One of the premier wedding venues in the Hill Country of Central Texas is a place called Villa Antonia. Villa Antonia is an Italian-styled villa located in Jonestown, Texas, just northwest of Austin, near Lake Travis. Historically, the villa was built in 1998 as a personal residence for family living. However, later, out of necessity, the home became a popular wedding and event center because of its beauty and magical feel.
Villa Antonia is modeled after post-renaissance Italian architecture. When one enters the grounds, there is a feeling of entering a time machine and going back to an earlier, more romantic time or place in Europe. Its architecture and design sets it apart from many other Texas venues and creates a special kind of atmosphere for weddings and special occasions.
Villa Antonia is equipped for indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions. It has a beautiful indoor wedding chapel that seats a reasonable number of people. The outdoor patio that is partially covered can also facilitate a wedding ceremony and features sweeping views of the green Texas Hill Country.
Villa Antonia can accommodate medium to large sized weddings and features multiple levels for celebrations of all kinds and entertaining guests. The main indoor reception area is lined with stone walls and sprawling area for guests to mingle and dance. Some of the great features of the interior include the spiral staircase bathed in natural light and surrounded by green plants, which is a signature of Villa Antonia. Upstairs there are quiet, intimate quarters for the party of the bride and groom to prepare for the event/wedding.
Outside the main reception area statues and water features abound. In the main entry way, a stone fountain with a statue punctuates the center point between the wedding chapel, the main patio (used for outdoor ceremonies) and the reception hall. As one walks along the reception area and descending the stairs/walkway, plants and more water features are encountered, making you feel like you are in a Babylonian garden. There are also look out points on the third level of Villa Antonia where amazing, romantic views and star watching can occur.
Austin Americana Photography has photographed several weddings at Villa Antonia and has experience working with coordinators and management there. You can view one of the weddings we photographed there (from start to finish) here: Villa Antonia Wedding Photos
View entire wedding at Villa Antonia (our old website): http://www.mwwphoto.com/Weddings/Yeseniawed
Villa Antonia is located at 19039 Adrian Way, Jonestown, Texas 78645-9605. Phone number: (512) 267-3509
Official Villa Antonia Website: villaantonia.com
I often have new and prospective wedding clients ask about bridal photography sessions. The primary and simple response that I give new brides is “yes, we can definitely photograph your bridal session and have a beautiful wedding or bridal print ready for your wedding day!”
Here are some frequently asked questions that Austin brides have asked about how the photo session works and some suggestions as well…
Q. Do you photograph brides for bridal portraits?
A. Yes! We have lots of experience photographing Austin brides donning their wedding gowns for a special photography session.
Q. Where will you photograph our bridal session?
A. You can choose wherever you’d like to be photographed, preferably in the Austin, Texas or Central Texas area.
Q. I’m new/unfamiliar with Austin, Texas. Can you suggest some nice locations for my bridal portrait session?
A. Sure! We have a list of about 20 popular photography locations in and around Austin that we share with our clients. We can also give you specific suggestions based on what kind of bridal session you want.
Q. How long does the bridal portrait session last?
A. Our Austin bridal session is 90 minutes long, which normally gives brides time to relax, move around and get lots of great poses at the location of their choice.
Q. Does the bridal photo session include a separate CD of images I can keep?
A. Yes. Brides receive a CD of edited, re-touched images (usually ranging from 50-150 full-sized, hi-resolution images).
Q. What all is included with my bridal photo session fee?
A. Our bridal session clients receive 90 minutes of shooting time, a CD of hi-resolution, edited images, free consultation to plan your event, expert shoot location suggestions, and quality personal service from a local Austin small business owner/photographer.
Q. Do you edit the images?
A. Yes, we individually edit all the images from your bridal photo session with Adobe Lightroom 3.0, the industry leader in photo editing. We can also apply artistic filters to your images, remove blemishes from skin, soften features and lots more.
Q. How long does it take to edit the images?
A. Normal editing of images requires 1-2 weeks.
Q. Do you have wedding photography packages that include a bridal session?
A. Yes we do. We have a number of wedding photography packages for Austin brides that include bridal sessions. In fact, you can also customize any package to include a bridal photo session so that your package is custom fit for your big day.
Q. Do you print the images from the bridal session or is it up to me?
A. It’s up to you. We have the ability to create and ship high quality, professional and stylish prints to your door, if you choose. You also have the option as a bride to print anywhere you desire.
Q. Do you work with an assistant at bridal sessions?
A. Occasionally we bring along an assistant to help out with bridal photo sessions, depending on the circumstances. You may bring along friends and family if you like.
Q. Are there extra fees associated with certain locations for my upcoming bridal session?
A. In many cases there are no other fees, but occasionally there are places that charge brides a “sitting fee” for using their location. Examples of places that charge fees include Zilker Botanical Gardens, The Driskill Hotel, Dunvegan Keep, and others.
Q. Will I have the opportunity to incorporate some of my bridal photos into my regular wedding album?
A. Yes, we can incorporate as many or as few of your bridal session photographs into your wedding album. We can also create a separate album of only bridal photos if needed.
Q. Does Austin Americana Photography provide printing and framing service? Will you deliver a print or framed print of my bridal session on wedding day?
A. Yes, we can do all these things. We provide optional printing and framing services for our wedding clientele. We can deliver a framed print of your bridal session on your wedding day if this is what you desire.
Q. What if the weather is bad. Is there a backup plan for my session?
A. Sure. If you don’t want to re-schedule, then we’ll either have you come into our home studio or choose an alternate indoor location.
Q. When should I schedule my bridal photo session with Austin Americana?
A. We ask that you schedule your bridal photo session a minimum of 2-3 weeks prior to your wedding day to allow for image editing, processing, printing, shipping, etc.
As a person who just got married or as a bride who will soon be married, you may not be thinking about what will happen to the photos that are captured on your wedding day. But perhaps you should. Do you know if your wedding photographs/images will be archived or saved by your photographer? Do you save your wedding photos?
Ok, I know that this isn’t the sexiest, most fun topic to think about. I’m sure it would be fun to talk about Lindsey Lohan or Charlie Sheen, but perhaps this topic is worth considering.
Today, on my way downtown to meet a couple for a photo session I was listening to NPR on my car radio. The story being discussed was that of silent movies from the early 1900s, when Hollywood was new and the idea of a film for entertainment purposes was in it’s infancy. The discussion that was ongoing was that many of the silent films from the early 1900s were missing or lost and some were being recovered from Russia, of all places, to be placed in the Library of Congress vaults. The disturbing statistic that stuck in my mind was that somewhere around 80% of all the silent movies of that era were considered missing or lost. 80%!! That means that only 1 in 5 movies made during that time is still around, approximately 80-100 years later. And what I’m talking about here is a little different because what I’m discussing is digital images captured on a SLR camera. But the topics are certainly related. Those movies that were filmed and lost surely weren’t intended to be lost or go missing, and neither are peoples wedding photographs
In the past when a wedding photographer took photos of your wedding with his/her film camera, they would have the film developed and either retain the negatives or hand them over to the bride and groom. Since most photographers shoot digitally these days, they can save your wedding or event images in a number of ways. And you have the power to save the images too, if you choose. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking your photographer.
I think what compelled me to blog on the subject of photo archiving was a couple of things. One thing to remember is that your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life and you will definitely want to have some lasting momentos to remember it by, in particular I’m thinking of photos. The second thing that concerns me is that these days if you are creating a budget, do-it-yourself wedding from scratch and you’re on a limited budget, you can visit Craig’s List or other sites online and connect with photography novices who make big promises, but may or may not actually be able to deliver. What I’m saying is that the guy who you picked to photograph your wedding for $225 from Craig’s List, who has a great portfolio of images from his trip to Machu Pichu, Peru and the Dominican Republic is likely not archiving your photos for you. This means that the burden is on you to keep the images safe.
What to consider when archiving important images.
Many times photographers deliver images to their clients in a more refined, manageable format. For example, after your wedding the photographer may provide you with selected images which have been edited to his/her personal standards, which have been reduced in size (and possibly quality). They may look fine when you post them to Facebook, but what happens when you decide to make large prints? You may discover that this is not an option.
I recommend that if you want to archive your images, ideally you will want to start by using the original images. That is to say, if you are archiving an edited version of the original, then you are saving a degraded, reduced file. Saving the original image, whether it be in RAW format or a JPG file, will allow you to have maximum leverage when you decide to access it for use in the future, which equates to more printing options and better image quality (in theory).
