Lindsay & Aaron's Chattanooga Wedding

It's been a while, right?

I swear I've been busy.  Shooting more than I have time to update lately, but that's not really a bad thing is it.  I'm down at the beach now, taking a week off and getting a nice sunburn.  That's the only thing to do since it takes a while to upload images from the past few months work.  But, the office view has sand and surf so I'm not going to complain in the slightest.  

I really wanted to take a moment to thank everyone whose helped this little project grow.  Seriously, encouragement and knowing people see means a lot.  And so... something to see!

Lindsay and Aaron win the award for best use of Legos on a wedding cake, also for being cosplay nerds like myself.  This was the first time I caught the meaning behind a wedding party gift (a bit of carpet from one of the hotels at Dragon*Con, y'all know what I mean if you know what I mean).

The day was perfect and they were a blast to spend an afternoon with.  Thank you two for letting us be there!

Jon & Arielle's December Wedding @ Summerour Studio

Everyone's wedding is pretty.  This one was beautiful.  I had the hardest time picking through Jon and Arielle's wedding images to find the ones I wanted to include in the preview.  I decided to include a link to the whole album.  

Seriously, an amazing couple.  Beautiful, fun, chill... best mix of wedding music ever.  I was singing along to everything from my late 80s and early 90s childhood and high school years.  Much appreciated.  I was thrilled to be a part of their wedding, and I am thrilled to share their album with you now.

Check out this link for the whole album.

 

Here's a quick glimpse for those of you too busy to see the whole album...

2017 Advanced Booking Promotion!

Actually having a weekend to get caught up on all my backlog of shoots was refreshing.  This weekend I have time to look forwards to the 2017 shooting season.  Next weekend the basketball game season begins, so I’ll be coaching when I’m not shooting and vice versa.  Life moves on and on, right?

I’ve been very fortunate in that every year, my client list and calendar doubles with engagements and contracts.  I’m absolutely thrilled with that.  I’ve loved all the clients I’ve gotten to work with and I keep getting new references from old clients to new clients coming in.  It’s really awesome when word of mouth can spread out my business exponentially and I appreciate everyone that has helped me get this far.  I hit my goal of wedding bookings in 2016 already, and looking to 2017 I would like to stay with that same number.  Instead of continuing to expand and book more, I think I’d rather stay at my current level and focus on delivering the best experience and quality to my clients whether I’m shooting a wedding, engagement, portrait, event, or artistic session. 

So what it boils down to: I’m opening up my 2017 wedding calendar to booking now.  For any wedding booked, I’ll include a second shooter at no cost to the client.  It’s over a $500 value on most wedding packages I offer, and only available for the first 5 weddings I book for 2017.  After I’ve booked those five weddings, I’ll be looking at the calendar and logistics and decide where I have availability after that, and offer a discounted rate for those periods of time.  This way I’m not working every weekend in June and July, or every weekend in October, and have time to enjoy life as well as deliver results as expediently and as high quality as possible.  So if you know of someone looking for a wedding photographer who isn’t focused on how many weddings they book but are interested in delivering a fun, enthusiastic, and amazing experience, send them my way!

Any questions?  Post them below and I’ll get them answered ASAP!

Amanda & Chris October Wedding and looking ahead!

I've finally put the finishing touches on my last fall wedding.  Amanda and Chris were a blast to work with, and I loved every image we got.  You can check out their wedding album at the link below!

In the meantime, I get to start looking ahead to the two awesome December weddings I close my calendar out with, and it's time to start planning for 2017.  I have select availability for 2017 and am now taking on new clients for that year, so if you are someone you know is interested in a fun wedding photographer who will do their best to make your day as awesome as possible, talk to me today!  Have a great week!

