Recapping & Reflecting {2013}

This gallery contains 27 photos.

With Christmas right around the corner, and the new year quickly approaching after that, I thought it would be a cool idea to reflect on this past year. 2013 was a great, solid year for me, professionally and personally. I … Continue reading

Why my favorite thing in the whole world to shoot is {weddings}

Weddings were not what I originally wanted to get into. I had this dream of being a high fashion photographer for Vogue magazine, and traveling all over the world being able to shoot Lara Stone, Gisele, or Doutzen Kroes. But I was definitely kidding myself…I am a home body. There is no way I could live that life! I need to be around the people I love, need to hug them, and dance with them, and laugh with them. And you can’t do that to the fullest behind a phone or a screen.

So, once I realized that I could not do that kind of photography. I went to school that day and talked to an advisor that told me that the program I was in (media & communication arts) was really geared towards web/graphic designers, game designers, etc. and that I was going to have to do all my own searching to find a studio to work for because they really had not contacts to provide for me. When I got home, I cried on my bed for two hours thinking I would never get to do what I wanted. Then I started surfing the web, I think I googled something like “photography studios metro detroit”. I then proceeded to send 10 emails to each of the first ten studios that came up in my search. I heard back from none of them. Then, a week later, on my birthday, I got a call from my now boss, Jason Samkowiak of JS. Photography saying that they were looking for a second shooter for weddings, and that he could use me that weekend. I said yes, got all of the info, and we hung up. Then I was like…omg what am I getting myself into!? Wedding photography sounds awful, long hours, bridezillas, drunk groomsmen. NO THANKS.

I should have known I would fall in love immediately, because I am a huge romantic sap. Are the hours long? HELL YES. I come home with every joint in my body aching, and usually with a headache. There are DEFINITELY some bridezillas, but I haven’t come across one I can’t handle (yet). And there are definitely ALWAYS at least one really drunk obnoxious groomsmen, but they aren’t hard to handle either.

Other photographers I’ve talked to (mostly ones I went to school with) almost seemed to have this snarky, har har, oh bless your dear sweet heart, attitude when I said I had started doing weddings. Almost like they were looking down on me for doing that because it’s cliché, and mundane, and not REAL photography. I have two theories about this.

Number 1 is that they have never shot a wedding before and CLEARLY have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

Number 2 is that they have tried it in the past and failed miserably because you know what? IT’S F***ING HARD. Between the time crunch, having to manage the bridal party & newlyweds families, making sure you get all the shots that they want and you NEED to get, and LOADS of other unexpected things that always come up…it’s overwhelmingly exhausting. AND YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT. Because guess what, you can’t redo a couples first kiss at the altar after they’re pronounced husband and wife, you just CAN’T. You can try to re-pose it if you don’t get a good shot of it, but it is NEVER the same as that first time. And if you don’t get that shot, you WILL hear about it…from multiple people…over the next few months…and you will be humiliated.

Besides that…the 3 hours you have between the ceremony and reception you think you have? HA. You will probably get half that time because between driving to locations, getting everyone to LISTEN to you so you can pose them, and wardrobe malfunctions…the moments just slip away faster than you can even being to imagine.

And then there the people (and they are at EVERY wedding) that come up to you at the reception that say “oh did you get a shot of this? did you get a shot of that?” (which are always shots that are must haves that I do at every wedding) And I want to say “you know what? No I didn’t! This is my first wedding I’ve ever shot by myself and I have no idea what I’m doing!” Then I want to snatch the stupid dinky little Canon powershot out of their hand and chuck it into a pond.

PHEW! Rant over…can you tell what really pushes my buttons? LOL. But all the whole reason for this post is to share why I love shooting weddings…so FINALLY…here it is…

Every couple is different, every ceremony is different, every reception is different, every detail is different. Weddings are not all the same. Every couple puts some kind of personal touch on their big day that makes it “them”. The sacrament of marriage is holy and beautiful and something to be cherished, and none of that is seen more than on a couples wedding day because it is one of the most important days of your life. The love in their eyes is undeniable and remarkable and helps remind that even in this crazy world we live in, amazing things still exist.

