Photographer: Events, Weddings, Portraits – Austin, Texas

Archive for January, 2011

20 Questions To Ask Your Wedding Photographer

Bridal/Engagement season is off and running and we’ve been getting more emails and phone calls than normal with questions about wedding photography. Some of the questions I’ve been hearing are questions that I hear over and over from brides each year. I never get tired of answering brides questions, and in a way I feel like it’s my duty to share my experience and expertise whenever asked. In fact, when I started shooting weddings a number of years ago I prepared myself for the most difficult questions that a bride and groom might ask by looking online at different websites that had advice for brides-to-be, such as wedding planners, bridal boutiques, venues and wedding consultants. I figured that if I could honestly answer every question that these advice websites had for brides, then I’d be ready to be a wedding photographer.

My task: find every relevant question that a bride should ask a wedding photographer and ask myself how I would answer it. So, after many hours of research on the subject, I narrowed my frequently asked questions list down to around 20 questions (see below).

Until recently, I only shared this information with brides that met with me face-to-face. But at some point I started realizing that brides can easily get confused between qualified professional photographers and inexperienced photo novices who make big promises and often, sadly, disappoint brides with poor quality work (or no work at all).

But let’s lighten the subject for a minute and talk about wine. Why? Why not?! :) One of my favorite things to ask a wine drinker after they tell me about the expensive bottle of Merlot they just opened is if they know the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $110 bottle of wine. They usually shrug their shoulders and plead ignorance. The answer: $100

Unfortunately, photography isn’t that simple. Although many photographers look the same, we all charge significantly different rates and there’s a big difference between one photographer and the next, although it may be difficult to discern. Let me explain.

Each photographer brings a different set of skills, equipment and responsibility to an event. The key is to determine what you want and then be armed with the right questions to ask your photographer. As I tell many brides, anyone can put together a “best of” slideshow on a free photo website like Shutterfly; but can the photographer who will be responsible for capturing all the wonderful moments at the most important event of your life show you photos from a several past wedding (photos of entire wedding, start to finish)? Believe me when I say that it’s a big responsibility to be the photographer for a wedding – bigger than just owning a camera and saying you can do it.

casa blanca on brushy creek, round rock, TX

The reason I’m blogging about this topic this week is because I met with several brides-to-be this past week. In fact, I met with one bride in particular who was really enjoyable to meet with (our meeting was more like having a meal with an old friend). We enjoyed speaking with one another and she complemented my work several times, which I was grateful for. She also commented positively on Austin Americana’s pricing and professionalism. I left our meeting feeling confident that I would be photographing her wedding soon.

Unfortunately she contacted me a few days after we met to tell me that she had decided to allow a “photographer friend” to shoot their wedding instead of hiring me. I always respect bride’s decisions, even if they don’t choose me. In business, you get used to rejection – it’s just business! After all, you can’t take it personal and I certainly don’t.

But what frightens me about this situation is all the terrible wedding horror stories I’ve heard from brides over the years about bad experiences with novice photographers who make promises and then realize on wedding day that they can’t deliver. Is there a chance that her photographer will do a good job? Sure. But why take that chance when you can hire a professional? We all have car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, etc; When you write a check to a professional wedding photographer, you are buying insurance – a written guarantee that you will get great wedding photos of the most important day of your life.

So how do you tell the difference between a legitimate professional photographer who will take great photos at your wedding and deliver them to you -and- a novice who won’t? A good start is to ask the right questions. I’ve put together 20 questions that you should ask your wedding photographer. If they can’t honestly answer these questions with satisfactory answers to meet your wedding needs, then you should probably look elsewhere.

20 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer

By: Martin Whitton, Austin Americana Photography©

1. What’s your primary style? Posed and formal, relaxed, photojournalistic, creative, artistic, candid, traditional?

Answer: I consider myself a photojournalistic wedding photographer, although I normally include the standard posed shots associated with most weddings today.

Photojournalistic wedding photography to me means shooting as many candid, unrehearsed moments as I can which capture the emotion of the day and which tell a story.

2. Do you shoot in color or black and white? Or both? Do you shoot in a digital format that can create both color and b/w versions of the same picture?

Answer: I shoot all digital, color photos, which means I can take a lot more photos quickly. In post production/editing I can choose to convert images to black & white, sepia and also utilize specialized filters for an artistic effect.

3. What type of camera do you use?

Answer: I shoot with 2 cameras (with one additional backup): Canon 5D Mark ii, EOS 40D & 30D, professional cameras that are well regarded in the

industry. In fact, as of the writing of this material (year 2010), the official photographer for our U.S. President is using the same camera that I do!

Bridal Photo - Austin, Texas

4. What kind of input can we have on the direction of the shots? Can we give you a shot list to work from?

Answer: I would like to get as much input as possible from you. I draft a Wedding Photo Schedule that is customized specifically for your wedding. The schedule allows you to see how many hours are needed for shooting your wedding and exactly who will be photographed when & where. You will have the opportunity to edit the schedule as much as you like.

5a. Are you the wedding photographer who will actually take our pictures? If not, can we meet the person who will be?

Answer: I will be your photographer the day of your wedding (unless otherwise specified). If a 2nd shooter and/or an assistant is needed, I’ll let you know.

5b. We would like 2 photographers for our wedding. Is this something you can provide?

Answer: Yes, we can provide 2 qualified professional photographers for your wedding. An additional fee for this service will be added to your wedding package price.

6. Is there a limit to how many photos you can take?

Answer: No, there is no limit (within reason) to how many photos I can take. My cameras are digitally formatted and use digital media cards to store each photo as it is snapped. I could potentially take 2,000 – 3,000 photos in a single outing. This is very unusual, however. I normally capture 500 – 1,500 images each outing.

7. How many times have you worked specifically as a wedding photographer? How many were similar to the size and formality of our wedding?

Answer: I’ve been photographing people and places since 2002. I photographed my first wedding professionally in February 2007. In 2009 my staff and I photographed approximately 75 events, including over 30 weddings in Austin, Texas. If you would like to see some of my work, please feel free to visit my website at M.Whitton Photography or our new Austin Americana Photo Blog, or ask for a slideshow presentation of some of my past wedding shoots.

8. How many other events will you also photograph that weekend?

Answer: We only photograph one event per day, which eliminates rushing your event or the possibility for errors in scheduling.

9. What kind of equipment will you bring with you? How intrusive will lighting, tripods, other equipment or assistants be?

Answer: Most of our equipment is very mobile and small. I don’t use lighting equipment (except on-camera flash, of course) unless necessary for exceptionally large group photos indoor. I don’t necessarily require the help of an assistant, but one frequently will assist.

10. Do you develop your own film? Do you offer albums?

Answer: I shoot all digital; there will be no film used. The edited image files are developed by quality, professional labs and shipped to your doorstep. Our albums are designed and printed by AsukaBook USA – a renowned, award-winning album company that strives for quality workmanship and style.

11. What type and how much assistance will you provide in planning my album?

Answer: I have partnered with AsukaBook USA to provide relatively seamless album services. We design your album using select images and email you an Adobe PDF file for review. Once you approve it the file is submitted for print and shipped to your doorstep! Yes, it’s that easy!

12. Will you give me the negatives or what is the charge?

Answer: My shooting fee includes providing you a DVD copy containing all of professionally edited images from your event, which allows you to conveniently print images at a discounted rate (No more waiting for the photographer to release rights or paying inflated print prices).

13. How long after the event will the proofs be ready?

Answer: Average turnaround time from wedding day to delivery is usually less than 2 – 4 weeks – sometimes less, sometimes more. Your DVD will be mailed to your doorstep once editing is complete. The proofs will be viewable on my website.

14. Will there be backup equipment available? And what happens if the photographer is ill?

Answer: I have invested in backup equipment for each camera and apparatus that I use. During your event, I will be shooting with at least 2 cameras. If for some reason I am no longer able to honor our agreement to be your photographer (hospitalization, for example), I would contact a reputable (qualified) photographer to act in my stead.

