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...

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

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!

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?

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.

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!

Wedding Loadout

Asia – Soul Survivor

There’s a subReddit on wedding photography and often people will post their typical wedding gear they take with them to most weddings.  Mostly it’s for like-minded souls to chat about their gear that they love, that’s an extension of their personality and a source of pride.  I figured why not.  So I arranged my gear on the floor of my studio and attempted to take a picture.  The result is this-

 

All well and good for a blurry cell-phone picture, until I tell you that I didn’t include the carrying cases, flash batteries, power cords, data cables, duct tape, electrical tape, bag of tools, and in-case-of-emergency bag.  All in all, when loaded up for a wedding, I carry over one hundred pounds of equipment to and from the venue.  Fortunately it all fits inside my workhorse Volkswagen hatchback… barely.  When driving home from a venue in the early hours of the morning with a fully loaded car, often the only music that works audibly over all the gear is techno to keep me awake.

Foreigner – I Want To Know What Love Is

If the venue allows it and the bride wants it, I also have two Interfit SuperS Cool-Lite Constant Softbox lights I bring for the photobooth.   Often for photobooths I also will rent a Canon 70D as the batteries and memory card are interchangeable with my two main cameras, and have the same sensor resolution and megapixel size, so that there’s no change in quality or output between the booth and the images captured by me. 

So let’s go through the list!

Billy Joel – Only The Good Die Young

Four tripods for speedlights (plus two not pictured to go with the Interfit constant lights if I need them)

Roundflash light modifier (great for portraits and that club look)

Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II L

Canon 24-105 f/4 L

Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II L

MSI Laptop

Color card for white balance

Canon AE-1 with Vivitar 200 mm lens (for that vintage film moment)

Canon 6D with grip

Canon 7D Mark II with grip

Canon XT

Canon Elan 7n

Cactus v6 wireless triggers x 6 (attached to each lead camera and the four speedlights)

3 extra camera batteries

Memory cards

BlackRapid RS dual-wielding camera harness

Canon 600EX-RT speedlight

Yungnuo 600EX-RT speedlight

Canon 430EX II x 2

Film

Business Cards

Chargers

Gel modifiers for Rogue Flash grids and wraps

RODE microphone input

Rogue Honeycomb Grid x 3

Vello Bounce Dome Diffusers

Extra Eneloop rechargeable batteries & chargers to go with the Pro High Capacity batteries in all the flashes

Most of the time, this all fits into three cases, with the cameras going in a Pelican 1510 and the other gear stowed between a flash bag and a larger rolling cart for the tripods.  Ideally I’ll have three Pelicans one day to carry everything for simplicity and safety sake. 

Do I use all this every wedding?  Nope… but I always bring it all with me.

8.15.15 - Ruth & Chris

I had the pleasure of attending and second shooting Ruth and Chris' wedding over the weekend as Taylor's second shooter.  I just had to share some of the images below!  By the way, August is coming to a close, and with it goes the 20% wedding package booking discount for the month!  Talk to me ASAP if you're looking for a wedding photographer still!

 

Back To School Specials

Led Zeppelin – Fool In The Rain

School starts for most of metro Atlanta next week.  Teachers are back at work today in the county.  More on that in a minute…

First for some back-to-school special things going on here!

Over the weekend I started a contest for a free 2-hour session, great for headshots, family portraits, senior portraits (if you haven’t scheduled them already or taken them, you’re behind the game for yearbook people, but we can still get them done!).  It’s a simple contest really.  All you have to do is share your favorite picture (preferably one you took) and the story behind it.  Click on the link to share your picture and story.  Be sure to vote for your favorite image.  The winning image gets a 2-hour session valued at $250 on the house!  While you’re clicking links, please be sure to like www.facebook.com/tjrpictures to see the results and updates!  The contest ends when either the Facebook page reaches 500 likes or we reach 100 votes on images, whichever comes first!

