Alex & Amanda wanted to have a a small ceremony with just close friends and family, so they went to Shotgun Ceremonies Wedding Chapel in Seattle and a large wedding is NOT an option, but it is a really great spot when you want to have a smaller wedding. It is very funky and the people that work there are a lot of fun. Because of the timing of the wedding and reception we did all of their photos at Shotgun Ceremonies and on the short walk between there and Merchants Cafe & Saloon. (The oldest Saloon in Seattle) where they had their reception in a very cool basement space. They also wanted to have something for their guests to do as there wasn’t enough space for dancing, so they added our GONNA SNAP! Photo Booth and gave it a good workout!
Not all weddings are huge events, some times a couple decides to keep it simple and invite just a few people for a more intimate wedding. Shona & David had been together for a long time and decided it was finally time to actually get married. One thing I always tell couples when they’re planning their weddings is to do what makes them happy, after all it is their wedding. These guys wanted an intimate wedding at their home, spent a bunch of time fixing up their back yard and fortunately they managed to cover their patio to keep their guests dry as we dodged rain storms all day. We did manage to get outside for a few photos.
5 Tips for finding your perfect wedding photographer
I’ve seen a lot of articles about how to pick wedding photographers and I choose not to reference any. While some articles may have good points, as a wedding photographer myself I feel like I have a slightly different take on the matter.
Without being too self serving, I should tell you I started Firstlight Photography in 2002, after working for a local newspaper for a few years doing sports photography. At first we mostly did portraits, head shots and some events, soon we began to receive requests for wedding photography. Since these were referrals from some of our best clients it was tough to say “no”, although at first I and no intention of making this a part of my business. What changed? I LOVED IT! My wife and I decided that if we were up front about who we were, we’d attract people we wanted to work with and it worked. Now with over 10 years and over 250 weddings under my belt I still love it.
The following post will hit on some of the important points to consider when searching for your perfect wedding photographer. In future posts I will expand on some of these subjects.
#5: Do your homework.
No, you don’t have to learn anything about photography, there won’t be any tests, but I do suggest you spend some time thinking about what you want in terms of wedding photography and the style of photos you like. Spend some time brainstorming about what you really want captured on your big day, a list of family photo groups you want, special guests, special details and anything else you can think of that is important to you. Most wedding photographers will know the standard things to take photos of, but if you don’t tell the that your favorite Aunt will be flying in from Fargo and it would mean the world to you to get a photo with her, how would they know?
What do you need to know?
- What are the most important items for you to have photographed?
- What conditions will your photographer be working in? (dimly lit church or in bright mid day sunlight?
- Where will the wedding parties be getting ready? (same or different locations?)
- Will you be seeing each other before the ceremony for a “first look” photo?
- What styles do you love or hate? Do you like posed formal photos or more a more candid photojournalistic approach?
- Do you love or hate B&W photos?
Bottom line, you need to know what you want and let your photographer know what you are expecting from them. This communication is key to getting the wedding photos you really want.
#4 Find at least 3 photographers whose style you like.
So, where should you start? Google, Wedding Wire and Offbeat Bride can help you find photographers in your area. Facebook can be your friend too, BUT be specific if you post a question. Don’t say “looking for an affordable photographer on my wedding date”. What’s affordable? Bill Gates and I have very different ideas of “affordable”. I suggest saying, “Looking for a photographer in the $2000 range for our wedding date”. WARNING: Posting something like this on Facebook could get you HUNDREDS of responses. You’ve been warned.
Don’t limit yourself, try to pick out 3 photographers you think match your style and meet with them. Don’t freak out about budget yet and don’t cut people because they’re $500 over what you thought you wanted to spend. If your budget is $2,500, avoid photographers that charge $10,000, BUT don’t cut out a photographer that charges $3,000 on average. You haven’t written a check yet and it is in your best interest to make an informed decision. A little extra spent on photography can be made up on other items your guests will never notice, BUT if you scrimp on photography that choice may haunt you for a long time.
#3: Realize the right photographer may be more expensive than you thought.
