Yes, I’m still alive, but I’ll be pulling the plug on my wedding site today: www.jhpweddings.com is going to be absorbed into my main portfolio site and the standalone wedding site abandoned.
Yes, I’m still alive, but I’ll be pulling the plug on my wedding site today: www.jhpweddings.com is going to be absorbed into my main portfolio site and the standalone wedding site abandoned.
Apparently, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year (at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere). Now that that’s done, we can move on and get on with 2018. In a photographer’s world, January is a bit of a funny month. The search for a wedding photographer begins in earnest for 2018 weddings, and event managers start thinking about booking for their upcoming events. A lot of people also may be hitting that 10 year expiration on their headshots and might be thinking it’s time for a new one. (If that’s you btw, you’re in luck – click here to send an email to get early bird notifications for when the Feb 2018 flash sale super-discounted $45/head headshots is taking place. This sale only happens once a year so don’t miss out!).
Being a photographer requires a thick skin and an appreciative eye to help deal with the number of times people tell you, “I hate having my photo taken.”
It comes from women and men, young and old, in professional settings and at parties. It doesn’t matter what the person actually looks like, it’s how they think about what they look like that matters.
It’s not all just insecurity, though that plays a role. Far too many people have a distorted view of themselves. They look in the mirror and see what’s wrong with their face, their nose, their eyes, their teeth, their hair etc. I look and I see someone who is almost always much more photogenic and pleasant to look at than they believe themselves to be. The slight “imperfections” they balk at are the features that distinguish their faces from others and what gives them each something uniquely their own that makes them uniquely themselves. Alas, we are our own harshest judges.
The reality of a photograph is, well, it’s not really a reflection of reality. It’s a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world and therefore it is inherently misleading.
The same face can look remarkably different depending on a wide range of factors. In a portrait or group photo for example the most common elements that affect the way someone looks are:
So, now that you know that there are a lot of variable at play, which ones can you influence the next time you have to have your photo taken despite hating having to do so?
Three tips for liking the way you look in photos:
There are, of course, a few little tricks that people who really hate having their photos taken can keep in mind the next time it happens at an event they are attending.
Number #1 Rule for Looking Good In Photos
The best way to look good in photos is to dispense with believing in the “one ideal body type” fallacy, love yourself and smile like you mean it. And mean it. Really, happy, smiling people who are comfortable with themselves and the way they look are ALWAYS more attractive. We all come in different shapes, colours and sizes. We’re supposed to look different from each other. That’s normal. A bland, homogenous and artificial sense of beauty is damaging to self-esteem and is fake. Be you and you will look your best.
Wedding photography doesn’t have to conform to the formulaic portrayals of happy couples emulating poses and scenarios from bridal magazine shoots.
One of the most refreshing aspects of modern marriages is the freedom from conventional thinking about what a marriage means or how a wedding ceremony is supposed to be organized. In the free countries of the world (at least) we live in a time where non-denominational weddings of all kinds are becoming increasingly common. To we practitioners of wedding photography, this is a welcome relief.
Gone are “required” scripted poses and trite tropes of wedding imagery, replaced by more realistic images of couples interested in creating images that tell the story of who they each are as individuals and how they’ve come to find and love one another.
There is nothing wrong with having a traditional wedding, spending tens of thousands of dollars on that one big day (or week) and filling a room with a few hundred of your closest friends and family members. For some, that is how they’ve envisioned their wedding day, and that is what they want their wedding photos to depict.
But for a growing cohort of other couples, not just newly minted millennials staging experiential weddings that showcase their originality (and sometimes limited spending power), but also others who’ve waited or found love later in life, a wedding and how it is documented is no longer bound to follow a monolithic narrative like watching some set piece of Victorian theatre where everyone already knows the plot.
A wedding today can be anything a couple chooses it to be. A solemn ceremony under a towering willow tree by a riverside, or an intimate, candle lit dinner with a table set for ten. It can be a beach vacation, a dance party, or a gathering of friends in an art museum.
And having your wedding photos done is no longer bound to the ceremony where and when the ceremony actually transpires. Couples can choose to spend their time and money on themselves, enjoying a personalized engagement shoot, or a custom tour of their honeymoon city with their local photographer/guide, as this recent couple did here in Montreal, choosing a winter wonderland as backdrop to their blooming romance.
The wedding shoot doesn’t have to be restricted to the day of your wedding. You can hire a shooter to cover you on vacation, for just a few hours, or take you around a new city, combining the fun of a guided tour with photographs of you that serve as mementoes of your honeymoon.
By allowing yourself the freedom to be creative with your wedding photography choices, not only will you wind up with truly original wedding photos – but you also get an experience that bonds the images taken with memories of a time in your life that is truly special.
Yesterday I went out for an engagement shoot with a couple who’d bought the package I’d donated for a charity I support (Room to Read). Our loose plan was to work the late afternoon sun to capture images of the two of them in natural settings around Montreal where we could still find some abundant fall foliage.
Our first stop was a little park next to the St. Lawrence river where surfers love to go as there is a standing wave just off the shore they can play in. This was our warmup area. It’s hard to start shooting genuine, intimate photos of a couple – even one you know well – right off the bat. Everyone – including the photographer – needs some time to warm up, figure out the best angles and understand the dynamics of the subjects. For every really great shot it takes a lot of almost-there, not-quite-nailing-it shots to reach.
As you progress through the shoot, the winners tend to flow out in little streams, interspersed with lead-up shots that build up into the winning sequences.
On engagement shoots I really like to move around, and go different places with the couple. It helps keep the vibe fun and friendly, and provides a lot of opportunity both for some planned set-up shots where the background is selected by design, as well as impromptu quick sessions when the light is just perfect and we discover a spot together that can work.
