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Are you safe from photography regrets? 10 questions amateur photographers are scared you’ll ask.

Jan . 09 . 2012
46%. It’s the percentage of brides who regret not spending more on photography. How do you not fall for that mistake? Well… does this sound...
Are you safe from photography regrets?
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Are you safe from photography regrets?

46%. It’s the percentage of brides who regret not spending more on photography. How do you not fall for that mistake?

Well… does this sound familiar?

You’re meeting with a photographer, and they’re promising you wonderful things: that they’ll shoot your wedding for a killer price, that you’ll get amazing photos, and you’ll get them fast. At this point a little voice inside your head thinks – is this too good to be true?

Most likely, it is. Most likely, this is an amateur photographer who declares “they’ve done it before” (at their sister’s wedding), that they have a professional DSLR (well it’s not professional, but they got it for Christmas), and that they “took these shots, so they could do it again” (even though another photographer had posed the entire scene, and they were too busy clicking to pay attention to what the professional was doing).

I’m describing 80% of guests at any given wedding. Yup, most people think that they can do it. And I don’t blame them at all – our jobs as pro photographers is to make it effortless. If it looks super hard, you’re doing something wrong!

Wedding photography is one of the most arduous kinds of photography – it’s an event that only happens once, that has many moving parts, and that evolves in rapidly changing conditions. That photographer who is promising you the moon is taking a huge gamble on you. To them, you’re a stepping stone to this thing they think they can do, and why not, they’ve gotten compliments on their photos so far – how hard can it be? Here are 10 questions to help you sift through the smoke and steer away from photography nightmares.


1. So tell me a little more about you work? What are the next steps?

If you haven’t done it many times before, you imagine that wedding photography starts, and almost ends, on the wedding day. If your photographer answers with “well I’d show up on your wedding day and start taking photos”, or if they say that they wouldn’t see you again before the engagement session, you’re in trouble. Photography requires a lot of work if you want it to be exactly to a complete stranger’s taste. Would you walk up to a stranger on the street with a dish in your hand and be 100% confident that they’ll love eating it? No,  you can’t. You have no idea if the person is a vegetarian, allergic to apples, or so diabetic an ounce of sugar would kill them. Photography is a little bit like food – in order to guarantee the other person will love it, you’re going to have the take time to ask the right questions and if you can, let them sample your “food”.


2. Do you have a sample group shot list I could take a look at right now?

If the answer is “I don’t have one I can show you right now, but I can get one to you later”, your photographer clearly hasn’t done many weddings before. Group shots are an art – trying to get 100 or even 200+ people in one shot without taking 4h isn’t an easy feat, and should be by no means underestimated. If you don’t want to spend all day taking group photos and mourn the “Just the two of us” shots you really want and would cherish for years to come, you need someone who is organized about the formals and knows how to elegantly get groups of people to do things efficiently. And if you’re not prepared ahead of time, it’s not something you want to improvise.


3. Can I see a full wedding, start to finish, of just your photographs?

Another sign of trouble if you can’t see it right there and then. The real trouble with photographers is that you could actually be a guest at 10 weddings and take 10 photographs that would make an amazing portfolio. If you shadow the pro photographer and taken their shot, you’ve just clicked a button and capitalized on their work. Does that make you a pro? No. Does it make you look like one? At first glance, yes. And that’s why portfolios can be very deceiving. Asking for a full wedding start to finish is a really good way of seeing “through the photographer’s eyes”. You’ll also be easily able to tell if they were the “main photographer” for the day or if they were shadowing someone else. The angles won’t be the ones you expect to see. If what you see is barely acceptable, know that this photographer is taking a gamble with your wedding day. To them, you’re a stepping stone to their portfolio, and they’ll learn from mistakes made at your wedding.


4. Can I see a completed album?

If your photographer doesn’t have an album to show, then you’re in the definite red zone. The zone where the photographer doesn’t even know where to begin; where you’ll get improvised guesses as to what to do where and when. Whether you want an album as part of the memories of your wedding day or not, your photographer’s ability to show you one demonstrates a creative process. You should see the story of the day. You should see what’s important to the bride and groom, details they cared for, the tears of joy from their parents, the palpable emotion of the ceremony, the obvious fun in the photos taken as a couple. The album is where a photographer really can execute and perfect the vision they had i mind. A great photographer shoots for you and shoots for your album. They know that if you choose an album to pass onto your children, it should skillfully take your through the emotional rollercoaster of the day, it should highlight the amazing details you sweated over for a year, and it should do it in a manner that looks completely effortless. No accidental black and white next to color, no poorly composed shots, no “forgotten” moments. It’s all there, and it looks easy.