Experienced wedding photographers aren’t cheap and, trust me, wedding photography isn’t something you want to trust to the $500 Craigslist photographer or your uncle Bob that has a cool camera. Weddings can be very stressful, you are on a tight timeline, at the mercy of many other people. You have to get it right the first time. You are relying on your photographer to record your wedding day because when the the party is over, cake’s been eaten and the dust settles the photos tell the story of one of the biggest days of your life.
Besides the demands of the actual wedding day there is an incredible amount of time that goes into planning, coordination and post production. Just to go through the photos taken and get them ready for previews takes 3-4 hours for every hour of wedding photography. We also do our best to help our couples plan out their big day and use our experience to help them with planning and often suggesting other trusted vendors for them.
Bottom line, it is worth spending a little extra on a good wedding photographer, there are a lot of other places you can cut back a bit to reduce costs and nobody will ever know, but if your wedding photos don’t turn out that will stick with you.
#2: Don’t get lost in the details.
I get asked a lot about what kind of equipment I use and about my editing software, but Ive found that when I actually start telling clients most of the time their eyes glaze over and they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. You might also have preconceived notions about what’s good and what’s not. Would it matter if I told you that I show with Nikon, Canon or Sony? Sure, equipment matters a little. If your photographer is shooting with the Costco special with the $100 kit lens it doesn’t mean they can’t take great photos, but it does mean that they will be limited in certain situations.
Things you DO need to know:
- Do they have the right equipment & experience to shoot in the conditions they will face at your wedding?
- Do they have backup equipment in case a something breaks? (This happens)
- What happens if you have to move your wedding date or cancel?
You want to make sure that your photographer has the equipment and experience to capture your photos on the big day, part of this is doing your homework and knowing the conditions they’ll be shooting in and talking with them about those conditions.
Typically wedding vendors do not refund deposits / retainers for their services, especially as you get close to the wedding date. The one big exception that I make is for military couples when they are deployed or moved. All we ask for is to see a copy of the orders and a we refund their deposit because we understand that it is totally out of their control.
#1: Make sure you like your photographer!
On your wedding day there are two vendors you really want to have a great relationship with (3 if you have a wedding planner / day of coordinator), your DJ and your photographer. The having a good relationship with the DJ will help them get to know your personality and improve your communication with them which will make the reception the event you’d want it to be.
When looking for a photographer keep in mind that we’ll be with you for pretty much the entire day, we typically spend more time with you than anybody else at the wedding. As a photographer our job is to document your day and to capture your personality and if we irritate you that will show in your photos.
We’re always happy to find a convenient middle ground to meet at with potential couples for coffee to go over their plans, get to know each other a little and see if we’d be a good fit for each other. This is something you can’t get a feeling for over emails or from a web site, so whenever possible set aside an hour or so to meet with potential photographers.
David and Carolyn wanted to have a pretty low key wedding so they could hang out with their friends and family. So often we shoot weddings and it is such a big production that at the end of the night the couple are exhausted and don’t hardly remember the day because they were so busy and worried about what was going to happen next. Often they don’t even get a chance to eat the dinner after they spent tons of time picking out a catering company. David and Carolyn had a really great wedding, got to hang out and really spend time with the people closest to them while still having a great time. David Sader from Absolute Music provided the music and provided a great mix of background music and fun stuff to dance to. To top it all off, while the weather looked like it was going to be nasty all day, it cleared up and was wonderful just as everybody started showing up for the wedding. Great music, a wonderful couple and an amazing setting all contributed to one of my favorite weddings this summer.
Cindy & Jerold tied the knot this summer on the grounds of a Summer Camp on Fox Island, WA. Where’s that? Out past Gig Harbor, we’d never been there either, but it was a great venue. This couple was so in love, the groom did a happy dance when he was told he could kiss the bride! Why on earth is there a photo of a dog hanging out in the grass? He’s the camp dog and made him self at home during the wedding, even hanging out with the bride during the ceremony.
Amy & Paul got married in a very nice back yard wedding… a really big back yard.
Some of our favorite photos taken at a recent wedding at Heartland Ranch in Graham, WA. We love this venue, not just because of the great locations for photos, but the friendly staff really go out of their way to help out.
