FAQ Friday: Is a Wedding Photographer Really Necessary?

Q: Wow, wedding photographers are expensive! Is it possible to get away with not hiring one for our wedding and using less expensive and less professional solutions instead?A: Obviously I *am* a wedding photographer, so my opinion is hardly going to be unbiased, but because I work within the wedding industry I'm sure I end up in a lot more conversations about wedding photography than the average person does, and many people in these conversations like to tell me about an experience they had with a wedding photographer, or wedding photography in general.Unfortunately, the experience that many of these people describe is about how they regretted not hiring a professional for their own wedding, or how important they think professional photography is at a wedding. The reasons always vary---a family member passed away unexpectedly shortly after the event, the amateur/student they hired took terrible photos, or the "new-to-the-industry professional" they hired for a deep discount never delivered the pictures, etc.Ultimately, the presence of a photographer at your wedding is no more of a "need" than taking your money and investing it in a mutual fund. In both cases, you expect your decision will pay off in the future and that photo album from your wedding will grow more and more valuable to you over time, just like any other investment. A great example of this is asking a friend what the first thing is that he or she would save if their house caught on fire, besides people and pets. The answer is usually "photo albums" (or perhaps in this day and age, "hard drives")!Think carefully about it. Sometimes the amount you pay now is trivial compared to what you would be willing to pay later on to "undo" your decision!

FAQ Friday: Disposable Cameras at the Wedding Reception

Q: In addition to hiring you (of course!), do you think it's recommendable to place a disposable camera at every table for my guests during the reception?A: In short: No, it's not recommendable. Thanks to the prevalence of personal digital cameras and camera-phones, when your guests see Auntie Gertrude gettin' down with her funky self on the dancefloor, the first thing they'll be reaching for is their OWN CAMERA, not the disposable one on the table!digital cameras at weddingsEven if the disposable cameras themselves are inexpensive, it's a waste of money to get all those rolls of film developed only to find the vast majority of them are blank. Disposable cameras are a trend hailing from a time when film was king and very few people possessed a camera of their own, but today they're pretty obsolete. I find that the people who use and enjoy them the most often are the absolute drunkest guests whose pictures get increasingly offensive as the night progresses, or Grandma herself because--you guessed it--she doesn't own or know how to use a digital camera herself.An alternative idea, if you want to see your wedding through your guests' lenses, is to create a group on Flickr and invite your friends to upload all the photos to it that they've snapped on their digital cameras or phones. Flickr has some instructions for this very concept that you can check out here.

FAQ Friday: Tipping Your Photographer

matt at workQ: Should I tip my wedding photographer?A: Most wedding professionals price their wares and services without the expectation of a tip, so gratuity is certainly not anticipated or necessary unless you feel that your photographer went above and beyond the call of duty for your wedding.The main exceptions to the rule are subcontracted photographers. A subcontractor is a freelance photographer who is not the owner/president/etc of the photography business, who has been hired by the company to cover your event*. If a subcontractor has been hired to photograph your wedding, a tip is often appreciated.*The concept of "subcontractor" does not generally apply to assistants, though if you tip the lead photographer, it is polite to tip the assistant or secondary photographer as well. 

FAQ Friday: Family Photos Before the Ceremony

Romo FamilyQ: Is it better to do take the family and "formal" pictures before the wedding, or after?A: Unless you are a very traditional couple (or the custom of not seeing each other until you walk down the aisle is important to you), then it's usually more convenient to take pictures with both your families and bridal party before the ceremony.Generally I strongly advise couples to schedule most of their formal photos before their ceremony if:1. Their ceremony takes place during or shortly before sunset.2. They have an outdoor ceremony on what is anticipated to be a hot day (girls' hair and makeup are usually their "freshest" if the pictures are taken beforehand).3. One or both of the newlyweds will have a large number of family or guests in attendance who may interrupt family pictures after the ceremony to request or take their own photos, or congratulate the couple.4. The couple wants to attend their own cocktail hour.5. The couple has a greater number of immediate family members and/or "people combinations" to be photographed, so the photographer is less rushed to accommodate this.As photographers, oftentimes when doing pictures before the ceremony we still arrange for the couple to have a "moment" when they see each other for the first time so they still have that memory. I've often heard brides say it was actually more special that way, and as a result they could focus more on "not tripping" when walking down the aisle instead of their groom at the front!If, after reading all the reasons to schedule your photos before the ceremony, you *STILL* can't let go of that special instant you've envisioned for when you walk down the aisle---then if I were you I wouldn't change a thing, and do the pictures afterwards when you originally intended to do them. If your photographer is a true professional then he or she can accommodate your wishes regardless of what time during the wedding day they take place...and ultimately you will have no regrets!

