Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photography 101: Weddings

Photographing a wedding is a fun, magical experience for me; I feel like each wedding is its own unique adventure that is propelled by the personalities of the couple and their families. But it can also be a stressful day if the events are hurried, so I have a thorough checklist that I prepare for myself to make sure every shot request gets taken, my equipment is up for the job, and the day flows smoothly for the bride and groom. Having planned my own wedding, that experience now lends its expertise to my day as well.

Before the wedding:
I always meet with the bride and groom several weeks or months beforehand to discuss their expectations and their package of choice, but then we meet again the week or day before their day to go over the site and day of events. It's often easiest to meet just before their rehearsal to see the location once again. I take these meetings to double check:
  • List of formal and informal shots the bride has requested
  • Wedding colors
  • Number of guests and numbers of bridal party
  • Timing of the day's events
  • Multiple hooting areas for the couple
  • Additional important shots: Details of reception, perhaps family member is chef, entire wedding attendance shot, or other big group shots such as college, sport team, or work team.
The day prior to the wedding I also check my equipment, charge batteries, clean lenses, and shoot a few tests of the location based on current seasonal lighting. I also check sunset time and make sure we arrange the last bride shots around then if we can.

Day of the wedding:
I always print my list of formal shot requests from the bride and double check that list several times throughout the formal session- several settings of the same group of people always makes sure to get at least one good photo.
Other things I pay attention to are:
  • For outside bright sun glare I use a UV filter or a hood to protect shots from those round sun glares that can ruin an entire setting.
  • Remind family guests sit in the front row, those seats are sometimes left empty and look vacant behind the bride and groom when shooting out towards the crowd.
  • Remember the importance of the maid of honor and best man, not just the entire wedding party. The bride and groom have chosen these two for special reasons, so I always make sure to get some formal and fun shots of the bride or groom and their best friend.
  • While the day feels rushed, I always remember to slow down and take a step back from the camera to look at the background for things like random bags, shadows, people not in wedding if in a public area as well as little details you can't see in the viewfinder such as groomsmen coat buttons (all buttoned or all not?), angles of feet, smiling children, etc.
  • When I shoot an entire-wedding guest shot, I set the F-stop to 18 or higher and use a tripod to make sure everyone is in the same focus and the lighting is optimized.
  • I try and shoot the cake cutting from as many angles as possible, and remind the couple to eat slow, pose often, and even redo the shot if necessary.
  • If you have a mount flash watch the angle of it and practice how it bounces light of ceilings. In churches and other community buildings there are often strange angles, wood beams, or other obstacles that will direct the light wrong or even obscure it.
  • Remind the couple and parents to dance slow and look at the camera a few times during their solo dances; while it's nice to get some candids of them laughing and crying together, I also get some of them smiling directly, it's daddy's last dance with his little girl!
Last, I always try and make the day fun. I remind the bride to relax, that we have all the time in the world and that the day won't start until she's ready! I'm with her the entire day, so I help make sure she's drinking water, eating, and, most of all, having fun. It's an honor to be a part of this couple's commitment to each other, and I always feel like if I put that honor first and foremost, the day works out exactly how it's supposed to!

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kitchen Maintenance

It's been quite a while since we've had a total McGuyver moment in our house, but last weekend's kitchen maintenance was worth a quick post...

At some point last month our freezer started getting warmer, ever so slightly at first, until this month, when it started making water in the ice container. We pulled out the ice tray, cranked the temp knob to max 9, and waited. We turned it on and off, we cranked the fridge temp... nothin'.

Then our fears manifested- there was a considerable amount of water in the foot pan. After asking around, it sounded like we were going to need a new unit entirely, but luckily we aren't inclined to give up that easily.

So we pulled out the unit (unplugged it and turned off the water for safety) and I took off the back panel to find 10 years of nasty, furry dust, as well as a pan full of water. Neither are easy solutions, apparently. I tried to vacuum the dust out with the hand held and the big vacuum, but that dust wouldn't budge. So I gathered about 20 Q-Tips and went into each vent hole like the ones in your car, cleaning each strip one at a time, and used a rag on the rest of the unit until it was about 60% cleaner. Some of the dust was settled too far into the fan unit to reach it, but I have intentions to go back in a few weeks and do it again, next time with something even smaller and longer, like a pipe cleaner.

For the water, a rag (ShamWow!) simply wasn't picking up enough of it, so I got out the turkey baster and removed about 10 cups of water in 20 minutes. A ShopVac would have been better, but we just couldn't have gotten one back there.

There was also a considerable amount of ice buildup inside the freezer that we also scraped off.

We reset the unit (some have buttons, some just need to be unplugged) and within a day we had a freezer again, the filtered water was coming out at least 20degrees colder, and the ice unit was cranking out ice.

Needless to say kitchen appliances don't last forever. Ours is only 10 years old however, and we weren't ready to drop the cash on a new one, so we've learned a couple of valuable lessons!

1. Don't forget to clean out the filters and regularly maintain all appliances so they last as long as they can!
2. Don't buy into the throw-it-away culture we live in. If it's worth fixing, it's probably do-able!
3. But if it does need replacing, look into Craig's List.

We need a chest freezer anyway and had planned on buying a used one this winter, so when the possibility of the freezer dying came into view, I got on Craig's List immediately and found several options in Denver for under $100. There were also a plethora of both Fridge-Freezer units that I feel better about knowing about, just in case! But luckily, for now, our freezer is running like a champ!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Photobook Printing - 25% off

Because the market is always changing, early this summer I logged several weeks of research on the subject of Photobooks for a wedding I'm doing later this month. After reviewing dozens of sites, I only came up with about 6 that stood out above the rest.

But I had overlooked one that has turned out to be one of my favorites:
Mixbook is similar to several other sites in its ease for beginners, offering dozens of templates and programming that's easy to learn. But where Mixbook excels is in some key areas for me.

Their tutorials are quick and extremely helpful, from choosing themes to getting ideas to general help, these short videos are an asset to this website for sure.

Mixbook offers a huge variety of packages, many different sizes of books and tons of themes, from weddings to baby books to yearbooks, Mixbook definitely makes the design process more fun than its competitors. Within each design set are dozens of page layouts to choose from, from 1 to 20 pictures per page, straight or slanted, with a variety of backgrounds as well. And if you're a scrapbooker, they've even got a category for you that allows you to insert stickers and other unique design pieces you don't normally see in a photobook! Mixbook also offers cards and invitations as well.

The book I ordered came quickly and definitely stood up to my standards of solid design. Everyone that has seen it so far has said they've loved the layout, the smartly-designed cover, and the thickness of the pages.

But above all, what stood out to me the most was their customer service. In a world where everything is now online and call centers are stationed in foreign lands, the personal attention to my orders and the careful follow up were both something I'm simply not used to. Not only are they making sure their customers are satisfied, Mixbook also sends coupons and customer appreciation discounts out via email often.

This company's so nice, they're even offering YOU, the READER, a discount without even purchasing anything yet! Go to to start your photo book now and use the code IDEAFACTORY to get 25% off your first book! No expiration date on that!

Suffice it to say I feel like I've made a new friend in Phil at Mixbook, and am excited to continue to use this wonderful and wonderfully helpful company!

photos courtesy of

Photo Book:

Photo Books:

Wedding Invitations:

Baby Shower Invitations: