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There are many opinions on what makes a wedding photographer the right fit, but I think it really only boils down to a few things. Never fear fellow photographers, I think you’ll find my list is very simple and reasonable. For those of you overwhelmed at the idea of hiring a photographer, the good news is that it’s not as complex as you may think. While this list is specific to weddings, all these principles could be applied to most photography needs.

TIP # 1: MAKE SURE YOU LIKE THEIR FULL BODY OF WORK.

All photographers share the “highlights” of their best work on Instagram and Facebook (which is great; I do it constantly) – but if you notice you feel differently as you browse deeper into their portfolio, then they may not be the right fit for your taste. It’s important their website portfolio is consistent and you fall more in love with their style as you browse and that their work will compliment the kind of celebration you have planned. On that note, it’s good to think about the tone of your wedding day before you hire a photographer, so you don’t wind up with colliding styles.

TIP # 2: WOULD YOU WANT TO HAVE LUNCH WITH THEM?

Sometimes, I simply email with clients for portrait or family sessions, but for a wedding day it’s important to get to know one another in person. Not only should you like your photographer, but you need to connect with them. If you don’t think you’d enjoy (hypothetically) going to lunch with them, don’t hire them. Why is this so important? You’ll need to be able to trust them and relax while they direct you from behind the camera. They may even wind up keeping you sane in the midst of wedding chaos! If you don’t enjoy them as a person, this will be nearly impossible.

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TIP # 3: THEY SHOULD COMMUNICATE CONSISTENTLY AND KINDLY.

There are probably a lot of photographers out there who create amazing photographs, but aren’t as good at the communication part. Obviously, there may be some exceptions to this rule. However, the business side of working with a photographer is nearly as important as the actual photos. Your emails should be responded to in a reasonable amount of time, in a clear and friendly manner. You should never feel stupid if you have questions, which means your photographer is kind and respectful both in-person and in email. Lastly, the path to your photographs include money, paperwork and meetings. With that in mind, the verbiage used in your contract and invoices should be clear and concise.

TIP # 4: THEY SHOULD SPECIALIZE IN WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

It’s becoming more and more common for photographers to specialize in a few things or just one thing! For example, I shoot weddings, families and individual/senior portraits. I don’t do newborn studio work (baby in the basket stuff), corporate events, boudoir, pet photography or sports events. Additionally, I specialize in natural light and medium format film. This means that the majority of the weddings I book take place outdoors, typically in the summer and early fall. Make sure you are booking a photographer who creates photos that resonate with the style of lighting your venue will have and the timelines your celebration will adhere to. If you aren’t sure, ask! I often refer people to photographers I know specialize in things I don’t offer or lighting I’m not interested in.

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TIP # 5: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

Sometimes, when you first look at pricing, your eyes may bug out in shock! Keep in mind, it’s going to be an investment (see here) to work with a quality photographer. As the saying goes: you get what you pay for. Please don’t hire the cheapest photographer you can find, that rarely works out well for either party.

Fun fact? Many photographers only require a manageable deposit of some kind to book (I personally require a 10% non-refundable retainer for weddings), with the full balance due at a later date. If your wedding is a year or two away, that leaves you with time to make financial arrangements. Remember that sometimes photographers are willing to work with your budget if they really connect with you and/or your wedding would be a spectacular addition to their portfolio. No matter what, photography will likely be one of your top three largest investments for your wedding day, so keep that in mind while you plan your budget. It is the heirloom from your wedding you’ll have sitting in your living room, framed or preserved in an album – for all to see. When you think of it that way, it is certainly a special thing that you don’t want to cut yourself short on.

I hope these 5 tips helped in your wedding research!

If you have further questions, feel free to comment below and I’ll make sure to respond in the comment thread!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts
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Time and again I have the same conversation with a client: they love my work but cannot afford my full rate and want to know if I can offer a discount or if I can just include the CD of images rather than albums and proof prints. Despite working in the industry, I actually understand why clients so often wind up here… hiring a photographer is expensive and people need to consider their budgets. That being said, I wanted to un-pack the idea of investment and heirlooms when choosing your photographer.

