Thoughtful Advice from a Wedding Photographer

posted on: March 30, 2013

Wedding Header by Anne Ruthmann

After photographing hundreds of weddings in over 9 years as a wedding photographer, I've seen it all.  I was also a bride who invested a lot of time, energy, and money into planning my own wedding, so I remember what it felt like to be really nervous and wanting everything to turn out well.  Regardless of whether we work together- I want to make sure that couples have all the information they need to make great choices about their wedding day.  I pride myself on sharing objective, balanced and thoughtful advice- so my tips are designed to inform you of the many options available in order to help you make the best decisions based on who you are and what you value.  If you like my tips and would like me to write on additional subjects that aren't listed here, just leave me a comment with a question or idea about what to write next!  I'm more than happy to help make your wedding as easy and stress-free as possible!

Wedding Header  Anne Ruthmann

How to Take Amazing Photos of Your Engagement Ring:

Wedding Timeline Considerations To Help Your Day Go Smoothly:

Do You Need Two Wedding Photographers?

How to Create A Large Group Photo of All Guests At Wedding:

Why I Don't Photography My Own Family's Weddings

Wedding Header  Anne Ruthmann

The Secrets to Finding An Amazing Wedding Photographer

Post-Production and Image Processing After The Wedding

Should You Get RAW Digital Negatives of Photos?

Should You Make Your Own Wedding Album?

Why Do Wedding Photos Take Longer Than Other Photos?

Wedding Header  Anne Ruthmann

Wedding Album Design Samples

Bridesmaid & Wedding Gown Recycling:

Wedding Suit & Tux Recycling:

Ways to Recycle Your Wedding Flowers:

Some Humor to Beat Post-Wedding Depression:

Wedding Header Anne Ruthmann

LOVE IT: Marina Abramovic & Ulay

posted on: March 25, 2013

This is one of those unforgettable moments of life- that took a lifetime to create anticipation for and now that it has happened, it can never be replicated again.  Marina & Ulay shared a love adventure over 30 years ago, ending their relationship by walking the great wall from opposite ends and seeing each other for the last time in the middle, never to speak again.  Marina, as part of her art exhibit, shares a moment of silence with strangers one by one who sit in front of her.  Then, Ulay sits down....

Anne-Spotting: Second Shooting

posted on: March 22, 2013

I have a confession: I love second shooting.  It's not really possible to live off of second shooting or even replace expensive gear on a second shooting wage, but you also don't have nearly as many responsibilities, pressures, or expectations as you do when you're the main photographer.  You just show up for the event, create tons of great images, and then wash your hands of the rest.  There's a certain creative freedom that comes with not being required to get "the" shot- and I love remember what that feels like every once in a while to help spark new ideas and creativity I can give my own clients.  I did quite a bit of second shooting as I was toning down the marketing efforts of my own business in preparation for (and return from) my Adventure Year, but since my work from these events are spread out on everyone else's blog - I wanted to share them here so I can always go back and reference the work I've created for other people.  So, here are some of my favorite images that I've captured for other photographers - which is why you'll see their watermarks and links to their sites where you can see more. ;-)

State Room Wedding Details with Krista Photo

I love atmospheric details - and sometimes they get missed when we need to focus as primary photographers because we never want to get too far away from the action.  They're usually more interesting for us from a creative perspective rather than meaningful for our clients. ;-)

Above was one of those moments where I couldn't eliminate the distracting person in the background but I just HAD to get the shot without it being "perfect" because the look on his face was too priceless. Below, Krista had run upstairs to get a shot from above, but I loved the light and detail of the staircase, so I grabbed it from the front.

I love it when clergy surprise us all with quirky little personal stories and analogies.  A minister who can create laughter at a wedding is a true joy for everyone in the room.

I always try to find a way to grab a "working image" of the photographers I work with so you can get a real sense of what things are like behind the scenes of creating beautiful imagery.  In this case, Mike & Kate were doing double duty because it was a family wedding.

I was herding the wedding party from the sidelines, but there is always a lot of adjustment that needs to happen with large wedding parties before we can get just one "normal" posed group photo....

While everyone else was enjoying cocktail hour - I saw this little girl twirling and running through the grasses down the side of the hill, quite care-free about all the hubbub happening inside...

