What I am about to discuss below is a little reality check before we rush into initial wedding consultation. A handful of good reasons why you shouldn’t hire me as your wedding photographer.
Please do not feel offended if you fall into categories listed below. It’s just a set of personal opinions that I accumulated over the years while photographing weddings and observing wedding couples behavior.
I believe it is very important for both sides, couple and photographer, to have reasonable expectations for a wedding day.
Quickly hearing few of my thoughts below before contacting me, will prevent us from wasting limited time we all have.
1. You expect your wedding day to be out of this world perfect fairy tale.
Your wedding day will be amazing. And one-of -a-kind. And magic. But it won’t be fairy tale perfect. I can promise you that.
Maybe it will rain. Or your wedding cake will fall apart. Your dress will get dirty. Your spouse’s sibling might have a bit too much to drink and not make it to the reception. Your pet cat will go blind couple days before your wedding.
I witnessed all above. And more.
Having realistic expectations will help you to enjoy your day at its fullest.
If you can’t, I might not be the best choice for you.
2. You’re looking for a wedding photographer just because your maid of honor told you to get one.
But if you’re don’t appreciate photography and not excited about me being part of your wedding day, why have me there?
3. You will be handing me an extensive wedding photo checklist.
I get it. You just spent a lot of money on all the wedding details and décor and expect me to take lots of pictures of it all. But that would distract me from you most likely hiring me for- documentary wedding photography where I capture people in real moments.
And while sometimes I do snap some images of details/ venue, if I spot an interesting human interaction, I will abandon all my detail photography efforts without hesitation.
4. Picture of your wedding dress hanging in a willow tree near hotel’s parking lot is a must for you.
Sorry, but I am not your guy.
Same applies to you rings on a cactus plant. And your wedding shoes on a chimney in the hotel’s lobby. I might snap a casual picture of your wedding attire, but don’t expect anything more.
I specialize in capturing candid moments and interactions between people and all the loved ones that surround them that day. Not things. When you’ll lose someone dear to you, what you want to remember: all the small beautiful moments with her/him or how beautiful your sparkly wedding shoes were?
5. You expect me to not to miss anything.
While I really would love to say I won’t miss a beat, I can only assure you that there will be moments that I will miss. I can’t be everywhere at the same time. And neither can two or three photographers (in case we decide you need more than one). And even if I am in a right spot at the right moment, I still can fuck up and miss it.
Same applies to capturing every wedding attendee. Please understand, that if I would set out to photograph every wedding guest, it would very quickly turn into a business headshot session.
Obviously, nobody wants that.
If the reasons why you shouldn’t hire me as your wedding photographer mentioned above doesn’t apply to you- hooray! , double hooray if you’re looking for a documentary wedding photographer for your upcoming wedding!
I would love to be part of your wild adventure! Madison, Wisconsin based, but available to travel if needed.
a story about Jackie, James and their perfect rural Wisconsin family farm wedding
True story: I have a really bad memory. My wife says it’s not true, but it really is. Certain memories stay, but certain memories just go straight to the dark abyss.
That’s why when talking to wedding couples, I normally take notes. Lots of them. And later store it all in a secret file. So, when the wedding day comes, I can refresh my memory with all the details and small facts about the couple and their wedding day.
Here’s an original excerpt from my initial notes I took during Jackie and James Skype chat:
“Jackie and James wedding will happen in Jackie’s family farm. Land around the family farm has been sold out for developers. Family’s farm is the last man standing in the area. Family takes a pride in it. Jackie’s dad retired about one year ago and lives in that family farm. Farm is a big deal for him. He is fixing it all up. Growing produce. About 50 acres of land. Garden, corn fields, woods. Certain patches in those woods has no growth. Magic woods? (first look/ pre-ceremony pictures there?)”
There were more notes from our initial chat: about the brother who was going to officiate the wedding ceremony, about uncle who would roast the pig, about another uncle who would make booyah (stew). James’s dad was going to make beer, family friend was going to make wine, another family friend who would help with music, etc. And the list goes on.
I remember going thought my notes when it suddenly struck me: Wisconsin family farm wedding they were putting together was exactly how weddings would happen centuries ago. Two families would come together and people would contribute their knowledge, craftsmanship and skills to make one helluva wedding in one of the family’s backyard. It would be family team work and there rarely would be an outsider involved. Isn’t it amazing?
And when I arrived Jackie’s and James wedding day, I saw it all come together just perfectly. Amazing couple with their families getting ready in their family house, 300 wedding guests, pig roast and stew preparation, coolers loaded with handmade beer and wine, and the sunset skies that you remember for a long time. Yet another example of how it’s not about how much you spend, but how you feel.
Right before the sunset, by a special order, bypassing storm painted the sky and the clouds in truly most amazing colors. With some amazing lightnings in the distance. Boom! I was done. Everybody else was not. The party was just starting.
