Bridal/Engagement season is off and running and we’ve been getting more emails and phone calls than normal with questions about wedding photography. Some of the questions I’ve been hearing are questions that I hear over and over from brides each year. I never get tired of answering brides questions, and in a way I feel like it’s my duty to share my experience and expertise whenever asked. In fact, when I started shooting weddings a number of years ago I prepared myself for the most difficult questions that a bride and groom might ask by looking online at different websites that had advice for brides-to-be, such as wedding planners, bridal boutiques, venues and wedding consultants. I figured that if I could honestly answer every question that these advice websites had for brides, then I’d be ready to be a wedding photographer.
My task: find every relevant question that a bride should ask a wedding photographer and ask myself how I would answer it. So, after many hours of research on the subject, I narrowed my frequently asked questions list down to around 20 questions (see below).
Until recently, I only shared this information with brides that met with me face-to-face. But at some point I started realizing that brides can easily get confused between qualified professional photographers and inexperienced photo novices who make big promises and often, sadly, disappoint brides with poor quality work (or no work at all).
But let’s lighten the subject for a minute and talk about wine. Why? Why not?! 🙂 One of my favorite things to ask a wine drinker after they tell me about the expensive bottle of Merlot they just opened is if they know the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $110 bottle of wine. They usually shrug their shoulders and plead ignorance. The answer: $100
Unfortunately, photography isn’t that simple. Although many photographers look the same, we all charge significantly different rates and there’s a big difference between one photographer and the next, although it may be difficult to discern. Let me explain.
Each photographer brings a different set of skills, equipment and responsibility to an event. The key is to determine what you want and then be armed with the right questions to ask your photographer. As I tell many brides, anyone can put together a “best of” slideshow on a free photo website like Shutterfly; but can the photographer who will be responsible for capturing all the wonderful moments at the most important event of your life show you photos from a several past wedding (photos of entire wedding, start to finish)? Believe me when I say that it’s a big responsibility to be the photographer for a wedding – bigger than just owning a camera and saying you can do it.
The reason I’m blogging about this topic this week is because I met with several brides-to-be this past week. In fact, I met with one bride in particular who was really enjoyable to meet with (our meeting was more like having a meal with an old friend). We enjoyed speaking with one another and she complemented my work several times, which I was grateful for. She also commented positively on Austin Americana’s pricing and professionalism. I left our meeting feeling confident that I would be photographing her wedding soon.
Unfortunately she contacted me a few days after we met to tell me that she had decided to allow a “photographer friend” to shoot their wedding instead of hiring me. I always respect bride’s decisions, even if they don’t choose me. In business, you get used to rejection – it’s just business! After all, you can’t take it personal and I certainly don’t.
But what frightens me about this situation is all the terrible wedding horror stories I’ve heard from brides over the years about bad experiences with novice photographers who make promises and then realize on wedding day that they can’t deliver. Is there a chance that her photographer will do a good job? Sure. But why take that chance when you can hire a professional? We all have car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, etc; When you write a check to a professional wedding photographer, you are buying insurance – a written guarantee that you will get great wedding photos of the most important day of your life.
So how do you tell the difference between a legitimate professional photographer who will take great photos at your wedding and deliver them to you -and- a novice who won’t? A good start is to ask the right questions. I’ve put together 20 questions that you should ask your wedding photographer. If they can’t honestly answer these questions with satisfactory answers to meet your wedding needs, then you should probably look elsewhere.
20 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer
1. What’s your primary style? Posed and formal, relaxed, photojournalistic, creative, artistic, candid, traditional?
Answer: I consider myself a photojournalistic wedding photographer, although I normally include the standard posed shots associated with most weddings today.
Photojournalistic wedding photography to me means shooting as many candid, unrehearsed moments as I can which capture the emotion of the day and which tell a story.
2. Do you shoot in color or black and white? Or both? Do you shoot in a digital format that can create both color and b/w versions of the same picture?
