Letting Go of Photography

“You’re a really good photographer! Why did you stop shooting Boudoir? ”
A good friend of ours asked me that yesterday and I had a really hard time framing my answer. I sputtered out, “After trying to convince women of their beauty for 11 years, I just kind of gave up.”


And, since the first answer that comes to mind is usually the real answer, I realized this is my truth. 

I gave up. It lost its lustre and I lost my passion for it.
However, I didn’t give up in the sense that I failed, more that I realized that in a world where 90% of people we see on social media and in print are filtered, what the fuck is point? Women have to have the presence of mind (or find it through life experience) to realize that they are comparing themselves to bullshit. 

I would often do a shoot with a gal, show her the final result, she would oooh and ahhh and say things like, “I can’t believe that’s me!” or, “I feel so beautiful and more confident than I ever have.” But then I would get, “Can you just tuck in my rolls a bit?” or, “ I don’t like the way my ass looks. Can you lift it up a bit?” Uhm, no. If you want your ass lifted, get off it and go to the gym. Boudoir is not supposed to be about digital nipping and tucking, it’s about seeing your body in a new light and learning accept it and love it, even if you are working hard to change it. Then she would start posting photos on IG or FB that were filtered AF and all I could think was, “Do you actually think that people don’t see that you’ve completely changed your appearance? Why are you so terrified of letting people see the real you? Why isn’t the real you good enough?”

Exerting futile effort is never a good feeling.

I know I did make a difference for some of my clients and it is a beautiful thing, but after so many just reverted to that place of insecurity that has existed for so long within them, I eventually just said, “Fuck it!”
I wanted to feel the passion and satisfaction of creativity running through my veins again, so I moved on to the one thing that has never left me feeling disappointed or burnt out—writing. 

I figure if I can’t reach women with photographic proof of their innate beauty, I’ll reach them with my words.

Are you a good houseguest or a bad houseguest? House Guest Etiquette a la Jo.

I just had the BEST weekend with the BEST houseguests, pretty much ever and it wasn’t just because they were my cousins, it was because they were so respectful of our space. They cooked, they cleaned, they bought (and brought) groceries and they were helpful and fun.

To be honest, we’ve had a few shitty houseguests in the past couple years, so it was so nice to see that my cousins were on the same wavelength as me. I was sad to see them go and, for me, that’s not a common feeling. I’m usually elated to bid our guests adieu, but it’s usually because I’m exhausted from entertaining them, cleaning up after them, and providing everything for their stay.

My idea of what makes a good houseguest stems from a childhood with a mom who had very particular Martha Stewartesque notions when it came to being a guest in someone’s home. She drilled it into me and, when people visit and don’t seem to have any houseguest common sense, I kinda lose my shit.

Here’s what my dearly departed Mama Wendy made sure I understood if I was going to visit somewhere. (Also, I may be paraphrasing a little here):

