FREQUENTLY UNASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY.
Typically when I’m working with a couple who’s planning a wedding, they are pretty new at wedding planning and are having to become experts on weddings as they go along. (Does that sound about right to you?) Most of the time, you are hiring a professional wedding photographer for the first time, and generally just doing lots of stuff for the first time. So you spend a lot of time reading wedding magazines and wedding blogs and they all tell you to ask wedding photographers the same Frequently Asked Questions, right? But what about the stuff that you don’t know you should ask? That’s this page. These are the things I try to explain to people when we have wedding consultations, all the things you’re too overwhelmed to think about now, but will wonder later. And a couple of bonus fun questions too.
Q: SHOULD I SEE COMPLETE WEDDINGS?
A: Absolutely. It’s well know in the photography business that professional photographers put their signature images online and also on Instagram. When you look at complete weddings you are seeing everything that the real client got. Look for backs of heads, out of focus images, dark images and then look for “What’s Missing?” That is the harder question to answer. I see things like missing images of the groom, missing family formals, no pictures of where the ceremony occurred and tons of detail shots but a few of the first dance. Look for images taken in the full sun, shade, and then also look carefully at the reception images. Are the reception images dark? Do you see green spots from the DJ’s lights on the wedding dress during the First Dance? Is the wedding dress so white you cannot see all the beautiful detail?
Q: DO YOU HAVE BACKUP EQUIPMENT?
A: Yes. We bring a minimum of three complete cameras to each wedding. We also have portable lights to bring out the detail in your dress. There are many stay-at-home Mom’s shooting weddings with one camera. Be careful and ask questions.
Q: DO YOU DO VIDEO?
A: We do a lot of wedding shows and there is one thing I can promise you. If you see a business that does Photo/Video or DJ/Video/Photo just know that they do one of those well and the others are things they have added on with subpar vendors to simply grab more money. I don’t know a single business that is phenomenal in photography and videography also. We do recommend video for the ceremony and the toasts of the reception. When your Dad…the Father of the Bride, gives his toast to the couple, trust me you want it recorded in video.
Q: I WANT A CANDID PHOTOGRAPHER?
A: 6.5 hours of my 8 hour wedding days are captured from a candid perspective. If someone tells you that they are a candid photographer, then you need to absolutely look at full weddings and look for what’s missing as mentioned above. It’s something we notice with photographers new to the industry. It all sounds nice until you really see what is missing.
Q: SHOULD A BROTHER OR SISTER PHOTOGRAPH YOUR WEDDING?
A: Think about it…Would you ask a family member to be a bartender at your wedding or even a server….No. These are jobs that involve hours of work on the wedding day. Family should be there to help you as a family…celebrate… and not work on your wedding day. Now, if your sister can do hair or makeup then that is a great way to involve them.
Q: DO YOU HAVE TO PAY NC SALES TAX?
A: Yes. In the State of NC the entire wedding photography package is taxable, not just the cost of the CD. Remember this, if your professional photographer will lie and cheat the Department of Revenue, they will lie and cheat you also. Plus, down the road, you could get a bill for the taxes plus all penalties (5% per month late).
Q: IF YOU GIVE ME AN IMAGE IN BLACK AND WHITE, DO I ALSO GET THE COLOR VERSION?
A: Every photographer handles this differently. We me you get all images in color, all in black and white and all in high contrast black and white. They are all cross referenced so if Mom likes the color version and you like the black and white you still have both versions.
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT UNPLUGGED WEDDINGS?
A: I think that if an unplugged wedding will make you happy, then that’s exactly what you should do. I completely understand why you would want your guests to put their gadgets down and engage in the moment. After all, I live with teenagers.
But if you’re thinking about having an unplugged wedding because you think I need you to, then I want you to reconsider. I know it’s pretty trendy right now for photographers to post images of people at weddings holding up cell phones and publicly shame them for daring to want to make a photo, but I’m not one of those photographers. I promise that your guests aren’t ruining anything if they make some photos on their phones, and I promise that I will never ever ever publicly shame your family and friends on the internet like so many photographers have done recently.