Answer: I shoot all digital, color photos, which means I can take a lot more photos quickly. In post production/editing I can choose to convert images to black & white, sepia and also utilize specialized filters for an artistic effect.
3. What type of camera do you use?
Answer: I shoot with 2 cameras (with one additional backup): Canon 5D Mark ii, EOS 40D & 30D, professional cameras that are well regarded in the
industry. In fact, as of the writing of this material (year 2010), the official photographer for our U.S. President is using the same camera that I do!
4. What kind of input can we have on the direction of the shots? Can we give you a shot list to work from?
Answer: I would like to get as much input as possible from you. I draft a Wedding Photo Schedule that is customized specifically for your wedding. The schedule allows you to see how many hours are needed for shooting your wedding and exactly who will be photographed when & where. You will have the opportunity to edit the schedule as much as you like.
5a. Are you the wedding photographer who will actually take our pictures? If not, can we meet the person who will be?
Answer: I will be your photographer the day of your wedding (unless otherwise specified). If a 2nd shooter and/or an assistant is needed, I’ll let you know.
5b. We would like 2 photographers for our wedding. Is this something you can provide?
Answer: Yes, we can provide 2 qualified professional photographers for your wedding. An additional fee for this service will be added to your wedding package price.
6. Is there a limit to how many photos you can take?
Answer: No, there is no limit (within reason) to how many photos I can take. My cameras are digitally formatted and use digital media cards to store each photo as it is snapped. I could potentially take 2,000 – 3,000 photos in a single outing. This is very unusual, however. I normally capture 500 – 1,500 images each outing.
7. How many times have you worked specifically as a wedding photographer? How many were similar to the size and formality of our wedding?
Answer: I’ve been photographing people and places since 2002. I photographed my first wedding professionally in February 2007. In 2009 my staff and I photographed approximately 75 events, including over 30 weddings in Austin, Texas. If you would like to see some of my work, please feel free to visit my website at M.Whitton Photography or our new Austin Americana Photo Blog, or ask for a slideshow presentation of some of my past wedding shoots.
8. How many other events will you also photograph that weekend?
Answer: We only photograph one event per day, which eliminates rushing your event or the possibility for errors in scheduling.
9. What kind of equipment will you bring with you? How intrusive will lighting, tripods, other equipment or assistants be?
Answer: Most of our equipment is very mobile and small. I don’t use lighting equipment (except on-camera flash, of course) unless necessary for exceptionally large group photos indoor. I don’t necessarily require the help of an assistant, but one frequently will assist.
10. Do you develop your own film? Do you offer albums?
Answer: I shoot all digital; there will be no film used. The edited image files are developed by quality, professional labs and shipped to your doorstep. Our albums are designed and printed by AsukaBook USA – a renowned, award-winning album company that strives for quality workmanship and style.
11. What type and how much assistance will you provide in planning my album?
Answer: I have partnered with AsukaBook USA to provide relatively seamless album services. We design your album using select images and email you an Adobe PDF file for review. Once you approve it the file is submitted for print and shipped to your doorstep! Yes, it’s that easy!
12. Will you give me the negatives or what is the charge?
Answer: My shooting fee includes providing you a DVD copy containing all of professionally edited images from your event, which allows you to conveniently print images at a discounted rate (No more waiting for the photographer to release rights or paying inflated print prices).
13. How long after the event will the proofs be ready?
Answer: Average turnaround time from wedding day to delivery is usually less than 2 – 4 weeks – sometimes less, sometimes more. Your DVD will be mailed to your doorstep once editing is complete. The proofs will be viewable on my website.
14. Will there be backup equipment available? And what happens if the photographer is ill?
Answer: I have invested in backup equipment for each camera and apparatus that I use. During your event, I will be shooting with at least 2 cameras. If for some reason I am no longer able to honor our agreement to be your photographer (hospitalization, for example), I would contact a reputable (qualified) photographer to act in my stead.
