What’s in the bag – A Wedding photographer equipment review

Every once in a while I get asked what kind of equipment I bring to a wedding day.

I came form a Nikon studio years ago, so all my equipment for the last decades has been Nikon.

I have updated some equipment since I shot this video, see the list below

Cameras – Nikon D600, Nikon D7100

Lens – Nikon 24-70 2.8, Nikon 70-200 2.8, Nikon 50 1.4G, Nikon 85 1.8, Nikon 16 2.8, Sigma 12-24, Lensbaby Composer Pro

Speedlights (flash) – multiple Nikon SB-900, multiple Nikon SB-700, multiple Vivitar 285

How does the Engagement Photography Session work?

There are many benefits to an engagement session, you can review them in an earlier post.  Here I will tell more about how the session will go.

What will you do with the photos? – Do you have any specific needs for the photos?  Are you making prints, a book, save the date?  Share what you plan to do with them.  It will help you photographer with the way they shoot.

George George fountain Clinton Twp

Where do we shoot?  – The possibilities are almost endless.  If the weather and season allow, outdoors is alway nice, if not you will need to go indoors.  I like to give couples a few things to think about when choosing a location.  Is there a favorite place you have, where did you first meet, where was your first date, are you fond of city and urban, do you prefer open country or water, is there a favorite or shared activity, how about shooting at the ceremony or reception venue?  These are all things to think about and discuss with your photographer.  The photographer should listen to your concerns and desires and help you choose the location(s)that best suit you and will work well for lighting.  I think the photos are more about the couple and less about the location.  The location can act as a graphic backdrop for the loving couple or help set the mood for the images.  Watch out for locations were you might not be able to get permission.  I know Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills and Mill Race Village in Northville can be very restrictive.

Couple at a stone wall Meadowbrook Hall

When do we shoot? – If the shoot is outdoors, I prefer the Golden Hour.  The Golden Hour is the 60 minutes just before sunset or just after sunrise.  I find the light to be most striking when the sun is low in the sky.  Golden Hour also give a nice warm color to the photos.  The most challenging time of day to shoot and get attractive lighting is when the sun is highest in the sky. If the day is overcast or you are near tall buildings, getting pleasing light is much easier.

Detroit skyline couple

What about wardrobe, hair and makeup? – I always ask the couple to bring at least two outfits, one more dressy, one more casual.  You should certainly wear what is comfortable and what you think you look your best in.  You might look your best in a suit or formal dress.  You might look your best in camo.  I like to have the wardrobe compliment the couple and not steal the show.  I like more muted colors, simpler patterns or stripes.  Think about where you will change, sometimes the only option is your vehicle. The ladies can use the engagement session as a trial run for wedding day hair and makeup.  A little more makeup always looks better in photos.  In any case I find the best results are when the lady has her hair and makeup done at a salon.  You might have you hair up for one look and then simply take it down for another look.  For the guys it is pretty simple.  Watch shaving or trimming and if you are getting a haircut, get it a few days before the shoot and leave bulky pocket items in the car.  I have a “face repair kit” to cover basic makeup, lip gloss and shine issues
falling leaves Stoney Creek Stoney Creek gazebo

How about props or pets or children? – Yes, yes  and yes.  Please bring anything with you that helps tell us who you are.  As long as the prop is not the sole reason for the shot, giving people something to interact with or something to hold makes for more natural looking photos.

Downtown Mt Clemens

What if we are not so good in front of the camera?  – That is why you are hiring a professional.   I (and any good professional) have spent our career working with everyday people that don’t spend their lives in front of a camera.  We know when to direct, when guide, when to just let it happen and we have the wisdom and experience to know the difference.  Typically the first part of the session I will be more instructional and then as the two of you get used to having a camera in your face and we work and play together some, you will feel much more comfortable and look much more natural.  You are having you engagement photos taken for you to show the love and connection with your future spouse.  If you hold that, you are going to look fantastic.  I promise.

Detroit skyline couple

Why Should We Take Engagement Photos?

There are many reasons to take engagement photos. You most likely have never had professional photos together and it is a great opportunity for you and your photographer to get to know each other along with the benefits below.

fall engagement session

Get to know your photographer – On the wedding day one of the most important things for a photographer is to capture natural, loving and sincere expressions, moods and situations of the couple.  The time spent during the engagement session greatly help both the photographer and couple work together a bit, get to know each other some and help get the most genuine photos on what can be a hectic day.

