Choosing the Right Vendors for Your Wedding

Once you start planning your wedding, you realize there is a lot that you need to delegate. Whether you hire a wedding planner, do everything yourself, or find something in between, there will be vendors you have to work with. Choosing these vendors can be stressful and difficult. As a wedding photographer, I’ve been in lots of venues and seen a lot of vendors. There are some good vendors, some shady vendors, and some people who don’t work well with everybody. How do you know who to choose?

The most obvious thing is to ask around. If you have friends who are newlyweds, ask who they used. You might find a great photographer or a perfect baker, possibly someone who was not on your radar before. Think back to the weddings you have been to. Was there a location you thought was lovely or a DJ that kept you on the dance floor all night having a great time? Talk to the bride and groom to get that contact information – and ask about their experiences with the vendor. Sometimes people can be difficult to work with but give great results, and that’s something you might want to know in advance. If you haven’t found any good vendors yet, check bridal magazines for ads and look around on the internet. If you’ve got a location or one vendor, ask who we use or are familiar with. Sometimes locations will have a list of approved vendors, and sometimes we have relationships with others and can get you a discount!

Your job once you’ve got a list is to narrow it down. First, look around online and see if you can find reviews from clients. Check with the BBB and see if there have been any complaints. Get rid of those people right away. Next, call and confirm if they are available on your date. That might cross off a few more and save you some time. While you’re making your inquiry about availability, set up a meeting. You want to talk to these people and get a feel for them. This is your wedding day, one where you might be stressed out beyond belief, so trust your instincts. If someone seems flakey, bristles at your requests, or clashes with your or your partner’s personality, you should keep looking. Now is not the time to ignore your gut! Even if the meeting goes well, ask for references. Then actually contact those references! Ask questions. Make sure that they used the vendor’s services and were happy with it. Ask if anything came up during their relationship with the vendor that might also come up with yours.

Finally, lock them down! Book the people you want to use as soon as you can. This is as much for them as it is for you. Please protect yourself. Make sure you get everything in writing. Be sure that you have a signed contract that clearly states every single thing you expect from your vendor. While I hope that everything will go smoothly, taking basic precautions to be sure that you’re covered in case there are any issues is just smart!

I wish you the best of luck with your search!

Make Your Big Day Go A Little Smoother

There is probably nothing more nerve-wracking than the day of your wedding. Even as a photographer, I get jittery! But I’ve been though it so many times that I’ve found a few things that people can do to make their wedding day easier.

First of all, the best advice I can give you is to take care of yourself. If you’ve got to have a bachelor or bachelorette party, try not to do it the night before. Don’t consume lots of alcohol the night before or that day. It may sound like I’m telling you not to have fun, but you’ll get a better night sleep if you’re not drunk the evening before, and you’ll be more present in the moment if you’re not drinking at your wedding. Besides, ladies, wedding dresses are difficult to maneuver in. You have any idea how hard it would be to constantly have to go in the bathroom stall and try to deal with that dress? Come on! Also, remember to eat. Something starchy and filling like a bagel in the morning, then just take a break every once in a while to get something in your stomach. Staying hydrated will also keep you more comfortable.

Second, things are going to go wrong, so have contingencies in place. Trust me, even the best-thought out plans will have a couple of bumps. One wedding I photographed, the dry cleaners lost the groom’s tux. Another wedding had the caterer’s employees go on strike and there was nobody to serve or deliver the food. There really isn’t any way to plan for these things, but you have to be adaptable and be willing to compromise to get a solution. Appoint one of your attendants to run interference for you if necessary, or you can have them deal with anything you can’t or don’t want to. Have at least one ally who knows what the plan is and can help when things go off course.

Third, remember that it is only one day. All of the effort and energy you put into the wedding is not going to ensure that you have a great marriage. Try to keep that in mind. Work with your partner with the planning so that you are both happy with the results – practice being a team! Don’t blow all of your money on a 10 piece orchestra or an oversized diamond wedding band. Plan for all the rest of your life, too. After all of the celebrating is done and the party is over, you will have your regular life to go back to. Make sure you’re not in debt up to your ears or fighting about every little thing that didn’t meet your expectations on your wedding day.

Finally, once the wedding starts, you have to let go. Stop trying to control every moment of it and just enjoy what you’ve created: this life that you are going to have with the person you love, your friends, and your family. The best wedding photos I’ve taken are because the couple is happy and participating in the actual wedding, enjoying their guests, dancing with their family and friends, and actually feeling those joyous moments. Keep these things in mind and hopefully your day will go smoothly!

Get Outdoors!

People spend a lot of time on what to wear when taking their portraits. That is important, absolutely! However, people don’t always put nearly as much thought into where they’ll be photographed. Instead, they default to taking their pictures indoors at a studio, with fake backdrops behind them. Often the background is flat and boring, typically black or gray. That’s fine, and the pictures come out fine. But the big question is, why do that when you don’t have to? Backdrops are fine for school photographs, but you do have other options! There are so many great places that will provide a better background and utilize natural light. Keep reading and I’ll explain.

First, ask your photographer if he or she has any ideas. They have probably done this before, so they may have locations in mind that would be great for your photo shoot. They may have relationships with business owners and have access to shoot in places that you would never think of. If you have a place in mind, share that as well. There might be permits required or lighting issues that will need to be resolved. You can also check your photographer’s portfolio to see if there are any locations they have used previously that you like and might be available for use again.