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Our digital world is very fast-paced and it changed the face of photography forever. Suddenly the world of photographs, which was limited to the few who wanted to take part in the slow craft of film, was open to everyone. Please don’t misunderstand me; in some ways this was incredible. It leveled the playing field and ushered in a record amount of images that helped better connect our world. Yet on the downside, suddenly anyone could go pick up a DSLR at Costco and be shooting weddings by the following weekend. This made the pricing of professional photography services become chaotic and the quality of a photographer’s skills were harder to measure. Suddenly the art of albums and image sale meetings were a thing of the past and Facebook became the main means of sharing your images. This is even more intensely felt with Snapchat. I’m sure this app can be fun when used socially, but for me, it is a nemesis. Why would I want the images I worked so hard to create, to simply disappear?

You add all those cultural changes together and it’s rare that I have a client walk into a meeting excited about albums, framing or 10 full hours of wedding coverage.

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WHEN YOU HIRE A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER, YOU INVEST IN CREATING HEIRLOOMS.

All photographers have different views on the issue of pricing and products offered and I think this differs from region to region as well. However, in my opinion, a good photographer creates a full experience for you that includes the following things in some form:

  1. Clear Communication + Wonderful Customer Service
  2. Personal Connection
  3. A Fun + Relaxing Shoot w/ Ample Time
  4. Gorgeous Images Delivered Digitally
  5. Products Delivered In Beautiful Packaging (Proofs, Prints, Albums, Framing, Etc)

These things matter so much! It’s a massive collaboration between you and my camera to create the images you are dreaming of. Clear communication, as well as you and I connecting on a human level, is key. In order to accomplish that, it’s going to take some time…which is why I don’t recommend trying to squeeze content for eight hours of wedding coverage into four or five hours. Seeing your online digital proofs of your delivered images is incredibly exciting, but it pales in comparison to what it feels like opening a gorgeous album wrapped in luxurious ribbon and paper. When you curl up with that album and enjoy it with your loved ones, guess what you have? That’s right, an heirloom.

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When I was a little girl, I used to take the photo albums out of my mother’s glass cabinet and look at them for hours. I’d run my hands over the leather finish of my parents’ wedding book and press my fingers into the gold foiled letters of their names. These moments are so precious, because the soul of your photograph longs to be framed, held, admired and loved. You’ve invested a lot of your time, energy and finances into creating that photo, so why not archive it in a special way. After all, when you only share on Facebook or Instagram, it’s piled up on by thousands of other images in seconds…unlikely to be remembered by the viewer.

When I stand in front of you with my camera raised in front of my face, I am already picturing you enjoying your album and your grandchildren enjoying your framed prints. Not because I take myself so seriously, but because I take YOUR time, energy and trust very seriously. When you take all these things into account, the whole experience really is an investment. An investment worthy of far more than Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram.

At the end of the day I’m just a photographer. There are far greater professions and millions of opportunities to spend your money. Yet, no matter what kind of photographer you look for, I encourage you to invest in heirlooms and quality service. Of course, there are good and bad photographers out there, but with a little research, you can find a great one (which I’ll be writing some tips for later)! Then feel your eyes sparkle with anticipation as you wait for your albums and prints to arrive in the mail.

Why?

Because photographs are so much more than #hashtags.

Our signature Album is handmade with love in Portland, Oregon by HingedStrungStitched

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts
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As a photographer, I have an interesting (and humbling) opportunity to get a brief glimpse into my client’s vulnerable places. My camera has found itself capturing incredible people, some of whom have lost children, battled illness, lived in extreme poverty, experienced abuse, gone through divorce, journeyed through infertility, or fought an eating disorder. I’m often amazed how disarming the camera can become and I’ve been honored to learn bits about my client’s lives. I never ask them specifically, but I think there is something about the intimacy of photographing a soul that often compels my subject to share a little about themselves along the way. I consider it sacred and special – and I treat it with the utmost care and gratitude.

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I know there are a lot of “selfie” obsessed people out there, but they never seem to find their way to me. Hands down, the most common thread among my clients (particularly among women) is that they do not feel beautiful in front of the camera. My clients often confess this to me out loud in our consults and then again when we begin to shoot.