Amanda & Chris

Amanda & Chris

Sydney @ Atlanta Photoworks Boudoir 3.6.16 - possibly NSFW

First, a disclaimer:  This post has some slightly racy imagery at the end.  Boudoir or implied photography can border on PG-13 to R.  I think we're somewhere in the middle here, but to be on the safe side I'm considering this shoot NSFW.  But I'm extremely proud of this work, which is outside my normal vision.  Maybe that's why I like it, it's fun to stretch yourself.

I don't typically shoot boudoir or implied anything.  I turn down more paid boudoir work than about anything else (sometimes to interesting and crazy results, but that's another story), simply because it's on the outside edge of my wheelhouse.  Don't get me wrong, I love those styles of photography and follow many great artists that create it.  Their work is amazing and I'll constantly refer people to them.  But it doesn't mean I'm not gonna try!

I love a challenge that's creative, and I typically will do that when I have a partner in crime that I can gel with.  If I'm going to do boudoir photography or implied photography, it's about creating art.  The process is as important as the product when you're dealing with something vulnerable, sometimes controversial.  If the product, the process, or the partner isn't worth the time and effort, then there isn't a point.  Sydney is one of those partners that makes the point.

Sydney is attempting to build a career as an alternative model in an industry and time that are remarkably still very detrimental to women.  That she would be able to bare her soul, be vulnerable, and take that risk is incredibly brave.  She's gotten a bit of flack online because people on social media tend to push towards their worst versions of themselves.  People hate or denigrate what they often can't do.  That online lack of fundamental kindness is creeping into how we treat each other offline.  Maybe one day as a society we'll have a more mature sensibility towards art and the human form.  Maybe we'll even treat each other like human beings, complicated, brilliant, beautiful, flawed, brave.  I hope so, because this to me is a thing of beauty.

Vintage dresses and sunsets - 1.30.16

Brett is what you might call a queen of thrift store finds.  It’s an underrated skill which often yields amazing results when it comes to finding things that scream the need for a camera.  This particular find was a vintage dress that when matched with the setting sun in Athens, yielded wonderful results.  She also found a Polaroid camera.  I couldn’t convince her to part with it… but not for lack of trying!

Model/Wardrobe/Makeup/Overall Amazing - Brett Finlay

Back to school

If I could, I would be a professional student.  I loved my undergraduate years at UGA and my masters program at Piedmont College.  I wasn't always the top student, but I loved the atmosphere on a campus.  I love classrooms and I love learning new things.  

Maybe that's why it's been such an easy transition into teaching and photography.  Both careers involve constantly learning new things in an environment that is dynamic and evolving.  Both jobs involve large amounts of self-teaching, individual investigation, and self-propelled learning.  And I've done pretty well on both counts.  I feel like I've come very far as both a teacher and photographer, and my portfolios have shown that.  But every year I've had a gnawing hunger to take a class or get another degree.  I'm already doing it as a teacher, taking classes in English Language Learner certification to become a better academic teacher for students who are learning both English and curriculum content.  I know that in a few years, once my student loans are paid off (woot!) I will be finally making the decision on whether or not to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.  

I also want to study photography as both art and a profession.  I love this career and I love what it gives me.  I've always had the mentality of seeing what I can do better, and where that leads me is wanting to go back to school for this as well.  I've been looking at various degrees and programs, from the Professional Photographers of America certification to Art Institute of Atlanta to bachelors and masters programs at SCAD and UGA.  But I'm not sure where to go from here.  

I want to go back to school.  I want hands-on instruction in core art topics, art history, design.  I want real-time instruction on both advanced photography and post-process technique.  I want to learn the full depth of advanced Photoshop.  I want to learn how to work in a real darkroom, and not from the small dark space I've put together to develop films when I have the time.  I want to learn the business practice systems crucial to making all of it come together.  And I want a real program, not a BS 'certification' or a for-profit 'degree' from a degree mill.  I want real education, real challenge, real experience.  

But I don't know what's appropriate for me.  I don't need basics on how to work a camera.  I don't need to waste my time.  And I don't know if already having both a bachelors and a masters degree affects my options.  