  1. NEVER be a wanker who overstays your visit. Always ask BEFORE you go for a visit how long your host is willing to put up with you. It’s not rude to ask someone this, it’s polite. It doesn’t matter how much we love our friends and family – everybody has a saturation limit when it comes to houseguests. For example, I’m good for around three to four nights and then my eye starts to twitch and I start to feel a bit stabby. If I tell you that I’d love to have you visit for the weekend, it means I’d love to have you visit FOR THE WEEKEND. If you then decide that you are loving my place so much you want to stay longer, I’m probably going to secretly imagine myself stabbing you in the eye with a fork while I’m politely insisting that I’m okay you extending your stay. News Flash: I’m not okay with it. Nobody is. Get the fuck out and, while you’re at it, make sure you’re gone by mid-afternoon on Sunday and mop the floor before you leave, just for good measure.
  2. Food is fucking expensive, so unless you’re visiting millionaires, don’t be a freeloading asshat. If you’re by yourself and heading to visit someone for a night, it’s usually fine to allow your host to feed you. But bring a gift-dessert or something (or, in my case, bring me ALL THE WINE) just to let them know you appreciate their hospitality. HOWEVER, if you’re bringing more than just yourself OR you plan to be there more than one night, chip the fuck in on food, homie. Bring (or buy) some groceries or, even better, make a plan with your host for meals and offer to either shop with them when you arrive or bring the ingredients for a couple of those meals. This will not only make you the most-appreciated house guest ever, it will also get you sincere invitations to come back. For reals.
  3. Get off your ass and help. Help cook. Help clean up after meals. Help clean up anything that is a mess or dirty. Clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your shit laying around. Don’t treat your host’s place like it’s a hotel with a maid and room service. Again, that will just make your host stabby and nobody wants any version of Norman Bates for a host.
  4. Clean up your GD room when you leave. Strip the sheets and pillow cases and either put them in the laundry or wash them if your host prefers. Alternatively, if your host is much less anal than me and says it is unnecessary for you to strip the bed, AT LEAST make the bed then. Leave it as you found it. If you slept on the couch, use some common sense – clearly you need to clean up your bedding. Don’t be a fucking slob of a houseguest. This isn’t rocket science, people.
  5. Lastly, have some respect. If your host goes to bed early or you are a night owl, don’t blast the TV or stereo or dial up your buddies and FaceTime at midnight in a drunken stupor with your phone on full blast. Quiet the fuck down and have some GD respect.

Admittedly, when I was younger and didn’t fully appreciate the costs and tasks involved in running my own household, I was most likely NOT a good houseguest. I’m writing this in hopes that it will help the younger versions of me out there turn over a new leaf and start becoming more likeable when you’re visiting.

Peace out, stellar bitches!