They feel too fat, too un-stylish, too old or too acne prone. They worry their wedding gown doesn’t look good enough and they don’t look like the brides they see on Pinterest, so they try to shrink behind their bouquet. They arrive to family sessions tired and nervous – already believing that the shoot will be a sham either because they aren’t good enough or their kids won’t comply or their husbands are going to have a terrible time. They’ve changed outfits several times before leaving the house and eventually shrug in front of the mirror and think, “I guess this is as good as it gets.” They’ve shamed themselves for so many years and believed lies for so long that they believe my camera will show them what they’ve always worried was true : that they simply aren’t worthy or loved.

That is such a tragedy.

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So let’s spend a little time with the truth this morning – while I have your brief attention in this tiny corner among the host of media you will experience today. Sharing my personal beliefs isn’t something I do much on my blog or social sites, because I think that’s better suited for a face to face with ample time to chat (there is WAY too much flippancy and fighting on FB, etc). For good measure today, here’s what I believe.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139: 13-17

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I know, full well, the pain of feeling afraid and unworthy. I wasted so much of my life to darkness and depression due to such beliefs, and still struggle every day to stay rooted in the truth that I was created, just as I am, with love. I still have trouble relaxing on camera and don’t always like what I see, but I’m growing.

I want to encourage you, human reading this, that you are worthy. When you allow me or another photographer to create photographs of you, and you share them with your loved ones; you create heirlooms. You create a tradition that is handed down to your children, or your nieces and nephews or your friends. You are creating a story that is precious and matters…that people will cherish. Recently I found a photo of my Great-Great Grandmother, standing amongst roses looking fierce and strong – a scarf wrapped around her head, her high cheekbones gleaming in the sun. I thought to myself, “I know nothing about this woman but now I want to! What a force of nature!”

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Can you imagine someone thinking that about you when they find your photo someday? Listen, the media’s idea of beauty is wrong and messed up and blah blah blah (we hear this all the time). But know what it is mostly? BORING. It’s so boring, I mean, aren’t you bored? What if we were beautiful because of our hands that dig in the dirt, our legs that take us on adventures and our jobs that we work hard at. Did you push a baby out of your body? That is simply incredible to me. Did you open your home to somebody in need…did you surprise somebody with a genuine greeting card (remember those?), do you play the accordion? That is so much more interesting! These things were given to you and put in you and they make you gorgeous.

I run the risk of standing on a soapbox at this point, but I hope you can finish out your day and take it easy on yourself. I’m not asking you to be selfie obsessed (that is just THE WORST), I’m asking you to cut yourself some slack and gather up every bit of confidence you can muster and go about your day walking in that perspective. You only have this one life, and you can only be who you were created to be. Every other effort is to labor in vain. Next time a camera pops out, I hope you can delight in the opportunity to create a memory with those you love most. I’ll do my best to do the same, and live in that same courage….not only can we do it, but we must.

Today I am honored to say the film images from this Cannon Beach portrait session are featured on Belle Lumiére, which is a gorgeous lifestyle print magazine + online journal. I was able to share just a bit of vulnerability in the feature, which I’m really grateful to Belle Lumiére for including in the post.

Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  Fuji400H Film  |  Scans by PhotoVision

SPECIAL THANKS

Debbie Sue Young – Model

Belle Lumiere – Publication

Ken Kupelian – Assistant

PhotoVision – Film Scans

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It was a year of growth and facing fears for me. Putting myself out in the world creatively, with a new focus and learning to run a business (that helps me eat and actually pay bills) was scary. When you do that as a creative business person, you are met with a lot of questions and it’s difficult to stand by your choices. We all think we want to be successful, but I realized that success is actually the thing that frightens me the most. Standing behind your work and your vision is challenging, and learning to be artistic but still smart financially with your choices is a lesson in and of itself. Then there is just the part where you want to become a better photographer and continue to grow in your craft, but (oh ya!) there are invoices to manage and emails to keep up on and packages to mail and it is often hard to find the time for that kind of creative growth in the midst of your to-do list.

With all that in mind, I wanted to celebrate the things (dare I say it) I got right in 2015 (trust me, there were many fumblings on my way there). Below is a collection of my favorite (and strongest) images from 2015. I’ll briefly pull them apart technically and share any stories that came with them. If you are a photographer learning like me, and find it helpful, man…that’s a major bonus. Otherwise, enjoy!

*All film scans by PhotoVision, all pre-sets by Mastin Labs.

# 1 – THE HAT THAT GAVE BACK

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/700 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

You may remember my other post about this portrait session in harsh mid-day light. I seem to have made a habit of shooting at the “wrong” time of day this year, even in personal work when I had full control. I’ve decided there is no “wrong” time of day, and the more difficult the lighting scenario, the stronger a shooter I become. I used the large floppy hat we had with us to shade my client’s face, and put her back to the sun. I always shoot at F/2.8 on my Mamiya 645AF (a medium format film camera) when shooting individual, up-close portraits and details. I exposed for the shadows in the image, which if you can even believe was 1/700 of a second 2 stops over-exposed (that’s how bright it was), which gave the image a gorgeous luminous quality. It was extra windy that day and so I made myself a human tripod planting myself firmly in the sand. Film images tend to be more soft than digital and I wanted my focus point to be tac-sharp. With this in mind, I carefully, manually, focused on Debbie’s gorgeous closed eye-lid and shot away. Taking some time to create this moment, considering how the harsh light could work in my favor, and using tricks to soften the light around us….created one of my favorite images of 2015. I love how enveloped she is by the golden light, you’d never know this was high-noon.

#2 – THE CUTEST KID EVER

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Canon 5D Mark III  |  50mm Lens  |  ISO 400 at 1/200 F/1.8  |  Fuji Pre-Set + My Edits

Sometimes when I get home and process my images after a family session, I don’t even remember taking half of them. In order to capture the special moments that happen rapid-fire, I tend to go into a hyper focused “jedi-like” state. Parents tend to want their kids to look at the camera and smile, and I always provide these images for them of course. However, the ones they wind up LOVING are the more real, candid moments. Sometimes though, kids need a little coaching to do the things I notice them doing off-camera. This little guy was smiling for the camera like a champ, but it all felt a little forced. So I had him jump up and down as fast as he could to get his wiggles out, and then take a deep breath and cover his mouth, and then let it all out in a big “huff.” I was ready with my camera, down at his eye level, to grab the shot. I was blessed with plenty of soft morning light and open shade so I had no other technical issues to consider besides composition and focus (always focus on the eyes). He sweetly and authentically did exactly what I asked, with his parents giggling and enjoying the moment right behind me (providing that sparkle in his eye). We found ourselves with a coached moment, that became real and resonated with his personality, that his parents and family friends wound up loving.

#3 – BILLOWS AND WIND

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/125 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

I had been worried about the harsh sun at Smith Rock all day, as hair and make-up was only available mid-afternoon. In order to keep our model’s hair and lashes in place, we had to shoot earlier in the afternoon than I would have liked. However, the wild-fire smoke that had settled in the sky from miles away created a fog-like filter than enabled me to shoot in a mysterious style of light I doubt I’ll ever experience again. This shot was extra special to me because I had sketched it out and kept it on my mind, but knew I’d need to wait for the perfect moment to capture it. I waited for the sun to get low enough that I could place just a bit of light flare behind Montana’s head. I asked her to look to her side and close her eyes, to show off her unique and dynamic profile. I wanted this shot to feel like the renaissance or Botticelli, between the light and Montana’s lovely features. Right when I asked her to look to the side, the wind picked up creating gorgeous movement…and I was ready for it. I exposed for the shadows to create a light and airy look, letting my camera focus on her dress moving in the center rather than her face. The result was exactly what I had envisioned…which was very fulfilling since I’d been dreaming of the shot for weeks.