What I'd love is to hear comments, suggestions, thoughts about the options.  What should I do?  And what do you want to accomplish this year?  

Best of 2015

It might be cliched, but I always go over my shoots from a prior year and reflect on them, pick out the images that have stayed with me.  Great stories behind them all...

I got to do a lot of portraits this year, some of them with dear friends for years and some with new contacts that became friends.  I look forward to what happens with all these wonderful people!

I got to shoot a few weddings and engagements.  One engagement in particular is for my oldest and dearest friends, and I get to be at their wedding next year too!  So excited!

Dragon*Con was a blast this year, and I was able to work with a few friends there and other great cosplayers.  I also got to do a few other strong thematic shoots and really want to expand on this next year.  Ideas upon ideas...

One of my favorite events is Dancers Unite Against Cancer.  I have been a part of that charity for several years now, and I love every chance I get to be there.  I also shot a few other events, and one spectacular day of celebration.

But the most powerful image of the year, the one that struck me the most, I took in the right place and the right time.  The equalization of marriage for all was a big deal, and far overdue.  I was down near 10th street and Piedmont Park that day taking pictures of the celebration.  In the midst of it, I caught this image.  It stoked some controversy online, which I hadn't expected.  To me, it is a reminder of progress: both in how far we've come, and how far we still have to go.  It's not that one issue is more important than the other.  We just have to keep doing more, keep going forward.

I hope you keep moving forward next year.  I hope to do the same.  This year I let myself be defined by other people's expectations.  Sometimes, my work, my expectations, and my overall self-satisfaction suffered for it.  This year, I hope to regain that sense of self that I've misplaced.  If I focus on images like these, ones that made me feel instead of ones that I do based solely on superficial expectations, then 2016 will be a good year to look back on.  

We learn, we reflect, we apply, we grow.  I hope to grow in 2016 as I did this year.  I hope the same for you!  

Five Questions To Ask A Wedding Photographer - 12.16.15

The Five Questions to Ask a Wedding Photographer

Full disclosure: I’ve never been married, so I’ve never experienced the process from the view of a couple trying to plan out one.  I imagine, in those shoes, the whole process would make me anxious and irritated enough that I’d attempt to convince my fiancée that she’d have a much better time eloping to Vegas.  That in mind, I figure the best way to approach a couple planning a wedding is coming from a place of sympathy and encouragement.  The day I know will end up great, but the planning going into it has got to be rough.

I fell into shooting weddings on accident.  I started photography shooting portraits, landscapes, sports… pretty much anything that I found to be ‘pretty.’  I didn’t plan to be a wedding photographer.  It wasn’t what I had my sights on when I started shooting.  My first two weddings were favors to family friends, small affairs that were more an excuse to have me there as a ‘working guest’ than anything.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole event.  Helping manage the background anxiety and logistics so that my friends could focus on enjoying their day was a surprisingly natural task that I was adept at, along with capturing pictures.  I had been looking for a way to become a ‘legitimate professional photographer’ (whatever that is, another post on creativity for another day), and weddings seemed to me to be the simplest way to make my creativity work hand in hand with my people management and de-escalation skills.  That I might actually be able to bring in an income from it was a bonus.  Photography has never been about the money for me.  It’s always been about the people.  But being able to finally have a way to financially support myself with a camera?  Dream come true. 

I’m not a marketer or a salesman.  It’s not what I’m about.  When I meet with potential clients, I’m not thinking about closing a sale.  I’m looking forward to hearing their story, answering any questions they have, and hopefully making them feel a little bit easier during what I imagine is a stress-inducing period of time.  I tell potential clients to always check out several photographers, and ask to see a full album they’ve given prior clients.  Often, I hear, “What should we be asking?”

After asking yourself if you like the photographer as a person and do you love the feeling you get from their pictures, these are the top five things I think anyone should ask their wedding photographer.