Destination Wedding Woes & The Shit We Carry With Us

wedding couple destination wedding cuba
If you know me, you know I’m not afraid to share my thoughts and feelings and, often, after I’ve had some time to process, I need to blog to get it out and forget about it. This one is long, so if you have shit to do, this will probably distract you…
A couple years ago, I had one hell of a shitty experience shooting a destination wedding (due to both my own shit and others’). It was the straw that temporarily broke my wedding-shooting back and I gave up shooting weddings for awhile until I could find my way back to a healthy wedding-photography mindset, which I’m happy to report, I have.
And, ironically, it had zip to do with my ability to shoot a wedding and everything to do with my ability to allow self-sabotaging insecurities creep in and overrun my creativity and talents. Ya’ll know what they say about hindsight, right?
Although this wedding was in Cuba in 2015, the story actually starts wayyy back in high school (think early 90s…yah, I’m getting up there) and it carries on into the present. It’s not pretty or easy to talk about, but I’m going to spit it out here and then let it go.
In high school, my main crowd was made up of what is probably best described as the “In Crowd”. Of course, that’s totally tongue-in-cheek because our graduation class was a whopping 34 people so how many crowds could we actually have? Amiright! Anywho, this crowd was made up of a core group of ladies and, at the head of those ladies was a quintessential Mean Girl. Let’s call her Penelope.
Caveat: High School sees people put up with a lot of shit that our adult counterparts wouldn’t put up with for ten seconds, so try to keep in mind that these days, I wouldn’t keep people like this within a mile of my day-to-day life.
Penelope was pretty and popular and, as these things go, had minions who followed her lead, no matter how shitty and cruel it was. Penelope would, essentially, “allow” the rest of our girl group to like me one day and then shun me the next. I spent my entire high school experience walking around on eggshells around her-always fearful of what I would say or do next that would change my status with her from “friend” to enemy. One day she would laugh when I was being my quirky, outspoken crazy self and everything would be good and the next she would shun me and call me a loser for being the same way. It was a constant roller coaster of being accepted and rejected and I rode that shit for years. Sometimes I would be accepted and allowed to hang out with Penelope and her Posse and sometimes (for months at a time) I would be shunned, ignored, or, even worse, publicly ridiculed. Like that time, for example, in Grade 10 when I was, once again, on the “you’re not cool enough to hang out with us” list. One day after gym class, Penelope and her bosom buddy Petunia (who I will introduce below) and the rest of my so-called friends made fun of the way I pulled up my pants (because, apparently, I did it “weird”), pantomiming (pun-intended) me pulling them up over and over again and laughing hysterically until I left the locker room (and school) in tears. I stayed home for two days, pretending to have the flu so I wouldn’t have to face all those chicks while I was still so hurt by their teasing.  I think it was around the start of Grade 12 that I reached my saturation point and I finally began to activly seek retaliation for Penelope’s mean girl behaviour. I sought out opportunities to undermine her, embarrass her, and hurt her feelings whenever I could and every time I managed to stick it to her, it felt really good.
[NOTE: This was ridiculous and utterly childish vindictive bullshit behaviour, but I was 17 and didn’t understand the world the way I do these days. I did what any kid would do and I fought the pain of being treated like shit by treating her like shit. I felt justified at the time. It seemed only fair that after being shit on for years, I was finally starting to give her a taste of her own pain-inflicting ways. I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it. It was simply how I coped without knowing enough to learn and grow from the life lesson behind it.
Strangely enough, we even hung out for awhile after high school. I can’t tell you why because I didn’t even LIKE Penelope and our relationship was strained and unfriendly a lot of the time, but we did have some good, genuine laughs now and then and perhaps thats why I stuck with it. She finally just phased me out of her life and I was totally okay with it. Kind of relieved, actually. It wasn’t until after she phased me out that I realized how dysfunctional our “friendship” had been and how much easier it was without her in my life, but I learned A LOT from that relationship and learned to recognize my vindictive tendencies. If someone hurt me, I retaliated. I hadn’t yet learned the “just forgive them and forget them” method of living a much happier life, but recognizing my patterns through that relationship helped me to learn it.]
Petunia was another gal in the same crowd and she was, by far, the one who followed Penelope’s lead most often. Petunia has a giant heart and has always wanted to see the best in people, but she’s also really easily led and didn’t even realize how cruel she was to me so often while we were growing up. And, despite all the shit of high school, I’ve always loved her.