Options for archiving are abundant, but I’m going to discuss a few that are familiar to me and that have worked for me. The first and most obvious way to archive is to save images to a compact disk (CD) or digital video disk (DVD). Both options are relatively inexpensive and the only noticeable difference between the two is amount of storage space available; DVDs tend to have significantly more space available for image storage than do CDs.
Another thing to keep in mind is that among CDs and DVDs, you have the option to upgrade to a truly archival CD or DVD. However, however truly archival the CD/DVD may be is unclear. I purchased some a few years ago, but it’s still too early to tell if they will outlast regular CDs/DVDs in longevity. Based upon my research, regular (non-archival) CDs/DVDs are rated up to 100 years or more; however, there are reports of disk failure in much shorter times (less than 10 years), so who really can say?! I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t have a straight answer regarding how long a CD or DVD might last. For now I suppose I’ll just have to trust in Verbatim (the brand I frequently use).
When I shoot a wedding, I return home and immediately dump the images from the camera’s compact flash card onto my computer hard drive. As a secondary backup system, I subsequently burn the original images to DVD disks. I also save a copy of the originals onto my external hard drive as a tertiary backup. External hard drives are fairly cost effective if you have gigs and gigs of images to store. For PC users, last time I checked, you can purchase a 1+ terabyte external hard drive for around $100. That’s 1,000 gigabytes of storage (a whole lotta photos – even in RAW format!). One consideration with external hardrives: treat them gingerly. Several years ago I bumped my old external hard drive and it never worked again, so keep in mind that they may have sensitive parts inside. For my $130 external hard drive, I was quoted my the manufacturer a price up to $2,500 to recover my lost data. I just about fell off of my chair when I heard the price. So buyer be ware!
One other option for storage as a go between are flash drives, also called stick drives. These are tiny, pocket sized storage devices that are great for storage of images, sharing of images and more while you are on the go. For example, if you are shooting on location and want to dump images from your notebook on to the USB flash drive, it can be easy and quick. These can also act as backups considering that these days flash drives can store up to 256 gigabytes of data (Amazon: $700 – not all that cost effective, by the way), which is no joke considering how small they are.
One relatively new method of storage is to save your images onto a storage host website. Many websites offer this as an added option to having an account with them (think smugmug, wordpress, picasa, etc.), but often you are limited in storage size. However, some websites are dedicated solely to image/data storage and guarantee the safety of your data. These sites are of course not free, but can be a great and convenient option for image storage.
So my whole point of this blog was to explain many of the options that are available for backup storage for important events, or even those that are just dear to your heart. I personally sleep a little better at night knowing that I have multiple copies of images of my family stored away safely. And most of my wedding and portrait clients probably have no idea of the trouble I go to so that their images are safe, but that’s ok. So the question that begs to be asked when meeting with your photograher: will our photos from our special event be archived? Hopefully they’ll have the right answer for you!
A new, up-and-coming and popular location for brides to get married in North Austin is Avery Ranch. I’ve photographed several weddings at Avery Ranch Golf Club and I’ve never been disappointed by the beauty, convenience and charm that it has to offer brides and grooms.
Located near the major intersections of Highway 183 and 45 Toll Road, Avery Ranch is slowly becoming one of Austin’s premier places to live, work and get married. It is conveniently located between Austin and Cedar Park, centered in the North Austin area, where much of Austin’s growth is happening at the moment.
Avery Ranch is a master planned community that features a medium sized community of classy homes, restaurants and entertainment nearby and featuring Avery Ranch Golf Club. Despite the luxurious overtones that the area exudes, I’m told by brides that Avery Ranch is quite affordable, as compared to some other known event venues in Austin. It features a large lake, golf greens as far as the eye can see (relatively speaking) and the venue itself, which includes the clubhouse/restaurant and the separate ballroom.
One thing that I loved about Avery Ranch was the beauty it offers an outdoor wedding ceremony. The golf course greens and the lake intersect just behind, and below, the Avery Ranch Clubhouse. Adjacent to the clubhouse and overlooking the lake is a green area shaded by large oak trees which features a concrete patio with stone pillars upholding a wooden trellis, where the wedding ceremony is held, overlooking the glassy lake. It’s a wonderful experience and a great place to have a wedding. Did someone say beautiful sunset location?!
From the Avery Ranch Website:
Avery Ranch boasts a beautifully furnished 4,000 square foot banquet facility with up to 200 person capacity and a dramatic lake-front view of the Texas Hill Country. A Full-Service professional catering staff will pamper you with semi-formal to formal dining packages, and we offer dramatic sunset ceremonies complete with a backdrop of Avery Lake.
S-E-R-V-I-C-E is our middle name. Do you have a special occasion, corporate meeting, club gathering, party or reunion in the coming months? We can help with any banquet or special meeting needs you may have. The Lakeview Room is fully equipped with state of the art audio/visual equipment that’s perfect for corporate meetings, wedding presentations/videos and more. Our Cordon Bleu Chefs will customize a menu specifically for your event. We have a complete set of services to make your event a success and have planners to assist you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Call Bob Brady at (512) 248-2442 ext. 3 for more information.
I’ve written about Zilker before but I wanted to post some fresh wedding photos from a wedding a I photographed there a while back. I frequently photograph engagement sessions and some bridal sessions there, but Zilker Botanical is also a wedding destination for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Although the garden has it’s limitations (I believe it’s limited in number of guests and by amount of time allowed for an event), it’s still a great choice for your wedding if it meets the specific needs and requirements that your wedding event demands.
The couple who I photographed for the wedding in the photos chose to have a short, romantic ceremony in the Rose Garden of Zilker Botanical, which is one of the popular areas to host a ceremony. The bride (and everyone else) arrived dressed and ready, strolled the short distance down the hill to the Rose Garden, and completed the ceremony under a trellis decorated with vines and flowers on a sunny afternoon. Bridesmaids were dressed in pink and groomsmen dressed in black/gray with pink ties. After the ceremony everyone stayed for a few formal photos in the garden and then were whisked away to the reception which was held at a private, rural residence.
As I’ve said before, Zilker Botanical Garden has to be one of the most popular places for photography of any kind in Austin. Not only is it a huge repository for plant life centered in Travis County (which is why people are drawn to it) but it’s also one of Austin’s little jewels that’s been around for many years. I’m pretty sure that the creators of Zilker never intended it to be one of the foremost popular venues for photography around Austin, but that’s what it’s become.
ZBG features many different plant species and specific garden areas that are dedicated to a particular theme or cultural plant cultivation, if you will. For example, one of the popular areas of Zilker is the Japanese Garden, which features Koi-filled fish ponds, stone trails leading around bamboo gardens and a structure made of stone and bamboo that only could fit into a Japanese garden . The entire area is shaded by trees and feels like being in another world.
Zilker Botanical Garden also features a beautiful rose garden where weddings frequently occur (where the photos in this blog were captured, by the way). Colorful roses line the concrete paths that wind down the hill from the main entrance of the park. The Rose Garden area is very open, located at the edge of the tree line bordering the Japanese Garden. It also features a red and white gazebo next to fish ponds and a historic brick structure in the shape of a keyhole that has been apparently transplanted from historic downtown Austin.
Other areas featured at ZBG are the Prehistoric Gardens further down the hill from the main office, which feature “old world” plants, pools and even a beautiful, natural-looking water fall. Toward the front of the park is an area that contains historic Central Texas pioneer homes and work areas made of wood.
Ultimately there are many, many different areas of the Garden that offer photography opportunities for weddings, bridal sessions or engagement sessions. After visiting and photographing friends and family there for years I’ve grown to love and appreciate Zilker Botanical Garden for the beautiful part of Austin that it has always been and hopefully will always be!
Martin Whitton is a passionate wedding and event photojournalist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. Email your questions to him at AustinAmericana@Gmail.com.
The wedding photographer is tasked with a stressful, difficult job – take great photos of a constantly evolving, mobile event (with no re-takes or do-overs) and do it with grace and confidence. Experienced photographers, as well as most new photographers and photo novices who try shooting weddings and end up quitting understand this pressure. Being a wedding photographer is a job kind of like being a rodeo cowboy; it looks exciting and fun, but behind the scenes the preparation and expectation, as well as the physical and psychological toll required to complete the job can be overwhelming.
So imagine adding one more challenge to the balancing act: other photographers. It seems like a recipe for disaster.
Scenario 1: The Sniper. You’ve photographed the bride and bridal party as they stroll down the aisle toward the altar. You settle into a nice spot where you can quietly capture some intimate photos of the bride and groom exchanging vows. As you focus the lens of your camera on the bride and groom you realize that in the background (behind the bride and groom) one of the guests is moving around trying to get a photo of the wedding couple, and he’s in your frame, essentially ruining the shot!
Scenario 2: The Paparazzi. It’s time for the toast. A large group of guests assemble around the bride and groom to “clink” their glasses in celebration of the new life that has begun between the bride and groom. As you glance around to find the best place to position yourself, you realize that the large group of people is tightly packed around the bride and groom and many of them don’t have champagne glasses; instead they are donning cameras and are intent on getting photos.
And, unfortunately, there are many other situations where guest photographers will challenge your ability to get the best shot at a wedding, such as during formal photos and other important events involved in the wedding ceremony and reception. So how do you avoid having problems and focus on getting the best shots while being courteous and respectful to the bride, groom and their guests?
One word: Preparation.
The first thing that you as a professional wedding photographer can do to prepare for a wedding is to meet with the bride and groom. Listen to what they want from you and ask them questions if needed. Meeting(s) with the bride and groom can be your opportunity to explain how important capturing photographs of their wedding day is and how you appreciate them choosing you over other photographers. Obviously, it’s not good to scare the newlyweds, but it’s definitely ok to define yourself as “the” wedding photographer. It’s important for the bride and groom (and anyone else attending the wedding, for that matter) to know that a professional photographer (you) are being paid good money to provide photographic coverage for the wedding. And as such, the photographer should be given free license and full authority to photograph everything, free from limitation, i.e., free from guests hanging out of the pew into the aisle trying to get a cell phone snap shot of the bride.
Obviously, human behavior is unpredictable. And we can’t tell guests what to do. We want everyone at a wedding to have fun and enjoy the day. But at the same time, it’s important for you as the photographer to empower the bride and groom with this knowledge of photographer privileges so that they can share it with others who will be there on wedding day. Because ultimately, if I’m following the bride down the aisle as her official photographer, and a guest hops out in front of me to take a picture (believe me, it’s happened), there’s no undoing the shot.
Now let’s talk about insurance. We live in the digital age where the way we photograph everything is different. In the old days (picture the 1980s :)), getting “the shot” was of the utmost importance. Photographers had to make sure everything was ready and right before pressing the shutter button on their camera. After all, there were limitations; each roll of film that was used costs money, and there was a finite number of rolls of film that any photographer would bring to an event. In addition, equipment used for low-light photography (which is needed for most weddings – think dark, candle-lit rooms with few windows) was not as good then as it is now. These days we have high powered flashes, an abundance of fast lenses, great editing software and amazing technology for processing light in cameras.
In 2011, I can shoot a wedding continuously and go home with 3,000+ images to choose from (note: I don’t usually shoot that many). Having the ability to use top-notch equipment and shoot digital with almost unlimited capacity for images means that I am bringing an insurance policy to weddings. I am hedging my bet, insuring that I will get lots of great images from each event, thanks to technology. So even if someone steps into the shot, 9 times out of 10, I’ve already gotten a very similar shot prior or after the instance where someone stepped in and blocked my vantage point. The same reasoning goes for the “sniper” scenario above. Problem solved.
So what about the paparazzi? Again, part of the solution to avoiding the paparazzi scenario is education. Brides need to let their guests know that it’s ok to take photos, but that it’s also important to her and the groom to allow each important event during the wedding to be captured appropriately by the official photographer who is being paid to cover the event.
The second part of the solution is assertiveness. Be courteous but assertive when you are charged with photographing an event. It is obviously very important to your client to have photographs of their event and they have put a lot of faith in you (the photographer) to act in their stead to capture those precious, meaningful moments. Keep that in mind when you politely ask guest to give you a little space.
You can also advertise that you are the official photographer, albeit in a somewhat quiet way. You don’t need a bullhorn to announce to everyone your intentions (ok, maybe during formal photos). All you need to do is look the part. Have you ever been to a costume party in full costume? I’ve always noticed that if you attend the party donning a special costume, you get treated differently, perhaps even better than if you just showed up wearing what you do every day. So do the same at a wedding. Show your clients and their guests that you are serious and professional with your work. Dress up and include a lanyard with an ID badge with your company’s logo. People make judgments every minute about the way a person looks, is dressed or carries themselves. What judgment do you want your clients to make about you?