Do you have insurance and a contract? – This is the first thing I’d ask anyone before working with them in any capacity.  It protects them and you.  I’ve written separate posts on why photography insurance is good for a photographer and a client.  A contract does the same.  Find out who their insurance provider is and what it covers.  Ask for a sample contract.  Any photographer who takes their job seriously will be more than happy to share this with you, it should be a point of professional pride in having their ‘ish’ together.

Do you have references? – I usually give names and email addresses for references from prior clients, or Facebook info depending on the client.  I have a standard list.  I don’t give phone numbers because that’s an inconvenience to my past clients.  But hopefully, whoever you’re speaking to, they have someone that can tell you about how they did.

Why do you shoot weddings? – There isn’t a right answer here, but there should be an answer that you as a person shopping for a photographer that you’re looking for.  Me?  I’m honest.  I’ve written about ‘why’ prior.  Short version (TL;DR): Wasn’t my first plan, but I love the challenge, the people, and the privilege of being there. 

How long until we see our pictures? – This varies depending on a photographer’s workflow.  But whoever the photographer is, they better have an answer that falls in line with whatever the references they give say.  I like to do several things for clients.  Typically, as soon as I get the images uploaded to my computer and backed up, I then upload a preview album with the images I’ve taken.  They are small (I wouldn’t print them), but it gives you something you can see right away.  Typically the final album with everything finished, comes back within a month for me (depending on the printing choices a couple has made that can be pushed back a few weeks).

How many cameras do you bring to a wedding (not what kind)? – Unless you’re a photographer yourself, what kind of camera they’re shooting doesn’t really matter, and the name won’t help you.  But any photographer worth their salt can recite their list of gear on command.  Write it down, google it later.  As long as it is a professional series camera and not a little point and shoot, they all work the same.  Canon, Nikon, Leica, Sony… they all can deliver amazing images if the photographer knows what they’re doing.  And as long as a photographer doesn’t bring just one camera to your wedding, you’re good.  If a photographer only has one camera, they have nothing they can do if that camera stops functioning during a wedding.  It doesn’t often happen, but much like business insurance, you don’t realize it’s important until you don’t have it.  Me?  I bring at minimum two Canon DSLRs and four lenses with me, and likely a car full of other gear because of that simple paranoid principle: better to have and not need…

What do you think?  I’d love to hear back with your own experience, questions, comments.  I hope it helps, and if you ever need any advice on wedding photography, even if I’m not your photographer for whatever reason, drop me a line!

Your First Camera?

Do you remember your first camera?  The one that was yours, yours alone?  Before I inherited the gear that would develop my passion for photography, I was an awkward 8th grade kid who was given a cheap camera similar to one of these sold today.  I spent the part of a day searching for that camera online.  I do still have the Vivitar XM300 that replaced my original camera, but never could find the original one. 

It was red, took old school 35mm film, and the only thrill was that it could shoot a special wider angle panorama image and a regular one.  I took it on youth group trips, on family vacations, and even on my first trip out of the country when I went to France in 8th grade for a school trip.  The images were often flat, dull, and blurry if I had to even think about using the flash.  I have a lot of vague memories of the people in the pictures.  I’m in far too many of them during my heavy acne days (before Accutane). 

I can honestly say I had no idea what I was doing.  But I still have those pictures, and I remember the feel and (light) weight of that camera in my hands and the weak electronic motor clicking and whirring between film panels.  I remember being excited every time I got to drop off the film and when I’d get to get it back.  I wish I knew what happened to that camera…

The Vivitar XM300 replaced it.  It took a ‘special’ version of 35mm film called APS or Advanced Photo System.  What that really means is a different kind of cartridge that could just be plugged into the camera without having to worry about setting film through the rotor.  I think that kind of film lasted like… four years.  I glanced online, APS 35mm film goes for around 25 dollars a roll, and it’s much more difficult to develop by hand.    The camera came with one more button in addition to panorama mode, a shorter pre-Instagram square image portrait mode.  This camera traveled with me on charity trips to Mexico and Honduras and has the scratches to prove it.  Unlike the older camera, pictures from this one were much sharper, brighter… almost over-saturated with color. 

