help you determine which photographer to choose. Asking the right questions can allay any anxieties you may have and help you to discover if you have a good rapport. You may fall in love with their portfolio, but still need to consider other factors such as experience, availability, flexibility and pricing.

Pricing may influence your choice thus it is important to consider the various packages they offer, what is included and how much you will pay for any extras. You may be happy to receive a flash drive of the images to print off yourself or want something more such as print albums and large scale portraits. Consider the length of time the photographer will attend your wedding and if they cover key moments you wish to record such as getting ready and the cake cutting.

Ask the photographer if they are familiar with your wedding venue, if they have shot there before, and if they are not will they scope it out prior to the wedding. You may have decided to go for a reportage style of photography but still wish to have some posed shots after the ceremony.

Ask if your photographer is skilled in both traditional and reportage style shots and if you would feel comfortable taking direction from them. If you elect to go with a traditional style you should ask how many requests you can put on your shot list.

You may not know much about photographic equipment but will want to know if they shoot digitally or with film. Film will take longer to process and you should ask when the photographs will be available to you as no doubt you will be on tenterhooks waiting to see the finished product. As to equipment you may want to know if they have a back-up plan to deal with any technical hitches.

It is important to ask if you have the copyright to digital photographs as you may wish to post them on social media and share them among your friends. Ask if the photographer intends to use the prints on social media or for advertising purposes. Some photographers create an online gallery made available to you and your guests. Similarly with film prints you will want to ask if you can have the negatives.

Other pertinent questions to ask include details of their cancellation policy, their overtime rate if things run over, if they charge extra for travel and accommodation, and how many weddings they have shot. A professional photographer will be able to answer all your questions and put your mind at ease.

Color vs Black And White Wedding Photographs

You put so much thought and attention into every single aspect of your dream wedding and want every last detail captured to perfection in the wedding photographs. You want a skilled photographer with an artistic eye to record every moment, feature and emotion, producing beautiful photographs that capture the essence of your wedding day vision. While most couples choose to have a shot list of photographs to be done in color, there is an increasing trend towards black and white photographs or a combination of both options.

Color film only came into play into the 1930s and couples that appreciate a classic and timeless look may well be drawn to the artistry of black and white prints. Black and white photographs can appear more romantic and create sharp and crisp images that really focus on human emotions. If people are the central narrative of the picture then a black and white photograph can draw the focus onto them rather than the background. There is no vying for attention as the focus is concentrated on the person without any distractions.

When deciding if to go with color or black and white photographs one should realize that color photographs can be converted to black and white but black and white cannot be converted to color. If your photographer shoots all the images in color you can opt for some to be reproduced in black and white. Color photographs best capture the overall look of the day when you want photographs of the table settings, floral arrangements and bridesmaid’s dresses.

A popular choice is to have the pre-wedding ceremony photographs in black and white before switching to color for shots of the ceremony and reception. Black and white works well with reportage style wedding photographs which capture the moment without specific posing. Black and white creates an excellent record of true emotions such as the tears of happiness in a bride’s eyes or the tenderness of the moment as the ring is slipped onto the wedding finger.

A single color can be introduced to a crisp black and white photograph to stunning effect. Imagine the image of a single shot of the bride in a white gown with the only color coming from her bouquet, a shot of the flower girl when the only splash of color is the ribbon in her hair, or an evocative shot of the bride and groom beneath a colored umbrella.

 

A combination of both black and white and color photographs is a great way to satisfy a taste for both styles. The inclusion of black and white photographs can be considered a hopeful sign of marriage longevity as unlike color photographs they will not begin to fade over time. You will retain an unblemished record of this most special of days that will stand the test of time and be appreciated by future generations.

The Wedding Shot List

The importance of knowing the style of wedding photographs you want is the key to receiving images that fulfill your vision. As you go through the process of selecting a professional wedding photographer, communication is all important as the photographer can only create your vision if you are clear in your desire. If the photographer is excited about your vision and has an inspired portfolio that sparks your interest you could be onto a winner.

*Photo 1

Bridal magazines put great emphasis on the wedding shot list, but unless you want specific shots do not feel pressurized into following these guidelines. At the end of the day you may prefer to have candid spontaneous shots that capture the joy of the day rather than detailed photographic images of the wedding invitations or the groom’s boutonniere.

*Photo 2

If you are having a very traditional wedding with a photographer in attendance before the ceremony you may well wish to document getting ready. You can discuss a general shot list without compiling a list that includes every detail. Unless the wedding favors and table settings are of sentimental importance you may prefer to have candid people shots and more photographs of the bride and groom together rather than endless pictures of wine glasses and napkins.