FAQ Friday: Different Types of Alternative Wedding Sessions

Q: What are the different kinds of wedding photo sessions available?A: A Bridal Session is a professional photography session of the bride in her wedding dress, traditionally taken days or even weeks prior to the wedding. This session can take place outdoors or in a studio, and usually includes full makeup, hairstyling and occasionally even a bouquet. The idea behind a Bridal Session is that plenty of high-quality images will be taken of the bride in an unhurried and controlled environment before the wedding chaos begins, however over the past few years Bridal Sessions have begun to be viewed as overly-traditional and old-fashioned, and in some areas of the country they have fallen out of popularity.An Engagement Session is a professional photography session of the soon-to-be-wed couple, in nicer everyday clothing. It is much like a regular portrait session where the couple is well-groomed and often dressed nicely/fashionably in clothing that reflects their personal style at its best. Sometimes brides-to-be also utilize professional hairstyling and makeup for an Engagement Session. These types of portraits can take place in a studio or outdoors, though with the advent of digital technology, outdoor/on-location engagement sessions have exploded in popularity over last few years.Beautiful beach engagement sessionSome brides-to-be also consider Boudoir Sessions several months before their wedding, so they can present the photos to their partners as a wedding gift on their wedding day (or night!). Boudoir Sessions are private photo shoots that are often taken in a studio or other controlled environment, featuring the bride-to-be in lingerie, and incorporating a variety of flattering and daring poses. Some women opt to do their Boudoir Session after the wedding as well, to use the photos as a surprise anniversary present instead of a surprise wedding present.red panties shoesAnother type of session that's growing in popularity is the Day-After/Day-Before Session. This type of session essentially operates as a more casual Bridal Session featuring both newlyweds instead of just the bride, and is usually scheduled at a site for which time and logistics do not allow access on the wedding day itself. It's thought that Day-After/Day-Before Sessions originally developed during destination weddings, when the couple could be taken to an exotic picturesque location at their destination a day or two before or following their wedding, for a portrait session that incorporated the feel and beauty of the area. These types of photoshoots are now arranged even for domestic and local weddings. The couple can wear their wedding attire more casually, such as no jacket, tie, or veil; or it can be regarded as an Engagement Session at their wedding destination. The session is named as it can be scheduled for before the wedding or shortly afterwards.Lastly, a unique spinoff of Day After/Before Sessions is the Trash The Dress Session. Also known by a variety of other, gentler monikers (i.e., Douse the Dress, Mess the Dress, etc) this type of photoshoot generally appeals to a select group of people who believe that there are no other foreseeable uses for their wedding dresses following the wedding. So a Trash the Dress session is created with the intent of getting the couple dirty, wet, and messy resulting in some fun or sexy photos.trash the dress dog bathIf you're planning your own wedding, hopefully this helps illustrate the different kinds of options that are open to you and your fiancé when it comes to pre- and post- wedding photography.

FAQ Friday: How Far in Advance Should I Commission My Photographer?

Q: I'm considering a wedding date that falls more than a year from now. Can I commission my photographer right away?A: Many wedding pros cannot commit to a wedding if a specific date has not been set yet, and most of the time a date cannot be set until a venue is confirmed (reservation fee paid and contract signed). So even if you KNOW the exact date you want to get married, I wouldn't recommend hiring many professionals until you have your venue sorted out---often some venues will not even accept inquiries for events more than a year away. The only wedding pro you might consider commissioning right away is a planner or designer; they can help you select a venue that fits your budget and tastes, and see you through the rest of the planning process.If you're looking for tasks to take care of right away, you can begin planning other things that are sure to happen sooner than your wedding, such as your bridal shower, or bachelor/ette party. Start gathering inspirational ideas and researching wedding decoration and honeymoon possibilities (Pinterest is great for this). Draft a budget and perhaps MOST importantly....START SAVING UP. An engagement lasting more than two years gives you an enormous advantage in that you might be able to splurge here and there on more things because you've had more time to save for them. A wedding will eat through a budget faster than you imagined possible, more so if you're especially interested in talented and experienced wedding vendors, so start setting money aside right now!