It’s true that sometimes people get excited and enthusiastic and want to make photos at weddings. Who can blame them? But I’ve never found myself in a situation that a simply stated polite request made quietly in the ear of the offender didn’t immediately solve. Personally, I really think most of the whinging you see on the internet about unplugged weddings is the result of the inability of wedding photographers to tactfully interact with wedding guests. And viral marketing. Obviously.
So, you know, have an unplugged wedding if it will make you happy. But don’t feel like you have to do it for me, because I’m a professional and I’ll make amazing photos for you either way.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TAKING PHOTOS PROFESSIONALLY, AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?
Q: WHY DO PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS CHARGE SO MUCH PER HOUR IF ALL YOU’RE DOING IS PUSHING A BUTTON AND BURNING SOME FILES TO A FLASH DRIVE?
A: For every hour you see any professional wedding photographer with a camera in hand, there are at least 4 more hours spent behind the scenes; prepping for the job, buying, borrowing, or renting the perfect gadget to make your photos rock, and the ever important post-production sorting and processing of your images to get them ready for prime time (your new in-laws). Plus there’s the costs of all the consumables involved in your final project, like flash drives, presentation materials, shipping stuff everywhere, metric tons of Starbucks coffee and so on. And the cameras ain’t cheap either. Now that cameras have tiny little computers operated by gnomes inside, they have to be replaced every twenty minutes because they’re obsolete in fifteen (gnomes need frequent breaks). On average we are bringing about $10K worth of equipment with us to your wedding day.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re not hiring a professional wedding photographer for only what they do when you can see them, you’re hiring them for the finished product. You’re hiring them because you want someone at your wedding with a camera (or for) who knows how to make a good photo no matter what happens, what time of day it is, whether it’s dark, or raining, or monkeys are falling from the rafters (hey, that sounds like a really killer wedding). You’re hiring a professional because you want amazing photos and because you don’t want to have to worry about this one thing. And of course, there’s the buckets of blood, sweat, and coffee that it took to be able to make the kick ass photography magic you know you’re going to get. The worst thing you can ever day is have your Sister photograph your wedding. Let her enjoy seeing her Sister get married. After all, would you let her be a bartender at your wedding. See how odd it all sounds.
Q: HOW MANY HOURS OF COVERAGE DO I REALLY NEED?
A: There are a lot of variables involved here, but the short answer is probably at least 8. We offer a 7 hour package, and that’s tempting to a lot of people, but seven hours of coverage is really best for people who are having very small (think elopements) weddings with very few guests (less than 40) and very short receptions, or no reception at all. If you want photos of things like getting ready, details, and reception coverage of at least the toasts and cake cutting, then you need to plan for at least 8 hours of coverage. If you’d like to have the least amount of stress, or if you’ll be changing locations during the day ( such as from hotel to church to reception venue), then you’re going to probably need to bump up to 10 hours. It’s not that making photos takes a long time, it’s getting ready to make a photo that takes up all our time together. Walking from one area in the garden to another takes time. Arranging the dress takes time. All those little things add up quickly and before you know it, portrait time is over.
Q: WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY THE PHOTOS ARE PROFESSIONALLY EDITED?
A: Photos don’t just come out of a camera ready to hang on your wall. Unless it’s a Polaroid. Truth is, a professional SLR camera actually takes a pretty boring photo. Shaking it like a Polaroid won’t help, either. It’s meant to be a blank slate so that the photographer can have complete artistic freedom. (Yeah, baby, yeah.) So I take your photos into my secret photography laboratory and I process them. I prefer a classic fine art film look to my wedding photos(after all about 200 of my 490 weddings were film based), so I keep the colors clean and the skin tones natural. If there’s a spot on your tux, I use a spot treatment to remove it. If there’s a random street sign in an otherwise perfect photo, I chop it out. There’s lots of little remodels that I do to make your images just right. It takes a village… of software programmers… to create a finished wedding photograph.
Q: WHY DO YOU TAKE SO MANY PHOTOS, BUT GIVE US SO FEW? CAN WE HAVE ALL OF THEM?
