Sally & Rodney's Wedding

posted on: February 28, 2006

Wow. I think that's the best description of this wedding... wow. Weddings like this make my job so easy. I could be the worst photographer in the world and still walk away with amazing pictures because everything was just so beautiful. The location, the people, the details, the expressions ...beautiful. Often times you run into beautiful locations and people that guard their image by being pretentious or unfeeling. Not this couple, not these guests, and not even this beautiful location.

Sally & Rodney were married at the St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek, MI and their cocktail hour and reception were held at Brook Lodge in Augusta, MI. One of the things that Sally & Rodney told me when they met with me was, "We look best in black & white." Now, while I knew from looking at them, that wasn't entirely true, I did make sure that I took plenty of my favorite B&W film with me. Sally also mentioned that she really wanted a "fine art look" for her photographs. This gave me the freedom to be a bit more abstract at times, and because we had a pretty liberal schedule after the ceremony, I was able to take more time to create some fine art portraits with Sally & Rodney while guests were enjoying the cocktail hour.

One thing I have to rag on Sally about is her five hour hair, which caused her to show up an hour late to her own wedding. (Sally, you didn't think I'd forget to mention it, did you??) ;-) Now, because I wasn't asked to go to the salon with her, I don't know exactly what happened in those five hours, but I do know that I made the most of that last hour by taking pictures of people waiting in the lobby, pictures of Rodney frantic on the phone, and then Rodney reassuring guests that his bride was indeed going to show up... eventually.

Ladies, let this be a lesson to all- plan way more time than you need for your hair and makeup. Just about every time a wedding starts late, it's because of hair & makeup. Sally is not the first, and she won't be the last. Because we were running behind, pretty much everything was rushed into the least amount of time possible until we got back on schedule at the reception. Despite the rushing, I still managed to grab some awesome images that look like everyone was calm and happy.. ahh the magic of the lens.

The one thing that I must commend this couple on is their ability to stick together on their wedding day. I can't tell you how hard it is to get great candid moments of a bride & groom together because they often split up to talk to different people at the reception. Sally & Rodney made my job easy and gave me plenty of opportunities to candidly capture them dancing together, talking with each other, and enjoying their guests together. I only wish every couple was so aware of staying together at their reception! I'm so grateful that I met Sally & Rodney, they are wonderful individuals, and an amazing couple. I feel very lucky that I got to be the person on the other side of the lens.

Click on any image to view a flash slideshow of their wedding day...

(Can you tell how much I love kissing pictures??)

Skeleton Skies - a fine art series

posted on: February 26, 2006

These images were inspired by Zach Arias' GOYA Fridays. I always have my monthly ritual of shooting for pleasure in order to produce an image or few that I give away as a monthly desktop or wallpaper image for your computer, but I hadn't really dedicated myself to a series that I would want to frame and hang on the wall of a coffee shop. I've also been a little frustrated with a few technology issues lately, so I decided that going for a walk would help me take a step back from the digital dilemas that were turning me into a crazy person.

Thursday was an amazing morning, warm and sunny, so I was bound to go for a long walk with my dog and classic OM10 camera. I was inspired to create a series worthy of framing, which would have a distictive theme. I looked up and loved the shapes of the trees tops... how they seemed to pierce the sky and clouds. So I spent the next hour or more walking around with my head in the clouds. I named this series "Skeleton Skies" because it explores the relationship between the plant life that survives the winter in a skeleton state and the cloud formations above them....

.. as a side note, while my head was in the clouds, my dog's nose was on the ground where he found some real skeletons from things that did NOT survive the winter. I was a little shaken up when I saw the inside of a deer, but it really hit home that the winter is an elimination process for the survival of the fittest.

Just for fun... here's a picture of my dog, Bailey. Two hours after this picture was taken, the ground was covered with snow again. Four hours after the ground was covered with snow, it started raining. Isn't Michigan great?

Joy & Brian Engagement

posted on: February 22, 2006

Wow, I don't think I could have asked for a more beautiful couple! Killer smiles and eyes :-)

I have to admit that this was the first engagement session where I didn't feel like I got to do enough of what I wanted! But ultimately, everything worked out great and it's really not about what I want, so I'm willing to concede when it will make a couple happy. My idea of an engagement session is all about taking time to have fun, getting to know the bride & groom, doing a few crazy things, and letting the creativity take over. However, Joy & Brian had a very specific agenda which was easy to accommodate. Instead of 50+ fun and creative shots, they were really only aiming for one. They just wanted one good shot to put on their save-the-date cards, and quick!