While some shooters may like to plan these shoots down to every last detail, I’ve never liked working that way and have always found that leaving some things up to chance makes for better photos. Part of what makes photographing an engagement shoot different from other kinds of portrait photography is the chemistry between the two people in front of the lens. These few hours we spend together are emblematic of their future together as a couple. At least that is what I am trying to capture with the images I take, as if putting together in real time a kind of collage of memories that will continue to ripen into the future.
My goals for the shoot are to capture real moments of happiness, intimacy, and genuine feeling for each other – without making that obvious or creating artificial moments that tend to make the grooms feel really uncomfortable and awkward especially.
Like all photography involving regular people – there is a necessary element of creativity, collaboration and serendipity involved in getting the best shots.
Good lighting helps and having an idea of where you’ll go for the shoot of course saves time and is an efficient use of the time you spend together, but nothing you do in advance can really create the images that in the end will define the shoot. Together you create the conditions for the photos to happen, and then, with luck and some well-time laughter, you find the gems.
Their story is just beginning. The photos from their engagement shoot should reflect that, and feel like a warm introduction to a story still unfolding.
It’s not about the room
Let’s talk about the wedding industry. It’s rife with rip off pricing and bad ideas designed to extract as much money as possible from naive, often first-time buyers for things like venue rentals, florists, photo and video suppliers, caterers, graphic designers, and professional organizers/wedding planners to list just the obvious ones. Making a detailed plan for the day – your day – can become an obsession for some and paying attention to every detail from the room design to the angle the napkins are placed at can take what can be an emotionally charged day and turn it into a kind of perfect storm of stress. And that’s before getting that really awkward speech from the brother of a friend (don’t be this guy), or your weird out of towner uncle who’s tanked before the ceremony begins.
It’s enough to make a sane person wonder why they bother with it in the first place. Why not just run off and elope somewhere? Or just cohabitate without ever bothering with some kind of ceremony to mark the occasion of your love for each other?
Because despite the statistics on divorce rates your single friends are always handy with, and the surprising cost of flower arrangements, couples still want to call their loves ones to them and make a public announcement that they have found someone – and been found by someone – that they love and they want you to know it.
When that happens, and it does with remarkable regularity every spring, summer, fall and winter – the wedding industry descends, heart-handled knives drawn. Suddenly what is really simply about two people publicly sharing the end of the first chapter of a love story, becomes a production. You’re meeting with suppliers, comparing your choices to the countless others presented to you in look books and across zillions of Pinterest boards, and it’s all beginning to add up. By the time the date comes around, you’re easily spending $10k for an average wedding and far, far more for anything with the whiff of luxury to it. Excess, by definition, knows no bounds, but even the modest wedding can quickly blow its budget just for what seems necessary like a nice venue, good food, ample alcohol and decorations.
It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. And while there is a cost of having any kind of party, a wedding party winds up costing more because it’s not just any old party. As a photographer who’s photographed dozens of weddings, I’ve run through the gamut of weddings, from tiny little closed ceremonies in restaurants to full blown, multi-venue affairs with hundreds of guests. What I’ve noticed, from a photographic point of view, is that what really matters – where I’ve done my best work and felt the strongest connection to the couple I’m working for – is not the room, and not the décor, and not the bar, and not the food, and not the kind of ceremony they choose, and not anything really that causes so much stress when you begin planning for your wedding. What really makes a difference is if the couple seem to really love each other, and are marrying each other because there is no one else they’d rather be with than that one right before them. That’s what lights up a face and floods a room with something that everyone there can sense and feel.
You can choose to have any kind of wedding you want that you can afford. Fly all your guests to a private island in Santorini (including your photographer;) or set up a few chairs around an old willow tree by a river. Do it your way, and spend as much or as little as you want to spend, but however you do it, remember that what matters is not how the day will unfold, but why you are doing it in the first place.
Making a living as a freelance photographer means you are going to work with a lot of different kinds of clients. That is actually your goal, and one of the perks of the job when you have them because from a business point of view, you’ve got a diversified portfolio and are never too reliant on one contract. However, variety means not all of your clients will be as easy to work with, as others. In my several years of experience with hundreds of clients, I’ve really only encountered a small minority whom I’d classify as difficult, but the lessons they can teach are worth sharing.
First of all, as it relates to freelance photography. I define as “difficult” any client with particularly onerous demands, specific interfering behaviours on site when the job is being done and/or having highly unrealistic expectations vis-à-vis the budget.
For clarity I would say, it is perfectly acceptable and in fact, preferable, to have a conversation with your photographer about what you are expecting, the kinds of shots you want, when you need them ready by, etc. As a client, you are also fully within your rights to ask your photographer to dress appropriately for the venue, and express how you expect them to behave at your event. After all, whether it is a corporate luncheon, a gala evening or a private affair, it is your event and your photographer is a guest and should be expected to behave accordingly.
Difficulties arise when a client takes it upon themselves to get too into the details of the work at hand. As my German father-in-law tells me, “You don’t tell a painter how to paint.” That is, if you hire well and are dealing with a professional, it is not your job to tell the professional what kind of lighting to use, or specify every pose and generally interface between the subject(s) and the photographer. These choices and these interactions are best managed by the person holding the camera and you theoretically have hired that person because they are demonstrably good at it.
Standing very very very close to the photographer, asking to review every shot, pointing out shots to take repeatedly, for example, is not helpful. It is in fact, highly counterproductive as it will likely result in distracting your photographer and probably will yield a much worse result than if you just let him or her shoot the event or portrait as they best see fit.
A good event or portrait photographer is someone who is skilled at working with people. Trust them. As someone whose work entails several interactions with lots of different kinds of people during a regular work week, I am comfortable with a broad range of personality types and can deal with almost any situation that arises. Any difficulty I’ve ever experienced has come, not from the subjects, but rather a micromanaging client whose behaviours indicate both a lack of respect for the professionalism and artistry involved in being a photographer.
Generally speaking, there are two broad types of clients: those working on behalf of a company, or business to business (B2B), and those hiring you directly and paying for you with their own money, or business to consumer (B2C). The former category includes PR companies, communications and marketing professionals, and event managers. The latter can include entrepreneurs, and of course, the vast majority of wedding photography clients and people seeking a family portrait or some other personal event.
B2B clients are working with budgets and may have demands for rapid turnaround on edited photos etc, but because they generally have experience contracting with photographers, transactions are conducted more quickly and they tend to let you do your work without too much hands on management.
B2C clients tend to be more budget sensitive, less experienced hiring photographers in general (it may well be their first time), and will consume a greater amount of your time before and after the contract is completed. With good communication, friendliness and transparency on both sides, dealing with B2C clients can be rewarding personally and financially.
Advice for photographers:
If you run into trouble with a client onsite, my recommendations are the following:
Advice for people hiring photographers on how to be a good client:
Whether you’ve been tasked with finding a photographer in a different city for an event happening tomorrow night, or you are doing long range planning and booking your wedding photographer for next year, here are a few tips from an insider’s point of view that will ultimately help you find the right photographer for your job and ensure you get the best value from the experience:
Everyone has a bad day once in a while and a little patience and understanding goes a long way in resolving most issues if/when they arise. But for photographers and clients who find themselves at odds for whatever reasons, hopefully these few tips gleaned from over a decade’s worth of overwhelmingly good client relationships, can help.
When should a client and photographer opt for a per image pricing contract?
Pricing in photography has always been a challenge and will continue to be so as the demand for creative images increases in tandem with the abundance of suppliers. While quality can vary considerably between photographers, the bottom end of the range has risen in line with technology so an average shooter ten years ago is now able to deliver reasonably good images with some basic kit that may meet the needs of some clients. On the upper end, the possibilities of what can be done with images in post-production, as well as the quality of images that can be captured and created now with top-line professional gear that can include virtual reality cameras like the Ricoh Theta S, drones and a range of pro lenses, is even more impressive and can satisfy even the most demanding of clients.
The struggle remains however, for the independent photographer, in determining the right price for their work when a request comes in from a new client. Given the paucity of full time jobs for photographers and the oversaturation of people in the field all calling themselves professionals, pricing for any given type of photographic assignment is really widely distributed. The range begins at free and rises up through the thousands for the same kind of assignment.
I recently read a very good and thorough article on PetaPixel by Rosh Sillars that explores the idea of pricing photography in 2016 in great detail. I recommend reading it for anyone – producer or buyer – who is in the market of hiring photographers, buying photographs or producing images. I want to focus on just one aspect of the article, regarding per image pricing as it is a concept I am beginning to explore with my clients and feel that in certain contexts it makes the most sense from both the photographer’s and buyer’s point of view.
Specifically, I want to explore types of assignments I am experienced in where it would and would not make sense to offer per-image pricing. I look at four types of photography: event, portrait, editorial/website and wedding.
Per image pricing? Not for most situations
One of the challenges an event photographer encounters with every gig is how to gauge what balance of images a client actually needs and will use vs coverage provided. In most events for which a photographer is contracted, there is a planned agenda which is followed with more or less adhesion depending on the client, type of event etc. While not every event has speakers or centre-stage activity, there will be a timeline and detailed plan for the night that an event manager has hashed out, often down to the minute. This holds true whether you are covering an international conference or a local wedding. As the person responsible for providing visual coverage of the event, one of your tasks is to capture everything that happens – which includes both scheduled agenda items, as well as candid moments, beauty shots of rooms, important items, and often signage and evidence of sponsorship activity. The result is a tendency to err on the side of over-shooting such that at the end of even a brief 2 or 3 hour event you may well have a few hundred images to subsequently sort through, curate, edit and then deliver to the client.
How would per-image pricing work in that scenario? I have never met a client who wants to pay more to do more work, which is exactly what would happen were a per-image pricing model enlisted in this context. Furthermore, some of the most beautiful and engaging images I have captured as an event photographer happen in those unscripted moments where people experience some kind of emotional uplift or response to each other. These images are often my signature pieces but would they make the cut if a client is suddenly sensitized to the idea of having to pay for each and every image?
I suppose the model exacts a discipline on both the photographer and the client to really focus in on the essentials, and this kind of a constraint can have a positive impact on creativity, but I believe it would have a greater negative effect on the overall workflow of the shooter and result in a less attentive, less responsive style of shooting that would skew towards the main event, ignoring or overlooking the often much more interesting, fun and engaging, off-stage type moments where the magic tends to happen when people gather.
Per image pricing? Yes, almost always
Portrait photography much more easily lends itself to per image pricing. Often a client is booking for a number of employees, the shoots take place on site in the client’s office and there are invariably last minute additions when random employees wander past and see a photoshoot going on and beg to have a shot “so I can update my LinkedIn profile”. A day rate or per hour contract in this scenario can be costly for the photographer as the workload is effectively uncontrollable. When shooting portraits in the client’s office, there is a lot of pre and post work involved, not the least of which may be physically accessing sometimes inconveniently located office spaces, navigating a labyrinth of loading dock, freight elevators and shipping doors lugging around the unwieldy collection of light stands, gear, etc., required to make everyone look beautiful. Then there is the set up-almost always in an office that is cramped and small-before the shoot happens. While each subject may not require more than 10 or 15 minutes, post-shoot there is the added work of sorting, and editing final versions of images that are highly scrutinized by their likenesses. It is not for the faint of heart and all in, a per image pricing model makes a lot of sense. How much per image is a completely different story of course, as the end result needs to still align with client expectations and counter the misperception that all you’re doing is pressing a button.
I normally calculate portraits on a per image fee, starting from a fixed base for the onsite studio set-up than a per head fee that can be adjusted based on discussions with clients vis-a-vis budgets, as well as the type of client being served. I consider it fair to offer lower, more flexible rates to smaller businesses and charge full pop for corporate users. My pricing is based on a fairly elaborate calculation that takes into account not just all the work required to perform the specific task, but the overhead involved in marketing a corporate portrait business, and aftermarket support to clients.
Per image pricing? Yes, almost always
Thanks to the convergence of social media sites and formerly corporate websites, there is an ever-growing demand for fresh photography to populate an array of digital properties most companies have to manage today to ensure their brands stay relevant and they are engaging their customers where and how they like to be engaged. This generates, in turn, an insatiable desire for imagery which is heavily skewed to photography. While video is a rising star in the digital marketing world, use-cases for video are still more restricted than photography. While it’s quite possible to envision a website with no video on it, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the same with no photography. And as most stock imagery these days is recognizable as such, clients with even a little budget are thinking creatively about their needs and hiring photographers to generate their own library of custom stock photography. It can be done affordably and may often be less expensive than the ostensible cheaper option of using stock images. But in either case, a per image fee makes a lot of sense here. Clients who hire photographers to come in and document a day in the life of their office space usually have a set of images in mind that they’d like to see at the end of the day. A talented photographer can work through that kind of list and add value by shooting the shot list with their own brand of creativity that can excited clients when they see the final results. As well, this can be a very low-risk type of contract for a client to enter into as there are no fees paid other than for the images they themselves select and place a value on.
For these kinds of contracts, whether the images are ultimately destined for internal client use, a public facing website or publication or media, the pricing per image should reflect both the effort and skill required to take them, as well as the post-production necessary. While some photographers will share unedited proofs, I believe this to be a terrible idea that is highly disfavourable to the photographer. A movie producer does not release a trailer of the unedited cuts. Most clients, regardless of their sophistication and experience purchasing photography, do not have the time and skill required to parse an image, as it were, and see it for its potential from an unedited proof. More than likely they will deem the work subpar, and judge the photographer accordingly. While there is a risk to the photographer of editing a batch of images that may not, in the end, be purchased, this can be mitigated against by making a judicious selection of images to edit and share with the client initially. Once the client’s appetite has been whetted, more images can be processed and shown should the client express interest.
Per image pricing? No.
Wedding photography (which I run through a separate weddings focused business here), is in my opinion, the mother of all excess and the source of the most widely varied pricing in the industry. This is due to a conflux of factors including: first time buyers, people spending other people’s money, vast gaps between expectation and reality when it comes to desired outcomes vs real budgets, and good old fashioned price gouging, exaggerated markups and unscrupulous vendors taking advantage of misinformed or unsaavvy buyers to charge huge, unwarranted premiums.
Now before all you wedding photographers get your corsages all tied up in a knot, I’ll say that some wedding photographers are truly gifted artists and power to them for charging as much as they can and finding receptive clients happy to pay. These comments are not for you. But for the wedding factory type photography outfits, the fly-by-nighters, and the countless hacks who claim to offer some kind of premium service when all they are really doing is grabbing at extra margin because they’ve inserted the word “wedding” into their portfolio, I believe the balance of power is shifting to consumers and your days of overcharging are numbered.
Brides and grooms, while subject to a vast array of marketing machines aiming for their wedding dollars, are becoming savvier and more prudent with who and how they hire. Paying a fixed package price that takes into account all the extras and additional work of a wedding is fair, but spending over $10,000 on wedding photography, no matter how jaw-droopingly beautiful you may be, is just a silly waste of money. Yes, weddings are a lot of work and they are rightfully a little more expensive than your average event photography contract. While the same skill set is required, given the intimate nature of the event, the vast number of guests who are all in their own way important, and the richness of opportunity for touching moments to happen and be captured by a sensitive photographer, there is necessarily an increase in effort that needs to correlate to price. Within reason.
I would not see a per-image pricing model as any way satisfactory for clients for their wedding. In a typical wedding photography contract a photographer works anywhere from eight to fourteen hours on the wedding day. There is often more than one location, multiple lighting situations to accommodate for, and a parade of necessary if rather formulaic images the clients will expect to receive. The photographer is also considered the expert and will have a leading role to play in organizing groupings, and managing the “formal” parts of the shoot. All of this is best covered under a blanket fee based on a blended rate that covers both time on the ground, as well as the significant post-production work that will be done on the images.
In reviewing these four types of photography assignments, it is clear that in all cases, the best pricing model for both client and photographer is aligned. Much noise is made in photographer circles about the costs of maintaining a photography business (expensive gear, high upgrade costs, time to market, etc) but I don’t think that is at all relevant to clients nor should it be. No one forces a photographer to go into business. If you are a photographer, you’ve chosen a career with variable income, and high operating costs. Complaining about that to your clients doesn’t get you better pricing and won’t make you more money. Choosing the right kind of pricing structure for the job that places the client’s interests above your own, on the other hand, will.
If ever there was a time to gather up your team, hold a meeting and host an event in Montreal, 2016 is it.
I think the screenshot from today’s FX rate pretty much sums it up.
In Canada (Donald Trump’s views notwithstanding) we are not so different from America. Except everything is much cheaper. Venues, staffing, catering, and going out to really world-class restaurants is all almost 50% off for US currency holders right now. Flights into Montreal are inexpensive and only a short-haul from New York or Chicago.