In 2014, Petunia called me up and invited me out for lunch and told me she was getting married in Cuba. She wanted me to be part of the wedding and, thinking about Penelope who was going to be the MOH, I politely declined, but said I would definitely attend. We ended up agreeing that I would shoot the wedding so I could still be a part of the day.
However, by this time I was pretty jiggy with my intuition and, from the moment Petunia told me she was getting married, my gut alarm bells started clanging to the tune of, “JO! Stay away from anything to do with this wedding!” And, like the ridiculously stubborn Scorpio I am, I shushed my gut and told it that everything would be great – after all, 20+ years had passed and we were all very different people. It would be a much different experience than high school. We’d all grown up and had some life experience to change us, right?
Nope.
To make matters far worse, Petunia said something like, “Peter (let’s pretend Peter is the name of Petunia’s Fiancé) isn’t going to be super excited about the cost to get you to shoot our wedding, but I’ll convince him that it’ll be worth it.” Great! Can’t wait to rise up and meet that challenge. Ding Ding, gut alarm. Ding Ding, gut alarm.
I tried to psych myself up for a week hanging out with Penelope, Petunia and another friend of ours (let’s call her Poppy) whom I love all the way up to the moon and always have. I figured that if Poppy was there, any shit that happened would be worth it because I would get to hang out with her after so long.
I also invited my Sis-In-Law and another friend to come for the week. I figured that I could hang with my own peeps if I didn’t want to hang with all the wedding guests and it would be a good opportunity to chillax and get some much-needed bestie time in.
Nope again.
Firstly, before I get into the point of this entire post, let me just fully disclose my giant fuck-ups with this wedding.
1) I told Petunia and Peter that I would be happy to shoot them doing other things besides the wedding – if they went on excursions or whatever. What I totally forgot about and didn’t really think through was that I get brutal motion sickness, so when they decided to take a bus tour through Havana and a catamaran tour, I couldn’t go on either. Trying to shoot on a bus would have done me in, but trying to shoot on a boat would have put me where I’ve been too many times (arms wrapped around a rail, supplying a never-ending stream of chum and bile to the happy fishes). When I say I get motion sick, it doesn’t even really describe how brutal it is. I end up feeling like death for days afterward. (I tried to make up for it by shooting a bunch of photos during their stag/stagette night).
2) I completely ignored not only my gut about what a terrible idea it was to even attend the wedding, let alone shoot it but I also ignored the concrete realization that my own marriage was done and I was not in a good mindset to shoot a wedding. My husband and I had been down a long road of shit and heartache and inability to comprehend each other after our daughter died and we were separating. (I tried to ignore that feeling because it was much too late to back out of shooting the wedding and I was trying to pull up my big girl professional panties and do my job).
3) I foolishly believed I had dealt with all the shit feelings I had about Mean Girl Penelope from our younger days and trusted that I was capable of being my usual self –the chick who doesn’t give a fuck what others think of me and who trusts in her creative and artistic talents.
That last fuck up, on top of everything else, is what did me in. I may have believed I had moved on and was fully capable of being my adult self and recognizing and dealing with my insecurities as they reared up, but I had never actually been around Penelope to test that theory and have some practice with it.
Triple nope.
Do ya’ll know what ignoring your intuition and insight gets you? A shitshow, that’s what.
The first night we were all together in Cuba and everyone was drinking it up and having a good time, I let myself relax and thought that it was all going to be all right after all. Everybody was getting along well, we were all laughing about funny things that happened in high school (because despite the emotional roller coaster, I still had some good times), and enjoying ourselves. I woke up feeling happy and excited to do a rad job on Petunia’s wedding, yet still, my gut was not having it. 
The next night there was a stag/stagette and, near the end of the night when she was a bit drunk, Penelope was kind enough to tell me, “Peter really didn’t want you to come to shoot the wedding, but both Petunia and I convinced him it was a good idea and that you will do a great job. I hope you do.” She giggled and walked off and I stood there, feeling a flush creep up my face and insecurity begin washing through me. I fucked off back to my room, put my camera away and journaled the entire night, in an attempt to analyze my feelings and get them under control. (This is what I do when I need to process, I write it all out and analyze it until I find the hidden meanings, the lesson, or the solution).