15. What attire will you and your assistants wear?
Answer: Professionalism is very important to me and I dress accordingly – normally in slacks and button-down long-sleeve shirts with a necktie. If the event calls for stepping up the attire, i.e., a tuxedo or suit, please let me know and I’ll be glad to oblige.
16. Can other people take photos while you are taking photos?
Answer: Yes, but I usually ask attendees to shoot before or after I shoot, to prevent confusion, blinking, flashing, etc.
17. Have you worked at my event location before? How did it work out?
Answer: I’ve worked at dozens of locations in and around Austin, both indoor and outdoor. I normally visit the ceremony/reception location 1-2 weeks beforehand to aid in planning the shoot.
18. Should the event last longer than scheduled, will you stay? Extra charge?
Answer: Normally planning prevents the need for additional time, but if needed, I will stay longer. I charge $200/hour for additional shooting time. Once your wedding schedule has been drafted we will be able to determine how much time will be required for your big day.
19. Can I get a discount? I don’t want everything you have to offer in a package price…
Answer: Sure, I offer discounts. If you would like to customize a package to fit your needs I will work with you. I also offer discounts at different times of the year to encourage new clientele and to offer more competitive pricing, including working with discount coupon online stores like Groupon, Localiter and DealOn.
20. After you’ve asked these questions of your potential wedding photographer, there are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
A. Do I like this person? B. Do I get along with them or get a good feeling from them?
C. Do I like their work as a wedding photographer?
D. Is it well lit, focused, well framed?
E. Looking at their albums/prints, do I feel like I have a good feeling for the wedding?
Sources: About.com, 2007 and http://www.weddingphotousa.com
This past week we took Roman to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time ever. Although it was crowded and we ran into lots of crazy, rude people, we still had a great time. I think Roman genuinely had a good time. I have to admit that I was a little afraid that he would be like his dad, who doesn’t really care for crowds or for being the center of attention. But I was able to bring the camera along and capture quite a few smiles from our little man as he played games, rode the rides and generally had a fun time. His favorite rides were the fire truck and the photo care where you get your photo taken with Chuck E. (or Mr. Cheese, as we call him). His uncle Chet was along for the excitement too, which was great. Enjoy!
We have a new logo that I am proud to share. Thanks to my new friend Ruby, who does graphic design (including logos), here in Austin, Texas. I gave her specific design ideas, including photographs that I took and asked her to develop a custom logo and she did a fantastic job. In fact, she went above and beyond by creating several designs for me to choose from. The one below was my favorite, which included one of my wedding photos and some customized color designs by her.
Truth be known, I waited too long to create a logo. Of course there wasn’t a deadline that I had to meet or anything, but I had put creating the logo off for the longest time because of a number of reasons. One of the reasons was that even though there is a ton of free software online that does all sorts of things, free-ware for logos is hard to come by. I downloaded a number of programs that claimed to create logos but was disappointed every time. And in most cases the only way around the “trial version” of the software was to purchase the software outright. But what guarantee do you have after purchasing it that it will give you the log that you want? None.
I realize that the purpose of this is so that software creators can get paid too. But it almost seems like trickery, the way that the software is dangled in front of you as “Free”, and then after downloading it you realize that you can monkey around with it and do everything you want but save a customized logo file (which is what I needed). Don’t get me wrong, I want software developers to reap the benefits of their labor, just like I like to reap the benefits of my photography business – but I don’t offer my photos for free online either.
Some people might say, “well, you are in business to make money and you have to spend money to make money!” And to that I would say, “that business model doesn’t work for me.” One of the reasons I’ve decided to teach a wedding photography class that focuses on the business of photography is for this very reason. I think many beginning entrepreneurs like myself begin their business with the idea that you must spend lots of money up front, on such things as advertisement, fancy gimmicks, print material, unnecessary equipment and the like. I’ve done all those things; I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on customized brochures, I’ve paid multiple companies for online advertising (one of which scammed me!), I’ve advertised in newspapers, I’ve purchased lots of extra equipment which was unnecessary (like software).