Detroit skyline couple
Help you choose your photographer
– If you are unsure about using your photographer for the wedding, an engagement session will give you the chance to try and see if you click with the photographer and like the images.  You can often book the engagement session only and then roll it into a full package if you like the photographer.  If the situation doesn’t work, you are out a few dollars and a couple hours.  Better to know sooner than on the wedding day.

fiancé kissing fiancée hand

See images of you before the wedding day – Getting engagement shots will allow you to review how you as a couple photograph.  You can review the images with your photographer and plan for poses and situations where you look your best and also discuss and avoid situations where you think you could look better.

Harley motorcycle engagement photography

All the things you can do with the images – Depending on the use rights you and your photographer agree on (be sure you know ahead of time what rights you have), there are a variety of things to do with the images. Post them on social media, post to your wedding website, send to your local paper for an announcement, gifts to family, make fun reception center pieces, use in the wedding program, make save the date cards or reminder magnets and use as a “Well Wishing” sign in book at the reception.  I almost alway have a wedding day surprise for the couple from engagement images.

engagement session photography

Parent Albums

Parent Albums are a wonderful way to share your big day with your parents.  The albums are smaller versions of the couple’s wedding album and are usually 6 or 8 inches.  The most economical way to purchase them is to have the same design as the couple’s album and order them at the same time.

In this video I unpack a couple’s 12×12 album and two 8×8 albums, one for each set of parents.

Top 10 (and additional 38) Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer

The Top 10 questions you should ask about wedding photography

1. Do you have the date available?You-Bet-I-Do_Wedding-Photography_Detroit-reception3

2. How far in advance do we need to book?

3. What does it take to hold the date?

4. What do your packages include?  What is extra?

5. Are you the photographer that will shoot my wedding?

6. Do you specialize in weddings?

7. What type of equipment do you use? What do you have for backup?

8. Is my wedding your only booking that day?

9. What type of contract or agreement do you have?

10. What do I get after the wedding? When?

And the other 38 that did not make the top 10

Availability and Payments

What payment types do you accept?You-Bet-I-Do_Wedding-Photography_Detroit-ceremony4

When is the deposit and balance due?

What is you refund and cancellation policy?

Do you offer a payment plan?

Business and Experience

How long have you been in business?

How many weddings have you shot?

Have you shot at my venue(s) previously?

Do you shoot with any special cameras or equipment?

Do you have liability insurance?  Indemnification insurance?

Have you worked with any of my other vendors previously?

What happens if you are unable to shoot our wedding due to illness or injury?

What is your geographical area? Do you charge for travel?

How will you and your team be dressed?

Do you and your team need to be fed?

Do you have a minimum number of hours?

Shooting and Images

Where can we see a portfolio? Did you shoot all the images?You-Bet-I-Do-Photography_Detroit-Wedding-reception2

How do you describe your photographic style?

What is your working style?

Do you bring additional photographers or assistants to the day?

What shots do you “always” do?

Can we give you a shot list?

How many images do you shoot?

How many images will we get? What is your culling process?

Will all the received images be corrected for color, exposure and contrast?

Will the images be cropped, edited or retouched?

Do you shoot RAW or jpg?

What reproduction rights do I have?

Is it Ok if others take photos while you are taking photos?

What happens if the event runs later than planned?

Do you have any kind of presentation at the reception?

What information do you need from us before the day?

Packages and Delivery

What packages do you offer?You-Bet-I-Do_Wedding-Photography_Detroit-before2

Are the packages customizable?

Are engagement photos included? Can they be excluded?

How will we receive our images?

Is there online proofing? viewing? or ordering?

How long will the images be viewable?

Is there a time limit to ordering prints or albums?

Do you have any kind of presentation at the reception?

Here is a link to a downloadable PDF version

The Wedding Day Photography Planning Conversation Part 3 – Pretty Pictures

One of the last major parts of the planning conversation is a discussion about your most important images and the kinds and style of images you like.  The day can be broken down into the follow photography groups.  Pre – ceremony, Ceremony, Formals, Bridal Party, Romantics and Reception.  In previous and following posts I have discussed the shot list for a few of the groups above.  This post refers primarily to the Bridal Party and Romantics.  Some of the conversation covers the Pre-ceremong and dancing photos.

Bridal Party photography is the group of shots, almost alway informal, of most of the bridal party.  This often involves trips on party buses and is not often suitable for the little people.  I plan to get at least 2 group shots.  I look for situation where the group is spread out all standing at the same level and then move the couple in and out.  I also look for a situation where there is some elevation change and I can stack people vertically, church step, stone walls and hills are some examples.  Time and situation permitting I do addition shot of guys the guys and then shots of just the girls.  I alway ask the party to get into amore relaxed pose.  The guys can have their jackets open or off, the girls may be holding the flowers down and there is a lot of leaning and some sitting.