Winter, too, while perhaps colder than some of you are used to, has its own kind of beauty and is fun to experience.
Montreal has it all. Great restaurants, hugely talented professionals to work with, gorgeous venues, old world charm, beautiful people, and a lively night life scene. You can be virtually guaranteed a good experience travelling here, and your guests or event attendees will be grateful for the opportunity you’ve provided for them to visit one of the oldest cities in North America. If you need help finding a venue, or just want to sound out a friendly local, feel free to contact me anytime.
Over the holidays I was hired to be a stalker. I said yes.
Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain the context. I was approached by email from a man living outside of Montreal, who was planning to take his girlfriend to Montreal for a romantic weekend, and propose to her. He wanted me to photograph the proposal without being noticed by his girlfriend. I thought it was a fun idea and accepted the challenge. It was a lot of fun and I think will make for a good story the couple (she said yes) can tell at their wedding and hopefully one day to their children.
I often get asked if I cover weddings and work with couples doing things like engagement shoots. Because I am known primarily as an event and conference photographer, and mainly market those services, I understand why people don’t assume I cover weddings as well. There used to be a stigma attached to covering weddings – as if being a wedding photographer was some how a step down in being a professional photographer. I’ve never felt that way and have covered roughly forty weddings in my career, but keeping a wedding photography business and a more corporate and event photography business separate made sense. Of course, by splitting up the two businesses the effort to promote each is duplicated and in the past few years I’ve skewed much more heavily to working with corporate clients and conference organizers at the expense of my wedding photography business. All that to say, I was thrilled to have the chance to work on this stealth assignment because it’s exactly the kind of work I like to do. It’s creative It’s challenging. It’s fun and romantic. And good old-fashioned romance is fun to see and be a part of.
My client had several ideas to begin with and over a few Skype calls and emails we laid out a plan together. Using Google Maps to scout out locations, we chose a route that would lead the couple out of the Hotel Nelligan in Old Montreal where they were staying, through Old Montreal along St.Paul street down to the Old Port.
I would be set up in the hotel, start shooting from a distance there and then follow them on their walk down to a designated place at the water’s edge with a view to the clock tower where I was to approach them mid-selfie and offer to take their photo for them, at which point my client would smile and the cat would be out of the bag. With just a few on-the-fly adjustments, it worked out perfectly.
At the Hotel Nelligan, where it began, I realized that there was not one, but three potential lobby areas (one being the restaurant). A special shout out to the Hotel Nelligan staff at Verses who were supremely helpful and on board with the plan once I explained it to them. I asked them to direct the couple to a table by the window while I set up on a table for one, two tables over. Alas, I realized that perhaps the couple wouldn’t come in here at all but might just sit in the lobby which proved to be true after a few frantic texts with my client. Luckily I was able to get out and set up in the lobby in time before their arrival.
Right on schedule, they came down and he made an excuse to return to the room where he had other plans afoot. I grabbed a few shots of his girlfriend, but feeling I was way too exposed, exited the hotel and went across the street into a store from which I could watch the front door without being seen.
They emerged a few moments later and we began the dance. Every now and then they’d pause for a couple selfie and I’d snap off a few shots pretending to be a tourist taking pictures of buildings. Luckily Old Montreal is full of camera touting tourists, especially around Christmas time, so I didn’t look that out of place. I tried to keep a safe distance, sometimes dogging them from across the street, other times falling in behind them or running ahead to get in front of them on their side of the street, shooting from whatever angle I could find that didn’t make me stand out too obviously.
The plan unfolded perfectly in the crowded streets but as the path they chose led them closer to the water there were fewer and fewer people on the same route till eventually it was really just me and them. I hung back and pretended to read the signs and stare out at the action in the port while letting them get ahead to the targeted intervention point.
The caper proved successful and post-selfie assistance shot, I revealed myself as planned and we continued walking together, stopping at picturesque spots along the way, as we came across them. The final leg brought us back to the hotel where we took a few more shots in the lobby, then headed up to their room where my client had strewn the floor and bed with rose petals where we snapped a final shot and I left them.
As I drove home I was inspired by the idea and felt this is something more couples might want to consider. Montreal deserves its reputation as a romantic city, and there are plenty of interesting streets to wander and suitably romantic backdrops to make for some fun photos that will nicely augment your wedding book.
Yesterday I went to a funeral, at the end of which we were invited to visit a slide show playing off to the side of the church. You’ve seen these before. They play at milestone events like weddings, 50th+ birthday celebrations and in their saddest iteration, funerals. It made me think about what those pictures really mean.
Why do we like to look at pictures? Why do we care?
Usually these slide shows are put together by someone close to the person, or for a wedding, the couple being married. They are often preceded by an email call out to friends and family asking if they’ve got any photos of the beloved(s) they can share. The end result is always a mishmash of photos taken over a span of years, with varying – usually fairly amateurish – photo quality. Overexposure, odd crops, off-colour and poor lighting are commonplace – and it doesn’t matter at all. You can almost always feel the full emotional impact of the image regardless of quality. In some case, too much quality actually diminishes the emotional power of the images. We expect professional looking photography when we see an ad or hire a portrait photographer to shoot the family portrait, but we mistrust it in the context of the real, old-fashioned slide show of your life.
For a wedding, the typical formula is a series of baby images and fun kid shots of both the bride and groom, as they are growing up. Family vacation photos feature prominently. Usually around mid-way through, the couple meets and there are a smattering of images of the two together leading up to the present moment. There tends to be more text and jokey captions on the wedding reel and the end is always celebratory, a kind of big “To Be Continued” implied as the couple will presumably go on to fill out the rest of the slide show together as they live out their lives.