On the left, the second camera, on the right the first…

SO YOUNG!?!

Some of my favorite pictures from high school came from these images, Honduran mountains in the background while I sit on a hammock in a portrait I don’t actually hate. 

OMG SO YOUNG

It wasn’t until many years later that I actually decided to chase the passion and feeling that photography gave me.  The only thing I regret is not giving it more of my time earlier on… and maybe some of the money I’ve spent on Gear Acquirement Syndrome.   But I don’t regret where it’s taken me, and I look forward to see where it takes me from here.  Do you remember your first camera?  Tell me about it in the comments, and have a great December!

Not The Money But The Road To Drive

Small confession: I would shoot for free if I could.

Chuck Berry – Route 66

I would shoot for free if I could find a way to make it work financially.  I’ve never been good at sales, never really wanted to run a business, think about marketing and advertising, networking and promoting.  I don’t like the anxiety that goes along with it, and I imagine the majority of photographers feel the same way.  The ones who don’t, well they excel in financial matters and become the envy of the rest of us, simply because they could make it work.  The majority of us… we just want to capture something beautiful. 

For me, this job has an end-game.  Much like everything else, I use photography with a goal in mind.  I get to express myself sure, and be creative in the only way that I can (I never could sing, play an instrument, act, or draw).  I get to attempt to capture the beauty of the world and precious moments in it, and that’s something I cherish.

But the business side of it, I can’t stand.  I do it because it’s given me a goal to chase after:

In two years, the summer before I turn 35 if I can make it happen, I want to travel the United States.  Not a small plane flight, but an honest-to-God road trip.  Just me, an old ’98 Wrangler with no doors or top, the trunk full of camera gear, camping gear, and food.  Up the Atlantic Coast highway to Maine, over Canada to Chicago, route 66 to LA.  The Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Washington State and cutting back across to Atlanta.  All back highways, no major interstates.  Never going above 60 miles an hour.  Visiting every random detour and awesome view I can find along the way.  Seeing things like the Neon Graveyard outside of Vegas, the Dinosaur Park in California, the Airplane Boneyard in Arizona, the MLK monument in Mississippi where he took his last breath.  I want to listen to the Eagles play “Take It Easy” as I drive through Winslow, Arizona.  I want to reach the edges of the country, dip my feet and the tires into both oceans.  I want to shoot everything along the way.  The landscapes, the monuments, the food, the people, the oddities and the mundane.  Maybe even make it into a book.  Road trip stories have always been my favorite.  I want one of my own.

The Coasters – Young Blood

I have the route mapped out.  It would take me two months, an entire summer.  It’d be over 12,000 miles in a Wrangler that’s almost already at 200,000, only 1,000 of those miles having not been mine.  Gas alone would cost at least $3,000 dollars.  Before I even think of going, the Jeep would need an overhaul, likely new tires and an exhaust manifold at minimum.  But it’s been a dream since I was 15 and I first got the car.  And if I can accomplish it within 20 years, then that’s something huge I can cross off my list. 

So I’m writing this almost two years before I’ll even know if I can do it.  But it’s my goal.  It’s my commitment, my dream.  I figure by leaving this here, and coming back to it periodically, then I can keep focused, and keep the dream alive.  I have a benchmark I have to hit in order to make it possible.  In one year, $2000 in savings from this business.  In the second year, $6000 saved back for the trip.  That’s the stretch, and it’ll mean aggressively expanding my photography business-mindset like I’ve never done before.  I’ll need help, but I believe I have the support network to make it happen. 

Howlin’ Wolf – Sitting On Top Of The World

Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting weddings, events, portraits.  I love creating the art and I’m happy I get to do it.  But like every photographer or artist out there, I’ve got a lot of dreams.  This one, I want to see through.  This is the big one.    


