It’s not about the room

liz-shane

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.

The Paparazzi Wedding Proposal

The start of something...

The start of something…

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.

Walking route to view to clock tower from Hotel Nelligan

Walking route to clock tower from Hotel Nelligan

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.

Let's take a walk

Let’s take a walk

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.

Click here to see a few more photos from the shoot.

Watch a 12 hour wedding in 3 minutes

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).

What’s an engagement photo shoot?

weddings-past 5Are you getting married this spring, summer or fall? If so, you may still be looking for a photographer to cover your wedding. As you search and meet with wedding photographers in Montreal, you will certainly be offered an engagement shoot in addition to your wedding shoot. So what is it and why would you want to do it?

As a wedding photographer in Montreal, I like the idea of an engagement shoot. One of the main benefits it yields is a great opportunity for you and your photographer to get to know each other and work together. As well, as much as it is important and fun to get wedding photos on your actual wedding day, it can also be a hectic and stressful day for bride and groom. Having a day or an afternoon to just focus on yourselves and maybe revisit places around town that are important to you as a couple can be both rewarding in and of itself, and yield some fun and truly memorable photos.

Engagement shoots can be done with studio lighting setups, but they are also fun to do out in the wild. By that I mean in places that hold special meaning to you as a couple. That may be a walk along one of Mt. Royal’s beautiful paths, or a drink at a cafe or bistro where the first sparks between the two of flew. You may even want to wander around the grounds of your soon-to-be wedding to help de-jitter the place for you and scope out areas you’d like to revisit in your full wedding clothes.

Whether you choose to include an engagement shoot with your wedding package is up to you. As usual the decision will entail balancing the additional costs against the additional gains you will make in terms of creative and highly customized photos of you and your beloved in those heady days leading up to THE BIG DAY. Whatever you decide will be the right choice (stay zen especially when making decisions about your wedding) but keep it in mind as a fun, and worthwhile option if your budget and time allow.

Top five most popular blog posts

View of Montreal from atop Mount Royal, looking south to the St. Lawrence riverJust a little past the deadline for year-end reviews, I know, but I still think it worthwhile to share the top five most popular posts from blog based on how often they were viewed and read. I’ve also made a tweak to this blog to allow for comments (which I had turned off initially due to an unbelievable amount of spam), so please feel free to comment if any of the links to articles below are helpful for you.

1. Personalized family portrait sessions in your own home

2. Adding a photobooth to your next event is easier than you think

3.What’s in a photographer’s price?

4.Stop getting ripped off for wedding photography

5. What Makes a Great Wedding Photographer?

Julian Haber PhotographyAs one of Montreal’s leading corporate portrait photographers, event photographers and family portrait photographers, I want also to take this time to thank my many clients from 2012 and all the new friends who’ve liked my Facebook page and/or lePartybooth on Facebook and who’ve experienced the mad silly fun of hosting one of lePartybooth‘s madcap set ups at their event.lePartybooth If you haven’t already, please do visit either of these two sites. Many of my clients spend time on Facebook which is why these sites were created. Most (though not all) blog posts I publish here are linked to on either of those two sites so if you prefer streaming all your media through your Facebook account, then you may find it easier to follow my blog posts there.

I am always looking for new content to post here so if you have any suggestions or questions you’d like to ask a professional photographer in Montreal, please send me an email anytime.

I am looking forward to 2013 and have some exciting new ideas for a new line of personalized portraits I will be blogging about in the coming months so stay tuned and keep smiling — the best is yet to come.