Second, keep an open mind. I once had a couple who insisted on taking their pictures in the parking lot where they had their first date. That seemed like a bad idea, but they were so sweet and insistent that I decided to check it out. I went in the early evening and the lighting was just incredible. There was a beautiful old lamppost there as well. I had them pose underneath it and you don’t see the parking lot at all! They look like they are in an old musical, so happy and in love in their photos. I’ve actually even brought other clients there!

Third, everybody looks better in natural light. It’s just true. I can diffuse the light in the studio and make it softer, but the lights are hot and people start to feel it right away. And if you can get your pictures done at the “golden hour” of the evening, your photos will naturally look soft, golden, and beautiful. There’s no way to recreate that, no matter how many tricks I try. So that’s something else to keep in mind.

Of course, if there is bad weather or too hot or too cold, you might be better off indoors. A skilled photographer will make just about any location work for photographs. It’s about you, after all. What you want and what will make you proud to hang on your wall for years to come. Keep your mind, and eyes, open when thinking of places to shoot and you will have some beautiful results.

Wedding Shoot for an Old Friend

I still do some wedding photography, but not nearly as much as I had been. I miss it, but I would rather be at my daughter’s soccer game or the opening night at my son’s play than be anywhere else in the world. There are so many things I would miss out on in my own life if I was too busy catching the moments of other people. I do love photography and it would be great to continue to run my business as well as I used to, but I like my family even more, and I’m fortunate enough that only working sometimes is manageable with my family’s finances. Every once in a while, however, the planets align: my kids aren’t doing anything that they want me to be part of and I’m able to do a booking or two. Everybody’s happy, and I put away some money toward a family vacation, even more soccer equipment, or summer camp.

This weekend was one of those times. The kids both had nothing going on, so they wanted to spend time with friends. My husband decided to go golfing all day Saturday, which he rarely gets to do. I could manage being the chauffer and be there for a friend who was walking down the aisle with her high school sweetheart – twelve years later! They had found each other, lost each other, and then found each other again. It has been a long and winding road for them, and I’ve known her long enough to appreciate the journey. I really wanted to be there, so I was truly excited that I got to go. If I’d still been working steadily, I probably would have had an assistant with me so that I could relax and enjoy the wedding a little, or even brought one of the kids with me to do some of the equipment lugging or something, but it wasn’t meant to be.

When I first got to my friend’s, we ran through the different photos she had asked for – of the dress before she put it on, some of the wedding preparations with her bridal party, that sort of thing. We got those shots out of the way. Then she and her dad got into one car while the rest of her attendants got into another (I got to go with them and take some candid shots of them along the way – the pictures got even funnier after the limo stopped to get the groomsmen!) All in all, it was a great time getting there. We were hustled into the church and the ceremony started almost on time! The rest of the day passed by in a blur from behind my viewfinder. But my favorite moments were watching how happy the bride and groom were.

It was a great day that I got to share with a good friend, and I am glad that I was chosen as her photographer. I truly hope she loves the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Making the Most of Your Photo Shoot

Have you ever had professional photos taken of you or your family? When those pictures came back, were you happy with them or did you look at them and wonder who those people are? It happens, believe me. As a photographer, I certainly try to avoid it, but sometimes it can be difficult to really capture what people are really like. Don’t let it happen to you. You want a couple of tips on how to avoid it? Here’s what I have found.

The best way to be sure you get great photographs is to be clear with the photographer. If you want silly photographs, serious portraits, or candid shots, it is always better if you talk about that before we start shooting. There are plenty of ways we can go about your photo shoot, and we can do any combination of styles to get the most out of your shoot. As long as you talk to us honestly about what you want, we will do our best to get it for you. If you are unsure of the different types of photo styles your photographer has experience with, ask to see a portfolio and point out the shots you like. It helps, trust me!

Something else to think about: if you are a fan of props, bring them! They can be a fun way to really capture your personality, so unless you’re getting a passport photo or something, consider it. As a photographer, I have some tried-and-true props, but they may not really be your thing. I don’t really mind it if you bring along some stuff of your own. A special blanket, blocks or balloons, a meaningful object – if you can move it and/or it can fit in the shot, most photographers will be totally willing to work with you on that. If you want your baby to smash a cake, I might recommend doing the shoot at your house and not my studio, but I’ll find a way to make it work if it is important to you.

If you want extended family in group portraits, that’s a great idea! Know that the more people involved, the more difficult the shoot might be (just think how hard it is to get everyone to look at the camera, smile, and not have their eyes closed the second the shutter clicks). Also, kids don’t usually want to sit still for extended periods, so the pace might have to be faster than you’d like. Here is a pro tip: if your kids are dressed nicely, get full-body pictures out of the way first – that way, if there are any accidents or mishaps, we can crop it out of the shots. If you want to add animals to the mix, that’s something else you need to check with the photographer first. For one, they can be difficult to wrangle even under the best of circumstances. When you add a lot of expensive equipment to the equation, things can be even more challenging. Also, the photographer might be allergic, so you should really be honest if you’re even considering bringing the family pet along.

Finally, when you get the proofs, be honest. If you don’t like them for whatever reason, let the photographer know. There are things we can do editorially that might make the pictures more appealing, or we can offer to do a reshoot. Give photographers the chance to make it right before going online and complaining about our work – remember, we’re just people too, and we’re trying to make a living!