What’s your dream?  Tell me about it in the comments.  What’s your plan to make it happen?

Brett & Rachael @ The Tree Room - 10.11.15

Just in time for Halloween is a series of pictures I shot one fun Sunday with two of my friends and frequent muses.  Brett, Rachael and I had a free afternoon and a lead on a good location.  I'd just gotten a cheap smoke machine off Amazon Gold deals that I'd wanted to try out, so we figured we'd mix it all and have some fun.  

Huey Lewis & the News - Back in Time

I get general ideas when it comes to a shoot, colors I want to try, overall looks and feeling for a shoot, and sometimes poses.  But when shooting with others, work with models, couples, or events, I enjoy capturing the moment and moving with the flow.  I'd classify myself as a documentary-style photographer over a traditional pose and placement photographer.  I think it's personally much more engaging and creates real images when you try to capture the moments as they happen instead of forcing your own editorial voice on someone else's moments. 

But in portraits and studio style shoots like this, there's not that editorial voice, it's just straight up collaboration.  And I love working with others to build a shoot that isn't just my voice but my partners' as well.  Hope you enjoy!

Photography Insurance is for the Client

The White Stripes – Instinct Blues

Once when consulting with a prospective wedding client, I mentioned that I was insured through a photography business program.  The mother of the bride asked outright, “Why does that matter?”

I was taken aback.  It took me a minute to formulate an answer.  Even now it’s difficult for me to put it in words.

Photography insurance is like any other insurance.  You aren’t glad you have it until something goes wrong.  Hopefully something never goes wrong.  A good photographer is a paranoid photographer- anything that can go wrong will go wrong when you’re least expecting it.  But how do you explain that to a prospective client without making it seem like you’re a hazard factory at best, and inept at worst?

I backed up and explained my rationale for photography insurance, why it’s a part of my costs accrued.  Obviously this was a conversation that had turned to the fabulous topic of why photography is so expensive.  Other people have explained it more eloquently than I, and I can point to those articles, but that doesn’t help me sell to a client.  Even though I would think that it would be a comfort for them, like buying a car with an extended warranty built in.

Paula Abdul - Opposites Attract

So that’s what I did.  I talked about their investment in the wedding besides hiring a photographer.  A wedding is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.  You get one chance as a photographer to do it right.  There’s no retake.  You can’t call everyone back together to the same venue the next week and do it again.  For the wedding party, it’s a party.  Hopefully everything goes off with as little conflict as possible.  They pay money for the venue, the wardrobe, the food, the party.  That all is an investment.  So should photography be an investment.

For the photographer, it’s a nerve-wracking, exhausting process.  A good photographer is paranoid, carries backups of everything and once the wedding is over, makes sure that their memory cards with all the images are protected better than the President.  All photographers have read the horror stories of lost images and corrupted data with a cold chill.  Most of us likely don’t sleep until after we’ve uploaded and triple-backed up our images.  I tried going to sleep as soon as I got home after a wedding, figured I’d be able to start my backup process in the morning.  I had a nightmare of having my cameras stolen out of a broken window, and found myself up at 4:30 AM uploading my backups.  We build redundancies and protections into our workflow so we don’t lose one picture.  I have two separate on-site backup hard drives, one Readygear NAS 314 RAID backup server, and a cloud backup service through Crashplan.  All my pictures go to all three systems as soon as I download them.  Forever.  I still have all the raw images from my first wedding in 2007.  They aren’t going anywhere.  It’s cheaper to buy a terabyte than it is to re-shoot a wedding.

So I explain this to my client, and tell them that while I’ve never lost an image, I have to be prepared for the worst.  I knock on a lot of wood when I do this.  I tell them that photography insurance protects me from the worst of situations, but it also protects them.  If something goes wrong, the client is protected from the loss of investment of their time and money in both me and the other costs of a wedding.  If someone gets hurt during the course of a wedding and it has anything to do with me (fault or not) we’re all protected.  A wedding photographer without business insurance is like driving without a seatbelt, I say.  You’re fine a majority of the time, but the one time you have a wreck and you’re not wearing it… I don’t finish the analogy.