https://1.shortstack.com/cxppjP

All my favorite pictures have stories attached to them, great stories or great moments the image tells, and the setting behind it is even better. These are the things that we cherish.  When my grandfather passed, I inherited his collection of Kodachrome slides from his photography.  Over the past several years I’ve been digitizing them for my family, and have found some amazing samples of his skill.  I still have over 50 pounds of slides to go through, but I can say the man was brilliant with a camera, and one of my main inspirations for getting into photography.  At the end of this post are a few of my favorites so far…

In other news, I’ll be running a promotion during August for wedding packages.  Any wedding booked with a deposit paid during the month of August will automatically be given a 20% discount off the total cost of the package.  With weddings becoming more and more expensive, it’s the easiest way I know to help couples worried about budget, as well as get that part of the planning checked off lists!  It makes it easier for me as well.  The further out I have things booked, the easier my planning and coordination for the event.  There’s no need to mention it when setting up a consultation, the discount is applied to all packages and shows up when we sign the contract with the deposit! 

By the way, I've put up a calendar with my availability for Dragon*Con.  Spots will fill up fast, get to me soon!

Toto – I Won’t Hold You Back

Below was the scene outside the Gwinnett Center last week.  They had an offer for any teacher with a valid idea to come get free school supplies.  Within an hour, they were out.

I’ve been lucky to have to careers that I love.  Photography is the career that’s my artistic passion, lets me travel the world, meet people, and create something.  Teaching has been my other career for the past several years.  It’s the job that gives back, that helps me feel a part of a community, gives me a way to make a difference in lives.  Both careers I love, and am fortunate that they can intertwine easily (it’s rare to shoot a midweek wedding, and you don’t often teach on weekends and during the busy summer wedding season). 

These give-away are something that always draws us together in large mobs.  Teachers are quick to try to get whatever supplies they can, because we go through them quick.  I’m fortunate that I teach in a wonderful school system with great staff and a great support network.  Often I’m able to use the school card to buy large amounts of supplies for big projects for kids.  But not every teacher is as fortunate as I have been.  Often, most teachers have to fork over their own money to make sure their students have lined paper to write on.  Add in computer paper, tissue paper, sanitizer, and everything else that runs out quick, and most teachers on average spend $513 of their own money on school supplies for their students.  Depending on the subject area, it can get more expensive. 

Foreigner - Urgent

I’ve taught special education for 4 years, and am on my second year teaching physics and chemistry.  I spent more than $500 by the end of the first quarter.  I don’t even want to imagine what the art teacher has to spend.  There were many evenings and mornings when I realized I was short materials needed to make something explode in an entertaining yet safe and educational way (seriously, teaching science is fun).  Or I remembered I had promised a winning review group doughnuts (I know sugar, but seriously I’ve never seen kids compete more during study sessions for tests) or getting pizza for the class after a particularly amazing substitute report.  Teachers often put up boards during preplanning of supplies they need, and we get them the first day of school.  We’re always grateful for them.  But those are often all used up by winter.  The parents that would drop by in January with more supplies or to ask what I needed were godsends.  I don’t need Starbucks gift cards, and some other gifts I’ve gotten before winter break were questionable but sweet.  There’s an easier way to my heart.  Every teacher I know salivates over Office Depot or Target gift cards.  We look at them and see reams of paper, boxes of pencils, and all types of art supplies.

There are even more ways to support teachers as we get back to business.  Donors Choose is one of my favorite organizations.  Several of my colleagues have put up fundraisers on there for big ideas for their curriculum and believe me, they are great ideas.  Consider supporting a school near you.  I have no doubt you can find dozens of projects in your area that need just a little contribution.  It’ll go a long way and have a direct impact in your community.  Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a good way to support a good cause. 

Don Henley – Boys Of Summer

And… anyone who books me for an event, bringing me a receipt of a Donors Choose donation of $50 or more to a school in your community will get a 25% discount on any photography service for that calendar year (or a booking for a wedding in the future).  This isn’t a one-time deal.  This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  It saves the donor money and gives back to a community, plus on any of my wedding package you’re looking at over $600 off with that $50 donation to Donors Choose.

Good luck for everyone going back to school, good luck to anyone entering the contest, and I hope to hear from you.  Comments below would be great! 

And… some of my grandfather’s Kodachrome slides as promised.  