FAQ Friday: Feeding Vendors

Q: "I don't know any of my wedding professionals personally and I'm already paying them to be there, so is providing a meal for them during my reception dinner really necessary?"A: Sometimes the wedding coverage that we provide begins around lunchtime, so we end up skipping lunch altogether and munching on snacks or energy bars throughout the afternoon instead. After being on my feet for six hours or longer I hate to imagine skipping dinner, too! A meal during your reception is not only appreciated, but also imperative if you want us to continue producing quality work well into the evening. If your venue is handling the catering, oftentimes vendor meals are also included in the venue fee so it's not something separate that you need to worry about.

FAQ Friday: How to Tell a Photographer is Proficient with Different Lighting Situations

Q: How can I tell if the photographer I am considering hiring for my wedding can handle varying lighting situations, like indoor at night versus outdoor during the daytime?A: The best way to discern whether a photographer who is proficient at BOTH indoor/flash lighting and natural outdoor lighting is to ask to see a full gallery from another wedding they've photographed, preferably one that has taken place at the same venue you've chosen for your wedding. Not a gallery of their 50 favorites...a FULL gallery.

FAQ Friday: Questions to Ask When Interviewing Wedding Photographers

Q: "What kinds of questions should I ask when interviewing photographers for my wedding?"A: Presumably if you are speaking or meeting with a particular photographer in the first place it is because you have seen their work and like their style and creativity. If you haven't seen their work, then certainly one of the things you should ask is to see some examples, in order to make an informed decision. If they can't produce very much for you to review, or if it's not to your liking, then look elsewhere.Additional questions to ask may address specific concerns you have about your wedding photography, such as how you're thinking of displaying or storing your photos after the wedding (such as an album, or framed prints), how long the photographer will be at your wedding, whether they'll bring an assistant or secondary photographer, and what else you can expect from them on your wedding day. Ultimately you will be spending the entire day with them, so make sure you choose someone who is professional, and with whom you feel comfortable and confident. If you prefer to give them a "test run" before your wedding, consider an engagement session, which will acclimate you to their style of direction and creativity.

FAQ Friday: What is that "Reservation Fee" that photographers require?

Q: "Why is a payment required up front to commission my photographer?"A: A reservation fee is often required to compensate the photographer for other work that that falls on your desired wedding date which they will refuse since they have already committed to your wedding, or to pay for an engagement session which may be photographed months before your final balance is due, or travel plans that your photographer may make ahead of time to accommodate your event. In this case the reservation fee is considered liquidated damages, and is legally nonrefundable once paid. Many wedding professionals, not just photographers, require a reservation fee.That said, if in the unfortunate event you decide that the photographer you have signed with is not the one for you, then you may have to consider your forfeited reservation fee the price you pay to realize that that particular photographer is not right for you---thus avoiding what may have been a potentially huge mistake on your wedding day!While at Luminaire Images we do require a reservation fee upon contract signing, we also deduct it from your final balance, so overall it is not an additional cost on top of what you are ultimately paying.

