Kyle proposed to Dani at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers on a sunny Saturday morning in July. I made a visit to the Conservatory of Flowers a week beforehand to scout, and come up with a plan. From the moment Kyle hopped down on his knee, it was clear that these two were entirely on the same page about their love and the proposal. Dani jumped into the engagement without hesitation. There was some sweet debate as to whether Kyle actually asked the question, but he was undeniably down on a knee with a gorgeous ring gripped in his fingers, so anybody could tell exactly what he meant. After the marriage proposal, we headed over to a redwood grove and a tunnel with lovely light in Golden Gate Park for an engagement session. Dani has studied dance over the years, so she was an absolute natural in front of the camera. Both of them brought their giddy excitement about the proposal to the photos.
Here are some of the things that helped me to think through hiring my own wedding photographer…
Wedding photography is a luxury, but so is almost everything about a wedding. The weird thing about the photography is that it lasts longer than the dress, steak, wine, cake, music, etc. etc. Eventually, what the photographer saw can overtake other memories. So weird! Anyway. It is important!
One way to think about it is that you are commissioning an artist to make a body of work about you, your love, your family, and your friends. For many people this is one of the only times in their lives they will commission an artist to make work for them.
Wedding photography cost varies by market. I might have expensive taste, but one woman I talked to quoted me 10k for her bare bones package. WTF?! That is over the top. Up to 6k seems within reason in more expensive cities. Anything under 3k, you are working with someone who is either, in a market with very very cheap living expenses, is an unrealistic business person, is a bad photographer, is just starting out, or some combination of these things.
Important questions to consider when hiring a photographer:
Do we trust this person? Is this person actually the photographer who will come on our wedding day? Are they easy to be around? Will they take their commitment to the work seriously? Will they understand what is important to us about our wedding, or do they have their own ideas that they will try to impose? Will this person get along with our guests? What final product are we getting? Do we get all of the high resolution files or do we have to pay for each and every print? Do we want to order prints ourselves? Do we want a professionally produced album? Would we ever get around to making an album ourselves?
What sort of style does this photographer have? Will they capture us in natural joyful expressions? Are they too focused on making an interesting picture? Are they creative enough with their compositions? Do they take too many pictures of the cake, dress, jewelry, centerpieces? (There is a whole genre that is beholden to blogs like Style Me Pretty. This genre includes a strange amount of product photography along with the traditional coverage.)
So, there’s my two cents.
Also, my cheeky article on why you don’t need a wedding photographer: https://hazelphoto.com/why-you-dont-need-wedding-photographer/
Not everyone is quite as lucky as Zoe & David, nonetheless we can still bask in the glory that is their love and their wedding. These two were married on a bright and beautiful day in early July at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York. The Ashokan Center is an environmental education and retreat center tucked into the backroads near the Ashokan Reservoir.
(Sidenote: Back in Brooklyn, David an Zoe, and their neighbors throughout New York City, drink water from the Ashokan Reservoir. NYC’s water is supposedly the reason for the burg’s incomparable bagels.)
Sometimes the choice of a wedding venue couldn’t be more obvious. Of course Zoe & David’s would host their wedding at the Ashokan Center, where they fell in love under the stars, over banjos and fiddles.
This was my favorite variety of wedding where you say yes to the traditions that make you feel good, and the traditions you’re less fond of? they disappear.
- You care deeply what it actually felt like to be at your wedding, and so you want wedding photos that convey that feeling. The goal in “documentary wedding photography” is to make images that make you feel what it was like to be at your wedding years after the fact.
2. You want a photo of your best friend doing the worm, of your mom teasing her sister, of your dad hugging you with tears in his eyes, of your niece with that look like she’s plotting world takeover. These are the moments a documentary wedding photographer sees, and immortalizes.
3. You want a photographer who has a keen eye for the meaningful gestures, expressions, and details that tell the larger story. A documentary wedding photographer spends years honing the ability to see the unexpected, to frame things just right, so the viewer is compelled by the photograph, and understands the scene.
4. You don’t want your photographer to tell you to have a second first look. One is overwhelmingly wonderful. Also, hold on a sec, how in the world can you have a second first look? This speaks to the authentic manner in which documentary wedding photographers work.
5. You want pictures that make you feel seen. A documentary wedding photographer can make photographs that compliment the principles that guided you when you were planning your wedding. (whether you sat down and wrote out official guidelines with your fiancé, or you just have a general sense of what you were about during the planning.) Unfortunately some wedding photography doesn’t see you for who you are, and ends up being more a photographer’s idea of what a “romantic wedding” should look like.
6. You don’t want a photography company that takes over with multiple cameras, and blocks your guests’ view, and makes it feel like a photoshoot, not like an authentic event. In “documentary wedding photography” the goal is to let the wedding be what it is, rather than to step in and change it.
7. You like the color of your dress and the florals you chose, and you want them to be true to life in the pictures. The style of a documentary wedding photographer can be carried into processing images after the wedding day with the goal of reproducing beautiful faithful color. Some wedding photography is significantly altered in processing, whether that be desaturation, color grading, or excessive retouching.
E and B were willing to meet me early in the morning at Wildcat Canyon for a hike and engagement photo session. I think of this as the Berkeley Hills, even though it’s a teensy bit North of Berkeley. This set is a sunrise engagement session! My absolute favorite. We met early in the morning, and used the delicious soft light coming through the grass, rolling over the hills, emanating from the city below, for our glory. While sunset engagement sessions are also lovely and ubiquitous, they generally involve lots of other people in the scene to avoid. We had a particularly quiet morning, and for much of our hike, there was nobody else in eyesight. The part of the hike up on the ridge line next to the forest was special, lush and new. It was January here in the Bay Area, the rainy season, but we got lucky and had a clear, sunny morning. The rain brought out the green grass and the mushrooms.
Here we have a year of weddings as seen through “moments.”
2018 brought a lovely diversity of venues throughout the Bay Area and beyond, including the Sierra Mountains, Big-Sur, The Boston T and the Boston Public Library, Art Museums, Tiny Chapels and Massive Urban High Schools, Small High Schools and Redwood Theaters, a Mansion that once belonged to a general…
I feel overwhelming gratefulness for all the joy and ritual that I experienced through a camera lens this past year.
But why “moments”? Because they draw us in through their storytelling power. They make us feel what exists on either side of them. They don’t just show a gorgeous dress. They show a woman in a gorgeous dress flushed with joy as she dances with her father. Her gesture shows the freedom and the fun she has shared with him. They don’t just show a marriage license sitting upon a table. They show a group hug between a bride, a groom, her sister, his brother, and the closest of friends, the marriage license gripped between the groom’s fingers.
A photograph is time frozen. Sure, etymologically speaking, it is a light-drawing…but maybe we should have called it a nontempograph… because it’s conceptual implications are: it takes something that exists in the spatiotemporal world, and strips it of time, leaving it to a solely spatial existence. It is of time and yet out of time. A spatial representation of time at a standstill.
And in it’s spatial existence, it can only hint at temporality. It is those photographs that gesture grandly toward temporality that move me most.
Here’s to a 2019 of making wedding photographs that gesture grandly toward temporality.