Posted on February 2, 2016
Baby Rainn made it home to the Poe household and is settling in very well.
Posted on December 9, 2015
The rain didn’t stop this couple from enjoying their wedding day. From all the beautiful details and the very emotional beginning, to the dance party of the century in the middle of the rain… The was a pretty epic wedding. What a way to end wedding season for me.
Posted on October 21, 2015
Posted on October 21, 2015
So do you remember this couple from the ROYALS Wild Card game last year ?
Well not only did Joe buy Kate a puppy, he also bought her a ring!
Posted on October 19, 2015
When I first started photography I used to DREAD taking family photos. Let‘s be real here– who’s excited to take them? All those people staring at me and waiting for me to direct them. They, of course, are just ready to get to the reception or maybe it’s before the wedding and several family members didn’t think it necessary to come on time and now it’s on me to get this once in a lifetime photo before the ceremony starts. It was so much pressure! I used to hire a person JUST to help me facilitate the family photos. This is usually the part they hate the most as well. As a bridesmaid, I’ve observed family photos taking up to TWO HOURS! That is ridiculous. After almost a decade shooting weddings, I think this is something that I can offer advice on. I get family photos done on average in 20 minutes – sometimes less. Wedding after wedding, I have family members coming up to me and saying, “Wow, that was so fast!”, “Wow that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be!” or “Wow! We’re already done?” And the best one, when I ask if they have any additional photos they would like to take and they respond with, “No, I think you got them all!” I have developed a way to very quickly take the all photos that one would need and in a style that they will love for a lifetime. Are you ready to make your wedding days easier?
No matter HOW you actually take the photos, whether it’s with flash or natural light, the direction is typically the toughest part. The organization of large groups of people can make for a very stressful time for everyone. Photographers that have been doing this for a while all have their own systems, but I know you newbies (and some not so newbies) struggle with this very topic so I hope that I can help. I myself have done away with the idea that family formals should be everyone perfectly placed, because that’s just not reality. We’re not taking a corporate directory office photo. This is a family portrait- something that should express the feelings and joy connected with the people you love the most. And typically you find a lot of that joy is captured by the candidness of a photograph, not the perfect, sterile symmetry of it. If you spend a ton of time posing people, the joy wains and you will definitely feel it in the image. I believe as long as you can see everyone’s smiling face and the family isn’t unbalanced on either side or in height, you are good to go.
First step: PREP. Ask the bride and groom for a list of desired family combinations prior to the wedding. They wont always give you one and typically it’s not something you need once you get the system down, but it will give you less anxiety to know exactly what combinations they want. Say they want a picture with all the girl cousins, or it’s uncle Bob and Aunt Marge’s 30th anniversary and they would like a photo together with your parents. Whatever it is, it will give you a jump on the photos you wouldn’t know to take no matter how long you’ve been in business. Also, make sure to ask if there are any difficult family dynamics you need to be aware of. Maybe the parents are divorced and it would be super awkward to tell them to take a photo together. Or maybe a grandparent passed away recently and it’s still very sensitive. You want to know ahead of time in order to not draw attention to an uncomfortable subject. All this prep really helps your clients feel like you are in control of the wedding day and puts their minds at ease. Sometimes you’ll get a bride that wants to call the shots and tell you what photos she wants on the spot. While that’s not the most productive way, go with the flow as it is their special day. But for the bride that has no idea, it will really take all the pressure off of everyone- especially yourself.
Second step: LIE. Haha, I know. What do I mean by that? This step only applies if you are taking family photos before the ceremony, which has become increasingly more common these days. Whether there is a planner or not, I always put on the timeline that family photos are 30-45 minutes before the actual time. Now I don’t mean ask them to be early, “Hey guys, try to get to the 4 o’clock photos 30 minutes before so we have everyone there…” I personally know the people that will see the timeline and say, “I’ll get there by 4” but they don’t factor in traffic, finding a parking spot, or their kid throwing up on their clothes and having to change etc. Ask the bride or groom what their families measure of punctuality is to gage how much to fib to them. You think I’m being funny, but if you tell them to be at the photos by 4:00 and the ceremony is at 5:00, guaranteed they will start trickling in at 4:00 but you can’t take certain photos until everyone is there. It’s a confusing mess trying to take photos as people are finally arriving. It’s chaotic and the lack of organization will be felt by the family looking at YOU as the reason this is taking so long. We always take the blame when things run late. You are going to be a stress case as guests start coming in and the bride is pissed that everyone already saw her before the wedding. If the photos start at 4:00, TELL THEM IN INK THAT PHOTOS START at 3:30. This will save everyone time in the long run- especially with large families. This way, you’ll get done early and everyone is happy.
Third (and the most important) step: THE SYSTEM- work BIG to SMALL. The best thing I could have started doing was working the family from big to small. This ensures that the people that need to take the most photos are there through the entire thing and the people that are only in one or two can leave and get out of your hair once you’re done with them. There are tips and tricks throughout the system as well to help you facilitate this even faster.