The biggest drawback to second shooting for me, personally, is that these aren't "my" clients, which means I don't get to have that lovely 2 year relationship of anticipating these amazing moments together and then reliving them through the album design process together.  All I get are the fond and fun memories that I captured for someone else based on only what was happening right then and there on the wedding day- but not the satisfaction of seeing how their lives transform and evolve over time, or how meaningful certain images were to family members that I never could have known if I hadn't spent time on an album together afterward.  So, while second shooting is fun and it fills in some of my creative itches- there's nothing like working one on one with a couple and their families from before their wedding to well after.  It's a joy and an honor to be present to these transformational moments in people's lives- and even more satisfying when I can continue that relationship beyond the wedding day.

10 Ways I Saved My Business & My Life - Gratitude Journal #12

posted on: March 20, 2013

There are a lot of people who have never run a business, who like to speculate at how amazing, easy, and freeing it is to run your own business.  While there are definitely some amazing benefits, it's not without a lot of trial and error, setbacks, and determination that we get to that point. There is no "easy" way to success, and I think the book Outliers: The Story of Success was able to really nail how much time it takes before you can really be "successful" at anything (10,000 hours of practice according to Malcolm Gladwell- which is around five years of full time practice, overcoming failures, and striving for improvement.)

I feel like I've finally reached the "ahhh" point in my photography business after 8-9 years, which is well over 10,000 hours.  I'd already reached a mastery point with the craft of photography before I ever started a photography business- so my only real learning curve was finding my stride in my professional photography workflow and my role as small business owner.  I've always focused on making smarter decisions that allowed me to spend more time on what I love- working directly with people and documenting + sharing beauty and love.

I'll leave the light on for you

I feel like I could have reached this point much sooner had I lived in one place and stayed in the same market for five years. However, I think the experience of multiple moves and living in different regions, big cities and small towns, homogeneous and diverse communities, inflated and depressed economies, has given me a very unique set of experiences and perspectives on what it takes to start and run a successful business as a freelance artist in a variety of situations. The first two years are definitely the hardest and where most artists decide whether they are determined enough to deal with everything that comes with running a business- after that, it's about figuring out the best ways to make it all work without sacrificing quality of life and passion for our craft.  Moving & restarting my business three times means I've had six years of experience with those first two years of getting up and running in a new market, and if you couple that with 16 years of never living in the same place for more than 2 years, you could say I'm an expert on moving and starting over in a new place.

The next 10 tips are things I've learned so far that have brought me to a place in my business where I'm comfortable, happy, and living a balanced life.  By sharing them, I hope that new business owners can avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I had to learn the hard way.

1. Health first, Family second, Friends third, then Business.  You cannot have a successful creative business or the capacity to solve difficult problems if you don't have a basic level of happiness that comes with putting these priorities in order.  Sleep well and eat healthy.  Sleep and food are your main sources of energy.  If you aren't sleeping well or eating a healthy diet, your batteries are never fully charged, making it difficult to deal with challenges while trying to be a decent and respectable human being.  Making sure you can say yes to spending time with family and friends also forces you to optimize productivity during your work time and streamline things that drag you down.  When you have to say no to family and friends, you feel like an inhuman jerk for putting work before the important people in your life, and you begin to resent your work for taking time away from people you love, when the problem is easily solvable by putting your priorities in line.  Work will always be there.  Family and friends may not be.  Trust me on this- it makes all the difference between being able to keep on going and wanting to give everything up.  Been there, done that, recovered and got my groove back.

2. Get dressed and ready in the morning like the rest of the world.  To someone who works from home, at first, being in your PJs all day seems like a luxury, the problem arises when you never feel like leaving home because you're in your PJs and haven't showered.  Even if you've been highly productive from the moment you woke up, physically you'll still feel like a bum in need of a shower.  When you get ready each day as if you have an appointment to attend to, there's nothing to stop you from answering the door, running a last minute errand, taking time for coffee with a friend, having a video chat with a potential client, or participating in spontaneous networking events.  The luckiest people are simply ready for opportunity to knock at any minute and are willing to answer the door regardless of what's on the other side.

3. Make friends with everyone you meet, you never know who they know.  Perhaps you've heard the phrase, "your network is your net worth"?  The more people you take time to get to know and stay in touch with, the more business will naturally flow your way.  Make it a part of your schedule to go out and meet new people and to find groups of people you enjoy spending time with.  Even if you aren't doing it in person, find ways to do it online by participating in local discussion groups or starting conversation with influential people over twitter or through blog comments.