The following day, I was sitting with Peter, waiting to meet with their wedding coordinator while Petunia was up chatting with some other people, and Peter and I were chatting about weddings and my wedding experience. I mentioned that I had heard that he didn’t want to hire me because I was expensive, but I wanted him to know that I was good at my job and he wouldn’t be disappointed. I was still feeling insecurities creep in from Penelope’s comment the evening before (and, truthfully, journaling about it had not helped take the feeling away) and I was also feeling a bit annoyed because I had already given them a HUGE discount (I halved my regular price, actually) and here I was, dealing with how “expensive” I was, yet again. I was feeling fed up with people not realizing my worth (ah, the Ego eh…) and when Peter made a comment about Petunia mentioning I was thinking of retiring from shooting weddings, I lost my shit for a sec and snapped at him. I told him that weddings were too much stress and too much work (which they aren’t) and I was tired of people bitching about how expensive wedding photography is and being completely ignorant of the amount of time and work that goes into photographing a wedding. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go over very well with either of us and totally left me looking like an asshat who hated shooting weddings (which I didn’t and still don’t). It wasn’t my best professional moment, although it was a raw and true one, but at that point, my anxiety level was rising about a meter a minute and I was already in danger of drowning.
After that, everything snowballed.
By the morning of the wedding, I was stressed-the-fuck-out. I told my Sis-in-Law at breakfast that I could feel that it was going to be a shitshow and, well…what we focus on, we create. Simple concept. Profound result when we allow shit thoughts to take over.
It was, literally, one thing after another…
It started out, right off the hop, with Penelope telling me what she thought I should and shouldn’t shoot. “Oh, no, don’t get a shot of Petunia brushing her teeth in her wedding dress. That’s just tacky.” “You should get a shot of such and such while they are doing such and such.” This happens to me ALL THE TIME when I shoot weddings and I just smile and nod and, if their idea is good or will fit in with what I’m doing, I’ll happily snap a suggested pic. However, after about the sixth suggestion, I was fucking annoyed that Penelope seemed to think she knew how to shoot a wedding better than I did. (yes, hell again, Ego, fancy seeing you here again so soon…;)) Moreso, though, there were now regular looks being exchanged between Penelope and Petunia and I was picking up on all of them. Looks that said, “Are you seeing this? The photographer is refusing to shoot photos. Can you believe it?”
Here are two of these look moments that stuck out to me and completely unravelled my confidence (even though I knew the shots WOULD NOT work and had proven it by trying it during other weddings and failing):
The wedding party wanted to do pics at the beach, mid-day. I told them that, from my experience, there would be too many people, it would be stiflingly hot, the light was too bright and would cast too many shadows under their eyes, etc. I suggested we shoot at the beach near sunset when the light was good, there would be next to no people, and we could get a lot of good shots in a short time. Penelope gave me “Don’t you think you should taking the kind of photos the bride and groom are asking for?” to which I replied, “She hired me because I know what I’m doing and I hope she trusts me enough to know the reasons I’ve given her are true rather than wasting time at the beach when we could be shooting elsewhere and getting good shots.” And that was followed by “the look” between Penelope and Petunia again.
I was chatting with someone while we were waiting for a few wedding party people to meet us at a room and a sweet moment developed between the Peter and his stepdaughter. I heard Penelope said to Petunia, “You should get Jo to take a pic of them ” and Petunia immediately nudged me and said, “Look at them. Can you take a pic?” but by the time I turned around and brought up my camera, the moment had passed. Petunia asked me to re-create it and I explained that, if I asked them to do it again, it would not have been a genuine shot and it would have shown in the photo. I told them there would definitely be other moments and I would catch one of them. Again, that look. I’ve tried to re-create real moments after the fact and, trust me, they are ingenuine. That’s not me. I’m not going to force a moment just because someone sees me with a camera and tells me I should. There are HUNDREDS of moments during a wedding day and we can’t be expected to capture every single one. We grab the ones we see – the genuine, unscripted ones – and they end up being spectacular.
The rest of the day continued along the same lines…
I realized around dinner time that all the insecurities I had taken away from being around them in high school had come back full-force and that I had completely reverted to that “please just like me” pathetic person I had been back then, willing to put up with any of Penelope’s shit just so I wouldn’t have to be shunned or see her give that fucking look to Petunia. It was at dinner that I finally decided to have a glass of wine and just say, “fuck it” and go with the flow. I don’t normally drink at weddings until the end of the day and, even though I had tried to drink a beer earlier that afternoon, I’d only made it through a few sips before setting it down and forgetting about it. The wine helped a bit and at least relaxed a bit of my anxiety. After dinner, I tried for an hour to wrangle the wedding party to get them down to the beach for sunset photos, but it was like herding cats and, by the time I finally got them down there, we had about 15 minutes of light left and I was completely exhausted after a day of fighting my own shit and theirs. The pics weren’t my usual caliber and I was completely defeated.