Birthday slide shows are looser, more jokey then the funerary genre but usually carrying an undertone of celebration and kind poking fun at the subject. Key images likely include at least one shot of the subject wearing a ridiculous hat, a few with Hawaiian shirts, and of course, as many as possible showing the subject making a fool of him or herself in various states of inebriation. This kind of slide show is there to fill in the time between speeches and dancing, or it loops while dinner is being served. It can be played with or without narration, depending on the setup in the party.
And finally, the end of life slide show. This one, of course, is the most emotionally riveting. There is something unbearably sad about looking at the smiling face of someone in full life who is now gone. And yet, I think these slide shows are also an important part of the grieving process and they help the bereaved to say goodbye properly. We want to hold on and the pictures we have of the people we love and have loved throughout our life help us to do it. Like slowly letting go of a hand, these final images are there to tell us that the person we loved, lived a full and happy life that we were a part of. These may be the photos that matter the most to anyone. The images you would run into a burning building to save. They matter to us because the person or the people in them matter to us. And while nothing replaces the living presence of another, a photo saturated with love and seared into memory by a deep emotional connection, matters. Not just to help us deal with the loss of our loved one, but also to push us back into living life.
Because, in the end, a picture is always and inevitably a revision of a lived event. What really matters, of course, is the living. Experiencing each moment as fully as you can. Being mindful that this moment now, is really all you can ever hope for and to feel it and sense it and be in it as fully as you can. So while the photos we collect of our family and friends are treasures, the moments we share with them matter much, much more.
So put away your phone, take a break from updating your status on Facebook, look up and see who you are with. Then go out and make a moment that you’ll want to keep for the slide show of your life.
Finding the right fit between you and your wedding photographer is the most important factor in deciding which photographer to hire for your wedding.
The first thing most couples do is search online for wedding photographers, or you may have liked the photographer at a friend’s wedding and now want to consider him or her for your own. In either case, your first step will be to start browsing through portfolios. Once you find a few whose shooting style and image quality meets with your expectations, the next step is to draw up a shortlist and start contacting the photographers on your list.
You’ve got the shortlist of photographer’s who’s work you like, and now you want to reach out to them either with a phone call or email. Once you do, your evaluation process should begin immediately. Did the photographer respond to your query in a reasonable amount of time? Did he or she answer any questions you posed. If the answer is yes to the above, it’s time to set up a meeting.
If you are contacting a photographer in another city you may want to try setting up a video call on Skype, Google or FaceTime. If that’s not feasible, a simple phone call should do.
It’s a good idea to prepare a few questions in advance and know what will be key deciding factors on whether you contract with this photographer or not. It’s best to be upfront with your wishes and budget, but it’s also worth having an open mind during this first meeting. An experienced wedding photographer has in all likelihood been at and participated in multiples more weddings than you have, so take this opportunity to benefit from his or her experience. There are no bad questions and if you want ideas, ask for them. Creativity is par for the course and a creative person will love the opportunity to offer ideas and engage in a little brainstorming with you.
As you have the conversation, it’s wise for one in the couple to lead the questions, and have the other pay attention to what’s happening. Not just the answers given, but the way they are given and the demeanour and general presence of the photographer. Do you like him or her? Is this someone you can see getting along with your guests? Ultimately, your wedding photographer is someone with whom you will share a lot of intimate moments on a very big day in your life. Is this someone you would enjoy that experience with?
The takeaway from your meeting/phone/video chat should be a go/no go decision on your part. You may still be evaluating one or two other shooters, but having invested this much time and effort in the search, you should by now know enough to request a quote and move on to the final stage of discussions.
Getting a fair price for your wedding photographer shouldn’t be hard. It’s not like buying a car where you may feel pressured into something you don’t want or are unsure of how much you can negotiate. A professional wedding photographer will have posted rates or available packages and clearly define what is included with each. These details as well as any specifics you discussed in your meeting should be elaborated on in a quote. You don’t want – and there shouldn’t be – any surprises. If the quote is prepared as expected and delivered in a timely fashion, you will then want to move to the final step and book your photographer.
Planning ahead can save you some money and allow you to get the best value from your wedding photographer. Many packages include engagement photos which is fun to do well ahead of the wedding date (though not necessarily). If your wedding is planned for the fall, you may want to schedule an engagement shoot in the spring or summer to generate images for your invitations, websites and other pre-wedding communications. In any case, the longer your lead time, the more comfortable you will be with having at least one major item checked off your wedding to do list.
Once you’ve accepted a quote, ask your photographer to draw up a contract. The contract should not be too different from the quote but it means you now have a legally binding agreement in place which ideally spells out exactly what you will receive from your photographer, according to which schedule and in which format. No surprises, no catches. The contract should reflect your complete understanding of what you want and expect from your photographer, and spell out in detail how much you will pay and the schedule for down payments, final payment etc.
Of all the myriad details you and your wedding planner will have to pay attention to leading up to your big day, your wedding photographer is arguably the most important. No other aspect of your wedding – the venue, the food, the colour scheme, not even the dress – will have as lasting an impact. When you book your photographer, understand that you are entrusting this person to create a document of a key moment in your life that will be shared and passed on through generations to come.
Ultimately, your selection of wedding photographer should be based not just on price, but the quality of the work you’ve seen in the photographer’s portfolio, and how comfortable you feel with your shooter. A good fit, in my definition, is alignment on everything that matters to you when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer.
At the end of every year I have the unenviable task of curating the images I’ve created and captured over the course of the year. While I sped through this gallery from my 2014 weddings trying to figure out which shots to keep for my portfolio, I saw the images fly past and thought it was kind a fun way to look at a wedding day at high speed through the lens of a wedding photographer. So I took out my new favourite camera (Fujifilm X100T) and just held it in front of my screen while videoing with one hand and pressing the forward button in the gallery with the other, playing some Lyle Lovett (“She’s No Lady”) in the background (which I later had to remove for the right’s free Wedding Waltz now in the video which I hope isn’t too annoying).
