You’re Engaged! Congratulations!
You’ve been planning your wedding day for months, or maybe you’ve just started. You’ve booked your wedding photographer, your venue, church, florist and caterer. You have binders and notebooks full of checklists, notes, questions to ask your vendors. You’ve clipped articles from magazines and printed them out from wedding blogs. You don’t want to miss any detail, because this is the most important day of your
life, so far! But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: your wedding vendors are here to help! We know you probably haven’t planned a wedding before, so a lot of this is unfamiliar territory. We also want your day to be absolutely perfect! We have years of experience, and we’re happy to share it with you! Let us take some of that stress off your shoulders and ease your wedding planning burden.
I’m going to tell you another secret: wedding vendors generally hate those lists you see in magazines and on blogs outlining 150 things you should ask a potential wedding vendor. Especially as a wedding photographer, it is important for us to get to know your vision for your wedding day, and learn more about you as a couple, and it’s very difficult to do that when we spend all of our time together talking about what software we use. So I’ve put together a little list of some questions you should never ask your wedding photographer, and what you might consider asking instead.
10 Questions to Never Ask Your Wedding Photographer
Can my friend/cousin/aunt/neighbor who has a really nice camera and wants to try wedding photography shadow you?
So, I guess I’ll just jump to one of the tough ones right off the bat. Believe it or not, almost every wedding I am asked this question. As much as I love working with those who are interested in wedding photography, or just getting started in the industry, your wedding day is not the time or place for those conversations to happen. There are several reasons why, but let’s focus on the most important one: YOU. This is your day, the day you marry the man or woman of your dreams, surrounded by all your loved ones and friends. You handselect vendors to participate in that day and bring your vision to life. It is my job to be focused on capturing those moments, and that is difficult for me to do if I’m mentoring an up-and-coming photographer, or even just allowing someone to “shoot over your shoulder”. (There are more issues with that as well, but let’s keep it brief, for now.)
What should you ask instead? My friend/cousin/aunt/neighbor is really interested in learning more about wedding photography; would you mind if I put them in touch with you, and maybe they could treat you to lunch one day soon?
Will you take “table shots”?
Once a very popular request, this still sometimes comes up – usually after some prompting by an older relative. The idea is to capture every guest at the wedding in at least one image, and naturally, during dinner seems like the ideal time. It is my studio policy to not take photos during the meal. Why? For starters, no one looks their best with a mouth full of food, and most people feel very uncomfortable having a camera shoved in their face while they are trying to enjoy the excellent menu you have selected for your wedding. Additionally, tables are usually pretty messy by the time meals are served – cluttered with centerpieces, drinks, favors, clutches or purses belonging to female guests, half-eaten appetizers, etc. I also take the meal time as an opportunity for myself and assistants to refuel as well (see the next question).
What should you ask instead? Having a photo of everyone in attendance is really important to us, how would you plan to achieve that?
Do we have to feed you?
Yes, believe it or not, I get asked this question. Think about it this way: on your wedding day, there is one vendor who is literally with you from start to finish – your wedding photographer. We are carrying lots of gear, up to 100 pounds at times, with few breaks. We need to refuel! A few short breaks to rehydrate and grab a quick snack are important, but even more critical is a dinner break. For the most efficient flow to the evening, I usually request that we are served right after the bridal party is served, so that we are ready to get back in the action when you are!
What should you ask instead? Chicken or beef? Do you have any allergies?
Do we get the RAW files?
A RAW file is a largely misunderstood concept. However, many of those “lists” suggest you ask your wedding photographer if you are provided with the RAW files from your wedding day. A RAW file is exactly that – raw, like an uncooked piece of meat. You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and ask for a raw filet mignon! A RAW image is an unfinished product of no use to you. I personally review each RAW image, select only the images that meet my studio’s artistic and technical standards. I process each selected RAW file in my carefully developed workflow to result in a beautifully perfected memory to be cherished for generations.
What should you ask instead? What finished image products are included in our collection, and what permissions are included? (Each wedding photographer has different offerings within their business model, so the actual product provided will vary.)
Have you ever shot in a dark church before?