Wedding Date: July 22, 2017 Wedding Location: Family farm near Green Bay Photography assistant: Lina Soblyte from SoBeIt Creations Catering: Family members (Bernie, uncle Kevin, Grandma Oryall) and Spork Café and Catering
a story about two amazing souls and their extraordinary Wisconsin river wedding
“You were recommended to us and we were told that you’re wedding photographer who loves weird and not normal. I knew right away you were just the right wedding photographer for my husband and me.” This was a first sentence from Laura’s very personal initial wedding photography inquiry she sent me. I was 100% ready to photograph Laura’s and Adrian’s wedding day without even talking to them first. That was the the exciting beginning.
And then the wedding day came it turned out Laura lied- there was nothing weird about their wedding day at all. Just a extraordinary day filled with down-to-earth people, singing into deodorant stick, lots of bare feet, meaningful hugs, river shore slip-n-slide, talent show for the brave, breath taking outdoors views, great food buffet and Xena the dog that interrupted wedding ceremony twice. As a result Laura’s and Adrien’s wedding day was real and simple, yet amazing in every aspect.
Just like centuries ago, the tribe (closest friends and immediate family) got together and helped to make it all happen: make up, decorations, music, officiating, etc.
Laura and Adrian showed us once again: it’s not about how much you spend, but how you feel about it.
how to interview your wedding photographer: no BS advice by wedding industry insider
True fact: there are few of you out there that know how to interview your wedding photographer properly. Sad but true. This is how it usually goes: sheet of paper lands on the table, future husband or future wife looks at it and says the magic phrase: “We’ve printed a list of questions to ask your wedding photographer and would love if you could answer them”. And that’s where usually the problem lies.
Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t mind answering those questions, or any other questions for that matter. Questions usually excite me a lot! But if that question list they put together was picked up online at websites like Wedding Wire or The Knot, red glowing sign comes on in my mind and it reads: “Houston, we’ve got a problem!”.
Here’s why: people who put those articles and question lists together (often) have no idea or little how wedding photography works. Or at least that’s what I see when I read those tips. In fact, I often feel like things just get copy/pasted from one website to another sending same shitty message- ask lousy generic answers, get lousy generic answers and learn nothing about the person who you are going to big chunk of your exciting day. My math formula for it looks like this:
MEAH QUESTIONS = MEAH ANSWERS
So when it comes to the list of questions on how to interview your wedding photographer, here are few tips:
ditch cookie cutter questions and get personal
be present in conversation
go deeper down the rabbit hole
keep an eye open for the red flags
Follow the simple instructions above and you’ll get better understanding how wedding photographer works. You’ll also feel more confident and trust your wedding photographer (that’s a big one) more. And that trust is crucial. As it will allow you to enjoy your wedding day at its fullest. It will make your pictures more relaxed and candid, it will make your wedding photographer’s work easier and as result it will help to yield better pictures. Seriously, who doesn’t want better wedding pictures without too much extra effort?
Cookie cutter questions are not for you: your wedding day is unique and so should be your questions.
Below I put some examples of generic questions I found on online wedding planning networks, and added some replacement questions and reasoning behind them so you would get the most out of wedding photographer interview. Hope that helps!
How do you describe your photography style?
More personal question: Besides wedding pictures, what other pictures you like to take? What pictures you like to look at? What do you find interesting about them? What do you find interesting about wedding photography? What motivates you as a photographer/ wedding photographer? What do you like/ don’t like about weddings?
Reason: You will learn how your wedding photographer sees photography and life. You will also better understand what motivates her/him. And of course you will get better idea what’s her/his wedding philosophy and wedding photography style is.
An image of a woman sleeping in airport is an example of street photography
Do you have a portfolio I can review?
More personal question: What was your favorite wedding you ever shot? Why? How did the last wedding you shot looked like? Did you ever photographed a wedding that somewhat had a similar feel like my future wedding? Can I see examples?
Reason: If someone doesn’t have a portfolio, she/he is not a professional wedding photographer. If you see 20 best pictures from someone’s 10 years wedding photography portfolio, you really not seeing the real picture of what you will be getting. Listen to your wedding photographer, tell them about your wedding plans and see ask for wedding gallery examples with the same/similar wedding venue, amount of people, time of the year, etc.
Have you ever shot at my wedding venue before?
More personal question: How do you approach photographing a wedding in the venue you’ve never been before? Do you research online? Do you look at Google Maps? Do you arrive earlier to check out wedding location in advance? Do you talk to venue staff about possible spots for shoot?
Reason: It honestly doesn’t matter if photographer shot at your wedding venue or if he went there to check in advance. If he’s a professional, going into unknown location and making things happen is his/her regularly conducted activity. Besides you rarely will find the same light conditions in the building- light in the same wedding venue could often look very differently depending on time of the day, season, weather conditions, etc.
Best man lit up by setting sun during golden hour at the wedding venue
How many hours of coverage do we get?
