The Secrets to Finding An Amazing Wedding Photographer

posted on: April 14, 2014

Looking Glass
There are SO MANY wedding photographers to choose from, aren't there?!  I would be so overwhelmed if I had to pick a wedding photographer now.  I thought it was overwhelming 10 years ago, but technology has made the market so much bigger with so many more inexperienced people just creating a website and giving it a try.  I know I can't possibly serve everyone as a wedding photographer, but I can at least share some insider secrets about the wedding photography industry that might help YOU find a really great and experienced photographer for your wedding.  Here's some insider knowledge on where the most amazing wedding photographers can be found, and how to find the ones who are near you...

Glocester Lighthouse Engagement

Word of Mouth Referrals:

Talk to 5 recently married couples about their wedding photography experience and what they wish they did differently as well as who they'd recommend working with.  It's important to talk to married  couples, since an engaged couple who has selected their vendors hasn't really gone through the full experience and delivery process yet.  If someone is highly recommending a photographer you haven't seen anywhere else, it's probably because that photographer is awesome at what they do and they don't need to advertise.  Some of the best photographers simply cannot be found in traditional wedding websites and directories because they already have enough business from referrals that they don't need to put themselves out there in any other way. I know many amazing photographers who have really old websites and don't advertise anywhere because they spend all of their time serving clients rather than working on their online presence.  (I'm equally guilty of this!)  The best people to get word of mouth referrals from are other recently married couples, independent wedding planners, and venue coordinators at your favorite venues*.

*BEWARE of the Venue Vendor List:

Before blindly accepting a vendor list from a venue coordinator, ASK if the venue coordinator has actually worked with AND recommends the people on their vendor list, or if it's just a list that people pay to be on.  I've talked to many venue coordinators who say they'd never actually recommend the people on the list they hand out blindly to couples in their venue packets!!  It makes me cringe to think there are coordinators who are not providing quality referrals just because they're receiving a kick-back or commission to share names of people who want to work at their venue.  A great venue coordinator will be honest about this and give you some handwritten referrals that might not even be on their list.  Just know that paying to be on lists is a common practice in our industry and by taking the time to ask for a personal recommendation, you will get better results than assuming a list is handpicked to begin with.  If they can't give you any personal recommendations, than they may not have been working in the wedding industry for very long. Unfortunately, due to the stress and long hours of the event industry, there's often a high turnover in venue coordinators- so take note of their personal experience level as well.

Punta Cana Destination Wedding Night Portraits

Pre-Screened Professional Wedding Photography Organizations:

If you don't have enough personal referrals, this is often the second best place to find photographers who are highly qualified and produce amazing work as wedding photographers, but who aren't advertising or paying to show up on highly visible wedding websites.  Some of these professional photography websites can even help you find photographers in your local area to help narrow your search.  I've been on and off these sites depending on how much time I have to accept non-referral inquiries and how much I want my photography work to be seen.  When I'm really busy, I pull back from contest sites and professional organizations, but I love participating in them and getting accolades for my work when I have the time to invest in preparing for a contest.  There is a small caution in only using these sites: while someone may have amazing photography work and win awards from other photographers, you still need to check that couples have had great experiences working with them.  Some amazing artists aren't the best business people, so definitely go the extra mile to get references from previous clients if you decide to go with an award-winning photographer.  Here are my favorite places to find award-winning wedding photographers who are pre-screened for high-quality imagery before ever being accepted into the organizations:


REAL weddings in LOCAL Magazines & Blogs:

Do yourself a favor and skip the national magazines and blogs.  It's frustrating to look at a big list of people who might not even be in your area, or who you'd have to pay extra travel expenses for.  Go straight to your local magazines and blogs, but skip their vendor directory where people pay to be featured (no matter how long they've been in business or if they're a good photographer), and head instead to the REAL weddings section for your local area.  Look at the names hidden in the crease of that magazine or under the headline of that article, look for the photographer credit on that blog post.  Once you're armed with some names of photographers who have been featured in magazines and blogs, check out their reviews on Wedding Wire, Yelp, or Pictage to see what other clients have said about working with them.  If they have no reviews, don't assume anything is wrong, just ask them to share references with you.  I've worked with hundreds of couples and only half of everyone I ask for a review actually ends up getting around to leaving one- but if people never ask for reviews at all, and their couples are perfectly happy, they may never get reviewed.

