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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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Opportunities to problem solve are endless working as a photographer, and while I know they have great value…in the moment it can be stressful. After an unusual storm hit Portland, our scheduled venue was closed the morning before this styled shoot due to flooding and downed trees. This left me scrambling to find an indoor option with good window light, with less than 24 hours before we were to begin. With the help of a friend, we managed to create a simple scene with beautiful window light.

It was still a challenge, as it was a dark day in Portland and I wound up asking the amazing folks at PhotoVision to push my film 3 stops. This created a look I hadn’t planned on, but was an interesting lesson in working with less than ideal light, particularly when shooting film.

FILM IMAGES: Mamiya 645 AF, 80mm Lens, Fuji400H, Scans by PhotoVision

DIGITAL IMAGES: Canon 5d Mark III, 50mm Lens, Mastin Labs Pre-sets + my edits

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I’m most inspired working outside and creating photographs in nature, so this was a great exploration of being indoors and working with window light. I definitely struggled through my posing and management of the short window of light we had, but I could not have asked for a better learning experience. I’m so grateful for the supportive and patient vendors who trusted me to work out the kinks along the way.

I’m excited to say that this shoot is featured TODAY on Inspired By This, which is lovely blog filled with endless inspiration for weddings and celebrations of all kinds.

Special Thanks:

Floral Design: Foraged Floral

Calligraphy: Kelsey Malie 

Veil: Annie Ekstrom Bridal 

Gown: BHLDN

Hair + Makeup: Tabiba Styles

Assistance: Ken Kupelian

Studio Rental: Becca Blevins Photography

Model: Corrina Winstead

Posted in Photographs
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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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Mamiya 645AF   |   Fuji400H   |   80mm F/2.8 Lens   |   Scans by PhotoVision

On this gray and rainy day here in Portland, I came across one of my very first experiences with film, shot in Nice, France on a gorgeous winter day. You’d never know it was winter from the photos though, with the golden light and crisp blues of the ocean. I adore this breezy palette and the quiet moment it represents for my husband and I. We had been wandering in the city, not sure exactly where to go and feeling a little homesick, and the marital stresses of traveling. So my husband just suggested we go down on the beach and throw rocks…act like kids…forget our frustrations. So we did. I took out my lightly used new film camera (now my beloved Mamiya) and shot away while Ken (my husband) goofed around by the shore. These images continue to be some of my favorite as the light represents my brand of photography so well and the spirit behind them exactly what I hope to evoke when I shoot weddings. This was also my first experience with Fuji400H, which performs so beautifully- particularly in warm, golden light (in my opinion). It was a first glimpse into my new film journey, that is continuing to develop (no pun intended, but it’s a pretty good pun).

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I hope the blue water brings you a boost in the midst of the gray (if you are in Portland that is). Thanks, once again, for reading!