#4 – EXCITEMENT + LOVE + BEYONCÉ

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Canon 5D Mark III   |   35mm Lens   |    ISO 400 at 1/1250 F/5.6   |   Kodak Portra Pre-Set

It’s probably not hard to see why I love this image, there is so much love and excitement and real joy in this shot. Here’s the funny part : I have no memory of taking it. Much like family sessions, weddings can become a blur. You are working in overdrive and your senses are aware of everything as you try and be creative, consistent, but technically sound…while still being charming, fun and encouraging for your clients and their family. It’s a tall order, but one I really love being able to deliver on if I can. This image is a step outside my style. I rarely shoot horizontals unless I have to, I rarely shoot with my 35mm and I NEVER shoot at F/5.6…I mean never. However this moment was happening fast! I was standing near the front left-hand side of the ceremony shooting when I started to hear the phrase “I now pronounce you…”, which meant I needed to book it to the aisle! Before I knew it, Beyoncé was playing and the bride and groom were dancing their way down the aisle. I remember grabbing my 35mm as I ran (knowing I’d need a wide lens by the time I reached them) — and I don’t remember anything else. I got the shot, and that’s all that matters. This image taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone with lenses and style can result in images that you adore, and your clients love even more!

#5 – ALL IS QUIET 

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/60 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

This little pony is my heart. I will remember it’s warm eyes and gentle gaze my whole life. My husband and I arrived in Iceland after an amazing road trip through Europe. We had a fantastic time and loved every minute, but it was hard on me physically. Due to some struggles earlier in my 20’s, my body gets tired pretty easy and in many ways, I’m physically older than I ought to be at just 32. I became really sick on the plane. I was in a lot of pain and I felt guilty about it…I felt so tired. We arrived at our Airbnb to a warm welcome from Dagmar, our gracious host who offered me tea. A huge storm rolled in and we were forced to stay in for some much needed rest. A couple days later, I bundled up and went out in the storm to photograph the sweet ponies wandering Dagmar’s property. One pony came up to me and looked right into my camera. I didn’t have to call her, I didn’t have to wait. She just walked right up to me in the wind and stared into my lens and didn’t stop. As I looked back at her through the glass I felt like she was saying “It’s going to be okay.” I planted my feet firmly on the ground amidst the wind and shot in the sweet spot that I love, 1/60 of a second at F/2.8. This will forever be in my top 5 images. Forever.

I don’t know what the New Year holds for you, but I hope that whatever lessons you learned and challenges you faced in 2015, that you emerge stronger and wiser for it. Life is beautiful and difficult…often painful. Yet, it’s a perfect gift.

auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne….

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On Thanksgiving morning I woke up to frost which had winked at us, covering the whole yard. Everything sparkled and glowed underneath it, and I was able to step outside and savor it before rushing off to work. It’s becoming more popular for clients to book family sessions on thanksgiving and also in the days following… since their loved ones tend to be in town and have the luxury of time-off from work. As I drove away, it felt odd to leave my sparkling yard because I felt like I could have stood there for hours.

Gratitude isn’t natural for me most of time. As I age, simple things invigorate my heart more and more…but most of the time I just feel like I’ve missed a fast moving train. I often wish I was more successful, could keep my laundry folded, or be more in so many ways. My headspace occupies the future as I long for a child, for a home that we own, for a studio to work out of, for a car that has more space for my gear (or at least a dome light that works).

Yet, as I stared at those sparkling leaves and watched my breath in the cold air, I didn’t long for more of anything. Something had quieted and slowed down my heart enough to be present and want for nothing. What a gift.

Our world seems to be bleeding at it’s core; between racial tensions in policing, political agendas, terrorism, refugees seeking safety, and the whispers of violence the globe over…I cannot even afford to live without gratitude. I can’t fix all these problems with my limited time, resources and reach. These barriers prevent me from investing in justice for every human who deserves it, as much as I wish that weren’t the case. However, I can live in gratitude and allow my heart to take part in sorrow and joy with others…giving what I can and where I’m called to, with a full heart. Other endeavors, while beautiful and worthy in smaller ways…really can’t compare.

HARD TIMES  |   East Mountain South 

PRESS PLAY FOR MUSIC

let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
while we all sup sorrow with the poor
there’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song? a sigh of the weary
hard times? hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh? hard times come again no more

while we seek mirth and beauty
and music light and gay
there are frail ones fainting at the door
though their voices are silent
their pleading looks will say
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song? a sigh of the weary
hard times… hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
’tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
’tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song’a sigh of the weary
hard times? hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh, hard times come again no more
oh, hard times come again no more

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts