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Lessons from a “horrid” wedding photographer

Seventeen years is a long time to hold a grudge. I think I need to get over it. Maybe getting it off my chest one last time will help. Yes, I think it will.

A few days ago, my husband and I celebrated our 17th anniversary so I have been thinking about our wedding day a lot lately. You know what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” We are still deeply in love and look forward to many more years of happiness.

When I think of my wedding, I think about the things I would have done differently. The list is long so we won’t go there. The biggest disappointment of the day was our photographer. I wish I could look at my “professional” photos from that day and smile. However, warm fuzzies elude me when I think about our photographer, Cora. She was far from professional (lesson #1).

Things started off fine. The in-studio engagement session went well. The photographer was friendly and I felt like she would be a great photographer to document our wedding day. That all changed when we ordered the “economy” package. I should have known by her reaction to our order that it was not going to be pleasant. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until my wedding day that the huge mistake I had made would be revealed.

The wedding ceremony turned out to be an hour-long mass. In a church with no air conditioning. In July. Turns out, not realizing the timeline myself, a long ceremony makes for an unhappy photographer (lesson #2). That’s when everything went downhill. However, it wasn’t until after the ceremony when I asked for a certain photo that I became annoyed with the woman that was supposed to be documenting “my” day. My dress had beautiful lace panels down the front sides of my train (at least I thought so). I asked for a photo of the front of my dress. “It won’t be a good picture, “she snarled. Wow, okay. Evidently the customer isn’t always right. She didn’t want to take the picture, but she did. It may not have turned out to be an award winning photo, but it was one that I wanted.

Later, at the reception, she wanted us to cut the cake and do our toast before we had even eaten. Since the ceremony was longer than she expected, she was antsy to leave. We said we would not cut the cake but we would fake the cake cutting and toast for pictures so she could be on her way. We finished the pictures. Ten minutes later she was sitting at a table eating. I guess her hunger beat out her desire to leave.

Notice, no champagne in the toasting glasses! I think, by this time, Mike was done with her, too. Although, it is a great photo of my cake and flowers. My two favorite parts of the wedding!
(Photo by Cora’s Portrait Studio, 1995)

 

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I received my wedding album (having ordered her least expensive package). Needless to say, I was disappointed. I didn’t get to proof the photos and I definitely didn’t get to choose the photos for the album. All eight pictures (yes, just 8 pictures) were put into a cheap wedding album (lessons #3 and #4). Utterly disappointed. My favorite photos from my wedding are from the chintzy disposable cameras that we put on the tables at the reception. Some may be overexposed, blurry, red eyed, or heads cut off, but I have some fantastic candid photos that I cherish.

A few years later, some friends were getting married and I tried to steer Laura, the bride, away from having the same story. I told her about my unpleasant experience only to find out she had already given the same photographer a deposit! Ug. Laura would have to write her own blog post to tell her experience, but I know she was not impressed with the photographer either. In fact, when I told Laura about this blog post she called Cora a “horrid” woman and asked me to mention her 15 year grudge, as well. I’m not sure about Laura’s experience with the photographer, but I knew when I saw the photographer knock over the unity candle, pick it up, and sweep the bits and pieces into the flowers, that Laura would not be happy. Sure enough, Laura was also disappointed.

So, what lessons have I learned from this experience? Here are a few things I learned that will help me when I shoot my first wedding:

1. Be professional. If I want to be a professional photographer, I need to act like one. I have no desire to have horrible reviews written about me.

2. Ask for a timeline from the bride so I’ll know what to expect. Help tweak the timeline, if necessary, so there’s plenty of time to take the photos. A timeline would have helped me when I was a bride, tooI.

3. Be clear on what the bride can expect from me. No surprises.

4. I’m kicking myself for not getting the negatives from my photographer (way back when, in the pre-digital era). Who knows how many photos she actually took? I could have had many more pictures. My brides will have the option to get a disc of the images. Many more than eight.

5. Put the bride and groom first. They’re the reason I’ll be there in the first place. Be thankful that they chose me to document their special day. I’m thankful already and I haven’t even booked my first wedding! I just know that it is a stressful time, why make it harder for them? Make it enjoyable and capture moments that they didn’t even know happened. Take photos that they still love to look at 17 years later, instead of photos that they can’t believe they had to pay for.

6. Don’t be in a hurry. Stay, mingle, and shoot lots of candids. Enjoy the day as much as possible. After all, it is a very special day. Capture it.

I’m sure there are more lessons, but this post is already a mile long. Thanks for sticking with me on my rant. All done now!

Here are some of my favorite candid shots. Straight out of the memory album!


I think the now common “First Look” shots would have done wonders for our nerves. I will definitely be recommending them to my couples.

He still looks at me like that. I’m such a lucky girl.

WAY over exposed, but one of my favorite photos. I can’t wait to take some shots of truly happy brides!

Another favorite – my father-in-law looking dapper.

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Muffins and cookies and and pretzels, oh my!