A: On a typical wedding day, I will take about 1400 photos, but the majority of those photos are taken in big bursts. Anytime I have a group of people in front of me, I will take 10-15 photos every time. That’s because it’s really hard to get a photo of a group of people with everyone’s eyes open and their mouths closed. So, out of that burst of photos, you’ll get 2, because in all the other photos people are blinking or reciting epic poetry or looking down cousin Angie’s dress or whatever they’re doing that isn’t what they should have been doing. It’s kind of the same for pictures of people doing anything. Have you ever seen a series of photos of your Uncle Raymond dancing? It take a few dozen shots to get that good one that doesn’t look like he’s having a seizure. And since it takes a bunch of time to edit all those photos, only the good photos are pulled out and edited for you. In the end, you get a beautiful set of perfect photos showing everyone at their best, and you don’t have to weed through a bunch of crummy ones to find them. That’s why professional wedding photographers are so awesome.
Q: WHAT DOES THE COPYRIGHT RELEASE ALLOW ME TO DO WITH MY PICTURES?
A: This copyright gives you personal use rights to your photos. This means you can plaster them all over Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram until your heart’s content. You can blog about your special day. You can run down to the local drug store and print up 150 wallet prints of your Uncle Harold putting 37 cocktail shrimp in his mouth and send a copy to every one of your guests.
What you can’t do with your wedding photos is say that you took them, re-edit them in Instagram-o-matic splendor, or post them anywhere that requires that you claim sole ownership of the photos (you know, pretend that you made them). That includes entering them in most contests.
However, I do really want you to be excited about your wedding photos, and if you want to share them on your favorite forums and blogs, we will just need to communicate about it first. Most blogs just want to be sure they have original content and not images that are already on 17 other blogs. So if you want to share your pictures somewhere more public, just send me an email and we can discuss how to get it done just right.
Q: WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS ENVIROMENTALLY FRIENDLY?
A: Everything I can! To begin with, my office is pretty green. Well, it’s actually Zone 5 grey (true story… we had the paint matched and everything), but it’s earth friendly. I use Canon photographic equipment, Apple computers, and Western Digital Caviar Green hard drives. My home and office have all CFL bulbs, and our household participates in a local recycling program for all home and office waste. I conduct most of my business electronically, so there’s almost no paper. We’ve even cut back on the number of paper airplanes we make, and we always use paper out of the trash for the few we still make. At home, we drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water, and have switched from paper napkins to cloth, and from paper towels to washable cotton terry towels for cleaning. And, not to be forgotten, since it’s just us and the dogs in the office, we often work in our pajamas (heh-heh… jealous?), which in turn reduces water and energy consumption.
Q: WHY DOES IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO ANSWER MY EMAIL?
A: Being only a one-man show, means I have to totally rock the Google calendar around here. Most of the photography work is done at crazy times, since that’s when you guys are free. My work day is kind of the reverse of your work schedule. When y’all are at work, I’m in the studio, and when you’re off work, I’m out taking super sweet pictures of you. And I don’t stop in the middle of a shoot to answer phone calls or emails, because it’s kind of tricky to hold a camera and a cell phone at the same time. Because I’m totally going to treat you like a celebrity, it’s ix-nay on the atting-chay. So, if you email me on Wednesday afternoon while I’m out shooting an epic sunset engagement session, I’ll email you back promptly on Thursday morning. And if you send me an email on a Saturday when I’m at a riduculously amazing wedding taking an insane number of mind-blowing photos, I am absolutely going to email you back. On Monday.
Q: DO YOU FIND IT HARDER TO SHOOT WEDDINGS THAT REQUIRE TRAVEL? WHAT KIND OF LOGISTICAL HURDLES DO YOU ENCOUNTER IN DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
A: I’m a professional photographer who doesn’t maintain a traditional studio, so everything I do requires complete mobility. I can carry an entire studio to a location and set it up and create amazing photos that no one would ever suspect might have been made in your kitchen. Traveling is what I do for every job, even the ones that are in Raleigh. So I don’t really encounter any serious logistical hurdles for destination wedding photography, other than having to take my shoes off at the airport if I fly. That’s pretty annoying. Yay for flip flops.
Q: WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL FEES AND LODGING? IS THERE A MINIMUM PACKAGE REQUIRED FOR TRAVEL?
A: There are no travel fees for anyone who purchases wedding photography coverage in the State of North Carolina. This whole process should be pain free for you. I want you to be able to quickly and easily understand the actual cost of your wedding photography so we can start talking about the fun stuff sooner.
Q: DO YOU WORK WITH AN ASSISTANT?