The Big Three Wedding Needs

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Kiss on My List

First, a disclaimer- I have never been married.  Maybe someday I will be, but that’s a whole other saga.  I have been fortunate and honored enough to have been invited as both a guest, a groomsman, and as a photographer for many weddings in my life, but have not yet been the groom myself.  For the most part, I’m a vendor.  So I might have a vested interest.  But, that said, to me there’s a hierarchy of what a bride needs to consider when planning a wedding.  If they keep this idea in mind, hopefully it’ll make the planning less stressful.  Hiring the photographer is not at the top of that list.

The first two are interchangeable, but when I consult with potential clients, these have usually already picked out before I’m ever brought in.  And when I hear the level of excitement in their voices when describing these things, it tells me a lot about the couple.

To me, the most important item is the dress.  A wedding is built around the bride’s dress.  If the lady loves her dress, it makes her feel perfect.  Everything else falls into place.  The wedding is about the bride.  Grooms don’t matter, kind of like in ballroom dance, the guy is the frame, but the lady is the work of art.  And really, us guys are FINE with that.  It takes a lot of the stress off us.  The right dress will instantly let the bride feel the moment, and it’ll be easier for her to be ready for the onslaught of the day.  It’s a psychological warfare tactic really; she’s geared up and ready to face the challenges of an often 10-hour plus event when she’s dressed for the part. 

Eddie Money – Take Me Home Tonight

Once the dress is picked, then it’s the venue that matters next.  These two things I don’t believe the plan should compromise on.  Find the dress and the venue you’ve been dreaming of and everything else will sort itself out.  The right venue is like the right house.  When checking out a house to rent or buy, people check out multiple locations and find the one with the right feel, the right level of comfort, and the aesthetics they want.  It’s so much easier to be at ease, at repose, when you’re in a place that makes you feel at home, and ready to celebrate. 

Meat Loaf – You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)

After those two are found, then go after photographer.  Aside from the dress and whatever gifts you put on your registry (that you don’t return) the pictures are what you’ll be able to hold onto.  The pictures are the only real keepsake you can come back to, as wedding cake in a freezer doesn’t last forever.  I often ask potential clients on the initial consult how many photographers they’ve talked to, how many portfolios they’ve checked out.  If I’m the first or the only one, I suggest they shop around, because if they haven’t ever really looked around they need to for their own sake.  While I want their business, it’s more important to me that they find the photographer that matches their vision for the images they’re wanting after the day is over.  That’ll come in part when they have a photographer they get along with. 

.38 Special – Hold On Loosely

It’s quicker to get in sync and become at ease with a photographer the more you meet with them, the more time you devote to cultivating that relationship prior to the wedding day.  I purposefully try to schedule all initial consultations over a lunch, coffee, or beer.  After that, I usually schedule at least two more times to meet with them to plan and discuss the dynamics of their wedding, and hopefully shoot an engagement session with them to get a dry run of getting in sync for everything.  I want to get to know my clients, what makes them laugh, what they love and enjoy, so we can find that unique character to bring to their images.  You can’t create that on the fly, it takes time. 

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Don’t Do Me Like That

Not all photographers are the same.  Wedding photographers are broken into two categories- photojournalists and traditional.  Within those categories there are millions of different styles, shooters, and editorial combinations.  I tend towards journalism style with sharper colors and a more modern lighting style, with a mix of vintage and modern editing and post-production technique.  It’s important that couples pick a photographer whose style matches their taste and vision more than their budget.  I often recommend other photographers I know whose work I admire.  Like buying a car or a house, a wedding photographer is a serious investment.  It’s important to look around to find the right fit.  More often than not they come back to me because they feel my portfolio matches what they want and they feel comfortable.  Even when they don’t, they thank me for the advice I gave and the leads I gave them on finding the photographer that fits.  As long as you love the result, I’m happy for you, no matter who you choose. 

Boston – Don’t Look Back

When a couple compromises though, putting cost far above their wants and not finding that right balance that makes them happy… then… well… that’s a tougher story.  And a different post for a different day.

Agree, disagree?  Please comment below!  What mattered or will matter to you during your wedding? 

Source: https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/now