1. Both Bride and Groom’s families- extended (Not often, but sometimes requested. I rarely take a giant family photo these days, most people don’t want it because it’s TOO big and everyone’s faces will be tiny dots.) However, I will include it in the system you are about to see. If you don’t take the giant photo, start with the family side that has everyone there on time. In this example, let’s say the groom’s family was ready first.
2. Groom’s family- extended (This includes cousins, uncles, spouses, children, etc.)
Then I tell the extended family, “If you and your family would like a photo with the bride and groom (example: sub-families like Uncle Bob, Aunt Marge with their three kids), please line up to the left.” While they’re lining up and getting in the combinations that suit them. I move on to immediate family photos.
3. Groom, Bride, parents, siblings, spouses, kids and grandparents.
4. Groom, Bride, and grandparents (Do them first so they don’t have to hang around. If they have difficulty standing or walking, it’s best to do them a solid and get their photos done so they can rest or have ample time to get where they need to go).
5. If there’s another special photo they put on their list with the grandparents, do it here. For example, just the grandparents together, or mom, Aunt Marge and grandma with the bride, etc. Sometimes other family member want photos with them or have other special requests, but only do it if it’s a request of the immediate family or on their initial list. You could spend all day taking requests so stick to the list/system to ensure things go smoothly.
Next up, I tell the immediate family to take a break BUT DON’T GO FAR. Be authoritative on this, because trying to reel back in a straggling parent or your brother-in-law it quite the task. I usually ask them to sit in the front row and DON’T MOVE because we will need you in a second.
6. Sub-family photos are up next. Keep it moving like a train. First family comes in and the second, third, and the fourth family is waiting in line. The reason I have them line up on the left, is so they can leave stage right without slowing things down. As one family leaves, the other comes in and it’s like clockwork. IN and OUT! Usually you won’t have more than five of these for each side unless they have a higher than average number of relatives. Now, everyone that is extended family is done and can leave. That makes it a lot less stressful because it’s going to get a lot quieter and you can work even faster!
7. Immediate family. (You can see how I work big to small even with the smaller groups)
Groom, bride, parent, siblings, spouses, kids. Formal /informal ( by informal, I mean one where they can hug up and look at each other smiling or something like that. Sometimes they enjoy those photos more than the standard traditional ones).
8. Groom, Bride, parents, and siblings. (Original immediate family with bride)
9. Groom, parents, and siblings. (Original immediate)
10. Groom, Bride, and siblings.
11. Groom and siblings.
12. Groom with each sibling.
13. Groom, Bride, and parents.
14, Groom and parents.
15. Groom with each parent.
16. If the parents are still together, a photo of just the parents. They’re all gussied up. Get a photo of them, they will appreciate it.
Next, you repeat for the other side! Sometimes they want to combine immediate families (Bride and Groom with both parents or both immediate families in a photo together), but that depends on the requests. At this stage you’ve taken just about every photo combination they could think of and if they had a special request you already know about it from the list you got from them to begin with. Now you have very succinctly gotten what they need without tearing your hair out and without taking up a ton of time. This works with all sizes of families and ever since I was able to figure out how to get it down to a science years ago, this part of the wedding no longer gives me or my families any anxiety and makes my clients very happy. The whole day shouldn’t be about the photos. It’s a part of it, but it should be about the celebration. The less time you spend on these formal photos, the more time the couple gets to do what they came here to do, which is celebrate each other. Memorize this system and adjust to make it work best for you! As long as your families are on time, this should work smoothly for you too!
I hope these three steps will help make working wedding days a little easier. If you would like more advice on how to make shooting a wedding go even more smoothly, creating timelines for your clients when they don’t have a planner, shooting with natural light, booking, posing, styling, publishing tips, and more- I have one-on-one video consulting available now during my off-season. Feel free to contact me through my website at http://www.alealovely.com/contact to inquire.
Thanks for reading. Have a lovely day.
Posted on October 15, 2015
Posted on October 7, 2015
Posted on September 22, 2015
Posted on August 16, 2015
This was the first time I have ever done a birth for a client. I wouldn’t offer up this kind of service for everyone, but Jon and Jillian were past wedding clients of mine that I formed a special bond with, a great friendship, where I really felt comfortable with this sort of thing. If you know me well, I’m kind of have a birthphobia …somewhat terrified of childbirth. But this wasn’t scary at all in that sense, this was probably one of the most beautiful emotional things I’ve ever witnessed and I feel incredibly honored to have been apart of such a special moment in someone’s life.
Posted on August 12, 2015
I’m so thankful to get to do what I do. In the busyness of wedding season, I sometimes forget what a blessing it is to get to be in contact with such amazing people all the time. Last weekend I kind of stepped back to remember the honor it is to be chosen for such a task. That for the rest of this couple’s life, they are seeing their wedding day through my eyes. It really gives such a good weight to the responsibility of the career I have. More than just a business or job, it’s also an emotional connection that is required to do this job well. I really appreciate all the clients that submitted their reviews and chose to be apart of this very special video.