I was definitely a bit hesitant when Joy suggested winter pictures at Metro Beach. Huh?! Snow on a beach? But it came out of a creative idea she had about mentioning on her save-the-dates that she would see her guests when it warmed up! I think that's cute! So now I was faced with the idea of how to communicate "winter" while still trying to get some warm expressions. Luckily we ended up getting snow on the weekend of the shoot, but it was c-c-c-cold out!

Since Brian & Joy just wanted one black & white picture for their save-the-dates, I just took a few rolls of B&W (and color film, just in case they changed their mind!) It was funny when Brian said, "so, there's REAL film in there?" Yep, film is not dead. :-) Actually, one of the disadvantages of digital, where it still has not overcome traditional film, is that digital is not so good with "whites". Digital, if not done with the utmost care, can actually be blinded by strong white highlights and thus, erase a lot of detail in a wedding dress, or in this case... snow. ;-) Going into this shoot, I knew that film would be the only way to go.

Unfortunatley they were too cold to stay out in the snow longer than one roll of film, but we got some great shots and my butt enjoyed their car's heated leather seats on the way home! The happy ending is that Joy & Brian found not one, but two pictures for their save-the-dates cards and couldn't decide between them- so they just ordered two different sets of cards. One had his favorite picture which would be sent to his family and one had her favorite picture which would be sent to her family. Sounds fair to me and everyone ends up happy! Who knows, the cards may become collector's items when Joy finally goes public with her modeling career, which she doesn't know about yet. ;-)

Click on any image to view a few of my favorites in a slideshow...

How I got started............ one year in the making........