I grew up baking with my grandma, Ada. I have fond memories of making batch after batch of chocolate chip cookies at her “lake” cabin in Idaho. (It was actually on a river, but we called it “the lake.”) I baked those cookies so many times that by the time I was in highschool, I knew the Nestlé Toll House recipe on the back of the bag by heart. My grandma would tease me because I couldn’t stay out of the water long enough to finish the job. I would pause the task to go for a swim. She used to say I would get water-logged. It never happened. I still love the water. And, I miss baking at the cabin.

Madalyn takes after me, she loves to bake. Muffins, cookies, brownies, biscuits, oven pancakes, pretzels, you name it, she wants to try it. And, she has improved greatly! I came home one evening and she had just pulled her first batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Mike and Madalyn froze and gave a deer in the headlights look when I showed up earlier than expected. I think they thought they would be “in trouble” for making mom’s cookies. I was a little taken aback at first. What’s wrong with my cookies?, I wondered. Nothing, I think. I just wasn’t home to make them. And Madalyn’s cookies? Wow! They were perfect. Light golden brown outsides. Ooey, gooey insides. Better than all the batches I have attempted since living in Colorado. So how did she do it? “I just followed the high altitude instructions,” she exclaimed. The few tweaks included on the back of the bag. Brilliant. I guess I have a new recipe to memorize.

One of Madalyn’s favorite things to bake is homemade pretzels. What a treat. Auntie Anne’s pretzels, take a number! She made them this past weekend using a different recipe than usual and they were delicious. They were huge pretzels that looked more like a bagel but the flavor was incredible. They were baked until just lightly browned and when broken in half they revealed a fluffy, soft, and chewy inside. My take on a perfect pretzel. Kudos, Madalyn!

Although I enjoy baking, I think I can take a step back from the oven and let Madalyn take the oven mitts. I think we’ll start working on her making dinner, too.

Only one rule – You make the mess, you clean it up. This was after some initial clean up.

Yum!

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Personal

 

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Colorado on fire – part two

Tuesday, June 26th, the day I wrote my last blog post, was a horrible day for Colorado Springs. Around 4:00 that afternoon the Waldo Canyon fire spread in a fury that no one could predict. The fire jumped two canyons and caught 65 mph winds at the top of the ridges. It barreled down the mountain side uncontrollably. I heard that the fire was moving at a pace of one mile every five minutes. I don’t know if that is true, but it moved very quickly. So far, 346 homes are confirmed destroyed. The most homes lost in the Colorado’s history. I have not heard of injuries but I did hear that few people may be missing.

Tuesday was heartbreaking. I drove to a few spots where I could get a few photos of the fire. Both of the places I went to were crowded. People were somber, talking in low whispers. I’m sure others were as thankful as I was that my home was not in the path of the fire. My heart goes out to the families that will be starting over. Posessions can be replaced. Life can not. Memories will live on and new ones will be made. Colorado Springs will recover.

My thanks go out to the over 1,100 brave men and women that are battling this fire.

The last two days we have had lighter winds and some cloud cover which helps keep the temperature down. They have made some headway against this fire. It is now 15% contained.

The photo below was taken from the Cottonwood Creek path just behind my house. I walked down a few houses. The lights on the left are at the softball fields at Cottonwood Creek Park. This was about 4:30 pm when the fire started down the mountain. The black smoke worsened, covered our house, and filled the north side of town. It was very eerie.

This photo was taken from the parking lot of a church at E. Woodmen and Lexington just before 10 pm. I believe this is the Mountain Shadows neighborhood on fire.

After the church parking lot I drove to the East Library on Union.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Colorado on fire

The smell of smoke is overwhelming and my heart is heavy today. I thought about writing this while enjoying my morning coffee out on the deck but the smoke kept me inside. Often I raise my nose to the sky to smell the sweet aroma of Juniper trees, wildflowers, and sandbar willows. Colorado smells so good. Fresh. Sweet. Like a favorite perfume. Today that delightful scent has been extinguished.

The fire in Waldo Canyon near Colorado Springs started on Saturday. It is now the top priority in the nation. It has been so sad to watch the forest burn from my back deck. Last night we ate dinner on the deck and watched flames come over the ridge and start down the mountain and saw the glow of a fire that started in a new area. Later, as we crawled into our nice comfortable beds my thoughts were with the thousands of people that have been evacuated from their homes. Thankfully, as of this writing, only one small structure had been lost. (Unlike the fires near Fort Collins and Estes Park which have consumed hundreds of homes.) I found a report that a shed at a nearby summer camp had been lost. This so happens to be the camp where my nephew is supposed to spend the first week in July.

Our nephew and his family arrived for a hockey tournament the day the fire started. The plan was to stay for the tournament, play in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area, then drop him off at camp. Many of the tourist areas that we would love to show off to our visitors have been closed. So, we sit. And watch. And pray.

I had a dream last night that my husband, Mike, and I looked out our bedroom window to see a house on fire one street over and a mountain on fire in another direction. I was a mess. Thankfully it was just a dream. We are a safe distance from the fire. Not threatened by the flames. Our hearts go out to those who cannot return home. With just 5% containment, there is no saying when they will be able to return. And when they are able to return, will they have lost everything?

Over the last few days talk of arson has sprung up. Officials are asking residents if they were in the canyon and noticed anything suspicious on Saturday. It is hard to imagine someone starting a fire on purpose, though I know it is reality.

Pikes Peak is on the far left. The smoke you see on the left is the south side of the fire. It has burned all the way up that ridge and started on the next.

Smoky sunset.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A little light reading

I’m not sure how many times I have been to the library looking for photography, portrait photography, and wedding photography books, but I am so thankful for this free resource! I have just a few books on my list to read.

While flipping through the pages of magazines for brides at Barnes & Noble, looking for inspiration, I was just waiting for someone to ask me when I was getting married. It didn’t happen. Which was okay because I’ve been married for almost 17 years! (I know, wow!) Although, I would love a wedding re-do knowing what I know now. So many things have changed. I’m excited to start this adventure in a new photography world. The dynamic has changed, the photos have changed, and the teaching philosophy in the photography world has changed (for some anyway). I am lucky to have found inspirational people to help me along and to have supportive people around me.

Off to do more reading!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Father’s day 2012

What do you get the best Dad ever for Father’s Day? Well, from here on out, pictures of his kids, of course!

Father’s Day has come and gone but our gift to Mike will be memorable. At least for me. In an effort to practice my skills I dragged the kids out on a photo shoot. I’m not below bribing. It cost me a few bucks and some ice cream, but it was well worth it. I only had two conditions. 1. They had to let me help them pick out the clothes and 2. They had to pretend that I was someone else. I didn’t want to be “Mom taking pictures”. I wanted to practice taking portraits and I knew if “Mom” was taking the pictures it would be different than if it was a stranger. The kids humored me. For the most part.

We spent an hour or so at the park shooting in different locations. I felt like a fish out of water. I had no idea what I was doing. Even though I had been to this same park just a month or so before to help a friend while she shot some senior pictures. (Thanks again, Jennifer, for letting me tag along!) However, I was there at a different time of day so the sun was in spots where there had been shade. Duh. A few hours makes a big difference in the location of the sun. I knew this. But failed to think about it. It had also rained in recent days so the rock that I wanted them to sit on was under water. No problem. The other locations were good, but I had only seen them done with one senior, not three kids. That day at the park was my definition of “winging it.”

Fortunately, we had some laughs, steered clear of any tears, and got it done. I was happy with a few of the photos. Not too bad for a beginner, but I definitely need more practice. The hardest part was getting all three sets of eyes in focus. Yep. More practice. The kids are going to LOVE me. I mean my alter-ego photographer.

So, what did I learn from this photo shoot?

1. I still have a lot to learn. Including post processing.

2. I think clients that I don’t know as well may be easier to shoot than my own children.

3. I need a bigger diffuser for three people, or better shade.

4. Assistants can be a huge help. (Thanks, Sarah!)

5. I still have a lot to learn.

6. It’s hard to get the subject correctly exposed when they’re in the shade and not blow out the bright background.

7. I need A LOT more practice.

and…

8. I still have a lot to learn.

“Remember, this is for Dad.”

Samuel

Next cover of GQ. (Is that magazine even still around?)

Stephen

Madalyn

Stephen striking a pose. Madalyn was almost always ready.

Don’t these kids look like they like eachother? All for ice cream Dad.

O

Madalyn’s friend Sarah came along that day. She held the diffuser to soften the bright sun when I needed her to. Not sure what I would have done without her that day! She wanted to take a picture to give to her dad, too. She was also rewarded with ice cream.

Sarah

Sarah and Madalyn

At the end of the day we had what I wanted, practice and photos for Dad. I think he was happy with them. Now I just need to decorate some walls with and send some to the grandparents.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Photography on my mind

Wow! I was overwhelmed by the support people showed on facebook about my new blog and career choice. It’s exciting, scary, and intimidating all at the same time. However, I know there are people that want to watch me succeed. That is huge. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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So, what happens when I have photography on my mind while cooking? This…

Charred “crispies”

I was chopping cabbage, then stirring the sesame chicken. Then back to the cabbage. Oh, stir the chicken. A little more cabbage. Somewhere in there my daughter Madalyn said “Don’t forget about the oven”. Well, I had photography ideas swirling in my head. It was hard enough to keep focused on the mundane task of stirring and chopping. So, I forgot about the oven. Like I almost always do. (I said almost.)

No problem. We’ll just start over. Nope, no more ramen. Boo. Okay, I’ll try one. Maybe they’re not so bad. I popped an almond slice in my mouth and thought I took a bite out of a charcoal briquette! Eww. Terrible. While I like my share of “crispies” in Asian Coleslaw, I wasn’t about to ruin the entire salad with burnt crispies. I’ll just take out the black ones (or hundreds) and we’ll see what we can salvage.

After removing almost 3/4 cup of burnt crispies, I was satisfied. And, I have to say, it wasn’t too bad. Except for the occasional missed charred crispy.

Sesame Chicken over rice with Asian “not-so-charred” Coleslaw.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Uncategorized