15. What attire will you and your assistants wear?

Answer: Professionalism is very important to me and I dress accordingly – normally in slacks and button-down long-sleeve shirts with a necktie. If the event calls for stepping up the attire, i.e., a tuxedo or suit, please let me know and I’ll be glad to oblige.

16. Can other people take photos while you are taking photos?

Answer: Yes, but I usually ask attendees to shoot before or after I shoot, to prevent confusion, blinking, flashing, etc.

17. Have you worked at my event location before? How did it work out?

Answer: I’ve worked at dozens of locations in and around Austin, both indoor and outdoor. I normally visit the ceremony/reception location 1-2 weeks beforehand to aid in planning the shoot.

18. Should the event last longer than scheduled, will you stay? Extra charge?

Answer: Normally planning prevents the need for additional time, but if needed, I will stay longer. I charge $200/hour for additional shooting time. Once your wedding schedule has been drafted we will be able to determine how much time will be required for your big day.

19. Can I get a discount? I don’t want everything you have to offer in a package price…

Answer: Sure, I offer discounts. If you would like to customize a package to fit your needs I will work with you. I also offer discounts at different times of the year to encourage new clientele and to offer more competitive pricing, including working with discount coupon online stores like Groupon, Localiter and DealOn.

20. After you’ve asked these questions of your potential wedding photographer, there are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself:

A. Do I like this person? B. Do I get along with them or get a good feeling from them?

C. Do I like their work as a wedding photographer?

D. Is it well lit, focused, well framed?

E. Looking at their albums/prints, do I feel like I have a good feeling for the wedding?

Chinese Jewish Wedding at Spicewood Vineyard

 

Sources: About.com, 2007 and http://www.weddingphotousa.com


Chuck E. Cheese! (Fun Friday Fotos)

This past week we took Roman to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time ever. Although it was crowded and we ran into lots of crazy, rude people, we still had a great time. I think Roman genuinely had a good time. I have to admit that I was a little afraid that he would be like his dad, who doesn’t really care for crowds or for being the center of attention. But I was able to bring the camera along and capture quite a few smiles from our little man as he played games, rode the rides and generally had a fun time. His favorite rides were the fire truck and the photo care where you get your photo taken with Chuck E. (or Mr. Cheese, as we call him). His uncle Chet was along for the excitement too, which was great. Enjoy!

 



Gratitude: What Are You Thankful For?

This is probably something we don’t think enough about. In life, it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane details of life, like going to work, dinner, bills, relationships, driving, shopping, etc. and forget about all the things for which we are grateful. But sometimes if we are able to “step outside” of our self, or outside of the circle which is our self, we can discover wonderful things and reasons why life really is good!

Years ago, when I would get upset or seem down about life, a good friend of mine would ask me, “well, have you made a gratitude list today?” And I remember being so stuck on feeling upset that what my friend was saying seemed crazy, as if I were being told to go walk on the moon. But I would oblige the request and make a list, sometimes on paper and sometimes just in my head.

And what happened when I made my gratitude list? Well, usually after about the 2nd or third thing was penciled onto the list I started having a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. And all those problems that seemed so big at first to me and that were dominating my every thought, encompassing me like a thick fog, just seemed to roll away.

Now you might be saying, well, what do I have to be thankful for? Obviously the answer is different for everyone. And if you can’t think of anything, then just be thankful for the small things: a roof over your head, enough food to eat, clean air to breathe. It’s likely that you have much, much more than that to be thankful for. And once you’ve made your list it’s almost impossible to not feel a little better. It always worked for me and I know it can work for you, if you choose to let it!

My gratitude list today:

1. A wife & son who I love dearly;

2. A place to call home that is warm and quiet;

3. Friends;

4. A family who love me;

5. A job, which allows me to provide for family;

6. Books that bring me happiness;

7. A healthy body and mind;


Fun Friday Fotos! (It’s been a while)

Here are some random shots of us doing family stuff, including some dreary january days here in Austin in the rain.