4. Automate and Outsource.  Technology has advanced to a point where there's little need to handle insignificant repetitive tasks, and if it can't be automated, you can outsource it.  If you can train someone else to do it the way you want it done, than it's a good sign that you shouldn't be doing it, and that your efforts could be more fully directed into something that you can't train anyone else to do.  For me, this meant hiring an accountant, working with a lab that fulfills orders and does packaging and album drafts, working with a designer for my blog and website, contracting office assistants and retouchers on an as-needed basis, and countless other things so I can focus on what I do best.

5.  Learn When to Say No.  Turning down opportunities or incoming business is probably one of the THE hardest things for an entrepreneur.  Unfortunately, part of living a joyful and balanced life is being able to recognize which people, jobs, or opportunities may actually be a liability to your business and a drain on your life.  You'll have to experience a few bad jobs and clients before you know the warning signs, but the sooner you can recognize what these are, the sooner you can learn to say no so that you can spend more energy focusing on the jobs and opportunities that fuel you to keep doing what you love.

6. Take time off each week and book vacations well in advance.  While it's tempting as an entrepreneur to work through your weekends or put off your vacation for another year, it is in down-time that you will develop some of your most creative ideas, solve some of your biggest problems, and regain your perspective on the larger picture.  Time off is just as important to your mental health and success as your working time.  If you schedule your time off to include things that force you to be away from your computer (movies, spa treatments, cruises, hikes, dinner with friends), you'll be less tempted to sit down and begin working on something when you're trying to "relax."

7. If you screw up, always take responsibility and find a way to make it right.  One of the hardest things about being a business owner is fearing that our business will be trashed online, and sometimes that leads to dropping our business boundaries and working 24/7, which leads to burnout and then screwing up all over the place.  Angry clients can be calmed down and eventually negotiated with, but bad reviews are usually a result of avoiding problems or poor communication, and those can live online forever.  I've made plenty of mistakes, and the biggest difference between the result being positive or negative has all been in how I handled the errors and made them right.

8. Difficult problems are better solved in person or over video chat.  Attempting to resolve problems and miscommunication over email often leads to more problems and misunderstandings.  So many creative people get too used to working over email that they forget how powerful the human voice and facial expressions are for creating understanding in communication- not to mention it allows a simultaneous conversation, which can significantly speed up project completion and profitability.

9. Know your Exit Strategy.  Can your business exist without you?  Can you live without your business?  What if you're temporarily disabled even after you've committed to year-long projects- what is your backup plan?  What happens to your outstanding contracts and clients if you're in a coma? If you know your exit strategy for your business, than you'll know how to structure it in a way that will support your post-work goals in life.

10. Never Stop Learning & Experimenting.  The moment you think you know it all is the moment you've become extinct and irrelevant.  There is always something new to learn and the very process of learning something new helps to boost creativity and problem solving skills.  Staying in touch with what's new will keep you relevant and in the flow that brings abundance to your door.

I'm grateful that I've come to a point where I can share these thoughts with you.  I'm grateful that I've gone through the challenges of figuring out what does and doesn't work for me, and that I've seen how it's possible to overcome obstacles, to recover from failures, and to find ways to create more happiness in work and life.  My wish is that by sharing these, you will also have the strength and courage to find ways to create more happiness in your own life- whether you work for yourself or for someone else.  If you ever want my help in figuring out how to make your situation better, sign up for a free workshop with me.  I love helping others create a more fulfilling life.

Happy Spring Equinox to all the Northern Hemisphere folks!  Happy Autumn Equinox for those in the Southern Hemisphere! ;-)

{If you appreciated this post, please join me in my journey to have a greater positive impact on the world by writing your own gratitude journal and sharing it or a link to it in the comments below. I would love to read your moments of gratitude and share them with others!}