“You see her portfolio…but you don’t get the full scope of what is Alea’s work doing a wedding. It’s much more than the beautiful pictures… its a reliable work that you can count on and she will literally walk you through the process in a way that you don’t have to worry.”
Posted on July 23, 2015
Posted on July 23, 2015
Posted on June 19, 2015
Posted on May 18, 2015
Posted on April 17, 2015
Posted on March 27, 2015
Posted on March 8, 2015
Posted on November 4, 2014
Posted on October 23, 2014
Posted on October 23, 2014
Say you saw this session and receive our fall family sale pricing. To schedule email email@example.com. Limited dates available.
Posted on October 20, 2014
Posted on October 6, 2014
Posted on September 30, 2014
Posted on September 11, 2014
Posted on September 10, 2014
Posted on September 7, 2014
Cheap. Adjective : Low in price, worth more than it cost.
When I hear the word cheap, I don’t often think about something positive. The word in it of itself, has the connotation of something negative. Something lacking. Cheap in my head doesn’t mean the same thing as inexpensive. Though most people would agree that those words are the same, let me explain what the difference means to me. Inexpensive means just what it says. It’s not expensive. It doesn’t denote to me a lack of quality the way the word cheap does. Something cheap falls apart quickly like a shirt from Forever 21 that is only good for one machine wash. Cheap is something that you buy that you don’t care about. Like buying cheap toliet paper for instance. You can usually tell the difference when you buy proper toliet paper that doesn’t leave skin abrasions. Say you bought an inexpensive piece of jewelry. It’s well made but maybe doesn’t have the highest quality materials, such as gold or rubies, but the maker took pride in their work and thus while the item is not expensive compared to its higher standard, it’s fairly inexpensive comparatively and won’t turn your finger green, like a cheap ring from the dollar store.
Wedding photography is something of a rubrics cube to me. It’s not really just one job to get hired for. There are many jobs that play a role in shooting a wedding. Such as counselor, meteorologist, wedding planner, wedding logistics, tech person, location extraordinary, backup plan planner etc. You could hire anyone to come and take pictures at your wedding. In fact, you don’t have to even hire anyone, Uncle Bob will come ready and equipped with his DSLR to take the photos for free. Sometimes people get their friends to do it for them, without realizing how much they are really asking for ( unless your friend is really a professional wedding photographer). Sometimes people will hire newbies because they were the best price and that was all they could afford. But sometimes instead of getting an inexpensive wedding photographer, they got a cheap one. One that doesn’t care about you or what they are doing. But instead are marginally decent at taking pictures and are playing a numbers game with your memories.
But aren’t the terms very relative anyway? What is cheap to one person could be expensive to another. I have been shooting for 8 years and I miss a lot of bookings because people say I’m too expensive. But in other markets people gasp because they think I’m really inexpensive ( not cheap. ). Brides are told increasingly in magazines and blogs how much they should spend on a wedding photographer. It’s funny to me because how can you determine how important something is to you based on an editor’s opinion or survey on what other people spent? My opinion certainly doesn’t change anyone’s mind and I do this for a living – but a blog writer who’s never shot a wedding in her life, can tell you what our expenses entail, our equipment, our training, the value of our experience? Some people are afraid of overpaying and you should be IF you don’t trust your photographer. Yep, be ready to get ripped off if you didn’t take the time to get to know the person your making this investment on. Do you buy your engagement ring online just simply asking for price? Without asking about cut, clarity, carats, metal, size….quality? For something your girl is going to be wearing on her finger the rest of your life, you would take the time to find the best one, even if it was inexpensive, you know it won’t be cheap. So why do people take that approach with photos they will look at for the rest of their life?
One guy said ( in my survey on what people would pay for wedding photos) “ It’s just pictures, it’ll be way cheaper than the divorce attorney anyhow.” That statement made me cringe. One, for the obvious reasons that someone, in fact maybe many people hold the mindset that their marriages don’t hold much weight. That it’s just an overpriced fancy party so big deal. Those aren’t my clients anyway but aside from any of those views that he said “ It’s just pictures.”
I wondered how many other people thought of it that way. I sure don’t feel that way. The photos I take mean something to me. I very much remembered after my grandma dying, hastily turning my computer on and going through the photos that I had, to see what photographs, what memories, I had left of my grandma. What tangible, visual representations I had left of her life. Some of the last few times I had seen her laugh, or dance. The only few items I would be left to remember her by. Thankfully I had talented photographers at my wedding that knew to capture and how to capture those moments that made reliving them so vivid and heavy with emotion. Being that a wedding is one of the few events you can get everyone in the same place, its a testament to the fact that this day ripples beyond a marriage. It’s a collective event in the people lives that mean the most to you. Why is documenting that something that isn’t more highly valued?