Vietnamese-Indian Wedding

At the end of December I had the great pleasure to photograph a Vietnamese-Indian wedding ceremony, which was a beautiful and memorable event. It was the wedding of Hanh and Vinod, two really wonderful people who I know are going to really do well.

The wedding ceremony itself was preceded by a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony, held inside the Double Tree Hotel, in Austin, Texas. Family and close friends gathered inside the bride and groom’s suite to participate in the special tea ceremony. Everyone (including the groom) waited in anticipation for the bride to arrive to begin the tea ceremony. As she made her grand entrance in her colorful, red traditional dress everyone’s face turned to smiles and deep pride. The wedding was now under way!

One of the younger family members prepared the tea and then served it to the bride and groom, who shared tea with family. Family members were given the opportunity to give blessings and provide uplifting words about the bride and groom’s future together, which was very heartwarming. There were prayers, thanks given, laughs and hugs.

According to Wikipedia, “A formal tea and candle ceremony along with speeches follow. While tea has always been an essential part of Vietnamese life, Vietnamese tea culture is not as complex or ritually rigid as its counterparts in China, Japan or Korea. A traditional wedding may be the only time in a Vietnamese person’s life that a formal tea ceremony is essential. The bride and groom, in front of all their guests, will serve tea (or wine) to their parents. Each parent will then give advice about marriage and family to the couple. A candle ceremony will follow, symbolizing the joining of the bride and groom and the joining of the two families. The groom’s gift boxes filled with jewelry will be opened by the groom’s mother, who will then put each piece on the bride for good fortune.”

During Hanh and Vinod’s tea ceremony, the groom’s mother and family brought forth special jewelry as a gift for the bride-to-be. As a special touch, the mother of the groom helped the bride to put on ear rings, a necklace, as well as other jewelry.

Wikipedia says, “Preparations for the traditional Vietnamese wedding first begins by choosing a date and time for the marriage ceremony. This is decided by a Buddhist monk, Spiritual leader, or fortune teller due to the spiritual nature of the occasion.” While I was not privy to the behind-the-scenes planning of Hanh & Vinod’s wedding, I’m sure they consulted with family and friends first before scheduling the big day.

The wedding consists of an extensive set of ceremonies: asking permission to receive the bride, receiving the bride at her house, and bringing the bride to the groom’s house. Both Vietnamese and oversea-Vietnamese who desire to have a hybrid traditional Vietnamese and Western-style wedding will often incorporate the last two ceremonies with the Western-style wedding.”

In the past it was apparently popular for the the groom’s family to visit the bride’s home with a gift of betel nuts in order to ask permission to receive the bride. This is when the wedding would be confirmed and set planning into motion. However, since in the past marriages were frequently arranged, this part of the courtship was necessary to prepare both families and the bride and groom. Now, arranged marriage is not as prevalent and some of the traditional parts of the wedding are not included.

More traditional weddings in the past would have processions going back and forth from the bride’s house and groom’s house, exchanging gifts, discussing the wedding, lighting fire crackers, introductions between family/friends and more. In the old tradition a wedding ceremony was held at the groom’s house and the reception and celebration followed immediately.

Hanh and Vinod’s more modern Vietnamese-Indian style wedding ceremony was held at the Double Tree Hotel in Austin during the Christmas holidays, which seems magical and fortuitous to me! The ceremony was held outdoors, in the outdoor plaza area of the hotel which is shrouded in greenery, trees, fountains and more, and surrounded on all four sides by magnificent views of the Double Tree Hotel architecture. Being there makes you feel like you are in a secluded garden.

The ceremony was officiated by the uncle of the groom, who made everyone feel like a part of the ceremony and offered some really touching words and advice for the bride and groom. The area where the bride and groom (and immediate wedding party, approximately 4 groomsmen and 4 bridesmaids) stood was about 4 feet above the guest seating, which gave the appearance of a royal wedding. And the bride’s long train, which cascaded down the back of her dress seemed angelic and luxurious.