Millenium Bostonian Hotel Wedding - MariaLisa & Liz

posted on: March 18, 2013

We could see the sun set on Boston's Faneuil Hall from the windows of the Millenium as Liz and MariaLisa were getting ready for their wedding ceremony.  They both looked stunning and their families were in full force, helping with all of their last minute details.  Together, they are the perfect Yin & Yang pair, complementing and strengthening each other.  MariaLisa, the organized planner and deadline keeper, and Liz, the free thinker and fashion finder.  On the wedding day they both walked down their own aisle in unison with their families, meeting in the middle, and by the end of the ceremony hardly a dry eye was left.  Their love for each other was contagious and as you'll see in the slideshow toward the reception- their energy infected everyone in the room.  You'll also see some of their unique and meaningful details playing on the idea of city night lights, and even a little horse drawn carriage, representing one of their favorite romantic memories together.  Don't miss MariaLisa's fist pump in the middle of the ceremony, when she was had snuck in a vow that Liz would agree to let her have a puppy!  Press play on the slideshow below to see a preview of their wedding day (note: music will play- adjust your speakers to your preferences.)

Venue & Catering: Millenium Bostonian Hotel
Flowers & Decor: Ilex Designs
DJ: Ari Rosenfield of Beattrain Productions
Wedding Gowns: Alfred Angelo Bridal Company Store
Wedding Party Tuxes: Men's Wearhouse
Wedding Party Dresses: Bride-N-Belle Boutique
Cake: Konditor Meister
Cityscape Canvas "Guestbook":
Groomsmen Shoes: Puma

Travel Log: Stepped Gables in Brugge, Belgium

posted on: March 17, 2013

 Shadows and reflections of 17th century renaissance architecture is preserved with such beauty and detail in Brugge.  In my walk into town one morning, the light reflecting off the buildings and the still water of the canal was just too breathtaking to simply walk by without documenting the fleeting moment of bright light against contrasting against a dark and cloudy sky....
Reflections and Shadows of Brugge's Stepped Gable Architecture

Francisco Family Adventure Pt. 2 - Newton Public Library

posted on: March 14, 2013

Not many libraries are open on Sundays.  However, the Newton Free Library is not only open, it's packed with people scouring shelves for something new to read or a DVD to check out, study cubbies full of people writing or working on laptops, people sitting in lounges reading magazines and newspapers, and even families sitting in the dark theatre watching a free Sunday afternoon movie.  This was the first Massachusetts library I've seen that reminds me of the modern amenities I found in the public libraries in Brisbane, Australia.

Graphic Novel Section of Library

Mom and Daughter at Library

Visiting libraries is a regular adventure for the Francisco family.  At the age of 11, Hannah still identifies with the children's section in the library, and prefers adventure and mystery books that take her to far off places and beef up her wit and mystery solving mind.  She wants to be the first female to play on the New England Patriots and she's already started working toward her goal by playing quarterback whenever she gets a chance to play football.  She's still open to her mom's suggestions in books and she loves when her grandmother sings "like an opera singer" to her favorite country songs.

Girl in library

Grandma holding kids books

When I set out to photograph a family adventure, I never know what I'm going to get or what photographic opportunities I'll have or not have in each space.  That's actually part of the fun for me - the challenge of finding good light, an interesting background, and the right moment all while not stopping the action or controlling the scene.  This is part of what I love about wedding and event photography as well- the creative challenge of great images within whatever conditions exists.  

Library Reference Desk Question

With limited time in her schedule to read, Rhoda was interested in finding a particular book, while Hannah was in the acquisition phase of building her personal collection of as many bookmarks as she could find.  One was even a sticker for the Sierra Club.

Picking up free bookmarks

Family at library

While Rhoda searched for a particular book, Rose and Hannah were happy to browse and pick up whatever they found.  I saw the opportunity to get a great shot that would combine the beautiful architecture of the atrium with the three generations of ladies- so Hannah and I went upstairs for a test shot.  Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that including both the grand architecture and a shot of them filling the windows was not going to work out- as you can hardly see Hannah waving from the middle window across the room. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, but it never hurts to try. ;-)

Newton Free Public Library Atrium

What did work, was hanging out with Hannah for a bit and catching her in this short candid moment when she was watching her mom below while resting her head on the stack of books she had already acquired.

Girl resting head on books

Hannah's second favorite section is the movie section, where she's careful about selecting movies that are PG, or asking her mom for permission to watch PG-13 movies. 

Picking out DVDs at Library

Book sale

Little did I know, Rhoda, Hannah, and Rose were hoping to surprise me with a gift of books from the library book sale racks. ;-)  I ended up with three lovely books from our adventure together!  I love this hint of expression with daughter telling mom how cool or uncool things are as she develops her own opinions about the world as she knows it.