Romantics are the group of shot of just the bride and groom.  We will have discussed images for an album cover and the cover often comes for these shots.  I look for situations where the lighting, location and background are all pleasing and complementary to the couple.  I then shoot from close up to far away when ever possible.

During our planning conversation I ask the couple about their thought and wished for these shots.  I find a Pinterest board or a PDF of favorite shots clearly indicate what the couple wants.  When looking at the shots I ask which are must haves and which shots would be nice to have.  I also ask what specifically the couple likes about particular shots.  It might be the pose, the way he is looking at her, the depth of field, the lighting or any other aspect of the shot.  I won’t claim to try and duplicate a shot but will use the shot as inspiration for our own version.

I will also ask what are the most important shot(s) of the day.  Some couple don’t know or have not come up with anything yet.  No problem.  Let me know when you do and if you don’t have any preconceived ideas, I have plenty to get us through the day.

I should also address here the typical shots conversation.  It is way better to discuss all the shots you want with you photographer before, than to receive all your photography and realize you are missing shots important to you.  I have shot hundreds of weddings and I’m familiar with what most couple want, but I don’t know for sure the shots YOU want.  There is no conversation too detailed if it ensures you are getting all you want and expect in wedding photography.

The Wedding Day Photography Planning Conversation Part 2 Formals

The next big part of the Planning Conversation is to script out the Formals.  These are the lined up, standing straight, well, formal shots of the day.  The Formals are typically done at the church alter or at the place where the bride and groom stood for the ceremony.  They can be shot anywhere.

My interpretation is that the bride and groom are in all the shots (except just the bride at the end).  It is common for the bride or groom to step down occasionally for an “all girls shot” or “Dad and brothers”.  I have developed a script for the Formals and I like to build it during the conversation with the couple, checking off their shot from their list as we go.

First shot.  Do you want a shot with your priest or pastor?

Then we start with the bride’s family.  A bit about family group shots.  When both sets of parents are there and there are not any step parent are the simplest shots to plan.  Having one or more step parents complicates the shot list, and it is all just planning, been there, done this, we will get it done.  There are families where some members do not get along, let me know, I have alway been able to make it work.  No fist fights to date.

A couple more things about the Formal part of the day.  This part of the day can often get hurried due to schedule or other timing issues.  There are a lot of people standing around that don’t know where to go and when not to go there.  The couple may have told “Uncle Joe” to wait and he left, or one the bridesmaids has stepped out and cannot be found. It happens, we work with those that are there, send one person to find anyone missing and plan to shoot later in the day if people have left. As I finish each family section I will approach the couple and ask if there is any additional shot they want.  Maybe a long lost cousin is at the ceremony and you want a shot, please ask, be glad to.  The opposite may also happen.  “Aunt Sue” want a shot with the couple and her family and the shot is not on the list.  If I’m certain the couple would like the shot, up they go, shoot away.  If I’m not certain I will look to the bride and if she gives me “The Look”, I politely tell the person we cannot do that shot at this time, could we possibly do it later?  I don’t want the person to be upset with the bride at all and have not problem being the bad guy.

Back to the shot list

I start with the bride’s parents, add siblings, add siblings’ family, add grandparents and then just the couple with each grandparent set.  We then shoot the couple with both sets of parents.  Then it is the same family groupings for the groom’s side.  After all family shots I shoot what I call the Bridal set.  Bride and groom with just the girls, just the guys, girls and guys, girls and guys and little people, just little people, just the bride and groom, just the bride.

In the end, I have a shorthand list of all the requested Formal shots.  Below is a typical list.  I have multiple printed copies of the list and I have the document on my phone.

  • BG pastor
  • BG B M&D
  • + 1 bro, 2 sis
  • +1 wife, 1husb, 3kids
  • + Gma, Gma&Gpa
  • just Gma
  • just Gma&Gpa
  • Both sets
  • BG G M&D
  • + 1 bro, 1 sis
  • + 1husb, 2kids
  • + Gma, Gpa
  • just Gma
  • just Gpa
  • Bridal Set

Part Three – Pretty Pictures

The Wedding Day Photography Planning Conversation Part 1 – Timing

After you and your photographer have agreed to work together, the photographer will plan a conversation to review all the details.  I like to have a real brief conversation at our first meeting just to get a sense for the day.  When is the ceremony?  When is dinner?  How much time is there?  If we see any timing that looks troublesome, we can have additional conversations.