After the ceremony everyone made their way through the French doors of the hotel, back to the reception where assigned seating awaited. The bride and groom had planned ahead, creating a beautifully colorful backdrop in the middle of the reception ballroom where pictures could be snapped of guests with the bride and groom. A line of guests quickly formed to do just that.

Once everyone had gotten a photo with the new husband and wife, a delicious buffet of Indian and Vietnamese cuisine was prepared. Everyone mingled in between eating and the room was buzzing with excited family and friends, celebrating the new life of the married couple.

After the meal, the bride and groom disappeared. Later they made another grand entrance into the reception ballroom and the bride was sporting a beautiful, green dress, in the more traditional style. There was much applause and excitement among the guests as they welcomed Hanh and Vinod back into the room.

More from Wikipedia: “In modern weddings, brides usually change into three different gowns during the reception. Her dresses are usually composed of the Western white wedding gown, a second Western dress to be worn at the end of the evening during the dancing, and a third traditional Áo dài to be worn during the traditional table visits to personally thank the guests for coming.

Guests are expected to bring gifts, and it is traditionally in the form of money in an envelope. As of January 2009, the appropriate amount is usually $100–$200 USD per person though more or less is possible depending on the locale. Immediate family usually gives more money to the bride and groom. At one point during the reception, the bride and groom will go from table-to-table to thank guests for their blessings and sometimes collect the envelopes.”

“Both Vietnamese bride and groom, typically change outfits three or more times on their wedding night. The traditional Vietnamese dress called Ao Dai which literally means “long dress” and in most of the time fashioned in red and yellow colors. It made it is made up of over four layers of silky overlapping fabric, which are pleated over loose-fitting trousers made from the same fabric.” – http://www.getmetothechurchontime.co.uk

Then, Hanh & Vinod made their way around to each table. They gave thanks to those who attended at each table and they also gave gifts of truffles to all attendees. Many guests returned the favor by giving wedding gifts, such as envelopes, cards, wrapped presents and momentos to the bride and groom. There were lots of smiles and laughter to go around.


Austin Calendar of Events: January 2011

Last night I was digging through some old papers and discovered a great calendar I picked up back in 2006 at “1st Thursday” on South Congress. The item in question was a local Austin calendar created by “Keep Austin Beautiful”, a group who’s stated mission is to,

 

“empower the citizens of Austin to take personal responsibility for enhancing their local environment. KAB programs clean, beautify and protect the Austin environment through physical improvements and hands on education.”

 

Now, I’m all for helping the environment, but I must admit the reason I purchased the calendar was because I was foot loose and fancy free at the time and needed lots of things to do to keep me busy (something that no longer applies to my life!).

 

The calendar created by KAB was full of local Austin photos and events relavent to local artists, businesses and organizations, which I thought was pretty cool! Although I haven’t purchased another calendar like this one, it still inspired me to keep up with Austin events, which are spread all over the internet, not really found in any one location, like on the calendar. So, I’ve decided to try my hand at providing this service for you in 2011. Every month I plan to post a blog that includes as many interesting and intriguing local events as I can find. And you will have the benefit of being able to see them all in one place.

 

I kind of got a late start on the project this month, but here’s my effort. Note that I’ve included contact information, including emails and websites for most of the entries. The most helpful online calendar I found was the KUT calendar, which has an event for just about every day of the month.

Austin Boat, Sport & Outdoor Show

Jan 20, 2011 – Jan 23, 2011

The Austin Boat Show has combined with the Central Texas Hunting and Fishing Show! All the same great local boat dealers you are used to PLUS a whole new element of Outdoor. Definitely a must-see for 2011.