Here is a sneak peek of several wedding photos from Hally and Lou’s Salish Lodge wedding. With a backdrop of the lodge and Snoqualmie Falls, Firstlight Photography knew this wedding would serve up amazing images. Working with this couple and the wedding venue was a real treat.
Seeing both brides as they appeared in their gowns was a breathtaking moment. Two elegant brides with the most amazing dresses – what is not to love about this day? Their love shines through and it truly shows in their photographs.
We are honored to be able to photograph the weddings of some of the most amazing people. It truly is a labor of love. Thank you to all of our clients for letting us be responsible for capturing your wedding photography. Truly this is a job we take very seriously. We know we get but one chance to deliver and we work our hardest to exceed your expectations.
Contact Kier and Mitzi to schedule your consultation. We will help you outline your wedding day schedule.
A while back the lovelies at Firstlight Photography posted a question on Facebook about whether or not there was anyone interested in doing a Trash the Dress session with them. I, being the crazy person I am, jumped at the chance. It was suggested that we do the shoot at Rein Fire Ranch in Ravensdale. If you’re not familiar with the area you are sorely missing out. Rein Fire Ranch is located in a beautiful area southeast of Seattle and is surrounded by the majestic Sugarloaf Mountain Forest.
I have to say, my breath was taken away when I first pulled up to the ranch. First off, the place is HUGE. Second, the view is, to be a bit cliche, breathtaking. There’s sky and mountains and trees as far as the eye can see. It’s an absolutely beautiful background. And that’s not even the ranch itself. Rein Fire Ranch has a bounty of awesome features. From the lush green grounds to the rustic barn. From the amazing garden complete with gazebo to the cabana. But my favorite area was probably the pathway between the fenced in pastures, which if you are lucky, may contain a horse or two.
Before lighting up my dress we did some more traditional photos using the barn and grounds. The place is absolutely perfect for wedding photos. There are so many areas to take photos; you can go traditional and use the huge lawn and garden area, you can go rustic and use the barn and pasture areas, not to mention the bridal suit for getting ready. The possibilities are kind of endless. After our foray into traditional pictures it was time to get down to business.
Using one of the fenced in pasture areas we set up a fire pit and got to burning things. First a cardboard cake, then my dress. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. There is something very freeing about ripping off your white dress and throwing it into a fire. And before you ask, yes, I am still very happily married and about to have a baby. I’m just no longer a blushing bride, more like a grown woman who happens to be married. So I guess you could consider my Trash the Dress experience as a coming of age event. With fire.
A few weeks ago I was standing with a flock of warbird enthusiasts up at the Flying Heritage Collection at Pain Field in Everett, WA with my camera in hand waiting for a bf-109 & FW-190 (WW II German fighters) when I started thinking back to where the obsession with War Birds and photography met…
Set the “Way Back Machine” to 1976 when I got my first airplane book at a little book store in Encinitas, CA right after my dad took me to see Monty Python’s Holy Grail at the La Paloma Theater. I think it was the drawing of a one of the Flying Tiger’s P-40’s that fascinated me, the shark mouth just looked so cool. I started trying to copy the drawing, over and over again. I loved that book and while it’s a little worse for the wear I still have it. This was the spark that would change the rest of my life, but at 6 years old I just thought the P-40 looked really cool.
A few years later, I think it was in 6th grade I was in the school library having to find a book to read when I stumbled on a book about the Red Barron and when I went home to start reading it I was hooked. I finished the book that night and went back the next day to get more history books. I ended up reading every book the school library having anything to do with WW I & II. One of my dad’s friends, who was an warbird buff, suggested that I read a couple of other books that weren’t at my school library, so I went down to the Carlsbad City Library to pick up “Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway” & “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”, read them and kept going back for more. Most of my interest focused on the airplanes and this interest never passed.
A couple of summers later (between Jr. High & High School) my dad’s friend, who lived in Fresno at the time, invited me to come up so I could go to a with him to the Madera Air Show. For the first time in my life I was finally going to be able to see the planes I’d been reading about for the past couple of years. It was an amazing experience and I hardly minded that it was 110 degres out on the runway! I was there seeing these planes fly for the first time in my life, experiencing the sound and power of some of the most famous aircraft in the world and there I was with my little Kodak 110 camera borrowed from my grandmother taking the photos that would start it all.