As a wedding photographer I am in the enviable position of being invited into many different kinds of weddings from people with varied backgrounds. I’ve covered gay and non-denominational weddings, Catholic weddings, Orthodox weddings, Jewish weddings, Persian, Greek, Italian, Sikh, French Canadian, Irish and more and I always take great pleasure in being able to peer into the lives and traditions of people I may not have even met face-to-face before their wedding day. I consider it an honour to be among their guests and I try to use my photography to honour their celebration in return.
I must admit, I particularly enjoy the bursting colours you find in Indian weddings, and the lively dancing and singing at some of the bigger Jewish weddings I’ve covered. But this year I experienced a few Persian weddings and I loved it. If you’ve never had the luck to attend a traditional Persian wedding, you are in for a treat. In addition to having a disproportionately large share of good-looking people, the ceremonies of a typical Persian wedding are very interesting to observe if you are from another tradition – and there are many great visual opportunities if you are hired to photograph one.
At the head of the room where the ceremony will take place there will be a fantastic spread of all manner of foods, sweets and ornate trays and serving vessels called the “Sofreh-ye Aghd” laid out on a blanket before where the couple will sit. These objects will sit on a special cloth that may have been handed down through family tradition from mother to daughter for many generations. This is called a “Termeh” (cashmere), “Atlas” (silk with golden embroidery) or “Abrisham (silk). There will also be candles on each side of a mirror that will face the couple, symbolizing light, fire, goodness and wisdom.
During the reception, leading up to the traditional cake-cutting ceremony there will be a knife dance called the “Raghse Chaghoo”. It is a sensual, coy and playful dance initiated by one of the bridesmaids who holds the knife and asks for and is given some money from the couple. The first dancer dances before the couple presenting, then holding back the knife a few times before passing it on to the next dancer who does the same, and so on throughout all the willing dancers until the knife is finally given to the couple, who can then proceed to cut their cake.
It’s a gorgeous tradition and the dances will stir even the most somnolent of guests.
I’m looking forward to discovering & photographing new wedding traditions in 2015 like this one.
When something happens, like rain on your wedding day, that is completely out of your control, and likely to make you feel upset, you can be sure there are many comforting sayings to remind you that it is actually good luck for rain to fall the day of your wedding. While it may not feel particularly fortunate to have 30 millimetres of rain drilling down on the roof of your painstakingly selected venue with the beautiful scenery you won’t dare step out into because it will ruin your hair, many cultures would gently disagree.
In France you would hear: “Mariage pluvieux, marriage hereux.”
In Spain, “Novia mojada, dicha asegurada.”
In Portugal: “ Casamento molhada, casmento asegurada”
In Italy” “Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata.”
These, any many more you can find if you care to spend one of your rainy afternoons trawling the internet, all basically mean that a rainy wedding day means your marriage will be especially blessed and fortunate. A wet wedding day is even considered a good omen for fertility (not an issue in this case but good to know)
This may not be convincing enough for all hard-to-please brides, however, who’ve spent the better part of the previous year (or two!) planning for the big day. If this sounds like you, then here are few ideas from a photographer that should help bring you a little peace of mind, in case you do have the great fortune to get married on a rainy day.
Hopefully when your wedding day happens you get exactly the weather you are hoping for, rain or shine, but just in case you are facing down a forecast like this one or this one from my favourite Jewish grandmother / weather forecaster, just think of how lucky you are – and go out and buy a set of matching cute boots and umbrellas.
(I found some of the inspiration for this post on this Pinterest page. )
The engagement shoot is becoming an essential part of the wedding photographer’s offering, and I think for good reason. As I’ve written about before, it provides an excellent opportunity to get to know your client – and for the client to get to know you – without the stress of the actual wedding day. On a recent shoot this past weekend, it also occurred to me it can be a fun and rewarding way for a couple to “relive” their romance and share their unique love story in pictures.
I normally do engagement shoots outdoors in locations selected by the bride-to-be (as 99% of these shoots are booked by brides-to-be). I suggest we use a location that has some meaning to the couple and that affords us a few areas we can wander around in and through, for those spontaneous serendipitous images that arise when you are looking to find them. An outdoor shoot can happen at any time, but the nice warm light of sunrise or sunset adds a special quality to the images that I often suggest we try to work with.
Sunrise and sunset create lighting effects much revered by photographers and these hours are often when the most interesting types of images can be found. Because they are time dependent, and fleeting, there is a kind of urgency in capturing them and a rush of excitement when done well. In this case, we met at 6:30, just a little before sunrise and were already warmed up by the time the sun made its way through the thin cloud cover rising up over Lac St. Louis.
Working with people you’ve never met before, early in the morning, is not for everyone, but it is par for the course as a wedding photographer. Part of what I enjoy and find so useful with engagement shoots is the chance to get to know a couple a little bit well before their wedding day. Or in this case, a chance to get to know them and their two dogs, Lucy and Roland who were for the most part extremely well-behaved and a fun addition to the regular challenge of taking candidly posed shots of people early in the morning.
My client had selected the site for the shoot and she did and excellent job as it provided a good mix of backgrounds, as well as a gazebo
where the couple could do a little ballroom dancing (recreating the story of how and where they met). I actually thought it was quite romantic to see them dancing to a music only the two of them could hear, the sun rising up behind them, with their two little friends waiting patiently at the edge of the dancefloor.
A few other key elements that were important to my client and meaningful in terms of their relationship were the hubby-to-be’s motorcycle (they are wonderful travellers), and their two dogs so we made sure to incorporate these into the shoot.