I get it though. We aren’t exactly Donald Trump over here, rolling in the dough and flying in private jets that can laugh about dropping 10k on a cup of coffee. To some people $1000 is most money that they have ever spent on anything, so in their minds, it’s something valuable and it’s simply all they can afford. I’m not talking to those people because I know they are going to find the best artsy sensitive attentive person that just started their wedding business to capture the moments that mean the most to them. And they will likely be happy with the product because they valued it in the first place. They took the time to find the right person to serve their needs. The people I’m talking to are the ones that don’t value what this is all about. That care nothing about the photographer, but only about the price. They don’t ask how many weddings you done, how many years you’ve been in business, how do you handle big families, advice on the wedding timeline, bad weather, advice about what to expect …… no. They just want to know your price.
I call it “ Price Hunking” not a very technical term but they are the ones that I leave a 10 question contact form for. They aren’t looking for quality, they don’t want to spend time on finding a photographer that will make the most of their wedding day. They want cheap and they want it NOW. They are in a hurry, this is not a priority on their list, they want everything for nothing, and will still bitch after you give it to them… Price hunkers believe they can get everything cheaper and while that might be a great skill for other areas of things we pay for – Service industry jobs shouldn’t be one of them.
Maybe it’s not completely their fault. Without other photographers in the industry advertising “ Full day wedding coverage, A disc with rights to all the images, even a wedding video..all for $850!” enclosed in a bright yellow star with large lettering with the vocal undertone of a late night infomercial, we wouldn’t be sending the the signal that wedding photography can be as easy and cheap as shopping at Walmart. But for those that desire quality, for those that appreciate the passion that most of us put into our jobs, price isn’t our final frontier either. While we have usually a set price list there are definitely clients I make exceptions for. The ones the write me a page about their love story, that talk about how much they love each other, and how much this event will mean to them, how much they CARE. Oh man…those clients…. suddenly price becomes a second thought to me. While we all have to make a living and can’t change our prices for every person trying to get a deal (trust me, we can sniff that shit out! ) for the genuine ones, those are the clients my heart beats for. Those are the people that make my work worthy of being seen. They are the people that write love on my images, that put heart on my website and tears in my eyes. Those are the people that I want to be MY boss. Those are the people that feed me after hours of spending time with their family, the ones that hug me at the end of a wedding, the ones that I have now become lifelong friends with and even an “aunt” to their children… And those are the people I want to work for. That who everyone ideally would like to work for. This perception that wedding photography is just a product, ” its just pictures” couldn’t be further from the truth. We are people, moving parts in the puzzle of your life and WHO you chose is just as important as how much.
I might take my job too seriously. I can say most people won’t have a problem with that. With my work, I’m looking to give my clients an experience, not only pictures. That’s what you are paying for. The ease of not having to worry, the comfort and trust that you are in good hands, that you are getting quality, and not feel like you are being ripped off so they can fully focus on the moments that are coming up. The clients I shot yesterday, they cared about me too. They valued what I did and it showed at every turn. Even their guests valued me! You know what that does? You want to give them EVERYTHING. When people feel appreciated there are no limits to what they can do. But when a new client doesn’t answer any of my questions to see if we are the right fit for something so important…Why would I even try to meet them half way? They clearly don’t care and they don’t realize that no one in the service industry can serve better, when they are under valued.
Pricing is a fragile topic. A lot goes into to choosing a price structure. That is why is so hard to do. Ask any photographer about pricing or how to price and they will make the same curled up face. It’s because someone can’t tell you how much your are worth. So when we finally, after MANY hours decide on pricing and a structure, we are taking into account many things. My first wedding I charged $700. I used to think “ Holy shit! That’s so much money!” and then I shot the wedding and realized immediately that the work I was doing was much more work than what I was charging for. There’s not only a huge amount of pressure with doing this ONE time event, but so many hats to play. Now granted, I had to do that for a few years because it’s the only way to gain experience. A cheap price for inexperienced work. You get what you pay for is an expression for a reason. For the clients I put facing the sunlight, for the time my camera broke and I didn’t have a back up, the the time I thought a 16gb card ( in 2007) would shoot the entire wedding day, before I knew my camera could shoot in RAW, and what RAW was, for the time I almost lost a whole wedding due to a computer crash and it wasn’t backed up, for the time I missed the kiss…the list could go on. Those mistakes all cost something but for those who put the years in – you never make those mistakes again. So as my experience goes up, my mistakes are less, the smoother things run, the better they go, the better photos I get, the happier my clients are…the price goes up, because I can confidently say I can give you what you want and more. So that makes pricing a little like sex.
Record screeching I know. But let me finish.