*Photo 3

Many couples opt for reportage style photography and limit their shot list to some group photos after the ceremony. It is advisable to have a family member on hand to round up the guests you want in each shot and ensure they don’t wander off and mess up your timeline. A good photographer will know the importance of capturing the first kiss and the first dance without following a written shot list but will need to know who it is important you share a special moment with on film.

*Photo 4

There are instances of couples being disappointed with the finished results when they receive their photographs. A bride that complains there was no misty shot of her and the groom posed romantically in a field most probably neglected to mention it in advance and probably even forgot the venue lacked said field. The bride that is upset that the photographer failed to photograph her with her best friend may not have stressed the importance of this on her shot list. This demonstrates the importance of communication and at least including some must have images on a limited shot list.

It is a personal decision if you outline 200 must-have shots or leave it to the experience of your photographer. Go with what feels right for you and what you feel will be the style of image you most cherish as you look back on your wedding day.

For more information on taking quality photographs, please click here.

REFERENCE
*Photo 1 is After Six Bridesmaid Dresses provided by https://madamebridal.com/after-six-dresses 
*Photo 2 is Sophia Tolli Wedding Dress provided by https://madamebridal.com/sophia-tolli
*Photo 3 is Allure Bridals Wedding Dress provided by https://madamebridal.com/allure-bridals-dresses
*Photo 4 is Dessy Bridesmaid Dresses provided by https://madamebridal.com/dessy-collection-dresses 

 

Trash the Dress Sessions

By Larry Brunt

You have spent hours and hours searching for the perfect dress. You have hidden it from your fiancé for months. It may very well be the most expensive article of clothing you have ever bought in your life. So when you hear any sentence with “trash the dress” in it, it could cause heart palpitations. But give the idea a listen.

What happens to the wedding gown after the wedding? Usually, it’s hermetically sealed into a big, plastic bag, where it is kept, forever and ever. It’s moved from house to house, takes up plenty of closet or attic space, and never sees the light of day. 

Some brides hope their daughters will one day wear the dress. But it rarely happens. Styles change. People come in different shapes and sizes. People have different tastes. (Did you wear your mom’s dress? Would you even have considered it?)

So instead of just sealing the dress away, more and more brides and grooms are doing a portrait session that is, a bit brutally, called “Trash the Dress.” (The groom doesn’t have to trash the rental tux–he can just wear black pants and a white button shirt).

Truth be told, the dress doesn’t have to be trashed. It just means the photo shoot is done someplace where the dress will get dirty–like in a forest, or by a lake. Maybe even in a lake. Or at a beach. Or in an abandoned house. In a field. In a crosswalk downtown. It could be anywhere.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. And what do you get? Instead of just having conventional wedding portraits, you can get creative portraits in a dramatic or spectacular setting–artistic photographs that you will love for the rest of your life. Many brides think it’s better than a bagged dress any day.

Wedding Portraits Made Simple


By Larry Brunt and Eric Ashley
The formal portrait session is often the least-enjoyable part of the wedding day. Not only do you have to stand and smile at the camera until your face feels sore, but Uncle Harold is making cheesy jokes, and your brother-in-law keeps stepping out and making everyone wait, and the flower girl is screaming a terrible tantrum. The whole scene is chaotic.

It’s not exactly the way you want to spend your wedding day.

But you want wedding portraits. Your mom wants wedding portraits. Your aunts and uncles want wedding portraits.

The good news is that the portrait session doesn’t have to be miserable, or long, or drawn out. By being selective and by simplifying, you can get all the portraits you want, and do it in a matter of minutes.

Here are some suggestions, but remember they are just that: suggestions. If you select me to photograph your wedding, I will take whatever portraits you want. However, if you are unsure about portraits, here are some ideas on how to simplify the portrait session.

First, there are some basic portrait that, where applicable, everyone should have:

* Bride and groom with bride’s family
* Bride and groom with groom’s family
* Bride and groom with both families
* Bride and groom with all attendants
* Bride and Groom (lots and lots of these)

Two other group portraits are very common:

* Bridesmaids with Bride (and often groom)
* Groomsmen with Groom (and often bride)

That’s four (or six) group portraits, plus the pictures of just the two of you. It’s quick and painless.

Some of the other “traditional” portraits you might want to consider leaving out, especially family pictures that don’t include both the bride and groom. For instance, many people want a picture of the bride’s family (without the groom) and the groom’s family (without the bride). But part of the significance of the wedding is bringing two families together. The groom now is part of the bride’s family, and visa versa.

Creative Wedding Portraits

You might also leave out the pictures of extended family, unless there is a sentimental photograph that you want taken (of a special grandmother, for instance).

Generally, the more extended the family in a portrait, the less meaningful the picture will be to the both of you–in some cases, this might be the only time the bride sees the groom’s second cousin, twice removed, on his father’s side, so when she looks at the photograph over the years, she might find herself wondering who that red-headed guy in the back is.