As it turns out, he’s a Maritimer so I wanted to also include a shot or two with water in the scene to reference his East Coast origins.
If you are planning your wedding and thinking about doing an engagement shoot, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Lately I’ve been feeling that my event photography could use a bit of a lift….so I invested in a drone. After covering hundreds of events I’ve learned that one of the most exciting angles is a shot from above showing the full contingent of guests, or the beautiful setting a wedding is taking place in, for example. I’ve climbed up trees, clambered up rickety fire escapes and balanced on roof tops to get shots from above, but now I think I’ve found a (somewhat) safer solution: a flying drone equipped with a high res camera that shoots high definition video and stills.
While I’m still mastering flying techniques, I’m extremely excited about the potential. It’s new, a lot of fun, and I’m betting there are many people who will find having their portrait taken from above to be as exciting as it sounds. I plan on offering drone services for weddings (imagine your full wedding party outdoors, smiling up at the sky as the drone hovers over you!), as well as for real estate developments, and other large-scale events.
Flying the drone is not without its challenges and weather conditions need to be virtually perfect (windless, clear skies with no trees or wires hanging nearby), but I’ve no doubt that adding a drone into the mix will bring a little something extra to any event.
If you are like me you get feedback requests from nearly every online service you use. I get texts from my cell phone company asking me to fill in surveys after every call I make to them, emails from news sites I subscribe to asking for my opinion, and then there are all those annoying little slidey-up, pop-up windows that appear when you’ve visited a site asking for your opinion. Not to mention apps that periodically request a review – even ones you’ve already paid for. I get it – businesses large and small (especially small) often thrive on positive reviews and sink on negative ones. Word of mouth marketing can be the Midas Touch or the Kiss of Death, depending on how well you perform as a business in satisfying your customer needs. For an independent freelance photographer, providing superior client service is just table stakes. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that if a client is really happy with your work, they will make the time to say so. If you’ve really done a great job, telling their friends and network about you will reflect well on them as you can then provide the same great service to their social circles. Everybody wins.
But I respect my clients and people’s time above everything and since I find requests for feedback increasingly annoying, I assume others do as well.
Which is my round-about way of saying, that I’ve created a separate page on a the pretty popular recommendations service, Yelp, where reviews from my past, present and perhaps future clients are welcome. Good or not, your honest, real feelings and thoughts on the work I’ve done for and with you are welcome and if you feel so inclined, and have the time, please stop by and let me – and the world – know what you think.
Here’s the link: Julian Haber Photography on Yelp
Well, I’m not sure if this is even a real trend or some kind of internet driven viral story gone wild, but apparently a developing trend in wedding photography (seems either to have started in the UK or the US) is to take the traditional bridesmaids photos, like the ones below, but photographed from behind with the bride and her maids mooning the camera!
I first heard about it while driving in Montreal yesterday morning listening to Rough FM. A quick internet search followed which brought up a few examples of the shots you can visit here (Mix 104.1): http://bit.ly/1oRZbm3 and here (Dangerous Minds): http://bit.ly/1lSvELo
Although I shoot plenty of weddings in Montreal, I’ve yet to have this kind of shot be requested but never say never. The summer’s not over yet.
Over this past weekend I was happy to cover an intimate wedding at Auberge du Vieux Port in Old Montreal, of two Americans who had organized the entire event from their homes in New York. They had booked a comfortable room in the hotel for their ceremony, and taken over half of the sun drenched terrace on the roof for the cocktails thereafter. It was one of those gorgeously sunny, fulgent days with a cornflower blue sky full of pretty little clouds, a cool breeze keeping the heat from ever rising above pleasant. While chatting with some of the guests about where to go for a good meal, I realized that Montreal has a lot to offer people from out of town who choose to hold their wedding ceremony here.
1. Cost effective: If the US dollar is your local currency, the exchange rate is favourable to stretching your budget and costs are generally lower for catering, photography, flowers, hotels and restaurants than they would be in most of the larger nearby US cities like New York City, Boston, or even Chicago and further afield.
2. Great selection of world-class restaurants: everyone who visits Montreal, whether it’s the first time or the tenth, raves about the food. Now with an abundance of food trucks catering to site-specific areas as well as all the amazing restaurants in the city, you don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate what Montreal has to offer. I recently gathered a crowd-sourced list of recommendations for restaurants in Montreal (see below) which I would love to see added to (anyone?). There are many more, but these are good for consideration if you are planning to spend a few days in Montreal around your wedding.
3. Excellent – and reliable – professional service providers: you can find everything you need for a wedding in Montreal easily online and make all your arrangements via phone and email. Sometimes people find this a bit nerve-wracking – to book a band, a photographer, a caterer, florist, venue and rooms for your guests all sight unseen may be a bit daunting, but Montreal lives on tourism and people will really go out of their way to help you.
4. Gorgeous city with many outdoor spaces for great photographs: whether you are planning your wedding in Old Montreal, as many couples do, or at an intimate restaurant off-island, or in the Plateau, there are countless places for getting fun, unique and beautiful outdoor shots that will make your wedding album that much more interesting. Ask your photographer for ideas – personally I’ve travelled all across the city and shot in hundreds of locations and I’d be happy to provide some ideas (stay tuned as this feels like another blog post).
5. Venues to suit all tastes and budgets: Montreal is rife with unique and innovative event spaces that can accommodate any sized wedding. In addition to all the standard wedding-factory type halls, nearly every hotel and decent sized restaurant has a special private room available for booking, and there are a number of creative spaces like the Musee Grevin, le Loft Hotel, Centre Phi, or the Montreal Musee des Beaux Arts for the artistically inclined. Again, ask your photographer for references.