Hopefully these industry insider tips help you find the most amazing photographers who aren't paying to advertise in the directories, who aren't doing wedding shows, and who are otherwise very difficult to find online or in print.  This isn't to say that anyone who pays to be in a directory or does a wedding show isn't a great photographer, only that there are a lot of amazing artists who hide out from the public eye and take a little more sleuthing to find!  I wish you the best in your search for an amazing photographer, and if you found this post to be useful, please share it with other engaged couples who would appreciate getting the inside scoop as well. ;-)

Divorced? Don't Toss Your Wedding Photos!

posted on: April 8, 2014

While it's perfectly understandable why someone might want to toss wedding photos and everything else that represents an ex-relationship, I would like to invite you to consider all of the other amazing sentimental moments that only occur on a wedding day and should be preserved even if you don't have children to pass wedding images onto...

Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Dance:
For many people, their wedding day is the only time in their lives that they dance with one of their parents.  This is often an incredibly meaningful moment between a parent and child, and it may never happen again, so definitely save and print these for archival purposes.

Elders & Extended Relatives:
Weddings may be the only time that we get to connect with distant parts of our family, and if they're older than we never know when or if we'll see them again, so it's best to preserve these images in the event that one day it's the only tangible memory you have of them.

Siblings, Cousins, & Friends Looking Amazing:
You probably have a few family members or friends who ONLY get dressed up for a wedding day, and the images from your wedding may be the only proof that they've ever worn something nicer than jeans in their lifetime.  Why not give them a copy to help them see how good they look when they put some effort into it?

Social Proof:
That your dad can dance, that your cousin really can crack a smile and laugh, that your aunt can make a killer floral arrangement, that your best friend has lost so much weight, or that little Sam made it through an entire day without a total meltdown.  There are subtle clues in your wedding images that can help people remember who they are or how far they've come, and can provide a great pick-me-up when they're feeling down.

Another way that wedding images are also used fairly often is for funerals.  When no other great photo of a person exists, there may be an awesome image of them from the wedding, looking their best and enjoying themselves, which is how so many people like to remember their loved ones.

When you consider how many meaningful and joyful moments unfold on a wedding day outside of the ceremony itself, it makes the images that much more important to invest in and hold onto like any other significant investment you make in your lifetime.  Please print what's important to you because technology changes and fails quickly, but archival photographs survive many generations.  If you know of someone who's dealing with a divorce or separation right now, please share this list to help them appreciate the investment they made in the event that brought their closest friends and family together in celebration.

*Sincere thanks to my sisters who have held onto their weddings photos and allowed me to share some here. ;-)

My Birthday Wish...

Photographed a casting directors home today and decided to tap her industry experience by asking what role she'd cast me in based on how I look today. She said, "suburban mom, bookish smarts… maybe Brooklyn hipster with your hair down and different clothe
(iphone selfie, hardly any makeup, just being real with you)

Can you believe I've been sharing my thoughts, images, advice, etc. on this blog for over 9 years now?!  NINE YEARS!  It's almost as old as my photography business. ;-)  Since I've been writing here for so long, my birthday wish is to know:

How has my blog impacted you as a reader?  

I often feel like I'm writing to the unknown because I don't demand calls of action or comments from you as a reader - I just let you enjoy whatever I have to offer without asking much in return.  Today I'm asking, because it's my birthday, and celebrating another trip around our solar system is when we get to celebrate our journey in the world, right?  That we survived another year, that we overcame obstacles, and that we kept on pushing through and didn't give up on ourselves and what we have to offer to others.  I'm grateful you subscribe and read and let me share my images and words with you.  Today, I'd really love to hear from you... why do you keep reading my blog?  What do you look forward to?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

Love, hugs, and caffeine,

What Headshot Background Should I Have?

posted on: March 31, 2014

The background for your headshot or portrait helps to establish a mood or atmosphere that provides subtle suggestions about you, your work, and your style.  To help you decide which background would be best for you, here are a few things to take into consideration:

How Will Your Portrait Be Used Most Often?

Does this photo need to blend into a website, conference poster, online directory, or anything else which requires a standardized look?  If so, white or plain colored are backdrops often used to create a consistent look on a website or in a directory of other professionals.  If you already have a website that your image needs to be standardized with, it would be good to share the site in advance with your photographer so that they can also choose the appropriate lighting for you and your background.