You don’t ask for sex on the first date. If you do, you’re kind of an ass and likely not looking for anything of quality. Pricing is kind of personal, like sex. When you care about someone you not just interested in sex right? You want to know if they would be someone you like to hang out with, someone that is caring, makes you laugh, is emotionally sensitive, pays attention to detail. What I’m saying is finding the right wedding photographer is like finding a mate. Don’t roll your eyes, I’m not being dramatic here. For one of the biggest events in your life you don’t want to hire a cheap fix right? Someone that will make you feel good that you didn’t spend very much money but when you wake up the next morning to a curious rash the next day …and by rash I mean terrible photos, bad interactions, reception that started 2 hours late, photos that you wanted not taken, bad lighting, bad editing, bad communication….pictures that you never got back and then are surprised that they aren’t returning your phone calls….well…you got what you paid for. Price is not the most important thing when considering a wedding photographer. Price is an element of consideration, but when price is your only priority or element for consideration, you have to admit you are looking for cheap – not inexpensive.
The problem with this in our industry is that cheap is on the rise. Great wedding photographers are quitting their jobs because the value of what we do is becoming increasingly devalued. “ Oh get off your high horse Alea Lovely, there’s plenty of money to be made for everyone.” Don’t be mistaken, I’m not bitching about money. I’m bitching about VALUE. Money is a tangible thing. Value is something in our minds. Value is “ The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance; worth of usefulness of something” according to Webster. Does our job deserve importance within this industry? Does what we do matter very much or are we just taking pictures? Some of us are do that…just take pictures…but not all of us.
The value has gone down because there is no quality control. How I WISH that this was something you could get a license in. Some expensive photographers have cheap quality and some inexpensive photographers are stellar, so it actually has very little to do with the amount of money but the quality. It just so happens that a lot of the time ( not always) you get what you pay for. A “cheap” photographer doesn’t pay attention to the emotion, to the art, to the moments, to the technicality of the craft and the gravity of the work that we do. They haul off the “spray and pray” method – for you brides out there, there is actually a “technique” that teaches people to quite literally “spray” by taking a million shots and hoping they get a good one which takes no skill at all. Unfortunately they are not just ruining the industry but ruining your weddings. Their experimentation end up being your cost. And that is where the cost comes in. Price and cost are very different in this case if the price you paid cost you your wedding memories, which are worth a GREAT deal more.
I hate to be morbid but some of us are trying really hard to lead our businesses with such an integrity that when your grandma passes away, you will be thankful that we were there. When you pass away, your wedding photo will be hung on the wall of honor, love and remembrance, and even though no one will know who we were…they will be happy we were there too ( and happy we didn’t slap an instagram filter over it either).
There is a reason you hire seasoned professionals for many things. Do you ever wonder why most people are SO loyal to a hairstylists once they find one they like? You will never forget a bad haircut, but at least your hair will grow out and you can laugh at those old pictures about that effed up haircut you got because you had a chance to make new memories in a new one. But you will never get a chance to forget a “cheap” wedding photographer… that mistake you’ll get to look at over and over wishing that you valued it more and end up costing you than you paid for it.
Posted on September 5, 2014
Posted on September 1, 2014
Posted on August 15, 2014
Posted on August 5, 2014
In 2011, I felt my work was lacking something. While business was booming so to speak from shooting 40 weddings that year, I realized that I was grossly underpaid ( like anyone who is crazy enough to shoot that many weddings) . I starting looking for ways to improve my work, hone in my style, finally realize my brand that was so scattered the last few years. I took to wedding blogs to start my journey of finding someone that I wanted to emulate. Someone that was doing it way better than me, that I could look to for inspiration. (If you don’t know already, photographers are fiercely known for undercutting their work and always believing that they suck – it’s a really insecure business ) Anyway, After looking online and finding this film phenom names Jose villa, I became obsessed with his work. . Floating through every blog post I was becoming more and more enthralled , ” wow those colors , the beauty! Why don’t my pictures look like that? ”
I took to google, the source of my discovery. ” What camera does Jose villa use….?” and I found an article that someone wrote that broke down what he uses in his bag and I scrolled to the bottom and to my surprise ” He shoots film?! Like…who is still shooting film” my mind raced. Mind you I started photography in 2006, and while i took a film class in high school way back when, I really learned on digital.
I had to know more. In the process I discovered Elizabeth Messina, another Californian photographer that shot film. How was I the last to know people were still shooting film!? I was starkly intrigued. I maybe spent the next 3 days going through all of their work collectively and once my brain was weary form all the beauty i had come to the resolution that ” I need to shoot film” I got on ebay and bought a canon 1N 35mm right away – It was only $100. I then found out that Jose was having a workshop. This was my chance! At the time we were so poor and shouldn’t have had the money to go to California for a few days plus the cost of the workshop. I somehow knew that this was meant to happen. So the money came and boom – i booked my spot.