I really do think that having the wedding (and husband) of my dreams has molded me into a better photographer. The sole factor being that my perspective has changed. I’ve been a bride, and that makes a HUGE difference because I’ve walked in those shoes. I know now how every single little detail is important and that brides want their hard work documented to perfection. I know how long it takes to plan a wedding and how fast the day actually goes when the day finally comes. I know the kind of comfort and reassurance you get when everyone from the photographer to your guests tell you how awesome your wedding was.

The food gets eaten, the dress gets put in a box, the flowers wilt, and people forget. What helps remind you of how amazing it was is photographs. You display them proudly on Facebook and in frames at your house as a reminder of that special day. And on days your spouse is being really annoying, or did something stupid, you will pass them in the hallway and glance at them and they will remind you of how happy you were that day and how blessed you are to have them and it will start the resolution process. I know this because I’ve lived it.

The incredible emotion on your face the day of your wedding that is captured in a photograph cannot be matched, duplicated, or redone. For me it’s the happiness in a brides voice and on her face when she sees her wedding photos for the first time. That is what I live for.

And here is a really good example from a shot I took this past May

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Why I {love} shooting film

I would like to share my honest view of film vs. digital within my own field of expertise as a pro digital and hobbyist film photographer. I have never shot film for any of my professional work, only in school and on my own personal projects. But I am a huge admirer of a few great pro film photographers and a continuous student of photography – both in the film and digital arenas.

I “learned” photography on a film camera (my mom’s Minolta Maxxum 5 to be exact), I learned how to dodge and burn with random objects that were lying around the dark room, and I learned to develop that film with my own hands in a dark room. The overwhelming satisfaction you get when you put that 8×10 print through the dryer, take it out into the light, and see the finished product is intensly gratifying. And honestly, so is the fact that you have to BE PATIENT with it. You can’t see your image right away like you can with the digital cameras, which also means you can’t see if you got the shot or not. Which I happen to love in this “instant gratification” world we live in where everyone and their mother that picks up a digital camera thinks they’re a photographer…

I can definitely attest that film has several advantages over digital – mainly, the dynamic range (or, ability to preserve details in highlights and shadows over a wide range of stops), and also the forgiving nature of film when you overexpose it. It’s very difficult to blow out film even with overexposing by 2-3 stops – and the highlights with film roll off beautifully. In that regard, you can relax a bit when you’re shooting film (especially if you have a great photo lab to develop and scan it, but that’s another topic altogether.)

However, film does have a couple of weaknesses as well. Buying, developing, and scanning film is getting quite expensive. And the FACT of the matter is that you can’t take as many images if you have to continuously change rolls of film as you can when you have a 32GB CF card in your camera. Another disadvantage? You can’t back up film; if something happens to your rolls between shooting and developing, that makes for a very unhappy photographer – and an even unhappier client.

Don’t get me wrong either, I love digitial photography, but it also has its weaknesses. The biggest weakness is dynamic range. My Canon 5D simply will not handle light as well as film will, and the light will not look as soft and even as it does with film. But I think this problem will improve over time with digital cameras, as newer models with better sensors are developed. Now, that being said, you CAN compensate this weakness by shooting in RAW format to maximize the recovery of details in highlights and shadows, and by working on improving yourself technically so that you achieve more consistently precise exposure. I always shoot in manual/RAW and spot meter, which is a huge help. I know before I press the shutter if I still have enough details in my highlights and shadows where it’s important to have detail. This is the result of lots of practice – and I’m still always working on improving my exposure.

At the end of the day, it would take a lot of convincing by a very persistant bride for me to shoot a wedding now a days on film. For me, it is just simply to risky, but I do have to say, I might start bringing my Minolta with me on wedding days as a back up 😉

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{How to…} Choose your wedding photographer

This post is going to all about how to pick your photog for your big day. The do’s, the dont’s, and the things you might not think about that are very important.

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Start looking right away because the best professional photographers book their schedules a year in advance. If you want outstanding pictures, start searching for your photographer when you have decided on the date. A wedding photographer’s peak season is Saturdays during the spring, as this is when many couples get married. If you will be celebrating an “in-season” wedding, book your photographer at least six to twelve months in advance. (I already have a wedding booked for fall of 2014!)