On the One Month planning conversation, I have many very specific details I need to get and I also want to listen to your thought wishes and needs for the day.  After a discussion on the day in general, I get into specifics.

I start with the schedule for the day.  Typically there are 2 times that cannot be moved, the ceremony and when dinner is served.  Once we have the ceremony start time, I’ll ask about the length of the ceremony and what events happen.  I’ll then ask if you want to photograph the Formals after the ceremony.  This gives me a time we will be done at the ceremony.  I then ask what time dinner is planned to be served.  I like to be finished with all the Bridal Party and Romantics photography and be at the reception 30 minutes before serving dinner.  This gives the Bridal Party time to get a refreshment, gives the DJ time to organize the Party and leaves 15 minutes for announcing the party, cutting the cake and toasts.

Once we know what time we can leave the ceremony and what time we need to be at the reception, we know how much time we have for Bridal Party and Romantics.  We can than plan how much drive time and how many locations we can do.

I then look at the timing after dinner.  I conservatively schedule 90 minute for dinner for the dancing to start.  The DJ will then coordinate the formal dancing and gets the party started.  Typically the garter and bouquet toss come after the guest have danced some.  I find we have enough images of people dancing and partying about 90 minutes after the dancing starts.

I then look to the beginning of the day.  Typically I like to start about 2 hours before the ceremony.

That is pretty much the scheduling conversation.  I review the schedule with the couple the week of the wedding and do everything in my power to keep the couple on time, letting them know as the day goes whether we are on behind or ahead of schedule.  Because I like to build a conservative schedule, I find most of the day runs ahead of schedule.

Part 2 – The Formals Shot list

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

Choosing the best wedding photographer for you is one of your most important decisions. The wedding photographer is one of the key parts of the wedding day and is probably the primary source for remembering you wedding in the future. Experienced wedding photographers can even help you plan your day most efficiently.

The four parts of choosing your photographer are Images, Professional, Budget and Personality.

Images

Do you like the look of their images? For most people, the quality of the wedding images are very important, for some, just recording the event is enough. Look through the prospective photographer’s work. The website is a good place to start, that is where a photographer puts only the best images from their best weddings. Look at the albums of past weddings, and even ask to see some recent complete weddings.

Professional

Is your photographer a professional? Photographers get one chance to capture a wedding. Are they ready for the day? Are they ready when things go wrong? It is not if equipment will break it is when. While you may not need to know exactly which camera the photographer uses, it is good to know that they have backups. What if the church is very dark, or it rains. A professional photographer has the equipment and experience to deal with changes.

Budget

Is the photographer’s offer within your budget? Photography is a creative service and is difficult to price, so pricing varies widely. A national industry standard is photography is 15% to 20% of the wedding budget. Ask what is included in the offer and what is an additional cost. Get it in writing. Is there a limited amount of hours, how much is additional hours, engagement session included, proof books, online ordering, reproduction rights/DVD, album, additional photographer, additional prints. Another consideration is when you will see your images and prints.

Personality

Can you see yourself spending the majority of one of your most important days with this person? At least have an extended conversation with your photographer. Better yet meet them. An engagement session is a great time to work together and get to know each other.

The Official Photographer vs Guest Photographers

We have all seen the exuberant guest standing next to the official wedding photographer during the formal shots at the alter.  Sometime it looks like the guest is getting in the way and distracting the attention of the family and wedding party, and sometimes they do.  It is true the official wedding photographer is typically short on time for the formal alter shots and is under pressure to get great shots quickly and get on to the rest of the day.

I always have a detailed shot list that the couple and I have build before the wedding.  It is also true that that list seldom goes as planned, Uncle Joe is out having a smoke or Aunt Sally wants to get a shot of her kids with the bride.  The photographer has got to be prepared for distractions and interruptions.  That is where the guest comes in.  Many guest don’t know the couple may get all the images from the photographer, or the want them quicker to share with family.  In my opinion they have as much right as the photographer to be there.  

 

 

 

A photographer working with a plan, competent at what they are doing should be able to make time for others to photograph the couple.  The photographer can politely ask the guest photographer(s) to wait until they have finished with a certain setup and then direct the couple’s attention to the guest.  After a bit of time the photographer can then take back the attention of the couple and move on.  If time is critical and the guest is delaying shooting, the photographer or couple should request the guest to stop until there is adequate time.

In almost every alter or formal situation the photographer uses additional off camera powerful lighting.  The guest photographer with their point and shoot or DSLR with a pop up flash can rarely match the image quality.  Let guest photographers shoot as long as it does not set your schedule back.  Make it fun.

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