5. Do you have other vendors I could ask for reference?

I know, you’re thinking – wait, shouldn’t I ask other brides for references? Yes, you should do that too. But vendors have no troubles at all telling you how the photographer was working – they weren’t as caught up in the actual events of the wedding, they have that outside eye to what’s going on with other vendors. Trust me, we all know who does an amazing job and who’s having a a bad day. And we’re happy to share the info :)

While you ask that question, you’ll also find out if your photographer can work with other vendors. If your photographer can’t work with other people, they won’t get you the photos you want. Sometimes you have to work with other vendors to make sure the flowers get there just a little earlier than planned, or that the cake is positioned closer to the light. That gets done by having great professional ethic and dedication.


6. What kind of backups do you have?

If your photographer doesn’t have a backup camera, it’s time to run. Is it expensive to keep a backup camera sitting there? Yes. Is it expensive to haul around computers, extra memory cards, extra batteries, extra flashes, extra power cords, extra lenses? Of course it is. But it’s the price of safety. Equipment malfunctions happen. Children running around and grabbing your equipment happen. Red wine flying into the air and landing on your electronics happen. And, sadly, multiple hard-drives failing happens (can you tell we speak of experience?). You shouldn’t have to worry about any of that: your photographer should make it look effortless, easy, like there aren’t ever any hiatuses. You should never even know that these things happened. No one cares why you didn’t get the shot – you should just get it. It is our job as professionals to do everything in our power to deliver on our promise. Make sure your photographer is equipped for the unexpected, because it inevitably happens.


7. What does this price include?

There are really tricky photographers out there. Some photographers tell you they’ll cover the event for a fixed price, but omit to mention that you don’t get a single photograph for that price, and you’ll have to pay prints separately for an exorbitant price. Or they’ll include low resolution files only, which makes them not printable, and then gauge you on print prices, or give you astronomical figures for full resolution photographs. Any pricing structure can work for you, but you need to know all the details ahead of time.


8. How much time do we need?

The good answer is “it depends”. Every event is truly unique – there might be religious traditions and timelines that are unique (like having a tea ceremony before lunch, or signing the ketubah before the ceremony), certain celebrations you’ve added for your guests (like a cousin singing, or professional ballroom dancers performing). Your photographer should help you understand your schedule, understand your vision, and should clearly articulate what they need to accomplish that vision. If they have a blanket “8h should do it” answer, you run into the risk that they won’t clearly communicate how much time they need, and they’ll either rush or completely miss shots that are very important to you.


9. Can we see a contract?

That is something you definitely want to take a look at. This uncovers a lot of the devilish details most photographers don’t even want to take about. It should cover cancellations, adverse events, pricing, insurance, everything. If your photographer can’t pull one up, they’re a complete amateur, and they’re taking big risks at your expense. Contracts should protect both parties – they’re here to protect you, too. If you don’t like what you see in the contract, you can only discuss it before signing it, so take the time to read through it before you make a commitment.

10. Can we have ALL the photos?

This is going to surprise you: the answer should be “no”. Wait a second, you say – why not? Because your photographer should want to take risks, and should have a clear creative process in mind. Taking a photograph to be processed in black & white is very different from taking one to be processed in color. The color shot might look amazing in color, but lack complete contrast in black & white, and lose its impact. And conversely, a photograph might look quite good in color, but truly stunning in black and white, where the power of the contrast enhances the shot. It is your photographer’s job to have that vision when they are taking the photographs, and in order to complete it, they should see the processing through. Giving someone else the editing, culling, processing to do isn’t just lazy – it’s a lack of creative point of view. You wouldn’t take a chef seriously if they asked you to dice up your own food and then cook it yourself. If your photographer is giving *you* homework, something’s really wrong with the picture.


So there you have it… Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Unfortunately, there’s no “take 2″ if your photographer doesn’t live up to your expectations. So if what is important for you to have after your wedding is beautiful photographs you want to display, share on with loved ones, and pass onto future generations, it’s worth taking the time to investigate. Don’t let questions stop you – you’ll sleep better at night :)



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About Kelsey

Kelsey is the head photographer of Sphynge Photography boutique. We've been crafting artistic, painting-inspired photographs for clients around the world since 2005. Thanks for perusing - we can't wait to talk to you!
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I want a magazine wedding

Sep . 24 . 2011
What makes a wedding magazine worthy? We get that question quite a bit, so we thought we’d talk about what your wedding should have to be...
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What makes a wedding magazine worthy? We get that question quite a bit, so we thought we’d talk about what your wedding should have to be published.
Magazine weddings, or editorial style weddings, are very heavily focused on a theme, and on details. These are the three key ingredients to have an editorial wedding.

Picking a theme
The theme of your wedding should be something that is unique and distinguishes your very own sensibilities. It can be inspired by a decade, like a 1940s inspired wedding, by the love a place that is near to you, like a farm wedding, or by an activity or product you really love, like a wine inspired wedding. That theme should be consistent between all the elemtns

If there is one thing you cannot take back on your wedding day, it’s time. Providing enough time for your photographer to take breathtaking photographs is essential! Involve your photographer very early into the scheduling process to ensure you provide the right mix of light and time required to craft truly unique photographs.

Details, details, details
We can’t say this enough: for magazines, it’s all about unique and consistent details. Lots and lots and lots of them. Must haves for magazines:
– a wedding sign (think “wedding over here! reception over here!” sign)
– original lighting – especially for the reception. Think projection against walls, on the floors, on the ceiling
– draping and other dramatic architectural elements
– fresh and colorful floral elements (including bouquets)
– exceptional ceremony elements (decoration around the altar, decoration on the chairs, beautiful end caps, intriguing seating for guests)
– original transportation (think 1940s car, for a 1940s themed wedding)
– unique centerpiece elements (such as dramatic centerpieces)
– interesting flower girl details (hearts instead of petals, unique twist on the basket)
– special presentation of appetizers, foods and desserts served
– themed menus, couple’s magazines, maps to the venue, escort cards/name cards
– elegant men’s details, such as beautiful boutonnieres (think feathers for eg for the 1940s wedding), fun socks, classy watches, and other element
– unique elements such as ice sculptures, special performers
– custom made cake topper

details of a published wedding
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About Kelsey

Kelsey is the head photographer of Sphynge Photography boutique. We've been crafting artistic, painting-inspired photographs for clients around the world since 2005. Thanks for perusing - we can't wait to talk to you!
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What wedding emergency kit?

Sep . 13 . 2011
  Your wedding preparations on the way, the list is only getting longer and longer (how did that happen anyway??), and now you’re seeing this...
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Your wedding preparations on the way, the list is only getting longer and longer (how did that happen anyway??), and now you’re seeing this post and thinking – WHAT wedding emergency kit? Nothing a glass of wine can’t solve right?

Well… not so fast. Your wedding is a little like any other day, except you can’t just go back home real quick if something happens. Worry not – a little preparation will go a long way into making your big day go smoothly. Put it together and label a box with “Emergency kit”, ask a relative or bridesmaid to keep it in their car, and you’ll be set to go.

So, here’s what your DYI wedding emergency kit should consist of:

  • kleenexes. Don’t deny it, mom/friend/your husband might need it.
  • Needle and thread. I actually used that on my wedding day when my sister’s strap fell off 30 minutes before going down the aisle. That, and last month, I had the pleasure of sewing a groom’s button right before the ceremony as well. Trust me: you can’t just go out to your guests and ask to borrow a needle and thread – better to have it ready.
  • tide-to-go. You know why. Don’t ask.
  • safety pins. If you’ve got a train on your dress, you’ll actually most likely need several of those. It happens every time – you’re having a blast on the dance floor with your guests. They’re having a blast. Someone steps on your dress. And riiiippppp – there goes the piece of fabric that tied your train together. Safety pins are you friend.
  • band-aids. Not for cuts or scratches… for your feet. We both know you’ve got a cute pair of shoes, and a pair of flats – let’s face it though, by the time you get to the flats, it’ll be too late. And there come bandaids to the rescue!
  • a bottle of water. It’s a really exciting day, which means you’ll get thirsty before you know it. Carry water with you if you can, and have back up water. It’s a fine balance though – drink too much right before putting the dress on and you’ll find yourself trying to go to the bathroom in it (not always that easy)

There you have it! One trip to the grocery store or convenience store should settle it!

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About Kelsey

Kelsey is the head photographer of Sphynge Photography boutique. We've been crafting artistic, painting-inspired photographs for clients around the world since 2005. Thanks for perusing - we can't wait to talk to you!
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3 wedding photography pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

Sep . 05 . 2011
Guests often think they’re doing you a favor by trying to get “extra shots”. (in case you were wondering – that’s a guest....
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Guests often think they’re doing you a favor by trying to get “extra shots”.
(in case you were wondering – that’s a guest. Not a 2nd photographer. And she had asked, and we said ok.).


Congratulations, you just got engaged! You’re now navigating a sea of inquiries to vendors, managing expectations from family and friends, dodging sensitive guest invitation questions… and along the way, you might make a mistake or two. Here are 3 common wedding photography pitfalls not to fall for:

1. The mystery 2nd photographer

Many photographers add an extra $400-$500 for a second photographer. Some call it indispensable, a must have, etc. Truth is, you may or may not need a second photographer. Ideally, you’re paying for an expert, a craftsman, another unique artistic eye. Not just a flash holder. So when you decide you’d love that 2nd expert eye, ask your main photographer to meet them before the wedding. The #1 pitfall is that you’ve hired a photographer and they tell you they know all about their second photographer, but in reality, they’re posting an ad on Craiglist that looks like this:

(this is an *actual* ad on Craiglist. I didn’t make that up. Sad huh?)