Take the time to actually look around. Good wedding photographers have a reputation of success, and therefore are relatively well known. They should be the easiest to find. Start your search by asking for recommendations from friends and family who have held weddings prior to your event. Ask if they liked the photographer. Look at their wedding album. Additionally, other professionals involved in your wedding day festivities will likely have worked with photographers in the past. Ask for recommendations from your wedding planner, venue manager, caterer, baker, florist or limousine driver. If all else fails, The Knot has some of the best photographers featured right on this link!

Look at SAMPLES!
See a photo you love? Copy the image URL and upload it to Pinterest (with credit to the photographer of course). Think about the tone that you want your photos to express. Are you and your fianc serious and traditional, or do you prefer a more light-hearted and playful theme to your wedding photographs? After narrowing your selection of wedding photographers down to about three, make appointments to interview the candidates. During the interview, ask to see samples of past work.

Likely, the photographer will have two or three wedding albums available for show. Make sure you see at least one album of an entire wedding, from start to finish. After examining all of the photographer’s work closely, request to see another set of photographs from a recent wedding. This will enable you to see both his best work-from the pre-selected albums-and her average daily work.

First, examine the basics of the pictures-such as color, clarity, exposure, graininess and composition. Then determine the photographer’s style; does she shoot photos that are adventurous and unique or are they standard and ordinary? This will also help you determine which style you prefer.

Pay attention to the photographer’s ability to capture the emotion of the day. Does it appear that he has the personality to make his subjects comfortable and happy? Or is she the type of photographer that seemingly takes pictures without much passion.

Come away from the interview knowing the quality of the photographer, his overall style, and if she will adjust her style to your individual taste.

Evaluate their professionalism: While not all amateur photographers are created equal, the best way to ensure you receive a quality wedding album is to hire a seasoned professional with a solid background from which to draw.

During your initial interviews, find out how many weddings the photographer has shot. He/she may have been a professional photographer for 15 years, but only doing weddings for the past year. Remember, wedding photography is much different than any other type of photography.

Along with the number of years he/she has been filming weddings, ask how many actual weddings she has photographed. This will give you a better idea of how experienced the photographer has become.

With such experience comes not only the knowledge of how to photograph a wedding, but also how to act during the ceremony and reception. For example, how will he dress and how will he act to your wedding party and guests?

Finally, find out if the photographer has shot at your wedding venue before. If he has, he may know of places to get good shots or ways to capture moments the best.

Lastly…DETERMINE COSTS AND SIGN THE CONTRACT. Any photographer that doesn’t have a contract for you to sign doesn’t take their business seriously and you shouldn’t either.

It is SO IMPORTANT that you click with your photographer, nothing is worse than not being on the same page on your big day. Make sure that everything is hashed out beforehand! Even if it means calling them one more time the week of the wedding 🙂

Yes, this is me [bragging]…

When Joe and I first got engaged, I dove head first right into planning. But holy crap was it hard! As much as I loved planning every detail myself, and loved that Joe wanted to be so involed, I totally see now why people hire wedding planners (and appreciate them more too). But luckily, the only aspect of planning that ended up being an issue was trying to find our flower girl, Summer, a dress…who woulda thought? So we just ended up having one made! Which was also less expensive than purchasing one.

The way God has blessed my life never ceases to amaze me, because our wedding day was absolutely perfect in every way shape and form. The only thing that could’ve been REALLY bad was a few of us almost getting arrested, but we didn’t! PHEW… 🙂 I am a former pessimist, and kept waiting for something to go horribly wrong, and the closer the wedding got, the worse my anxiety about it got. But of course it was perfect and we had a BLAST, and went by in the blink of an eye like everyone said it would.

The first vendor I booked was obviously our photographer, obviously. This was easy, because I am lucky enough to work for the wonderful Jason Samkowiak of JS Photography. He is such an amazing boss, it’s crazy. He frequently throws things at me that I’m not sure I can handle, but then I tell myself…he clearly has faith in me and that is a big deal and must mean I am capable. Which I always find out that I am 🙂 Being a “wedding vendor” myself, I simply must shout out my other vendors right now because they all totally kicked ass. Rod Burnette of Music Box Productions kept everyone shaking it on the dance floor all night long. Amy from Shutterbooth kept our guests having a blast all night when they were off the dance floor. And Andrew Dubats of Platinum Inferno Entertainment captured our wedding day perfectly.

At the moment Joe has this scraggly beard and way to long of hair, so looking at these makes me happy because it proves that he cleans up good when he wants to 😉

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