Of Monsters and Men - Dirty Paws

I then say something I say to every potential client, it’s one of two pieces of free advice I give whether or not they pick me for their event.  Make sure your photographer is insured, whoever you use.  Ask for the policy provider.  They need to be able to give you a company, even better if you can see a statement.  I carry a card with my insurance information on it.  My policy is through CNA and every encounter I've had with them has been more than pleasant. 

Fortunately I’ve never had to use my insurance to deal with a loss of images for a client.  Stolen gear?  Yes, but that’s another post for another day.  I hope I never have to use my insurance for a client event.  But for all my past clients and all my future ones, I’m glad I have it.  I sleep a little bit easier knowing I have it… as long as I get the pictures backed up first.

Photography Insurance is for the Photographer, too

This was a bad day. 

The Eagles – New Kid In Town


We’d only been inside twenty minutes, my dad and I.  We’d gotten back from visiting my grandmother out of state, and stopped off 10th street for a quick meal.  I parked in the deck, a lot that seemed safe.  I’m always careful.  Didn’t think twice about it. 

It was a smash and grab.  They must have just seen the backpacks in the trunk and gone for it.  No way to know that they’d scored a good payoff. 

Junip – Don’t Let It Pass

After the police had come and gone with the report and the serial numbers for everything stolen, I had to take stock.  I’d lost my secondary camera, prime portrait lens, a vintage film camera and its prime lens, my laptop and portable hard drive, other electronics and photography related gear.  In all, close to $3,300 gone if depreciation was accounted for.  Not including my dad’s work laptop and the $500+ in damage to my car. 

One of my first blog posts was an explanation of why photography business insurance is good for the client.  This is the story of why it’s good for the photographer.

My policy is through CNA.  By the time this happened, I’d had the policy over two years.  It was a comfort in my back pocket, something I never thought I’d have to use but it made me feel more safe and secure, worry less about my gear and got me out shooting more.  Smart backup policy meant that I didn’t have to worry about loss of data.  I constantly back everything up in triplicate, a complicated process I’d put in place early on in my business that is now as easy as uploading the data to any one of three computers that then quickly send the data to backups at the other two locations along with a private server in my house and an off-site cloud server run by Crashplan.  I was never happier to have those routines in place.  I didn’t lose any data.  There would have been no way to recreate it if I had.  Paranoia in this business is a good thing.

The Black Crowes – Twice As Hard

Within a day, CNA had contacted me back, had been in contact with the police, had copies of all the serial numbers from all my gear lost (because that’s what you have to do when running a photography business, keep records of everything you purchase and rent).  Within a week they’d cut a check to replace my lost materials.  Unlike me, they didn’t count depreciation and I was actually able to upgrade my equipment.  Within two weeks of the theft, I had a new rear windshield and an upgraded camera, lens, and laptop.  Without my insurance, it would have taken me a long time to recover, and I wouldn’t have been able to do weddings for a while until I could afford a new camera body. 

There are a few types of insurance a good photographer, especially if they work events or weddings, needs to have.  The first is multiple cameras.  That’s the most immediate kind of insurance there is.  If one breaks, you have another.  The next is a good contract that protects their client and themselves.  The third is insurance.  If I had lost that gear with a wedding on it… that thought alone would be painful.  But I would have been able to repay the couple for the financial burden lost.  Without the insurance?  The end of my career in photography period. 

The Jimmy Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower

If you’re a potential client looking for a good wedding photographer- whoever you meet with, make sure they have insurance.  If they don’t, don’t hire them.  No matter what they offer you. 

If you’re a photographer even glancing an eye towards weddings or events- buy insurance.  Just do it.  Don’t make excuses.  It’s worth the cost. 

Trust me.