 

PLANET OF THE MERMAIDS The Electronic Planet Ensemble – David Jewell, Chad Salvata, Sergio Samayoa, and Rachel Fuhrer, who brought us Surfin’ UFO and Spaceman:Dada:Robot – returns with a music-driven, video-enhanced phantasmagoria featuring Jewell as Captain Rex Vydor, the brave space commander who encounters the Mer Queen and her beautiful minions in this convoluted spoof of silent films and sci-fi B-movies. Through Jan. 29. Thu.-Sun., 8pm. The Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd, 478-5282. $10-30.

 

“Senior Moments” – Jan 22, 2011 – Jan 30, 2011

“Senior Moments” is five funny, poignant, and slightly naughty short plays about seniors. In the 12 months since the play premiered in January, 2010, it has won 3 awards, played to full houses at 6 productions in the U.S. and Canada, and been accepted for publication.

 

Hyde Park Theatre – Frontera Fest – January 2011

http://www.hydeparktheatre.org/site/fronterafest11EARLY.html

 

Last Comic StandingOne World Theatre – Austin, TX Friday 1/28/2011 7:00 PM

AustinConcertTickets.net

 

Sip & Savor Austin – January 16-30, 2011

Brought to you by Launch787 (Austin Fashion Week, Modern Home Tour, Outdoor Living Tour), Sip & Savor Austin is a city-wide food and drink celebration taking place over the span of two weeks January 16-30, 2011.

 

The Harlem GlobetrottersFrank Erwin Center Austin, TX Friday 1/28/2011 7:00 PM

AustinConcertTickets.net

 

Austin’s 1st Annual Gorilla Run January 22, 2011, 9:00AM-2:00PM; (After-party at Fado has no end time)

Registrants will run/walk/bike three miles in a full gorilla suit to raise awareness of the endangered Mountain Gorilla! Registration includes the after party with free lunch and live music at Fado Irish Pub! All proceeds benefit the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.

AustinGorillaRun.com

 

Identification Day (kids identify fossils they’ve discovered)

January 23, 1:00PM-5:00PM;

Texas Memorial Museum 2400 Trinity, Austin, TX

 

Free Admission at the Wildflower Center

Jan 1, 2011 – Jan 31, 2011

Enjoy free admission for the entire month of January.

 

 

See more daily events at the KUT Events Page: http://events.publicbroadcasting.net/kut/events.eventsmain


Wedding Photographer 101 Class

I’m anxious to share some really exciting news with you, my friends and fellow photographers. Since early last year, I’ve been contemplating and dreaming about teaching others about wedding photography. Over the years I’ve been keeping little scraps of paper, printouts, articles, images and more, somehow knowing in the deepest part of my subconscious mind, that I’d be sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve gained about wedding photojournalism over the years with others. And the 1st day of my wedding photographer class draws nearer each day! I can’t wait!

Ok, so I know you aren’t as excited as I am. And perhaps there are some people out there who are naysayers and who wonder what I have to offer. And to tell you the truth, I won’t be offering anything if no one shows up for my first class. But it will be their loss if that happens. Let me tell you why.

I’ve been photographing for 10 years now. No, that in and of itself does not make me a great photographer. I have good rapport with people, I have knowledge of photo technique and I have vision. Those attributes are valuable, but many photographers have them and they don’t necessarily make me a great teacher. What I have that you are going to want to learn is what I didn’t have 10 years ago: extensive experience photographing weddings. In the past 5 years alone I’ve photographed over 100 weddings and an estimated 350 total events. The 2nd thing that I have to offer my students is that I’ve been managing a successful business the entire time and managed to stay in business by making clients happy (since most business that fail do so in the first 5 years, perhaps I should be teaching a business class!). Third, my business has one multiple awards for excellent business practices, recognized by such organizations as Wedding Wire, Merchant Circle and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI).

Bride & Groom Exchanging Nuptials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But who wants to hear about credentials – I mean, it’s all just talk, right?! The proof is in the pudding! What will the curriculum of the class look like?