posted on: February 20, 2006

(this was originally posted on forums, found here:
Anne Ruthmann , Feb 20, 2006; 02:33 p.m.
I've been very reflective over the last few days and I recently had someone ask me how I got started. I never thought to ask this question, but if I had considered wedding photography as a possible profession, I probably would have. From what I have seen, not many people are willing to share their beginning journeys with the general public, for whatever reason. Part of me fears that sharing my full story instead of maintaining some sort of anonymity will destroy any credibility that I have earned with other members of this forum, but it is my story for better or for worse. I have learned A LOT in the last year, and perhaps that will help to illuminate a path for someone who can't envision their own.
First off, I want to congratulate everyone on making the first step toward doing something you love. No matter how risky it may seem, life is so much more fulfilling when you are pursuing something you can give your heart and soul to. When you do things out of passion and love, the world has a funny way of supporting you and helping you succeed.
I decided to get into this because I wanted to help people, not necessarily because I thought I'd make a living out of it. The first wedding I did was for cost only. At the time I had just finished getting married and I had a great photographer who did my wedding for travel fees only. I thought, what a wonderful way to really help others out! Photography in my area starts at $2,500 for a decent photographer - and there wasn't much for people who couldn't afford that (now there's a lot!) At the time, I was still on a wedding planning message board sharing ideas and wedding advice when a girl posted about how one of her family members who had promised to photograph her wedding completely bailed out on her. I felt so bad for her, and some crazy cell in my brain decided to offer to take the place of her family member! To this point, photography had only been a hobby for me which I had developed through self-study in my free time. At the time, I only had an Olympus OM-10 manual focus, manual aperture camera that was a hand me down from an uncle. Now that I look back on this- WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS I THINKING?!
In preparation for this first wedding, I needed people to practice on, so I started paying more attention to how I would photograph my friends weddings and I offered to do engagement portraits for free just so I could practice on my friends. One of my friends showed her engagement pictures to another friend who asked if I could do pictures for her too! I said sure and just asked if she could cover the cost of film and developing- she agreed. I started giving my friends mini-albums and photo gifts from the pictures I had taken at their weddings because I couldn't really afford to give them something nice from their registry (but apparently I could afford to snap off 6 rolls of film and pay for developing!) This apparently started a little bit of a buzz about my photography. I started getting more invitations to parties and concerts and people often asked if I was going to bring my camera. I also put everything I did online, on a simple website- not because I wanted to advertise, but because I wanted friends and family to view the pictures from the events without me having to make prints for everyone. Little did I realize, I was actually advertising myself as a wedding photographer without even knowing it!!!
In preparation for the first wedding (cost only), I bought a new (but cheap) SLR film camera that had auto focus and a few zoom lenses to cover a variety of situations. I also bought a cheap prime lens for low light conditions (and because I loved the prime lenses that I already had on my OM-10). I also realized that I needed a better flash if I was going to make any kind of decent pictures in the reception hall. I studied A LOT about flash technique, which was something I hadn't studied before and determined that I needed a detachable flash that could swivel and tilt so that I could bounce the light off ceilings. I practiced a lot, but in retrospect, I should have practiced much more with the flash techniques because I still wasn't entirely comfortable with them for that first wedding.
The biggest mistake I made for the first wedding was letting the couple choose the film and processing. They chose the cheapest film (Walmart Fuji Superia- maybe expired?!) and Walmart processing. The results were horrible. The colors were off, there was dust on the prints, the negatives were overexposed, etc. I was devastated. I salvaged what I could and had them redo everything possible (which they were not happy about and thus didn't put in any effort to making things better), but there were other problems which occurred in my camera that only after the fact did I realize something went wrong and I didn't even know it. Half of the formal shots were ruined due to a syncing problem with the flash and camera (probably because the flash was not entirely compatible with the camera). In retrospect, I shouldn't have used the flash for fill because it was a beautifully overcast day and there were no harsh shadows to compensate for. 
Other things went wrong with the wedding itself which upset the bride- like her crinoline which she picked up at the last minute didn't fit, her location was rained out and her guests weren't aware of a backup plan, so the ceremony went from being a nice location along a river to a VFW hall in front of a fireplace with cheap paper decorations. The bride was pissed and depressed and I had no idea how to help. Being a recent bride, I understood her devastation and I offered to restage her vows at the original location on a better day. I watched the clouds all day long and when it stopped raining for just a bit, I found a great place outdoors to have some pretty formals done. I assured her that no one would be able to tell from my shallow DoF and excellent background framing that the pretty location was actually a trailer park. Sure enough, unless you were there, no one would be able to tell from the pictures that it was anything other than a pretty park. She never did take me up on the offer to restage her vows.
I did the best that I could with that wedding. I did it for free. Things happened to me that could have happened to anyone who wasn't a professional. It was a HUGE learning experience. If I had thought that I wanted to make a career out of wedding photography, I would have sought out a photographer to assist before attempting to do a wedding on my own. That would have been so much smarter, and so much less pressure than trying to figure out everything without having any prior experiences or mentors to learn from! I used the internet photography forums to help me out as much as they could. I was a lurker for a long time, absorbing every bit of information before asking redundant and simple questions that no one wanted to answer. Despite my utter devastation with this first experience, I found some personal satisfaction in being able to help someone who wasn't going to have anyone dedicated to capturing her special wedding memories if I hadn't stepped in. (In retrospect, I'm sure her family would have captured enough of the important stuff, but probably not the other candid stuff that I love.)
Remember the friend of a friend who paid the costs for her engagement pictures? Apparently she liked her engagement pictures so much that she cancelled her professional photographer (who she must not have liked to begin with) and wanted to hire me for her June 2005 wedding. She had seen some of the other wedding pictures I had taken for friends online and felt comfortable that I would do the job the way she wanted. She stressed that she wanted to PAY me, not just cover my costs, so I thought $800 was a fair deal because it was half of what the cheapest photographer charged and would help me put money toward better equipment or more chances to practice. There really wasn't too much rationale behind and figure, and now I'm realizing the effects of that.