I don’t want to completely rail against software. I absolutely love my Adobe Lightroom software! But sometimes we get sidetracked and think we need to purchase that shiny, new gadget that we saw advertised in PC Magazine when we really don’t need it at all. Sometimes all we need to do is make contact with friends, family or neighbors who already have the skills to do what we need, who charge much less than expensive software costs/corporate vendors charge and who are willing to listen and find out what it is that you want.
Now, back to my original tack. I waited too long because I got discouraged about how I would be able to ascertain a professional looking logo. I realized that in order to maintain my low key, sole-propietor business model I would be limited in how much I could spend on a logo. But it’s funny how the universe works; when you need something or you put a thought out there (into the universe) it can find it’s way to the right place. And that’s how I found Ruby, the friend of my wife who created my wonderful logo.
Have you projected your thoughts or feelings to the universe today? You should. It is harmless and doesn’t cost anything. And the benefits can be great!
Need local Austin Graphic Designer Ruby to help you with logo or other designs for your business? Contact her by email:firstname.lastname@example.org
This is probably something we don’t think enough about. In life, it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane details of life, like going to work, dinner, bills, relationships, driving, shopping, etc. and forget about all the things for which we are grateful. But sometimes if we are able to “step outside” of our self, or outside of the circle which is our self, we can discover wonderful things and reasons why life really is good!
Years ago, when I would get upset or seem down about life, a good friend of mine would ask me, “well, have you made a gratitude list today?” And I remember being so stuck on feeling upset that what my friend was saying seemed crazy, as if I were being told to go walk on the moon. But I would oblige the request and make a list, sometimes on paper and sometimes just in my head.
And what happened when I made my gratitude list? Well, usually after about the 2nd or third thing was penciled onto the list I started having a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. And all those problems that seemed so big at first to me and that were dominating my every thought, encompassing me like a thick fog, just seemed to roll away.
Now you might be saying, well, what do I have to be thankful for? Obviously the answer is different for everyone. And if you can’t think of anything, then just be thankful for the small things: a roof over your head, enough food to eat, clean air to breathe. It’s likely that you have much, much more than that to be thankful for. And once you’ve made your list it’s almost impossible to not feel a little better. It always worked for me and I know it can work for you, if you choose to let it!
My gratitude list today:
1. A wife & son who I love dearly;
2. A place to call home that is warm and quiet;
4. A family who love me;
5. A job, which allows me to provide for family;
6. Books that bring me happiness;
7. A healthy body and mind;
At the end of December I had the great pleasure to photograph a Vietnamese-Indian wedding ceremony, which was a beautiful and memorable event. It was the wedding of Hanh and Vinod, two really wonderful people who I know are going to really do well.
The wedding ceremony itself was preceded by a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony, held inside the Double Tree Hotel, in Austin, Texas. Family and close friends gathered inside the bride and groom’s suite to participate in the special tea ceremony. Everyone (including the groom) waited in anticipation for the bride to arrive to begin the tea ceremony. As she made her grand entrance in her colorful, red traditional dress everyone’s face turned to smiles and deep pride. The wedding was now under way!
One of the younger family members prepared the tea and then served it to the bride and groom, who shared tea with family. Family members were given the opportunity to give blessings and provide uplifting words about the bride and groom’s future together, which was very heartwarming. There were prayers, thanks given, laughs and hugs.
According to Wikipedia, “A formal tea and candle ceremony along with speeches follow. While tea has always been an essential part of Vietnamese life, Vietnamese tea culture is not as complex or ritually rigid as its counterparts in China, Japan or Korea. A traditional wedding may be the only time in a Vietnamese person’s life that a formal tea ceremony is essential. The bride and groom, in front of all their guests, will serve tea (or wine) to their parents. Each parent will then give advice about marriage and family to the couple. A candle ceremony will follow, symbolizing the joining of the bride and groom and the joining of the two families. The groom’s gift boxes filled with jewelry will be opened by the groom’s mother, who will then put each piece on the bride for good fortune.”