Browsing used books

Even though a family adventure is about creating a candid moments of life as it is right now, I always want to make sure that I get at least one image with everyone looking at the camera- because that's important too. ;-)



Not wanting our adventure to end... Hannah lingered in the snow and had a few more moments that reflect her love of play, silliness, and adventure.  I'm so grateful that we got to spend this afternoon together- they such are an inspiring little family with big hearts and joyful generosity.


Even if you can't have me follow you around for a day taking pictures of your little slices of life, I hope that my appreciation of these small ordinary moments will help you see the beauty in your own life.  As simple or complex as it may be, never forget to stop and appreciate everything just as it is, right now.  Life changes quickly, but we can save ourselves from regret by stopping to acknowledge the love and beauty that is already present in our current reality.  Celebrate life as it is right now, not when or if it reaches some ideal.  As Rhoda wrote in her letter to Hannah, "Weird is Wonderful."


Francisco Family Adventure Pt. 1 - Boston Buddha Vararam Temple

posted on: March 13, 2013

During February, I was on my own personal secret mission to give back and pay forward in whatever way inspired me.  When I read Rhoda's blog post, Why Weird is Wonderful: A Letter from a Single Mom to her Daughter, I remembered what it felt like when I was her daughter's age.  Eleven years old, trying to figure out my identity and where I fit in with my peers, while living with a single mom who was doing her best to be a sole provider.  Around 12 years old, during the middle school and high school years, my hormones kicked in along with my desire to rebel against my mother and carve my own path in the world as a moody and independent teenager who didn't need mom's help anymore.  How I wish I could have captured my mother and I just before that shift, when she was my biggest superhero and I was her little eager apprentice.

Another thing that struck me while reading Rhoda's post, is that I don't have any images with my grandmother, mother, and myself in the same image.  I have images of them separately, but I can't recall seeing any of us all together.  My grandmother didn't live long after I was born, and in many ways, not having a photo of us together makes her feel even more distant and separate to me.  I didn't want this to be the case for 11-year-old Hannah.  While her grandmother Rose has multiple children, Hannah only has one grandmother, and she's so lucky that they live together and get to spend so much time together right now.  As we all know, life is too short, and these moments don't get to last forever.

So, on an inspired whim, I offered the Francisco family a gift- to document a small slice of their life just as it is right now.  A day of them sharing and discovering things together, with me tagging along capturing moments as they happen on a random Saturday in February.  Here is what I saw, and what I learned....

Boston Buddhist Vararam Temple

We started our shoot with a few quiet moments at the Boston Buddha Vararam Temple in Bedford, MA.  Like most things in New England, the outside of the building is fairly understated and the real beauty unfolds as you discover the secrets within.  If you decide to become adventurous and visit a Buddhist temple, it is customary to remove your shoes at the door.

Remove shoes before entering the buddhist temple

Praying and kneeling before buddha

It is still through watching her mother and grandmother, that Hannah comes to understand the importance of rituals, sacred traditions, and ways of fostering a spiritual connection. The subtle differences in how they hold their fingers, whether they close their eyes, and bow their heads, reflect their uniqueness and similarities all at once.

Buddhist prayer

Making a donation to Buddhist temple

Subtle moments, such as grandma Rose, remaining in her own space and prayer even after her daughter and granddaughter have stood up, show the differences in pace and ritual as they relate to their personalities and different stages of life right now.

Grandma Rose in Buddhist Prayer

While this particular temple mostly serves Thai speakers and visitors, it is open to everyone with guided chants and meditations on Sundays, and even melon carving lessons on Saturday evenings, which we discovered by speaking to the monk who was present while we were there.

Buddhist monk and Rhoda

Hannah taking a picture of buddha statues

Hannah loves taking photos with her phone and created some great little portraits of me, which she edited with filters and snowflakes all while we were having lunch at Flatbread Co. before we started our adventures together.  She sings along and dances in her seat when she likes a song- in fact, we both had a little jam in our seat moment when Mumford & Sons started playing- and she loves beautiful handcrafts like this paper bouquet sitting near the door as we left the temple.

Origami Paper Craft Bouquet

Tomorrow, I'll share the second part of our adventure together. Feel free to sign up and have my blog delivered weekly to your email, or to subscribe for instant updates using any of the RSS feed options.

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