That’s right. You’ve worked so hard to get that photographer, looked through their portfolio, checked out their reviews, talked with previous brides… you basically trusted them with your special day, and they turn around and go on Craiglist to find a total stranger they’ve never met to get them to show up to your wedding for $20/hour. That is probably the biggest heartbreak – you’ve invested so much time and trust, and that photographer is inviting a total stranger to save a few bucks. No idea what their background is, if they’re professional, if they will stay out of the way; no idea if they’ll just show up at all, or get drunk. All they care about is, $20/h.

How to avoid that pitfall: simple – ask to meet that 2nd photographer ahead of time, and to guarantee that person will be there. Ask for that person’s portfolio, ask if they’ve worked together before, and if you have the bandwidth, ask to talk to a bride that had that 2nd photographer be part of her wedding.

Our promise: Sphynge Photography is a husband & wife team. We’ve worked together before. Promise ;-) Come see us and ask to see our photos!


2. Underestimating how much time your photographer needs

You’re looking at your wedding day schedule and thinking, oh man, I thought I had the WHOLE DAY! How come it looks like there’s no time? Well, I guess the photographer will just need 20min after the ceremony to get all the group shots in. Should be okay, right?

Well… hold that thought. While a photographer takes 1 second to click on the shutter button, Aunt Annie may take longer than that to *get ready* for the shot. And that’s where it all falls apart. You’ve just said your “I dos”, and you’re thinking about partying. Some guests are thinking about coming to hug you (actually, many guests will think about hugging you and congratulating you), some guests will think about getting a cocktail, and a couple are thinking about a quick trip to the bathroom, or a quick diaper change if they have infants. And that’s where the group shots don’t exactly work out the way you anticipated. One person from the first group is missing and you’re trying to look at the crowd to find them; your mom is insisting we move to her side of the family, and yes we’re ready except Uncle Bill is just coming back from the bathroom (“I swear, he was right there a second ago”). Before you know it, you’re being called for the reception, and you haven’t even done your bride & groom only photos. You ask your photographer to take a couple on the way, and hope for the best. 3 months later, you turn around and say “I wish we would’ve done more photos of just to two of us”. Then guests email you “Do you have photos with us too?” – and the answer is no; they blame the photographer.

How to avoid that pitfall: talk about scheduling with your photographer very early on. They’ve been through a few weddings, and they should have a pretty good idea, depending on location and guest count, how much time they need to deliver the gorgeous photos you’ll want to hang and show off forever. Get the group shots very close to the ceremony site, and choose a location that’s much farther away for your couple shots, or you’re likely to be interrupted by a flurry of guests who want “just this one shot”, and some who “just have a quick question”.

When you book a wedding with Sphynge Photography, we meet before the wedding to iron out all the details and help you figure out where you can build buffers to get the show going and get amazing photographs.


3. Forgetting to tell guests to take their flash off

In this day and age, everyone has a camera. In their pocket. On their neck. Not yet implanted in their eye – but you know what I mean. Most churches will have the “official” photographer sign a paper that binds them by contract to not use a flash. And I’m always happy to sign that contract – my Nikon D3s can basically shoot at night without a flash. Where we get in trouble is, the guests haven’t signed a contract. The church coordinator cannot possibly talk to every single guest walking into the church. And during the ceremony, a bunch of flashes go off. Not from the photographer – from the guests. The coordinator can’t interrupt the ceremony to talk to guests in the middle of the church. And there you have it: your “I do” photos are ruined by a guest’s flash. You can’t do anything in photoshop to get those photos back – they’re 100% white. They’re just plain ruined. That’s right – the thousands of dollars you’ve just spent on the awesomest photographer you have ever heard of are completely annihilated by one of your dear friend’s eagerness to remember this moment.

How to avoid that pitfall: email your guests ahead of time and tell them very clearly that they cannot use their camera unless their flash is turned off. It is a hassle, but it’s going to save your wedding photos, I promise you that. Brownie points for having family members be your eyes and ears during the ceremony and politely telling other guests they can’t take photos with the flash on. And if the guest doesn’t know how to do that? Explain to them very nicely that the photographer will share all the photos they’ve taken with their expensive camera, and that you’d love to have them enjoy the ceremony rather than be distracted (or cause other guests a distraction) with their camera.


(think these are from experience? – check out this photo, straight off the camera. Hint: my flash didn’t go off.)


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About Kelsey

Kelsey is the head photographer of Sphynge Photography boutique. We've been crafting artistic, painting-inspired photographs for clients around the world since 2005. Thanks for perusing - we can't wait to talk to you!
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