A: Nope. My wife and I are both professional photographers and both of us have been at all 490 weddings we have photographed.
Q: ARE YOU WILLING TO ACCEPT A LIST OF “MUST-HAVE” PHOTOS?
Q: WHAT SHOULD I DO TO KEEP MY PHOTOS SAFE?
Q: WHAT CAN I DO WITH ALL MY PHOTOS?
A: Well, you could love them and squeeze them and look at them and call them George. But the bestest thing to do with them is to PRINT them and frame them and hang them on your wall. Or even better, since you’re going to have so many amazing photos that you’ll run out of wall space, you should make a fine art book or wedding album. Or get one of those neato digital photo frames. But whatever you do, don’t just leave them on your hard drive all alone and never let them feel the sweet kiss of daylight. That’s just sad. For even more ideas about things you can do, check out acrylic prints, wedding guest books from your engagement photos, and lay flat photo books.
Q: WHY SHOULD I GET A WEDDING ALBUM?
A: Because you are a rock star. Or at least the wedding equivalent. Your wedding is probably the most important day in your life to date, except for that time you saw Bill Murray buying a diet soda and a pack of gummy bears at the gas station. You’ve spent months agonizing over every detail, right down to the color of the ribbon to tie on those cute little bubble bottles, and this is the perfect way for you to see your day as the major moment that it is. A wedding album tells the story of your wedding day, from the earliest moment of “getting ready” to the bubbles (or birdseed) hitting the getaway car as you make your escape. As an added bonus, it’s totally portable, and doesn’t need to be plugged in or recharged for you to inflict it on your friends and family. On a more practical note, while I provide your photos to you on a flash drive, what happens if you get all responsible and actually stick it in your safety deposit box, and then ten years from now you want to get a copy of that picture of Aunt Martha wearing the pimp hat and feather boa in the photo booth, but Whoops! NOBODY uses flash drives anymore. This can totally happen, since technology marches ever onward like determined digital soldiers armed with weapons of media frustration. Seriously, I’ve got a pile of floppy disks in my filing cabinet (that’s the analog version of a desktop folder) that haven’t been near a computer since 1992. Digital back-ups are all smart and stuff, until they get obsolete. Your best bet for preserving important memories will always be a physical printed copy, like a wedding album. Besides, it will really impress the grandkids when you pull out an Actual Book and sit on the sofa and show them your wedding day. I know how much I always loved looking through the family photo album with my Grandma.
Q: WHAT IS A FLUSH MOUNT WEDDING ALBUM?
A: Only the coolest way to see your amazing photos. Ever. First your photos are printed on high quality archival photographic paper, just as if they were going to be framed. Then they are mounted on a thick archival substrate, which makes a luxuriously stiff page about 2mm thick. Kinda like a children’s board book, only exponentially more fashionable and gorgeous. And not appropriate for teething. Our albums can be leather bound, silk covered, or have custom printed covers. And they are gaw-juss. We call them heirloom wedding albums because these hand made albums will truly last for generations. We know you want the grandkids to know just how bad-ass you were back in the day, and now we can give you the technology to do it.
Q: WHAT IS PRESS PRINTING?
A: Press printing is high quality printing, but it is not printed on photographic paper. More like a coffee-table book or a magazine. The pages are thicker than regular book pages, but still thin enough to be flexible. Sadly, unlike most other topics here, press printing really isn’t all that funny.
Q: HOW DO I KNOW IF YOU’RE THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER FOR ME?
A: If you’ve read this far, you have learned a lot about me, and what a professional wedding photographer should do for you. Do you feel like I’m someone you would want to spend a day with? (Remember, your wedding photographer is the only vendor you’ll actually spend time with on your wedding day, so it’s important that they don’t creep you out.) Do you think I seem like someone you trust to make the kind of photos you want to see of your wedding day? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, you should email me right now. We should have a chat and get to know each other a little better. If you live near the Raleigh area, we can meet up and have a cup of coffee and talk about your plans. If you live elsewhere, we can Skype and do the same thing. You’ll just have to get coffee (or wine or beer) on the way home.
Also, it’s ok if I’m not the perfect wedding photographer for you. Hopefully you’ve learned a little something here to help you find the perfect professional wedding photographer for your day. No matter what, remember: It’s your day, and it should be perfect on your terms.