FAQ Friday: Bringing in an Out-of-Town Photographer to your Wedding

Q: "What's involved if I were to hire a photographer for a wedding or event that is not local to the photographer?"A: Whether your wedding is a destination affair in a foreign land or you simply will not settle for the quality (or lack thereof) of local photographers in your area, there is more to bringing in an out-of-town professional than simply buying them a ticket and picking them up at the airport like any other guest.  Many couples decide that the photographer they want is absolutely worth the extra planning, but what does it usually entail?Travel ExpensesOf course as the client you are fronting the travel expenses, which in addition to any airfare or fuel costs may also include vehicle rental or shuttle/taxi fare, a reasonable per diem stipend if your resort is not all-inclusive, and any necessary permits for your photographer (which may include a work visa)!  We are always stressing the importance of a travel agent to our destination clients---they will find deals and discounts for you that are not published anywhere else (it's their job!), and can package things like air, rental car, and hotel all together for both your photographer as well as you and your guests!  If you don't have one of your own, we are happy to refer you to ours (she's excellent...and affordable!).AccommodationsWhen we travel for destination events, we request our own room at the same lodgings as the guests; we are traveling with expensive camera equipment and cannot risk sharing a room anywhere that you yourself would not stay; access to you and your guests before the festivities begin is an added bonus!Jet LagIf we're coming from quite a distance, it's advisable to allot at least a day or two prior to your event for us to recombobulate, as well as a full day's worth of buffer time for travel delays.  We can also use some of this time for a Day-Before session, and to check out your ceremony and reception sites as well as potential portrait locations beforehand.Day-Before SessionA Day-Before session is a specialized session featuring only the couple, in areas or settings that are not accesible due to time or location constraints on the wedding day itself.  These sessions are highly recommended for destination weddings as they yield some of the most memorable and stunning portraits of the bride and groom that will be taken during the overall event.  Some brides use the opportunity to don their "second choice" wedding dress, others opt to wear their original/only wedding attire, albeit more casually (i.e., wear your hair down, no tie, etc).Generally we recommend that the Day-Before session happens two days before the wedding; the actual day before is when the couple is usually preoccupied with the arrival of family and friends as well as rehearsals and last-minute details.  The session can also be scheduled a day or two after the wedding, although it's also not as advisable since most people just want to relax, honeymoon, or sleep off their party in the days following the event.Above All, PatiencePatience will serve you well when planning an event, whether it is destination or not.  Remember that in addition to the chaos of simply planning a wedding you are adding in the extra element of travel, so setbacks that are beyond anybody's control can indeed happen.  Even if all else fails, patience will be the safety net that keeps you sane, so be sure to step back every once in a while and center yourself throughout the process!

How You Can Avoid Awkward Family Photos

Matt and I were scrolling through some priceless images on Awkward Family Photos' Wedding Contest and in between some truly hearty belly laughs I began noticing some trends that I thought might be good to address regarding modern wedding photography.*Disclaimer* All the images in this post were pulled from Awkward Family Photos. Thankfully I have yet to ever see any of OUR pictures on that site!Awkward Family Photo Wedding 1An experienced photographer will recognize that there are plenty of paparazzi at weddings nowadays and truly, everyone wants a piece of that nice posed setup that the professional has arranged.  When Matt and I photograph formals, we usually allow the guests with point-and-shoots to go first, or make it clear to the subjects that WE are the camera they need to be looking at, which helps us avoid making pictures where everyone's eyes are looking in different directions (or deer-in-headlights, like the photo above!).  When researching photographers, recognize the value of those who have photographed many weddings instead of a few, or those who are full-time professionals and not moonlighters with day jobs.Awkward Wedding Photo 2

It pains me to admit that I myself have had to make a picture similar to the one above---not by my own choice, mind you, but because the mother of the bride, or the mother of the groom, or some little old auntie takes me aside and insists...insists!...that I recreate this image.  It's an old-fashioned pose that may have been popular 25 years ago but really has no place in a modern wedding book, especially if the photographer has a decidedly modern style.  Brides, if your friend or relative is trying to take the reins and arrange dubious poses that you're not so sure you like, stop them right there and invite them to continue with their wedding duties instead of the photographer's!


Awkward Family Photos Wedding 3
“I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. She’s right under 5 feet tall. Her mom apparently didn’t care about capturing the beauty of the rest of us.”

I think this was one of the funniest photos on the site, it certainly made me laugh---the bridesmaids look like total Amazons next to that petite bride!  And it perfectly illustrates a HUGE issue that many professionals have to contend with right now:  The unprofessional photographer.  Too many brides are opting to cut corners and use a friend or family member as their "official photographer."  All too often, this is the result.  At least it's in focus, right?

Awkward Family Photos Wedding 4Aside from what's obviously funny about this picture, it blatantly illustrates one of the things that even master photographers struggle with: editing the pictures down to a manageable number that does not overwhelm the client and ensures that they receive a collection of the best images of the session, not ALL images of the session. We try to keep what we present to the bride and groom under 700, which some wedding photographers will insist is still too many. Why was this picture even given to the couple?  Surely there must be a better one of that particular moment.  I recommend to anyone interviewing photographers that they ask to see a full gallery from a single wedding so they can evaluate the photographer's judgement when culling the pictures in addition to the photographer's talent when taking the pictures.