The workshop was amazing. I felt largely intimidated by everyone carrying around their medium format contax cameras, while I had my little 35mm. They made it known that the workshop was for digital and film but i was after the film. We shot the styled shoot and I couldn’t wait to see my proofs. I was astounded when about a week later I got my photos back and they looked like Jose’s – I thought surely they had gotten my proofs mixed up, these couldn’t be mine. I sat on the floor teary, feeling validated that ” yes, I am a good photographer. ” ( see the shoot here )
So that is where it started. I found validation in film. I found a selling point, that I was being true to the craft, that I (after some time) had mastered how to shoot the way photographs were “meant to be”. It was all very romantic. I took the plunge ordering my large contax medium format and started shooting weddings in film. I raised my prices ( significantly because I had to with the cost of processing etc ) but I knew it was worth it, because now I was the “real deal” so I thought . Other more seasoned photographers couldn’t bitch that I was just another company pop up, or I was undercutting the market and stealing their business, I got more street cred because I was doing it “the harder” way. One client, after hearing that I shot film said ” Ohhhh, you’re a REAL photographer ” Two pats on the back were quickly secured. Yep I was a “REAL” photographer.
Suddenly my shoot submissions were being published and I was starting to feel like i was making a name for myself. Never mind the cost, the overhead, never mind the sheer labor it takes to load film at a wedding ( I always had to have someone else there for that role specifically) The photos were gorgeous and fueled my already growing head. I got included in some forum groups on facebook that some of the rockstars were in, and life as a photographer was good.
After things were going so well for a while, I went to my processing lab in california to see how it was all done and meet the people that were going through my photos for some time. Super nice people, great lab, but I was very interested in what goes on with the photos in the “processing stage” I knew there were some tweaking going on but I wasn’t really sure how it worked. So I sat down and kind of went through it with a few of their staff and some of the romance had taken a halt. The “processor” person was on photoshop color correcting each image that went through according to the client’s specifications. I pried with more questions about their process of how they get my photos to look so good. While I may have been decent on most of my exposures and i could take all the credit on the composition, the beautiful color i had grown to love had little to do with me or my film but who was processing it. I got home and quickly shot off a the same film stock roll with my Contax and quickly went to my local film processor ( not a Walgreens but a legit one ) and the photos were almost devastating. I wasn’t happy how they looked at all. I called my lab in california and asked them a bunch of questions, trying not to come off wrong but truly trying to find out – are they just glorified outsourced editors? The whole impression I had with film was that its beautiful because it is, the craft that it was created with, captures light in these VERY significantly better ways than digital. Which might still be true because its got a lot more dynamic range than digital but even still that was the only argument the processor could give me. Film has more dynamic range than digital. So when I’m shooting at noon, I won’t blow out all my highlights, but other than that, the beauty of the film was something only I was getting a kick out of- because my clients could barely tell the difference.
I felt robbed. I didn’t quit though. But i always felt like I was striving. Striving for better light, striving for better color, striving for more consistency, striving to become the next big name. I liked that I thought i had something that differentiated myself from other photographers until a couple of months later. Everything on the blogs and publications started to look exactly the same. There was a sea of film, while beautiful – I was struggling to see that my photos were any different. If we were all shooting with the same camera and all shooting our film the same way, then how was I going to be anything unique? How was I going to stand out from the crowd when I started to realize that I was very much apart of one. After seeing many of the other photographers with their gorgeous pastel palettes and white calligraphic fine art websites , I started to question if I threw all my photos in the bucket with theirs ( pending we were all shooting the same subject) could i tell my own photos apart? Well that question was answered after I took the Elizabeth Messina’s workshop. Stunning workshop, extremely talented woman, wonderful business advice , amazing experience. But when I looked through everyone else’s photos – especially ones processed at the same lab, I could barely tell the difference. We were all shooting the same things and yet my photos looked nothing different. What made me any better at photography than them? Nothing. More talented? Nope. I felt resentful of this illusion I had created for myself. That I was a better photographer because of my equipment, because of the craft, that there was more quality involved somehow because it was on film. The arrogance and the falsehood of all these perfect posed prints sat in my hands and I looked them over critically. They were beautiful…stunning in fact…but that was it. Even though I took them…somehow they weren’t mine. (see here )
The style – copied. The composition – largely mirrored from something I had seen before – the posing: done by someone else, the staging was something of someone else’s work I had looked at. Something popular that wasn’t me. I thought this was what I was supposed to do – this is how I was going to become successful right? Elizabeth said something very crucial at the workshop that stuck with me. Even though we were all starry eyed with her because she may have been in our eyes photographer celebrity ( and she’s just as nice as can be) – she was what we were all striving to become ..she said ” you never ‘make it’ .” Hmm I thought about that. What did she mean by you never “make it” in this business ? She was shooting celebrities and publishing books and covers of international magazines, hadn’t she “made it” ? It rung in my ears as if I was standing next to a gong that has just been beat. I was running after these film photographers believing this was the way to make it and I walked away with more questions about my goals with my work. I was finding out film just wasn’t a medium for me, it was a platform. Big mistake. Somehow I had rolled this idea of success in with a business model that was only really working for a very saturated niche.