Does this photo need to quickly and clearly communicate something about the person or an  experience or feeling that isn't directly apparent otherwise?  If so, carefully choosing an environmental background is going to be the fastest method to communicate an intent most clearly to the viewer.  Magazines, news publications, and small business websites often benefit most from portraits that provide more context and information about the person in the portrait.

Health Coach Headshot - DawnKelli's Headshot

Environmental Background:

Benefits: Environmental portraits can be taken indoors, outdoors, during the day, or at night and help provide a context, situation, or scenario that the viewer can identify with beyond making assumptions from hairstyle and clothing alone.  For example, showing a female in a workout outfit on white might suggest a studio yoga instructor to one person or a runner to another, but putting her in the context of a gym with weights will help more clearly identify her as a personal trainer.  Seeing a man in a suit on a grey background might suggest a general business person, but when photographed in the context of a courtroom or library can more easily suggest a lawyer.  A happy face in an urban environment suggests something different than a happy face in a beach environment.  Subtle clues are provided by environmental context that can help a portrait more clearly and easily communicate a role, career, context, or outcome for working with someone that cannot be easily achieved with pain backgrounds in the studio, which is why environmental backgrounds are often used in magazine and news contexts.  Environmental backgrounds can be found anywhere and allow for a variety of lighting methods.

Drawbacks: Not all environments are ideal for photography and some may produce distracting elements that take the attention off of the portrait if not photographed carefully.  It's important to work with an experienced professional who can carefully craft an image in an environment that keeps the attention focused on the portrait itself while still using the background as a true secondary element in the image.  This is the easiest type of portrait for many people to take, but the hardest to make look professional if you don't know your way around professional cameras or photoshop.

Where It Shows Up Most: Editorial magazines & newspaper portraits, small business portraits, modeling portfolios, executive portraits, and actor headshots.

Suburbia Headshots for UML Off Broadway Players

Marta Sinclair - Author Headshot

Plain Colored Background:

Benefits: Colored backgrounds can help suggest a mood without suggesting a specific context, and can be used to help highlight and flatter different skin/eye/hair tones in a portrait.  Color psychology can be applied to help attract the right audience or generate desired feelings about the person in the portrait.  A colored background creates a natural frame around an image that is less likely to blend into the white page of a magazine or online article.  A wide variety of lighting techniques can be used to achieve a great portrait against a colored background.

Drawbacks: Colors can often be tied to certain periods of time and may help date the image over time (but this is no more dramatic than hairstyles and clothing).  Colors can repel certain people as easily as they attract others.  Clothing choices may need to be chosen carefully to avoid blending or clashing with a background color.

Where It Shows Up Most: Fashion advertising, actor headshots, modeling portfolios, small business portraits, corporate headshots, and printed directories.

Singer Headshot - Sara


Doug Personal Lifestyle Portrait

High Key White Background:

Benefits: A completely clean white background can be versatile in many different contexts and helps keep the attention of the image focused completely on the person being photographed.  A true white background can create a borderless look when placed on a white page in websites, conference booklets, annual reports, and presentation posters.  If used against a dark page or background, the high key white will help the headshot pop off the page by creating a high contrast and brightness point to draw the eye.  High key white offers the most consistency when paired with other high key white portraits photographed by different photographers or at different times..

Drawbacks: Portrait may come across as sterile or institutional due to the lack of context.  Provides no additional mood or clues for the viewer.  May create a surreal "floating head" effect if used the wrong way on a white page.  May require additional lighting on location or studio expenses to achieve the high-key look.

Where It Shows Up Most: Stock photography, corporate portraits, and online directories.

Citi Center HeadshotCiti Center Headshot

Get The Best Profile Photo Possible

posted on: March 26, 2014

As a photographer, I'm always aiming to create images that help people sell themselves or their product online.  I love that Photo Feeler, a site for testing your profile photo against the metrics identified below, recently did a study on how different elements of a photo help or hurt your chances (see info graphic following).  I know that I've experienced the effects of a good or bad photo online when being chosen to be hired for a job and especially in the online dating world where all you get is a 2D image and a bit of text to make a decision to meet someone in person or not!  Whether we like it or not, our online image is often the first impression that people have of us, and sometimes it's the only impression they get if that impression isn't favorable right off the bat!  If you see that your profile pic suffers from some of the drawbacks researched below and you haven't been able to nail it on your own, get in touch with me to schedule a profile photo update soon!  If I can't help you, I'll help you find someone who can!

The Perfect Profile Photo Infographic

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