Awkward Family Photos Wedding 5

After laughing at other people's awkward wedding pictures I wanted to close with this one.  Yes, the pose is a little offbeat and it probably deserves its place on this website, but if you read the full caption you'll realize that the couple actually likes this photo, because they had such a darn good time posing for it!  The lesson here is that if you trust your photographer enough to pay him or her, then trust them to do their job.  As long as you're mostly comfortable with what they're asking you to do, go for it, even if it makes you feel a little silly!  If your photographer is a professional and you love his or her work, then you may as well jump if he or she says jump...

FAQ Friday: How to Win Over Your Client's Wedding Photographer

This one's for the wedding planners! If you're trying to network a little more with the vendors working at your clients' weddings, here are the top five ways you can win me over and make me REALLY keen on working with you again!1. Business-like is good, business-friendly is better. Adopt a warm tone when communicating with me. I know you are taking on all the bride's headaches, but no need to boss me around like I don't know what I'm doing. Let's work TOGETHER.2. If we haven't met yet, introduce yourself when you see me. I can't tell the difference between a planner holding an official-looking clipboard or catering manager holding an official-looking clipboard, or even sometimes the bride's best friend holding a cheap plastic binder.  My gigantic camera, on the other hand, usually gives you a clear idea of who I am. It also makes me feel important when you take a moment to seek me out and say hello.  I also do not mind when people (clients, guests, and vendors alike) tap me on the shoulder when my eye is glued to my viewfinder and I look like I'm concentrating on something. It's OK. You can interrupt.3. Water, stat! I cannot even begin to tell you how impressed I am when a planner approaches me in the middle of a ridiculously frantic schedule on a hellishly hot day and asks if I would like something cold to drink.  Do I look sweaty busy? Is it hot? Am I wearing black?  Yes, I would LOVE some ice water! OMG thankyouthankyouthankyou!!4. Food, stat! I don't want to bug you about dinner, but 99.9% of the time I do not know when I'll be eating or where I'm supposed to go eat. Got a moment? Come tell me. Triple bonus points if you manage to wrangle some food while the other guests are eating instead of after they've finished---because after they've finished is when I'm really supposed to go back to work!5. Give us a shout out! We're on Twitter and Facebook. There is time to tweet and FB before the wedding, during dinner at the wedding, and the day after the wedding. Mention us. It makes us feel important and we'll mention (or retweet) you, too.

Opinion: Stalling on Suppliers

fire ringPerhaps wedding planners and designers can weigh in on this, too: The tendency for some engaged couples to contact a vendor, possibly even going so far as to meet with them, and then stall on the actual hiring and agreement signing.Why You WaitI'm sure there are quite a few reasons, the most influential of which is likely cost.  When a supplier slaps down a multi-thousand dollar estimate I'm sure quite a few couples balk until they can carve out a more definitive budget so they'll better understand what they can and cannot afford.  Secondarily, finding time to sit and talk seriously with your fiancée about wedding decisions is far more difficult than most people think, and often months may pass before the couple is in agreement about whom to hire and how much to spend.  I know some brides also take a few weeks to contact several similar vendors and compare them based on information that's given.Why You Shouldn't Wait...Too LongIt's important to understand the amount of time in advance you should be commissioning suppliers; most photographers in my area are usually booked 6 months to 1 year in advance. Waiting too long to book a supplier for your wedding date could result in the vendor you had your eye on from the beginning being snatched from under your nose by a quicker couple, especially if your wedding is during the "high" season (March through November here in Southern California).  If you procrastinate on hiring vendors until your wedding is almost upon you then you also run the risk of finding all the "choice" suppliers in your area have been taken ahead of you, and all who are left are less talented or less experienced than what you had in mind!The Best Solution...Is a "Priority List."  As soon as you are engaged, sit down and create a list of all the expenses you expect from your wedding, and then arrange it so that the most important expenses are at the top.  Then over the following months as you continue your planning, just work your way down!  For example, if you deign the wedding dress, the venue, and the photography to be the three most important aspects of your wedding, then acquire them in that order.  That way, if your budget should unexpectedly dwindle as you near the end of your list, it doesn't matter so much because what is at the bottom was not the most important to begin with!  Booking your most important suppliers early on also ensures that YOU get them, because you were faster and had your priorities straight!