That still wasn’t enough to deter me. I loved film and the process of shooting without looking at the back of my camera. There is something sexy and almost dangerous knowing you only have 15 exposure per roll. Like walking on the wild side. But then a friend of mine, a talented film photographer himself was getting married and gave me the honor of shooting his wedding I was suddenly frightened. I knew this couple and knew there would be more than just details and sunset portraits. These were friends , with close families and i was sure LOTS of intimate moments I knew with my skill set I couldn’t capture the way I wanted with film. I fought my thoughts hearing in the back of my head ” Well Alea its about quality not quantity .” thinking about photographers that only hand back 150 photos and thinking, “yea surely they would understand that ” but my rationalization just wasn’t strong enough and I “caved” and shot most of the wedding digitally that day. But as I was shooting I noticed something. I wasn’t checking to see how many exposures I had left, I wasn’t excluding a moment because I was waiting for a better moment. My mind was free from worrying about how many rolls I had left and those awkward moments that I was film loading ( as much as I tried to convince myself it was more time to connect with my client, they just wanted to get to their cocktail hour ). I was free to be able to focus on them and the moments as they happened. I struggled morally with it the next day thinking maybe their wedding would have been more beautiful had I shot all film. I felt like somehow I was cheating. I still shot some portraits on my contax and sent those off that day. I sat down to my computer and went through the photos, unlike I had done in almost two years. It was brutal because I was looking at raw files that weren’t super dreamy and stunning like when i got them in my inbox from the lab. Instead they were just that – raw. But as i went through them I started to find a lot more beautiful moments rather than beautiful pictures in the sea of my 1200 photos. More giggles, more tears, more hugs, more sneaky little kisses and I thought ” Where is this in the rest of my work this year?” I quickly went back over them and while there we some in the stunningly beautiful posed weddings, their wasn’t anything raw about them. Everything was perfectly posed and steadily framed, and a shit ton of details but not as much of the amazing stuff that happens in between all that.
I started editing that wedding the Monday or Tuesday after and within 4 hours I was done. Instead of waiting for a month on my digital files, I was done a couple days after the wedding. I sent the gallery over to the bride and groom while they were still on their honeymoon and the reaction I got was unlike any reaction I had gotten before. Tears and exclamation marks and many thanks and joy. This unwarranted praise about my talent and the moments capture. I was shocked …floored and that cheating feeling started to fade just a little bit. If that wasn’t enough to sway my business model, it took two months for me to get their film photos back. I sent those over and while they liked them, in their mind, they didn’t hold as much emotional weight – And to me, now they didn’t either. I did a few more weddings like that. Turning them over super fast ( not that I didn’t work super hard on them but fast in comparison to my film weddings I was always waiting on ) and the response was the same. Maybe the photos had less to do with the tools and more about how I used them? ( of course! ) A hard lesson to learn but when I came to that point it hit me like a ton of bricks. ( see that wedding here)
And that was it. I sold my Contax straight away and since then have shot only digital. I finally got my workflow and style back down where it makes sense for me but It’s a little tough because so many people in the photography world look at me as if I had “given up” or my work doesn’t hold as much value because I don’t “wait” for the moments anymore in their eyes. But in reality, I’m not shooting for other photographers – thats not what my business is for. Film might have been best for me and made me happy purely for the arts sake but my idealism wasn’t best for my clients. The reason I get to work in my pajamas monday -thursday. I STILL go gah gah over a film shoot or wedding I see online, but i know I’m looking more at the colors and light, the art – where most of my clients are looking for the content. Their family, their friends, that crazy dancer at the reception or whatever. That matters more to them and while some people can do that with film- I couldn’t.
Going back to digital also helped me figure out what kind of shooter I was. I had been absent from the digital world for a while so I had no one to look to to aspire to be like. Instead I forced myself to quit looking at blogs and magazines for inspiration and just shoot from my heart. While I still haven’t changed the wheel in any regard to photographic style or made any huge name for myself – I at least get to make a difference in each of my clients lives by giving them what they want to see. At the end of the day this is a service industry and seeing the smiles on their face when they talk about or see their photos is enough for me to know I’m doing the right thing.
Let me just put out a disclaimer here – I’m not making any claims that one is better than the other or people who are shooting film now are just xyz , I don’t think it has to be this one vs the other. Mac vs PC, Canon vs Nikon, Film vs Digital. No medium can really create who you are as an artist and no software or camera can make you better or worse than the other if you know how to use it. Film for ME just didn’t work for the best interests of my clients in MY market and for my professional needs – that doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. I can see people getting in a heated debate about this vs that but there should be no sides in art. This article doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t hire a film photographer etc. This is just my personal opinion and account of my own experience and I believed people hiring me should know why.
