How I use my wedding photography to help those in need

bonfire sparkles with silhouettes of palm trees in the background

 

// helping those in need with my wedding photography

Today is January 31st, 2018. And one of the first things I did in the morning was to send $85 donation to a family from Netherlands. I’ve never met them before and never will. What caught my eye was a post by Huy (the man behind Fearless photographers) in my Facebook feed, asking to help a family from Netherlands whose house burned down in recent fire.

I was in.

“Why would you do that?” someone might wonder. Well…

Even though, I might have agreed with them several years ago, I really wouldn’t today. I’m not the same human being and wedding photographer I was few years ago.

We live in the world that is getting wilder and crazier every day. Therefore, I think it’s more important than ever to suffocate that negativity and remain human being.

family is gathering at the bonfire in Little Gasparilla island, Florida

my family getting together at the bonfire

when and how it all started

When in end of 2016 I was working on my wedding photography business re-branding and was planning wedding photography business expenses for 2017, I was curious: what would happen if I wouldn’t spend any money on advertising?

With this in mind, I made a decision: I’ll give it a try. As a result, my relationship with Wedding Wire and Wedding Planner and Guide was over.

All of a sudden, I felt liberated. And I was ready to pass my all advertising expenses to those who really need it (and no Yelp, it’s not you silly).

Things were about to get exciting!

where did it take me?

2017 went by.

Throughout the year my family and I made several contributions for individual fundraisers, natural disaster reliefs funds, etc. And when wedding and portrait photography work started slowing down around Holiday season, I thought to myself: why stop here? Right?

See, donating money for the cause of my choice directly was one thing. Of course, it made an impact, but, I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to have my friends, clients and social media followers join me for a good cause?

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in 2017, my family and I donated 5.8% of my wedding photography profits to help those in need. to some people it’s might seem not that much, but to me it’s helluva good start.

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With this in mind, I went ahead and did series of studio portraits for clients for free, as long as my clients provided me with a proof of donation of $150 or more. As soon as I posted proposals on Instagram and Facebook, people started to respond!

Suddenly, I wasn’t doing it alone anymore!

Consequently, I influenced around $1,000 donations to recent victims of hurricanes in US and Puerto Rico along with victims of wildfires in California.

And you know what’s the best part? Being wedding photographer that gives back to those who need it more than I do AND influencing people around me to join me felt amazing!

aerial image from above of wedding photographer that gives back with his son laying in the beach

Aerial shot of the beach in Little Gasparilla island

what’s next?

Those who know me, know that me would be me, if I would keep it all simple.

Here comes the magical question that has been asked before: Why stop here?

I’m talking to you, my friend.

I’m asking you to look around and realize how much you have already. As Gary would say, “you won the ultimate lottery” already when you was born. Not as a snail, not as some weird specimen on Mars, but as a human being. And that’s a good start.

At the same time, even if you think you’re poor, you most likely are not. In reality, you’re probably still in the richest 15% of the world’s population.

So I want to challenge you to find your cause. To find your battle. Roll up the sleeves, get to work and help your brothers and sisters who need little push. Give little love to mother nature. Donate to local pet rescue non-profit.

It is easier than you think an. And I promise- it’s a damn good and rewarding feeling!

Because your donation can change someone’s life.

And it will!

And one day, all the good you gave to others, will come back you.

In 2017, my family and I donated 5.8% of my wedding photography profits to help those in need. To some people it’s might seem not that much, but to me it’s helluva good start.

That was 2017.

In the meantime, we’re all are stoked about what we’ll do in 2018.

Thanks for reading!

Please share thoughts in comment section and help to spread the word by sharing this story!

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the list

In conclusion, I put a list of several recommended top charities where your donations would make biggest impact:

United States:

EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY
US HURRICANE RELIEF FUND
PLANNED PARENTHOOD
ANIMAL WELFARE INSTITUTE
BREAST CANCER RESEARCH FOUNDATION
PREVENT CHILD ABUSE AMERICA
NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE

International:

GIVE DIRECTLY
AGAINST MALARIA FOUNDATION
FOOD FORTIFICATION INITIATIVE

Local (Madison, Wisconsin):

WIL-MAR NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER
OPERATION FRESH START
W.O.R.T.
UNDERDOG PET RESCUE

If you don’t see preferred charity organization listed here, please click  >> HERE << and look for well rated non profits.

 

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wedding photographer and his family sitting on rental house stairs in Florida

my nut family and I on a rental house stairs in Florida. February, 2018

All images used in this blog post are from Little Gasparilla island, Florida, where I am currently vacationing with my wife and kids.

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how to interview your wedding photographer: no BS advice by wedding industry insider

bride is approaching groom for the first look

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.

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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.

woman sleeping on chairs in airport with funny sign above her

An image of a woman sleeping in airport is an example of street photography

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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.

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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 is having a craft cocktail at the wedding venue during the golden hour beautiful sunsetBest man lit up by setting sun during golden hour at the wedding venue

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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.

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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.

picture of wedding photographer and her assistant at the Masonic Center Madison WI wedding explaining on how to interview your wedding photographerwedding photographer Ilana Natasha and her assistant Mary on a wedding day
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Do you bring your own lighting?

More personal question: Have you ever photographed in the dim church? Have you done a photo shoot outdoors when it’s dark? Can I see examples?

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!

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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.

paper bag with Fuji photo equipment to exemplify how to interview your wedding photographer and to show that gear doesn’t matterContents of my “photo bag” AKA “too lazy to stuff my photo gear back to the photography case”
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Thanks for stopping by and reading! I hope you find tips and recommendations about how to interview your wedding photographer useful. If you have any questions or suggestions of your own, feel to reach out to me via contact page. Check out my FAQ page with common questions Madison Wisconsin wedding photographers get asked a lot!