During Hanh and Vinod’s tea ceremony, the groom’s mother and family brought forth special jewelry as a gift for the bride-to-be. As a special touch, the mother of the groom helped the bride to put on ear rings, a necklace, as well as other jewelry.
Wikipedia says, “Preparations for the traditional Vietnamese wedding first begins by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion.” While I was not privy to the behind-the-scenes planning of Hanh & Vinod’s wedding, I’m sure they consulted with family and friends first before scheduling the big day.
The wedding consists of an extensive set of ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom’s house. Both Vietnamese and oversea-Vietnamese who desire to have a hybrid traditional Vietnamese and Western-style wedding will often incorporate the last two ceremonies with the Western-style wedding.”
In the past it was apparently popular for the the groom’s family to visit the bride’s home with a gift of betel nuts in order to ask permission to receive the bride. This is when the wedding would be confirmed and set planning into motion. However, since in the past marriages were frequently arranged, this part of the courtship was necessary to prepare both families and the bride and groom. Now, arranged marriage is not as prevalent and some of the traditional parts of the wedding are not included.
More traditional weddings in the past would have processions going back and forth from the bride’s house and groom’s house, exchanging gifts, discussing the wedding, lighting fire crackers, introductions between family/friends and more. In the old tradition a wedding ceremony was held at the groom’s house and the reception and celebration followed immediately.
Hanh and Vinod’s more modern Vietnamese-Indian style wedding ceremony was held at the Double Tree Hotel in Austin during the Christmas holidays, which seems magical and fortuitous to me! The ceremony was held outdoors, in the outdoor plaza area of the hotel which is shrouded in greenery, trees, fountains and more, and surrounded on all four sides by magnificent views of the Double Tree Hotel architecture. Being there makes you feel like you are in a secluded garden.
The ceremony was officiated by the uncle of the groom, who made everyone feel like a part of the ceremony and offered some really touching words and advice for the bride and groom. The area where the bride and groom (and immediate wedding party, approximately 4 groomsmen and 4 bridesmaids) stood was about 4 feet above the guest seating, which gave the appearance of a royal wedding. And the bride’s long train, which cascaded down the back of her dress seemed angelic and luxurious.
After the ceremony everyone made their way through the French doors of the hotel, back to the reception where assigned seating awaited. The bride and groom had planned ahead, creating a beautifully colorful backdrop in the middle of the reception ballroom where pictures could be snapped of guests with the bride and groom. A line of guests quickly formed to do just that.
Once everyone had gotten a photo with the new husband and wife, a delicious buffet of Indian and Vietnamese cuisine was prepared. Everyone mingled in between eating and the room was buzzing with excited family and friends, celebrating the new life of the married couple.
After the meal, the bride and groom disappeared. Later they made another grand entrance into the reception ballroom and the bride was sporting a beautiful, green dress, in the more traditional style. There was much applause and excitement among the guests as they welcomed Hanh and Vinod back into the room.
More from Wikipedia: “In modern weddings, brides usually change into three different gowns during the reception. Her dresses are usually composed of the Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress to be worn at the end of the evening during the dancing, and a third traditional Áo dài to be worn during the traditional table visits to personally thank the guests for coming.
Guests are expected to bring gifts, and it is traditionally in the form of money in an envelope. As of January 2009, the appropriate amount is usually $100–$200 USD per person though more or less is possible depending on the locale. Immediate family usually gives more money to the bride and groom. At one point during the reception, the bride and groom will go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings and sometimes collect the envelopes.”
“Both Vietnamese bride and groom, typically change outfits three or more times on their wedding night. The traditional Vietnamese dress called Ao Dai which literally means “long dress” and in most of the time fashioned in red and yellow colors. It made it is made up of over four layers of silky overlapping fabric, which are pleated over loose-fitting trousers made from the same fabric.” – http://www.getmetothechurchontime.co.uk
Then, Hanh & Vinod made their way around to each table. They gave thanks to those who attended at each table and they also gave gifts of truffles to all attendees. Many guests returned the favor by giving wedding gifts, such as envelopes, cards, wrapped presents and momentos to the bride and groom. There were lots of smiles and laughter to go around.