Posted on August 5, 2014
Posted on July 21, 2014
Posted on July 3, 2014
I love this shoot. I wanted it to look like we were in Europe somewhere rather than middle America. Thank you for all the vendors who participated. Photography + Dress : Alea Lovely Floral/ Wedding design : Victorian Gardens Venue : Longview Mansion / Gale communities Cake : Classic Cakes Macaroons : Colors Macaroons Invites : Announce this Design Models : Claudia and Craig Donnell Jewelry : Jet Couture Jewels
Makeup by MeChelle
Posted on June 24, 2014
Posted on June 20, 2014
Posted on June 10, 2014
So this wedding requires a write up. The moment I met Allison I knew that I was going to enjoy this wedding. She seemed so passionate about finding the love of her life in Brad, this teddy bear of a man that had the stature of a football player but is this sensitive, thoughtful type. Approaching the wedding they had faced quite a few challenges. The church had a fire and for a while was pending that they would even be able to get married there. But all the people in the small town she had grown up in, pulled together as a community and fixed up the church to get it looking almost better than new over the months just in time for the wedding. They had planned to have the reception on her parents land in the backyard with a tent. The week of the wedding it rained 6 inches turing their meadow into a mud pit. While they could have gotten discouraged at the mayhem that happened, as you will see, they rocked it in the rain to get some of the most romantic photos I’ve ever taken. Their love for one another was felt by everyone around them and their positivity and care free attitude kept the day extremely fun. They kicked off their shoes or put on some rain boots and made the evening one that I surely will never forget. Congrats Allison + Brad!
Don’t forget to watch their lovely video by Olive Media some dear friends of ours that picked up the wonderful craft of videography and RAN with it. It will make you cry.
Posted on June 9, 2014
Posted on June 2, 2014
Posted on May 20, 2014
Posted on May 20, 2014
Posted on April 29, 2014
Posted on April 21, 2014
Posted on March 27, 2014
Written by Vivian Luk.
When I returned to Hong Kong 2008, I wanted to combine all the wonderful experiences I’ve gathered in my training as a designer and create a playground where brides can enjoy all of that while capturing their every moment building up to the big day in a gown they can treasure forever.
It is combining all the good things you can find in a design house, without the restrictions in mass production and sales reports and all the good things you can find in an intimate art workshop with a handful of caring and passionate experienced seamstresses and tailors to support the designer. Instead of working with a sales representative, I don’t want to just sell you a gown, I want to get to know you and create one inspired by you.
As every designer would have their own style, besides sharing my philosophies with each bride, I also want her to be a part of making design decisions as the gown evolves, because ultimately the gown will speak my sensibility, but each bride is my muse.
What I took away from my corporate experience, is developing new fabrics, designing embroidery layouts from scratch, designing for stars and hosting fashion shows. I can still enjoy all of that directly with the end users, and I can do it without the pressure from short deadlines and putting quantity over quality.
I can sketch countless ideas, but I find that a lot of the designing happens when one is draping with the actual fabric. Therefore I do a lot of the draping myself. I appreciate both complicated engineered pattern-work, as well as spontaneous almost accidental draping which can only happen if it’s a one off piece. Therefore I try to have a bit of both in all my bespoke gowns.
My design training influences the way I operate my atelier, while my design philosophy comes from my art training. Since elementary, I attended a performance arts school, where I grew up with many other young teenagers who had big dreams to become actors, dancers, musicians and fine artists. I remember watching my fellow classmates dance, and the way they gestured the fabric on their bodies as they moved, to even hearing the rythmn of music can be found in the work I do today. Like pieces of artwork, my gowns’ compositions are balanced, yet it’s asymmetrical lines draw movement leading the viewer’s eyes continuously throughout the body, shaping and molding to give her the ideal silhouette.
And lastly, I am inspired by people and I am fascinated by each person’s individuality. We are all often balancing two opposite characteristics and everything is relative to one’s surroundings. That is why you will find the persona behind my gowns are both feminine and soft, yet structured and strong. They are artistic yet wearable. They are sophisticated and intellectual, yet sweet and youthful. A strong design chooses what it believes in and makes it bold. Drawing the attention to the focal point, in return making the gown easy to the eye. Something that is bold does not have to be loud. My gowns are pieces of organic, full of layers and textures and 3 dimensional forms.
It is not just a gown, we are creating art; we are telling a story.
Posted on March 24, 2014
Posted on March 10, 2014
Posted on March 3, 2014
Posted on February 20, 2014
I normally don’t do write ups for my blog posts but this wedding needs just a little bit of explanation. My wonderful clients are expecting a little one and during the cake cutting they revealed the gender of the baby. It was such an emotional experience to watch such love explode right infront of me infront of their closest family and friends. On top of that the next day we went out to do portraits and snowed poured down and they stuck with it to get some of the best winter wedding photos I’ve ever had.
Posted on February 19, 2014
Posted on February 2, 2014
Every year we do a Valentine’s day themed shoot and this year we are lucky to hire Nikki Ferrell, Kansas City’s own Bachelorette to model for us. Mention that you saw this shoot and you get 25% off a boudoir session until March 1st.
Posted on December 28, 2013
Knit trumpet gown by Lazaro http://www.jlmcouture.com/Lazaro/Bridal
Beaded gold gown by Lazaro http://www.jlmcouture.com/Lazaro/Bridal
Diamond backless by Hayley Paige http://www.jlmcouture.com/Hayley-Paige
Jewelry by Madison Avenue
You can get these gowns from Gown Gallery http://www.gowngallery.com
Makeup by Molly McPheter
Model Kate Williams