Alright, so this question is a little bit of a gray area. I would rather just give you a little hint on how to properly phrase this question, because it is a valid concern when working with any wedding photographer!
What should you ask instead? Describe your venue and specific concerns you have with lighting conditions. Occasionally your venue coordinators will be helpful in pointing out potential issues with lighting. Most photographers will have experience in a wide range of lighting conditions, and will be able to overcome any potential challenges, as well as be honest about their own concerns regarding your venue/lighting.
Can you just photoshop that out later?
Ahhhh….the most dreaded of all questions! Photoshop (and other editing software) provides a wedding photographer with an amazing tool, but as with any tool, it can be overused and misused. Personally, I prefer to avoid over “‘Shopping” someone into an unrecognizable version of themselves. There are many debates over the ethics of photo manipulation. If you’re ever in the mood for some heavy reading, just pop over and check out this Google search.
What should you ask instead? How do you minimize the appearance of XYZ in your photos? How do you fix potential issues in your post production? Can we request additional editing after we receive our images? (Alternatively, if you have a particular situation that you are sensitive about, please do not hesitate to approach it with your photographer! Most wedding photographers are well-versed in posing to accentuate your strengths and minimize those things you’re not as fond of.)
We’re on a tight budget – can you match so-and-so’s price?
Another tricky question! Wedding photography has a wide range of prices, offerings, and skill level, and will vary by location. In addition to finding a wedding photographer whose work you love, I think it is equally important that you connect with them on a personal level. I know that the almighty dollar drives our great country, however, and there will be instances where a couple may feel they have to choose between one photographer and another based mostly on price. The reality is, though they may seem similar in style, personality, and other ways – their businesses may have different expenses, different models, etc. We don’t pick numbers out of a hat, or throw a dart at a chart, or base our numbers on what other photographers charge. We calculate what we need to charge to run our business. As much as a wedding is an emotional event, and as much as I connect emotionally with every one of my couples, I do have to remind myself that warm fuzzies don’t pay the bills.
What I recommend instead: If you are truly down to choosing between a few photographers, and budget is really a sticking point, ask yourself, Who did I connect with the most? Whose work speaks to me? Reach out to that photographer, let them know you are at a sticking point, and can you make some changes to the collection to reach your target budget. To be honest, sometimes it is possible, and sometimes it is not. But it doesn’t hurt to ask! I personally try to work with each couple to achieve the best coverage I can offer for their budget.
Here’s our Pinterest board of 3,000 images. Can you take all of these?
Most of the Pinterest boards I’ve been sent have a little bit of everything on them. Styles, lighting, colors, time of day, etc. is all over the place. I love Pinterest for inspiration, and I use it a lot myself! (You can actually check out my boards here!) The trouble is, when I spend a lot of time on your wedding day dedicated to replicating your Pins, your resultant images are not authentic memories of your day. Often, it’s also difficult to reproduce that exact scenario! I prefer to take a unique approach to each wedding day, and make it your story.
What should I ask instead? I have a few photos I’ve pinned on Pinterest. Would you mind taking a look and telling me how you think we could capture a similar mood or epic shot on my wedding day?
Why won’t you guarantee every shot on our shot list?
Shot lists are great. I love them; I use them – for family & wedding party formals, and that is about it. So, why? The best moments happen organically, in my humble opinion. Beyond the planned posed photos, I like to capture the moments as they happen. If I have to worry about checking off a box, I might miss an amazing moment between the bride and grandma. I also have years of experience with weddings, so I have a pretty good idea of what to be on the lookout for, and when to expect certain moments to occur. While I do work from a shot list for your formal group photos, I still do not guarantee that we will capture every single group listed. We may run out of time, or we may be unable to find someone listed, or any number of unpredictable situations may occur.
What should I ask instead? We have a handful of very important family photos we would like taken. What is the best way to ensure we can get those, and how can we help you?
What equipment do you use?
The Number One Reason You Don’t Want To Ask This Question: I’ll go all geeky nerd techie on you. Really, camera gear is pretty technical and boring, and even more important, beyond having amazing gear, you need to know how to use it. I ensure that all my gear – cameras, lenses, lighting, etc. is up to current professional/technical standards, maintained, and ready to go. I have backups with me at every wedding, as do my second photographers. (I believe every wedding photographer needs to have a backup plan should something happen to their main camera body!) If you really want to know what I shoot with, I can show you, but I promise after about 5 minutes, your eyes will glaze over.