FAQ Friday: Light vs. Setting vs. Subject

Q: Which is more important in creating a photograph? Great light, great setting, or great subject?A: Obviously if you've got all three it's like you've struck gold.  But if you photograph weddings, or portraits in an uncontrolled setting (i.e., outdoors), then often it's sadly unusual to get all three in one shoot.Personally if I had to choose only one, I would choose great light.  I can use my knowledge of lenses to minimize (or even creatively use) a sub-par background, and use appropriate direction to encourage the subject and produce good shots of him or her, but as a natural light photographer, there's not much I can do to adjust the sun!  This is why many natural-light photographers try to shoot around morning or late afternoon, when the light is gentler, and the shadows are softer.Photo•graphyFrom the Greek word "phos" (light") and "graphê" (drawing). A photograph is still a photograph without subject or setting. Without light it is nothing!

FAQ Friday: RAW vs. JPG

Q: Do you shoot RAW or JPG? A: We shoot everything in RAW for the greatest amount of control in post processing later on.  If you totally botch a photo's exposure or white balance, it is far more salvageable if it was photographed in RAW than if it was shot as a JPG.  RAW records detail that, if blown out, is recoverable.However, I will add that I personally shot JPG when I was learning, which helped me become a more accurate photographer instead of someone who wildly clicks away with lesser regard for whether the photo is exposed or not (as RAW is more easily fixed in post).  Obviously if you shoot in RAW you need to have more storage space at your disposal as well.  Right now my "2010" hard drive has a 2TB capacity, and I may add more before the year is out.Pros of Shooting JPGThere tends less work in post to 'finalize' the picture---it's done for you in the camera. Many photographers claim that shooting in JPG format makes their images "snappier," likely due to this reason.JPG image files take up less space on both capture cards and hard drivesPros of Shooting RAWLost data (image detail) is recoverable from a RAW fileThere is more control over basic aspects of exposure, white balance, contrast, and other post-processing effectsWe use Adobe Camera RAW for processing, and more frequently Adobe Lightroom for batch RAW processing.

FULL removal of Carbonite from Mac (OSX 10.6)

Not that most of my regular readers care about this, but I figured out how to get rid of Carbonite completely from my computer...all by myself, I might add.  Instead of signing up for posting privileges in forums I never frequent, I'm just going to post what I did here and with any luck someone searching the web for this solution will find it via Google.So. Carbonite is still relatively new for Mac users and I downloaded the software for a trial run, and decided I didn't want it.  IF ONLY uninstalling it were as easy as right-click-delete like how it is for other apps.After following Carbonite's own instructions on uninstalling it, I saw that the icon was still appearing in my navigation bar, a dialogue box for the service still popped up when I tried to restart, and Carbonite's data-daemons or whatever they were were still appearing in my activity monitor. SO annoying!

carbonite sucks!(The little "lock" icon is Carbonite's)

After looking through forums that described solutions that didn't apply to me (possibly because I'm running Snow Leopard which at the time of this writing is still pretty new), I went back to ActivityMonitor [Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor, and make sure "All Processes" is selected] and noticed that while some of the applications were running under my user name, others--including Carbonite's shiz---were running under "root."  No wonder I couldn't seem to get rid of it.

So I enabled the root user for my computer and logged in.  Once in the root account, I went to my main hard drive ("Macintosh HD") and looked into both the "System" and the "Library" folders. LO AND BEHOLD, despite zero traces of Carbonite in my regular user account, the program still had a full folder in the Library here in the root account!  I threw it in the Trash, opened ActivityMonitor (again, I am in the root account) and quit the Daemons that were running.  Once they were quit, I was able to empty the trash and that troublesome app is gone for good!

I should add that I am not a programmer or hacker.  I merely have a spotty, Google-educated handle on all things programmerly and I'm probably not the best person to answer questions regarding anything besides what is exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) in this tutorial.  Good luck!