Last night I was digging through some old papers and discovered a great calendar I picked up back in 2006 at “1st Thursday” on South Congress. The item in question was a local Austin calendar created by “Keep Austin Beautiful”, a group who’s stated mission is to,
“empower the citizens of Austin to take personal responsibility for enhancing their local environment. KAB programs clean, beautify and protect the Austin environment through physical improvements and hands on education.”
Now, I’m all for helping the environment, but I must admit the reason I purchased the calendar was because I was foot loose and fancy free at the time and needed lots of things to do to keep me busy (something that no longer applies to my life!).
The calendar created by KAB was full of local Austin photos and events relavent to local artists, businesses and organizations, which I thought was pretty cool! Although I haven’t purchased another calendar like this one, it still inspired me to keep up with Austin events, which are spread all over the internet, not really found in any one location, like on the calendar. So, I’ve decided to try my hand at providing this service for you in 2011. Every month I plan to post a blog that includes as many interesting and intriguing local events as I can find. And you will have the benefit of being able to see them all in one place.
I kind of got a late start on the project this month, but here’s my effort. Note that I’ve included contact information, including emails and websites for most of the entries. The most helpful online calendar I found was the KUT calendar, which has an event for just about every day of the month.
Austin Boat, Sport & Outdoor Show
Jan 20, 2011 – Jan 23, 2011
The Austin Boat Show has combined with the Central Texas Hunting and Fishing Show! All the same great local boat dealers you are used to PLUS a whole new element of Outdoor. Definitely a must-see for 2011.
PLANET OF THE MERMAIDS The Electronic Planet Ensemble – David Jewell, Chad Salvata, Sergio Samayoa, and Rachel Fuhrer, who brought us Surfin’ UFO and Spaceman:Dada:Robot – returns with a music-driven, video-enhanced phantasmagoria featuring Jewell as Captain Rex Vydor, the brave space commander who encounters the Mer Queen and her beautiful minions in this convoluted spoof of silent films and sci-fi B-movies. Through Jan. 29. Thu.-Sun., 8pm. The Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd, 478-5282. $10-30.
“Senior Moments” – Jan 22, 2011 – Jan 30, 2011
“Senior Moments” is five funny, poignant, and slightly naughty short plays about seniors. In the 12 months since the play premiered in January, 2010, it has won 3 awards, played to full houses at 6 productions in the U.S. and Canada, and been accepted for publication.
Hyde Park Theatre – Frontera Fest – January 2011
Last Comic StandingOne World Theatre – Austin, TX Friday 1/28/2011 7:00 PM
Sip & Savor Austin – January 16-30, 2011
Brought to you by Launch787 (Austin Fashion Week, Modern Home Tour, Outdoor Living Tour), Sip & Savor Austin is a city-wide food and drink celebration taking place over the span of two weeks January 16-30, 2011.
The Harlem GlobetrottersFrank Erwin Center Austin, TX Friday 1/28/2011 7:00 PM
Austin’s 1st Annual Gorilla Run January 22, 2011, 9:00AM-2:00PM; (After-party at Fado has no end time)
Registrants will run/walk/bike three miles in a full gorilla suit to raise awareness of the endangered Mountain Gorilla! Registration includes the after party with free lunch and live music at Fado Irish Pub! All proceeds benefit the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.
Identification Day (kids identify fossils they’ve discovered)
January 23, 1:00PM-5:00PM;
Texas Memorial Museum 2400 Trinity, Austin, TX
Free Admission at the Wildflower Center
Jan 1, 2011 – Jan 31, 2011
Enjoy free admission for the entire month of January.
See more daily events at the KUT Events Page: http://events.publicbroadcasting.net/kut/events.eventsmain