Keep the focus on the two of you, not aunts and uncles and long-lost cousins. Other people will take family snapshots of various family members during the day, and you can always get copies of those later. Keep the formal portrait session for the portraits that are important to you.

I would also encourage you to leave out pictures of the bride with each bridesmaid individually, and the groom with each groomsman individually. Again, part of this is thinking about what’s really important–the bride and groom together. This isn’t a celebration of your three (or five, or seven) best friends. It’s a celebration of you getting married, and your friends are there to show their support. But part of it is aesthetics, too; the individual pictures tend to all look the same anyway (the bride is in the same place, same pose, same smile; it’s just the bridesmaid that changes from picture to picture), and you’ll probably find that those pictures aren’t as interesting, or as meaningful, as the pictures that include the bride and groom together, and, for that matter, pictures you have of your friends that you’ve taken on your own.

Creative Wedding Portraits

The advantage of eliminating these less meaningful, but time-consuming pictures, is that you can get the whole portrait session over and done with in a matter of minutes.

Denis Reggie, once called “the hottest wedding photographer” by the New York Times, says he spends 5-15 minutes on portraits by sticking to the basics. Any photographer should be able to get through those main pictures in 20 minutes or so. More time for dancing at the reception!

Second, it means you can easily fit the portraits in after the ceremony. Many couples prefer this for the sake of tradition, but are afraid of two hour portrait sessions that keep guests checking their watches.

By simplifying your portrait list, you can get the pictures you want, and still arrive at the reception fashionably late (as opposed to brutally late). Also, in my experience, portraits after the ceremony are more relaxed and joyful. When the pictures are done before the ceremony, sometimes brides or grooms are still a bit nervous, and that can show up in the pictures.

Finally, by keeping the group portraits to a minimum, you can then go somewhere with the photographer and get a nice set of portraits of just the two of you. Maybe there’s a park nearby, or an elegant window, and a beautiful staircase. If you can find a picturesque setting, you can spend 30 minutes or so with just the two of you, getting some natural, relaxed, creative, playful, romantic pictures.

For these pictures, I always recommend that everyone else leave, with the possible exception of one bridesmaid to help out with the dress and bouquet if that is an issue. The fewer people who are watching, the more natural those portraits of the two of you will be.

Simple doesn’t mean boring. We still strive for unique, artistic portraits, no matter the groups or setting. A lot can be done with the environment and skillful lighting, and some creativity.

Again, these are just suggestions, because above all, it’s your wedding, and you need to get all the portraits you really want. But by simplifying the portrait session, you can streamline the process, avoid the chaos, and still get all the important and meaningful photographs.

Engagement Pictures

By Larry Brunt and Eric Ashley

You can add an engagement session to any wedding package.

During the engagement shoot, want you to interact and connect with each other, to laugh and kiss and walk and hold each other’s hands.

The more natural you are, the better the photographs will be.

But one of the advantages of the engagement session is that we have time to set up lights and get some creative portraits, in a more relaxed environment than sometimes happens on the wedding day. It’s fun for us, and we try to make it fun for you.

We also enjoy spending some time with you and getting to know you, so the engagement session is a good way for you to become comfortable with us and our shooting style before the wedding.

Most importantly, it gives you a collection of images to commemorate a romantic and joyful time of your lives.

After the engagement session, you can also order things for the wedding, such as guest books, pictures for invitations, or an enlargement for framing. It’s all up to you.

What is Wedding Photojournalism?

And is your photographer really a wedding photojournalist?

I call myself a wedding photojournalist, because that best describes my approach to wedding photography.
But many photographers claim to be wedding photojournalists these days.
So what is a wedding photojournalist, and how can you tell?

First, check and see if the photographer is a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association. The WPJA is an exclusive and authoritative organization on wedding photojournalism, with exacting standards (more photographers are turned down than are accepted into the organization). (Currently, I am the only photographer in Spokane in the WPJA.)

Second, the pictures themselves will give you a good idea of the approach of the photographer. When looking at a photographer’s portfolio or website, what percentage of the pictures are “camera aware”–that is, pictures in which the person being photographed is aware of the camera? Photojournalists try to avoid “camera aware” pictures, under the belief that the photographer should document what happens, not be a part of what happens. As soon as someone is aware of the photographer, the photographer is part of the story. Wedding photojournalists try to avoid that. (I also try to avoid “camera aware” pictures because I think people look best when they are being natural and having fun, and not being self-conscious).

Wedding Photojournalism is spontaneous.