More personal question: Can we go through our wedding day timeline and see what do you think? What time do you recommend to start the coverage? When do you recommend doing family portraits? Why? Does the timeline we have look feasible?
Reason: Let photographer help you figure out amount of coverage he/she recommends. I’ve often run into couples that think they need 10 hours of coverage when in reality 7 is what they need. I get asked for 5 hour coverage, when reality is at least 8 hours of continuous coverage. Talk to professional, hear their opinion and decide what will work for you afterwards.
How many photographers will be on my wedding?
More personal question: Why do you think are pros and cons of having 2nd photographer? What do you recommend for my wedding day? Why?
Reason: Don’t get stuck with an idea that 2nd photographer will do miracles. Talk but be ready to listen. There are definitely scenarios where 2nd photographer is OK and certain situations where 2nd photographer is a MUST. Professional wedding photographer should have a good explanation of all pros and cons that apply for your wedding. There are weddings with 120 guests where 2nd photographer is a must and there are weddings with 300 wedding guests where one photographer is just enough.
Talk. Listen. Hear and be heard.
wedding photographer Ilana Natasha and her assistant Mary on a wedding day ______________
Reason: Bringing the lights to the dark venue or ceremony to show off isn’t going to do much if the wedding photographer doesn’t know how to use them or venue (e.g church) wouldn’t allow to use them. There’s plenty of photographer’s that go through the day without an artificial light. All they have is available light and they kill it!
What camera do you use?
More personal question: Have you ever photographed wedding in a rain? Snow? Dark church? What problems did you run into? What was your challenge? How did you solve it? Can I see an example gallery or two?
Reason: Remember- it’s not the $5,000 Santoku knife with ivory handle that makes a chef known nationwide. It’s the food the chef makes. Professional camera’s are relatively inexpensive these days and its way easier to own one than 15-20 years ago. But a lot of people forget that camera is just a tool. And the most important thing is how photographer puts that tool in use. That’s where the great skill is. And one sees and works with light. And how photographer communicates with the surroundings. And many other things. You get the idea. If you really really want to know, I use pro level Fuji mirrorless cameras and lenses. But it really is not about the camera.
Contents of my “photo bag” AKA “too lazy to stuff my photo gear back to the photography case“ ______________
// professional wedding photographer’s advice to bride and groom
So I am at the recent wedding. Doing, you know, my thing- wedding photojournalism and stuff. I’m hanging out with the bride and her friends. Ladies are about to be done with getting ready. Emily and I are about to head out for the first look with Andrew (her future husband to be).
At one moment Emily looks me in the eye and says “I’m very nervous. I’m really really nervous.”
I pause for a second. I look at Emily. I know I need to respond. What do I say?
“Well Emily…” I begin slowly…
I often ask myself what it’s all about. You know, what wedding day is about? How people see it? I mean technically it’s a ceremony where two people or a couple are united in marriage. But what else? Timeline? Shoes? Dancing? Friends and family? Tears? Laughter? Beautiful weather? Princess dress? Helluva amazing party? All the love in the world? 5 tier wedding cake? Bartender that makes best Old Fashioned in Midwest?
A nice mix of everything?
Does anybody ever think about a wedding day as just a day? Like just another day in life? Expensive one, but just another day. Not a day filled sugarcoated with fairy tales and princesses, but a day filled ordinary people. Imperfect ordinary people.
Wedding dress will get dirty. Sparkly sandals won’t be nearly as comfortable as initially anticipated. DJ will get drunk. Wedding pictures outside won’t happen because of rain. Best man will get into fight at the after party. Food will be served cold. Mother of the groom will turn into momzilla. Stressed out maid of honor will take too much Valium. Limo driver will get lost in downtown after football game traffic Armageddon.
And when imperfect real people will look back into their wedding day 5 years from now, they, hopefully, will laugh at all those small things that went wrong. Because it’s just life. And life happens. And it’s happening right now. And we’re breathing it in.
And we often get so obsessed about the destination that we forget to enjoy the journey. We discard those small little imperfections that happen to us we find along the way as a bad thing. And yet these imperfections, these small bumps in the road is what the journey is about.
So here’s my professional wedding photographer’s advice to bride and groom: Live in the moment. Take it all. Enjoy every little bit of it.
So I look at Emily and give most honest yet (hopefully) comforting advice that I can give as a true wedding photojournalist: “Emily, there’s nothing wrong with being nervous. It’s an intense moment you’re about to experience. So it’s OK to be nervous. Heck, it’s event OK to be REALLY nervous. Who wouldn’t be nervous in this situation? I know you’ll be fine. I know you’ll get married today. So, enjoy the being nervous part. Enjoy every little uncomfortable moment of your wedding day. Because that’s how life is- an exciting journey filled with lot’s of uncomfortable, and yet amazing, moments. Now let’s go find the man and let’s get you two married.”