The new obsession was air shows and thankfully I lived in Southern California and was surrounded by military bases, Mirimar NAS, El Toro MCAS, March AFB, Norton AFG, Point Mugu NAS and Edwards AFB all just close enough that I could make my dad drive me and my best friend to all of them with an upgraded camera borrowed from my uncle Dan this time. I got to see some things I’d never forget. One year at Mirimar NAS (then home of Top Gun) I watched on as a low flying F-14 pushed just a little too far and broke the sound barrier and managed to shatter the windows of the radio booth that was covering the show. At Point Mugu in 1983 or ’84 I got to watch famous stunt pilot Art Scholl (who later perished while filming the movie Top Gun) fly an amazing routine in a Rockwell Shrike Commander (he finished up his routine flying w/o power, did a couple of loops, landed and taxied the plane to the centerline of the air show and made it curtsy as it came to a stop – all without the engines on)! In 1988 I was at the El Toro Air Show with my uncle when I watched an F/A-18 crash during a demonstration. The pilot was fine, by the way.
My Junior year of High School is when I finally got a camera (Pentax special that was the Price Club special as a Christmas Present) of my own and the summer between my Junior and Senior year I got to take my first photography class at a local college (the class at my High School was impossible to get into). I had an amazing teacher who was more interested in helping us develop our style of photography than doing everything exactly by the numbers and I’m SO glad she was my first photography teacher. If my second teacher may had been my first things might have ended differently for me. She was clearly checked out and didn’t know anything other than how to run us through the chapters in a book – boring exercise after boring exercise with no passion or interest in what the students were doing.
My senior year was a rough time, with some crazy family problems that I won’t bother to go into here, but I started working on the school newspaper and yearbook and really poured my energy into the photography in an effort to block out what was going on at home. I took pictures of my friends at school, my cousins on the weekends and from time to time drove down to Palomar Airport to take pictures of the random planes down there. My trusty Pentax was stolen out of my car, so I traded my mountain bike for my friends Minolta X700 that I’m now teaching my kids photography with and I bough a Yashica 124g with money earned working for my father. With my work on the yearbook and newspaper I was really starting to take more and more photos of people and was really enjoying that. I even did some head shots for a girl at my school who was on one episode of The Wonder Years and I have shots of my classmate Denise Richards (pre-Charlie Sheen drama of course).
So, how did I get from there to here? I was actually very strongly encouraged by my family to go into photography, but I at the time I felt that if I took something that I loved so much and made it a job I’d end up getting sick of doing it and I really didn’t want to loose the passion for photography. As a result I had a long series of jobs at camera stores and various other things. While the jobs changed every couple of years my love for photography was still there. In about 1999 I was hired by my father-in-law’s company to spend a week traveling around the country taking pictures of their devices that were installed in hospitals. Suddenly the switch was flipped and when I got back from that trip I started hounding all of the local newspapers to hire me as a photographer. While I had a job, now as a travel agent, I kept calling all of the editors until one finally had an assignment for me. I started shooting school sports for a local paper after work and was thrilled to be finally making some money doing photography. It wasn’t much, but I saved every penny of that money to buy better equipment. Shortly after 09/11/01 I quit my job as a travel agent and set off on my own, doing contract photography for a sports photography company, working for the paper and picking up portrait shoots.
I was working as a photographer but things changed when my new wife (and my biggest fan) asked what I though about shooting weddings. Honestly, I’d avoided them with a few exceptions for friends and family and had never really considered being a “wedding photographer”. It just so happened that at that time one of my best friends was getting married and the friend of a model I’d done some work with was getting married within two weeks of each other. Mitzi just suggested that I go into shooting with the mindset of seeing if it would be something I’d want to do. Well, I loved shooting the weddings! We then changed the business name, started marketing weddings and soon had booked up 15 weddings for the next summer!
Now we’re into our 5th year of shooting weddings and we’re going strong. This year at Mitzi’s suggestion we opened “Little Black Book” as our boudoir studio and that side of the business has been much more successful than I had expected. Mitzi told me it would be, don’t know why I doubted her. She’s a genius!