For example, at the cutting of the cake, a traditional photographer might set up a shot of the couple holding the knife, maybe having the couple look into the camera for a picture or two, and then have them position their hands a certain way to take a close-up. For the photojournalist, all this creates an unnatural intrusion. The wedding photojournalist instead will keep quiet and allow the cutting of the cake to unfold naturally. The photojournalist will still capture the images of the cake cutting, but they will be natural and un-posed, with the bride and groom’s attention on the cake and the guests and, most importantly, each other (not the photographer).

A guideline set up by the WPJA is that about 80% of one’s images should be spontaneous, natural, un-posed, non-camera-aware pictures. Keep that guideline in mind when you look at websites. In how many pictures is the person looking at the camera? How many pictures look posed?

Third, the aim of the wedding photojournalist is to capture what really happened. They document the day, rather than create an illusion of the day. Therefore, wedding photojournalists tend to avoid overly processing images in Photoshop or some other application. When looking at a portfolio, pay attention to now “natural” the images are. Photojournlistic shots tend to be crisp, clear, well-composed, and above all, natural.

Wedding photojournalism is un-posed.

On the other hand, many photographers will “spice-up” a picture with tricks in Photoshop, like vignetting (darkening and blurring the edges of an image) or color-select (where an image is in black and white except for one element–the flowers, for example), or toning (sepia-toning being most common) or over-saturating an image with unrealistically bright colors. A high percentage of obviously processed images is an indication that the photographer doesn’t approach the wedding as a photojournalist.

Finally, interview the photographer. Find out about the photographer’s philosophy. Ask the photographer how often he/she speaks to the bride and groom and what kinds of things are said (a photojournalist, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, says little beyond what is necessary and polite). Find out how the photographer handles things at the reception (the photojournalist will do no orchestration of events at the reception).

But again, above all, look at the pictures. Because the wedding photojournalist is focused on capturing the couple, each set of wedding pictures will have a completely different look and feel. No two weddings will look a like. If you can get a good sense of the personality of the bride and groom, and a good idea of what their wedding was like, and the pictures are artful, but natural and spontaneous, then you are probably dealing with a bona fide wedding photojournalist.

–Larry Brunt
June 9, 2008
Essential Moments Photography
Spokane, Washington

Trash the Dress Sessions

You have spent hours and hours searching for the perfect dress. You have hidden it from your fiancé for months. It may very well be the most expensive article of clothing you have ever bought in your life. So when you hear any sentence with “trash the dress” in it, it could cause heart palpitations. But give the idea a listen.

What happens to the wedding gown after the wedding? Usually, it’s hermetically sealed into a big, plastic bag, where it is kept, forever and ever. It’s moved from house to house, takes up plenty of closet or attic space, and never sees the light of day.

Some brides hope their daughters will one day wear the dress. But it rarely happens. Styles change. People come in different shapes and sizes. People have different tastes. (Did you wear your mom’s dress? Would you even have considered it?)

So instead of just sealing the dress away, more and more brides and grooms are doing a portrait session that is, a bit brutally, called “Trash the Dress.” (The groom doesn’t have to trash the rental tux–he can just wear black pants and a white button shirt).

Truth be told, the dress doesn’t have to be trashed. It just means the photo shoot is done someplace where the dress will get dirty–like in a forest, or by a lake. Maybe even in a lake. Or at a beach. Or in an abandoned house. In a field. In a crosswalk downtown. It could be anywhere.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. And what do you get? Instead of just having conventional wedding portraits, you can get creative portraits in a dramatic or spectacular setting–artistic photographs that you will love for the rest of your life. Many brides think it’s better than a bagged dress any day.

Trash The Dress

“So after Kelsey and Dougs wedding, after the ceremony had ended and the portraits were done, the newlyweds and their families stood around outside the church, talking, joking, celebrating. While I was taking pictures, I found myself smiling. I enjoyed watching Kelsey and Doug interact. They had an easy, playful manner along with a clear affection. It occurred to me that they would be perfect for an idea I had been thinking about for a while: a ‘trash the dress’ shoot.

So on a whim, I asked Kelsey if she had any plans for the dress. She said she didn’t. They were about to run off to their reception and then honeymoon, but I said I’d email them a proposal.

When they arrived back from their Hawaiian honeymoon, jetlagged, she wrote back (at 1:40 AM!), eager to give it a try. They were as excited about the idea as I was and were game for whatever I suggested.

So a week later we headed out for Bear Lake, north of Spokane, at around 6:30 in the morning. We shared the lake with a fisherman or two and many singing red-winged blackbirds. Kelsy, Doug and I all went into the lakenot as cold as we fearedand we had a great time (photographic proof here). I know that sounds like a standard line, but it was an experience that Ill carry with me for a long time, and every one of my memories will be happy ones.”

For more information on taking quality photographs, please click here.

From Larry Brunt, photographer.