When I asked myself the question of how I wanted to engineer the scope of the class, I realized a couple of things:

1. Good photographers don’t always succeed in creating a good business; and,

2. Good business people don’t always succeed in creating good photography.

I realize that what I said is very simplistic. But this is the beauty of what I want to teach; simplicity, planning and determination to take that next big step when the little voice inside your head may be telling you all the reasons why you can’t.

I plan to talk about all the things that a wedding photographer needs to do to make his/her wedding business successful. You don’t have to be the best wedding photographer in Texas or the United States to run a successful wedding business. What you need is a good plan and the willingness and determination to see it through. I’ve already walked the path and developed a plan for how to be a successful wedding photographer. Are you ready to learn how you can succeed as a successful wedding photographer?

Some frequent questions that photographers often ask when wondering how to go about starting their business, which I plan to address in my wedding photography class:

What kind of photo editing software should I use?

What kind of equipment do I need for weddings?

How much do I charge my clients for weddings?

How do I bring in new clients? (everyone wants to know this one)

What kind of business do I create? Sole proprietorship, corporation, LLC or LLP?

What kind of wedding contract do I use?

What do my clients want/expect from me? (other than good photos)

And many more questions…

Plus, I’ll be sharing documents and templates that took me years of research and fine tuning to develop in my business, like package information for new clients, checklists, forms, efficient workflow, and so much more. These little nuggets alone will be worth their weight in gold and will be something to take home and start working with immediately.

Suggestions for what you might want to learn about in the class? Although we will be discussing tons of great material, we will be limited by the time we have for the class (likely 2 meetings). Therefore, I’d like to maximize the amount of useful information I provide. I’ll be developing the final class curriculum for the 2011 Wedding Photographer 101 Class over the next few months and would love to have input/suggestions. In particular, what do you want to learn about? Email me at AustinAmericana@Gmail.com or just post a comment below this article.

I can’t wait to interact with my fellow photographers! See you soon!

Priest Waits For Ceremony To Begin


New Year’s Resolution: Dump The Bank, Cable Co. and More…

I’m not usually one to make a new year’s resolution. As a Virgo, I feel like I’m always reminding myself to make changes throughout the year, so why should the new incoming year be different?! But for the New Year 2011 something just feels different to me. I had already started planning to make a few financial changes toward the end of 2010. Since the economy has contracted (i.e., we all feel a little poorer) I decided to give myself a raise by shedding some unnecessary bills, like cutting back on cable TV, phone service, etc. But when I started thinking about all the little changes that were happening in my life and the plans that I was making, it all seemed to fall into the “resolution” category.

So why do you care? Well, perhaps you don’t – and that is ok. You can stop reading here if you like. But if you are looking for some good ideas on how to give yourself a raise like I did, then read on. Please feel free to use my ideas to put a little extra money in your wallet and to hopefully improve overall happiness in your life. After all, if you don’t decide to take action and save yourself some money, then no one else will. Carpe diem!

Here are 5 things that I have put into action in the last 30 days. You may refer to them as resolutions if you like.

Martin’s 5 New Year 2011 Resolutions:

1. Dump your cable company! Did you know that here in Austin, Texas you can get approximately 20 free channels (some HD – higher quality than cable) on your TV set by simply using a $30 antenna? (I actually got 25 channels!) Did you also know that for a $8 flat subscription to Netflix you can stream thousands of movies/programs to your TV?! So why are you paying your cable company so much for so little.

For a small investment in equipment (antenna, coaxial cable, DVD/Blu-ray/streaming device) and a little work, I was able to wire 3 TVs in my home to free, mostly local HD TV programming this weekend. You can too! And I can’t tell you how empowering the feeling of independence is when you unplug your cable box! Exhilarating!

My Cable Box. I bid you farewell!