Ultimately, I don’t have a solution for every possible shot. Every now and then something or someone will find itself in your shot when you don’t want it there. Your job as a wedding or event photographer is to show up for the event prepared for the worst, expecting the best and ready to handle anything that gets thrown at you. I’m sharing all this because it has worked for me, and I’m certain it can work for anyone else. Good luck with your shooting!
Psst! Hey, I want to share a secret with you. Yes, you!
What kind of secret? I’ll give you a hint: it involves making photo albums with digital images and it is inexpensive, quick and shipped to your door. And you can use the professional quality photos that I take at your wedding to do it.
Question: Why am I sharing this secret with you? (despite the fact that I’m a photographer and many photographers sell their clients albums – hint: I’m not selling you anything here)
Answer: Because I like to share cool stuff with my friends. That’s it.
Many photographers are probably mad that I’m about to share this secret with you because they like to charge tons of money to sell you a wedding album that is full of their photos. In fact, the old way of running a photography business was to photograph a bride’s wedding, edit the photos (i.e., have the photos developed from the rolls of film used on wedding day) and create a “proof book” for the bride and groom to view and select photos for printing. Later, the photographer would spend hours with the respective couple putting together photos in a mounted wedding album (the photos were literally mounted onto the book). Phewwww! I’m exhausted from just thinking about all the time and effort that went into the old way of doing things!
Today things are arguably simpler when it comes to creating a wedding album. After I’ve edited the photos from a wedding, our designers use software to design a custom album using photos you select (telling the story of your wedding from start to finish). Once the design phase is finished, we create a PDF for you to review and share with friends. Once the bride approves the PDF custom designed album (which is purely in electronic format), we send it off for print, which only requires about 3 weeks turnaround time to get to your doorstep. It’s actually pretty uncomplicated.
And don’t get me wrong – there are great things about professional albums. There are many options these days from the traditional leather bound album, the faux leather album for the environmental bride or the modern coffee table style book for other brides. The problem for many people with professional wedding photo albums is not the quality but the price. A quality, leather album can range from $800 to $2,000 alone. Every bride and groom want to be able to enjoy seeing the photos from one of the most meaningful days of their life. But it’s simply a matter of what a bride can or will pay to have those memories immortalized on a book page.
The paradigm has shifted in the 21st century for the modern photography business. It is no longer standard or even obligatory for a photographer to set up shop on Main Street with a receptionist running the front and a photographer in the back studio snapping photos on a medium frame camera. Things have even changed from just 20-30 years ago when families loaded into the family sedan with freshly combed hair and new dresses to travel down to the strip shopping center for photos at the local photo mart.
The other paradigm shift is to give things away. It’s no longer good business to hold back or keep things under wraps. So I’m here to arm you with information and to help provide you with tools for your tool box. These tools will hopefully make your life easier and help save you money.
Today when a person needs a photo captured, whether it be for a wedding, portrait session, event or whatever, they ask a friend or search online to find a photographer. Many people don’t want lengthy, expensive sessions with long waits to view a proof book. Clients in the 21st century want inexpensive, quick and fun photos with a rapid turnaround time. They want a CD with images that are ready to be shared via social media sites like Facebook or that allow them to upload to their computer for email sharing or other uses.
Which is where I get to my point. I frequently run into clients who are excited to see their wonderful wedding photos, yet leary of paying gobs of money for albums. If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to do so. There are many companies that offer free album design online that is seamless and so easy to do. One of these album design companies is called Mixbook and I can tell you that designing an album for your wedding is a snap. Just check out Monica’s Wedding Album, a bride who’s wedding I photographed a few months ago at Casa Blanca in Round Rock, Texas!
I’ve also included a 30% Coupon for Mixbook that I found online for your convenience. Keep in mind that these aren’t going to be the high-end quality books that you get from companies like Leather Craftsman or Asukabook, but they can be a fun, inexpensive alternative when your budget dictates what you can afford.
Go check it out! (links are above)
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.
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
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!
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?
Sources: About.com, 2007 and http://www.weddingphotousa.com