In preparation for this second wedding, my first PAID wedding, I did a LOT more practicing. Now I knew what it was that I didn't know! I knew how important good film and good processing were, so I started practicing with better films and I tried every developer I could find to look for the best processing for her wedding images. The films impressed me, ultimately the processing did not. I found that simple mistakes like dust on the negatives happened no matter where I went! How could professional labs let this stuff slip by?! It was a pain to correct these simple mistakes over and over again on my images. It was a drain on my gas tank. I decided that I needed to have more control over the quality and production, so I went into debt to buy a great digital camera- a 20D. At the time it was the only product between a consumer $700 DSLR and a $5,000 ProDSLR. I also knew that I needed the best flash I could get, so I went into more debt and bought a 580EX. These investments eventually made me decide that I should probably try to help a few more people out with their weddings for an affordable price so that I could pay off the equipment.
Going digital did a LOT to help my photography. I got instant feedback, practiced as much as I wanted (especially with flash technique), and was able to have control over the processing with no waiting for a developer or traveling back and forth between a lab. I had to buy an external hard drive in order to handle the huge files that I was adding to my computer, but it was all worth it. I also wanted to try out one of the online professional labs who hosted pictures for guests to view, so I shopped around to everyone that I could find. I learned that some of them just host the images for you and send you emails with orders. Some of them let you set your own prices and give you templates to customize. Some of them are full service labs that handle everything for you and also let you customize everything you need to. After signing up and inquiring with each service, they started sending me specials that would entice me to sign up with their service. Most of them had monthly or annual fees, but I figured I could cancel if I wasn't making enough money to support the costs. I ended up signing up with PICTage on a deal I couldn't refuse. I also liked that they sent me print samples for free and they took care of all the online fulfillment. The prints were beautiful, and the quality was the highest I had seen from any lab. Once I created an account with them, I was terrified that they were going to give me free advertising on the! I wasn't ready to go PRO! I didn't have a logo! I didn't even have a business name! I had to make one up, and fast!
Remember- this was only 8 months ago! I put together a contract from different contracts that photographers had given me when I was wedding planning, and the rest is history. Since then, I have been overwhelmed with inquiries, and while I really love wedding photography, I never had a chance to sit down and make a business plan for myself. Things just kind of spiraled out of control and I felt trapped into offering these really low prices because I just viewed it as a hobby and desire to help people. People have since dragged me up and down the wall about raising my prices, so I finally did this year, but still not enough to make other photographers happy- just enough to help out brides in need and book last minute weddings when other photographers cancel on brides. Some of the best weddings have come from people who had someone cancel on them! Oddly enough. :-)
After June of 2005, I had 9 more brides book my services for that same year. Before I had even photographed their weddings, they were referring me all over the place. This year I have 16 weddings booked (just about every Saturday during prime season), and I would have a LOT more if I were taking weddings after mid-August (fall is so popular here). I'm still picking up last minute gigs and helping people out when they are in a bind. Most people are pleasantly suprised when they see their pictures. They never expected a back up plan would produce such nice results. I recently had a bride plan her whole wedding around my availability, and my sister is having her wedding on a Sunday so I can attend. This is just crazy to me, I've only been doing this for 8 months! I'm not famous!
My husband is now looking for jobs out of state. He works in education, so I knew that if he got a job, we'd have to move at the end of August. Luckily I knew far enough in advance that I was able to avoid taking any work for the fall and my last wedding job will be finished with enough time for me to collect my senses and move to a new location. This move has been a blessing in disguise. Even if we do not move out of the area, I will now have time to re-think my photography as a business, and not just something that helps other people out. I will be able to put better boundaries on myself and what I can handle, and I will be able to take a better look at my work and its true worth. 
I got into this to help people out, but eventually I just became taken advantage of because I was so inexpensive. Some of my brides value me and some just booked me for the price. I want to have personal connections with all of my brides and I want all of them to choose me because of ME, not because of my price. I still want to help people out who can't afford much, but that will be something I'm going to have to negotiate within my overall plan.
In a few days we will know about my husbands job and what the future holds. It may not give us a definite answer about moving, but it will definitely give us a better sense of what direction our lives will be taking us in the year ahead. My degree is in Music Education and I plan on looking for a full time public school teaching position in the fall. Wherever I end up, wedding photography will remain something that I do out of passion when I'm not teaching. I do not take the craft lightly, and I highly respect people who make their living from pursuing their passion. I will never stop learning about photography and how to better my technical savvy and creative eye because there is still so much that I can learn. I will be submitting my first set of photos for contest in a few days. Whether or not I win, I'm putting myself and my art out there for all to judge as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow. I am grateful that I can have these opportunities in my life, and the freedom to pursue them.
So.... that may be sooo much more than you wanted to know, but I hope that it gives you a picture of my journey and how I got from point A to where I am now. If I were to start all over from a professional angle.. I would definitely find someone to be my mentor.,, other photography forums, or just local pros - these are all places to start and to put yourself out there. You may start by simply assisting and just observing instead of shooting yourself- but there is so much to be learned from that. I wish I had that opportunity- I almost had it and turned down a paying job for the chance, but the photographer cancelled on me. I learned on my own in spite of not getting the help I would have benefitted from. Joining professional organizations like the PPA, WPPI, and others will help you find the resources and make the connections you need to help yourself professionally. First and foremost- don't let anyone break your spirit, no matter how hard they try.
All the best, Anne
PS. If you actually read all of this... you MUST be passionate about photography!! Now get out there and do something with it!

New Flash Slideshows

posted on: February 7, 2006

I'm so excited to share this new method of previewing photos with you! Flash slideshows are a great introduction to your images, and the music can be personalized for your tastes. You may have already checked out a few of the shows I've created, but if you're one of my brides and would like me to revisit your images and create a slideshow for you, just email me the song you'd like and I'll whip one up with my favorite images from your engagement or wedding day. I plan on making this a more intregal part of my website now so that visitors can get a sample of my latest wedding images without needing to sign into PICTage.

Tiffany and Jeff were the first couple to pick their song- "This Year's Love" by David Gray. Click on the image below to watch their engagement photo slideshow...

(This photo looks great when supersized to 12"x18"!)

February Desktop Images

posted on: February 1, 2006

Every month or so I change my desktop image to a recent photograph I've taken and I thought it would be fun to share these images in my blog so that you can download them for your desktop as well! Every month I'll try to post a new image that is suitable for displaying at desktop size and resolution. Click on an image to download a copy for your desktop.

This month is dedicated to love... or candy... whichever makes you happier at the moment! :-)

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