Dragon*Con 2015 Wrap Up

In case you missed it, I've posted my wrap up of Dragon*Con 2015.  I might be at AWA tomorrow, you'll have to wait and see!  Thanks to all the wonderful and talented cosplayers who let me work with them!

Investment versus Budget

I mentioned in a prior blog post about the balance between budget and desire when looking into the parts that go into a wedding.  I try to work with every prospective wedding client that comes along in order to find a way to accommodate their dream as much as I can within their budget.  Primarily, it’s because I love shooting weddings.  It’s a challenge, it’s a thrill.  It’s completely physically exhausting.  It’s a joy and a privilege.  It’s also a luxury, and it isn’t cheap (check out the list of what I bring to every wedding I shoot if you don’t believe me).  There’s a popular Tumblr page among wedding photographers I love reading.  It gives a great idea of the kind of humor and twisted mindset one needs to attempt a career at this.  It’s quite hilarious.  Check it out at whatshouldwecallweddingphoto.tumblr.com, you’ll see what I mean.

Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ For My Darlin’

This service is expensive, it is a luxury.  I’ve always looked at my rates as an investment.  For the service and the product I offer, I could probably charge much more.  But I’d end up working less and the money would balance out.  I charge what I charge because I believe it will bring me more clients, not more income.  I would rather shoot twice as many weddings simply for the sake of getting to practice my skills in an environment I love.  But, even then I have to have a hard bottom line.  I can count on both hands the number of times someone really loved my work but went in another direction due to price. 

Most of the time, the conversation has gone along the lines of people expecting I’d accept their maximum budget of around $500 for a full-day wedding.  I’m not the only photographer who gets this.  And there is a great breakdown of how much wedding photography costs that famously circulated the internet and Reddit a few years back.  I won’t get into that argument, it’s been made ad nauseam. 

The Coasters – Little Red Riding Hood

The ending of those conversations and consultations leaves with me wishing the client well, and hoping they can find someone willing to do their event for that $500 price point.  They usually do, but they don’t end up happy with the results.  A few times, more than I care to admit, I’ve gotten a late phone call the night before the wedding from those same couples in a quandary.  They found someone on Craigslist willing to do their wedding for $500.  They gave them half as a security deposit and haven’t heard from them since.  Phone line disconnected, emails are bouncing back.  Or in one case, the photographer calls the bride the day of the wedding saying his only camera broke and he couldn’t do it.  Is there any way I can show up and shoot their wedding, they’ll be glad to meet my minimum rate for anything that’d be usable. 

Only once have I not been already booked on another event.  I gave them a list of phone numbers for trusted photographers I know and love, and wish them luck finding someone, and even texted two other photographers to see if they were free on the off-chance to pick up the job.  The one time I wasn’t booked that day, I was already a state away enjoying a day off watching Georgia (GO DAWGS) demolish Auburn at home.  I wouldn’t have made it back in time if I had left right then and there.

None of this I enjoyed hearing.  It honestly hurt a bit to hear the anxiety in their voices.  But there was nothing I could do.  They didn’t have a good contract, they hired someone who wasn’t a professional, the choice of letting the price dictate their options.  Not to say that budget sheets should be thrown to the wind, far from it.  I believe there’s a happy medium between budget and desire.  That line in the middle is the investment where the amount of money spent gives back professional, high quality results.  I’ve worked hard to make sure that my service is an investment, and a cost-effective one.  Many of the photographers I know and network with do the same. 

Cage The Elephant – Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

The truth is, very few of us do this job for the money.  I know I don’t.  The money is nice, but if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be a photographer, I wouldn’t be a teacher.  We do this because we’re passionate about it.  We invest our time, our bodies, our energy, and our heart into every job we get.  We push for the image that will make the wedding party gasp when they see it.  We want them to see the world the way we do, their moments as precious as we recognize them to be.  Those moments are the investment, we’re just the ones vested in making sure you can relive them over and over again.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Criticisms?  I'd love to hear them!