What should I ask instead? Are you comfortable with your gear, and have a backup should the unthinkable happen?
As your chosen wedding photographer, I would love to speak with you in more detail about any questions you have! I hope this list answers a few of the questions you may have had, provides you with a bit more information as you plan for your wedding, and acts as a helpful guide. Remember, your vendors are here to help and provide insight from our past experience!
Kate + Ford’s Romantic DC Wedding Day
Every Washington, DC wedding I capture is so unique. A DC wedding can be modern, intimate, urban, traditional, historical, romantic, or any of the many other ways to describe this amazing city. Each event is as diverse as the city itself, and I think that may very well be my favorite part of being a photographer in this area!
Kate + Ford planned an elegant, intimate, candlelight wedding ceremony and reception in a location that has great importance to them: Carmine’s. Ford is the Executive Chef at the DC location, and if you’ve never tasted the food there, you are missing out on one of DC’s greatest restaurants! Before even arriving, I knew that the menu was going to be amazing, and the atmosphere cozy, welcoming, and romantic.
Kate prepped at their home, surrounded by her family and friends. When I arrived, everyone was relaxed, laughing, and enjoying their day. I couldn’t help but think, “This is how the start of your wedding day should be!” After spending about an hour with the ladies, it was time to join the guys for a few portraits, and they were just as laidback and fun! After a short walk through Chinatown and some quick portraits of the groom, it was time to head back to the restaurant for the ceremony!
I have to say, out of all the wedding decor I’ve seen over the years, candlelight has to be my favorite. And, it is typically less expensive than tons of flowers! The warm glow was so romantic and elegant, and perfectly suited to an indoor ceremony. The simply elegant decor carried over into their reception as well, with more candles, gold chargers and other exquisite touches on the tables!
We had a brief time for portraits in a nearby courtyard, but it was still so perfectly urban and sweet with just the two of them. Soon it was dusk, and time to dance the night away!
Congratulations, Kate + Ford! I hope every day is as happy and filled with joy as this day!
Jen + Josh’s DAR Constitution Hall Wedding
Jen + Josh chose the amazing and iconic DAR Constitution Hall as the perfect location to exchange their vows with their close friends and family in attendance. Winter is not always a popular time of year for weddings. The weather is chilly, the days are shorter, and the trees have lost their splendid fall color. But there is so much to love about an evening wedding in Washington, DC in December! The hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the gorgeous lights, for example. I confess that despite being a DC-area resident for the better part of the last 10 years, I had never visited the National Christmas Tree. Well, now I have!!
Washington, DC has always held a special magic for me – I’m sure many others feel the same way. The buildings, the history, the elegance all comes together to create a different vibe than any other city I’ve ever experienced. DC has a very unique personality and energy that is both traditional and modern. Personally, it’s such a joy to capture weddings in the District, because of that energy. Kelli joined me as a lighting assistant for the evening, and we met up with Jen at The Willard Hotel where she was getting ready. Jen looked absolutely stunning in her lace-overlay gown and birdcage veil, and a fur stole for outside. Old-world elegance with a modern twist! I could have worked with her all day and night, she made such a gorgeous bride in an amazing location.
It was a little tricky getting to Constitution Hall, where the wedding would take place. We had to coordinate so that Josh wouldn’t see Jen before we arrived, but we did it! The look on his face when he saw her was priceless! Their ceremony on the steps was sweet and short, and we followed with some family photos before taking the newlywed couple around Constitution Hall, The Willard, and the National Christmas Tree/White House for some portraits. I have to admit, they were such good sports, considering how cold it was getting! (And so was Kelli, whose poor fingers were holding a metal light pole! Thank you for helping!!!)
I don’t know if I can pick favorites from their wedding portraits, because they’re all just so perfectly DC. I love night portraits, too! Congratulations, Jen + Josh! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and that 2016 is a beautiful year for you both!
Happy New Year!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you’ve seen someone you know posting all about their 2016 goals. It’s all over social media, particularly among wedding photographer friends and those I follow. I’m seeing so many pretty posts with their 2015 recaps (and don’t worry – mine is coming) and their goals for the New Year. I closed my studio down for two weeks for the holidays, partially to spend time with my beloved family who never sees me, and partially so I could reboot and reset myself for 2016. In the last several days of soul-searching, planning, and digging really deeply into my heart, I realized something: I hate goals and I just won’t set them anymore. I also realized, my “goal” list was looking more and more like a long-term “to-do” list, which is not the purpose at all!
You’re probably thinking, “What wedding photographer doesn’t have goals?!?” Well, this one. From today forward. But let me explain to you why. The word “goal” and all of the connotations that accompany it just don’t fit well into my perspective of a healthy personal and professional mindset, and I’m truly just understanding why. For years, I didn’t know why I hated that goal-setting process at the beginning of every year, or why when I finally did set my goals, I was either not fully satisfied when I met them, or deeply critical of myself when I failed. With the help of a book called The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte (more on that later), I started digging into what would really make me feel fulfillment, and picking apart those things that I did out of obligation or because I thought it was the right thing to do. Like goal-setting.
Wow…just looking at that definition in black and white on my computer screen makes me all squirmy. No pressure there. None at all. /end sarcasm Thinking about it, I realized a goal is concrete, limited to two outcomes: success or failure; a goal is very tricky to set and assess, and not very open-ended. That doesn’t sound like something fun, or that I want to pursue as either a person or a wedding photographer. I also feel deeply that setting goals is not the same as setting yourself up for success. No one reaches every goal the first time they try, or the second, or even the tenth. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, and the impact of failure can be devastating.
I started thinking about other ways that I could phrase the desires and dreams that fuel me (again, personally and professionally). I had a “goal” last year to live my life “more intentionally.” I thought I knew what that meant, but I really was clueless. However, what I’ve been searching for has been right under my nose for over a year now….the word:
And there it is. I don’t want to work towards a goal. I want to be flexible, allow plenty of room for growth and adaptation when my needs and dreams change; I needed the freedom to evolve with an open-ended intention.
Now I want you to pause for a moment and really mull over the two words – goal and intention. Say them outloud. Think about the feelings you get from each one. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wedding photographer, an accountant, a student, or a stay-at-home parent. I bet those two words evoke a pretty powerful reaction when you take the time to think about them.
A Wedding Photographer, Without Goals, Without Hesitation
Back with me now? Awesome! Why do I want to create intentions for 2016? I want the potential for limitless personal and professional growth, that doesn’t have to fit into a mold or a preconceived idea of the things that are best for me and my career. I want flexibility – the ability to scale back or grow when needed. I want to get to the true core needs and wants that drive me as a woman, a mom, a wife, an entrepreneur, a member of society, and strive towards becoming that person I envision. Intention allows me to realize when something isn’t working, and to revamp without giving up, or give it up entirely when I realize it isn’t the best thing for me, possibly just for the present, but maybe forever. I don’t need to feel failure; intentions are empowering us to maintain control, even when things don’t go the way we had hoped or planned.
I came across a second definition that moved me as well:
intention (n): a process or manner of healing of incised wounds. Merriam-Webster.com
Ok, so I’m taking a little more artistic liberty here, but I thought about my personal wounds: my preconceptions, my failures, everything I could have done differently last year, the comparison game, and so on. Healing those wounds, or at least administering some serious first aid is a huge priority for me. The Desire Map helped me identify those true needs within myself. I’m not completely through the program, but I’ve already learned so much about myself and what drives me to be better. If you’re into a quick, great read, with far-reaching benefits for yourself and those who surround you, I highly suggest you check it out!
I look forward to this journey of intention, and know it won’t be something that takes 12 months to accomplish, and I’m ok with that. Abandoning my goals and setting myself up for success is the first step. I’m excited to share more of my journey with you all, and will start something of a personal series. Next time, I’ll tell you more about why I’ve chosen the word “connection” to drive my thoughts, actions, and even intentions for 2016. And, because life is better with a pretty picture, here’s a sneak peek at a holiday wedding from a few weeks ago. I’ll be sharing the full post soon!