2. Break up with your bank! After a 14-year committed relationship with my bank, I decided to break it off. Why? Well, in hindsight I realized that my bank was bleeding me dry with constant demands of payment of fees. And the demands were increasing every year. At first our relationship was laid back. The bank was understanding and cordial, and not high maintenance. But at some point the bank took on new friends and ownership, became completely corporatized and turned cold. It became clear that it’s only intention was to take as much money from me as possible and hurt me whenever it could. So I let my bank down gently and ran into the arms of another: my local credit union! So far things have been wonderful; the credit union has hardly any fees, isn’t judgmental about my past and has even offered to help me out with lowering my interest rates on my car. I think we are a match made in credit union heaven!

3. Shop more locally. This is something that has always been important to me. But the longer I live in Austin, I realize how important it is to support the local economy and in turn, your neighbor by buying from local businesses whenever possible. When you purchase something from local businesses, you are putting money into the local economy, as opposed to when you buy something at a national chain store, which in all likelihood gets put in a bank in Delaware.

It’s also good for the environment in many cases to buy locally. Think of the example of your local farmer or rancher. Does it make sense to buy beef or produce that is shipped from South America. In some cases this might save you a few cents, but think about all the energy and pollution that goes into shipping a pound oranges or beef from Chile to Texas. It just doesn’t make sense when you can purchase those things here in Texas from Texas farmers.

4. Work smarter, not harder. I think that having this mentality of working smarter is really what got me to this blog in the first place. Is your money working harder for you? Are you saving your money and not wasting it on things like cable TV and phone services you don’t use? It’s likely that your job isn’t handing out raises this year because of the declining economy, so if you re-assess your financial standing and “cut some fat” out of the budget, then you’ll already have your money working harder for you, especially if you can take those extra dollars and invest them.

But how else can you work smarter? I look at this subject a little more holistically. My job frequently requires lots of time on a computer reviewing things that can get quite boring. If I mix things up and read something fun or interesting on my breaks, then my efficiency automatically goes up. If I get rid of bills that strain my budget, then I get rid of stress, which makes me happier, and not worried about bills. And when I shop locally I feel good about myself for helping my community, which gives one an overall sense of well being. It can also be a good way to network in your community, which can be good for recruiting future clients. The result: I work smarter, things are easier and I’m happier. It’s a win-win-win situation.

My Bank Statement: I don't need you anymore!

5. I want to read more. I could go on and on about the powers of reading: self education, mental exercise, remaining informed, healthy alternative to TV, etc. The problem for most people is making time. The other problem is turning off the TV (notice in a blog about reading I’ve already mentioned TV twice in the first 2 sentences). So just do it. Take 15 minutes, turn off the TV and step away from whatever you’re doing with a good book and read!

These days you have more options than ever. You can pick up the traditional book, you can go online and download a PDF of your favorite book, article, etc., you can surf the net for articles and information and now you can also read from electronic devices like your phone or new devices such as Amazon’s Kindle. So many options. So what’s your excuse for not reading? I don’t have one and I plan to read some books in 2011. I’m currently working on the classic, Crime and Punishment.


Engagement Photos At Austin’s French Legation

A few weeks ago, just before the holidays, I photographed a mini-engagement session for some new friends at Austin’s French Legation. As I mentioned before in my other blog, the French Legation is significant in many ways; in 1839 France recognized The Republic of Texas as an independent nation and entered into an alliance treaty with the new republic. France soon sent a special envoy to Austin, Texas – Jean Pierre Isador Alphonse Dubois de Saligny with the special title of chargé d’affaires. He wasted no time contracting the building of the French Legation to Texas, which still stands in the hills just above downtown, east of IH-35.

The couple selected the location from my “Recommended Austin Locations” list that I share with clients and they loved the place. It has great views of the city, plenty of greenery (and in this case, colorful fall/winter leaves too), as well as the historic houses which have been standing for 100+ years.

As I mentioned before, the French Legation has a friendly, talkative staff, including Franke and Sarah, who are helpful and eager to discuss Austin’s history. They are always eager to share information, discuss history with you and give tours and the designated hours of operation. I highly recommend stopping by for a tour of the French Legation. You can also become a “Friend of the French Legation”. Austin French Legation Website: http://www.frenchlegationmuseum.org/

French Legation Engagement Photo


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