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!

Liz & Mark's New Year New Orleans Wedding

I couldn't think of a better way to end 2016.  I got to watch a good friend get married in the French Quarter, rang in the first moments of 2017 strolling through Bourbon Street finding the best dancing with a great second shooter, and I got to cross something off my bucket list: photographing a Second Line march in the rain.  

The link to Liz and Mark's big wedding PASS album is below, but here are some awesome samples of what's in the album.  

Thank you two for letting me be a part of it.  

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

Lance & Heather's Wedding Preview & a Dark Waters update

I have other updates underneath the gallery, but pretty images first!

Here's a preview from the wonderful wedding of Lance and Heather, shot in Cumberland Ohio.  Great weekend trip!  I got to spend a weekend with one of my oldest friends, watch him get married, and photograph the whole thing.  With a safari during the reception and a beautiful VW bus Lance restored to drive them around, this had to be one of the most unique and wonderful wedding experiences I had the pleasure to be part of.

So I've been busy, between going back to work at the day job, a fun few months of Dark Waters shoots, and the wedding of one of my best friends from college, I haven't had much time to post.  I'm hoping to get back to it more this fall.  I do have an October, two December weddings, and the annual Dancers United Against Cancer benefit to look forward to, and possibly Dragon*Con this coming weekend.  

Make sure to check out Dark Waters when you have a chance, they're PG-13 so mind the heat!

Jacklyn & Dave (.com) Sneak Peek - 5.22.16

It's rare that in one year, two of your best friends get married.  This is gonna be the best summer ever, y'all.  It started off right, with the marriage of two of the people I would bury a body for, no questions asked.  That they let me take pictures was even better.  There's way more to come, but these moments were just too fun to contain.  Jacklyn and Dave, love y'all!  #kissmygrits

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

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!

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.