In a nutshell, it fucking sucked.
Ironically, during the reception, I somehow found myself standing with Poppy listening to Penelope while she told us about how much her daughter struggled with her little school friends. “One day they like her and the next they tell her they don’t want to play with her. Girls are so mean and it’s so hard to see her struggle like that.” Poppy and I stood there, mouths hanging open, looking at each other in complete disbelief that the Queen of the Kingdom of Mean Girls still didn’t have a fucking clue what a colossal cunt she had been all through school. At that point, which was near the end of the evening, I’d had enough and I didn’t need to be there to shoot anything else, so I packed up my shit, grabbed another glass of wine for the road, and headed back to my room.
I went to bed that night and cried myself quietly to sleep. I was mortified that I had allowed insecurities and anxieties ( from more than 20 years ago) completely rear up and take over. I was frustrated because I knew that the photos of the day were not the amazing, creative, happy quality I usually produced. And, mostly, I was pissed off for allowing my ego to get my back up when faced with a semi-drunk (and a few completely drunk) wedding party peeps who were pushy, didn’t want to hear my advice, and made me feel like I sucked and didn’t know what I was doing.
So how did it all end, you wonder?
No surprises here.
Petunia didn’t like her photos.
Peter wrote me a scathing email about how I was an “amateur masquerading as a professional”, how I’d “misrepresented my abilities and duped his wife into hiring me” and how I’d spent the entire trip in a “tequila-infused stupor” (even though I had only consumed tequila or been drunk on the first and last day of the entire trip and had barely drunk anything for the rest of it). It bothered me that he could say such shitty things, but I was also expecting it from him, so I wasn’t surprised. If a person doesn’t want to hire you from the get-go and you hear it from multiple people, it’s not a stretch to receive an email about how much you sucked.
The one thing, out of the entire email, that yanked my chain and made me feel genuinely angry was that he also said I didn’t make his wife feel beautiful at all during the entire wedding. That one pissed me off. Petunia had been ridiculously insecure about her looks since we were in Elementary school and, during the day of the wedding, I told her (probably 25 times) how ridiculously gorgeous she looked, how she made such a stunning bride, how she chose a perfect dress for her body type, how gorgeous her hair and makeup looked, etc. If there is something I’m going to do while I’m shooting ANY WOMAN, I’m going to make her understand that she is beautiful in as many ways as possible. I purposely sought out opportunities all during the day of shooting to let Petunia know how amazing she looked. So when I read that bit, my head blew off my shoulders and spun in circle like that chick in the Exorcist…for a few minutes anyway. BUT, ironically, looking back, I realized that if a person is focusing on an insecurity, they don’t hear the truth of what’s being said, they hear what they want to hear. Just as I was focusing on my insecurities surrounding high school bullshit, so Petunia was focusing on being uncomfortable with her body and being the center of attention. She probably didn’t hear my words of admiration at all. It also explained why she didn’t like any of her photos, even though she was a fucking knockout in all of them. In the end, I couldn’t change any of it, so I let it all go.
I responded by editing all 300+ photos anyway, refunding all of their money, and sending them a short email that said I was sorry that I didn’t meet their expectations and I hope that they can still look back on and enjoy the photos anyway. I didn’t try to defend myself because, really, they wouldn’t have listened or understood anyhow and it hardly mattered anymore. People believe what they want to believe, so why waste time trying to convince them otherwise. And, obviously, there went that 34-year friendship with Petunia. That stung a bit, but the nature of life is that people come and go.
Then, in a huge dramatic fit, I decided that I was done and I gave up on weddings “forever”, had a slight mental breakdown, and went to a “few” (ahem…nine or so) counselling sessions to learn how to deal with all of the baggage I’d been carrying around since high school. That’s how I learned about “Playing the Victim” and how to prevent myself from ever falling into the trap of giving my power away to someone else by allowing them to dictate my emotional responses. It’s how I learned, for good this time, that people can be assholes and definitely deserve blame for the heinous shit they do to us, but WE are 100% responsible for our reactions to that shit, not them.
So, all in all, it was a rad life lesson about listening to my gut (which I now do regularly), owning my shit (which I do 100% of the time), and forgiving assholes for being assholes and moving on.
And I’ve come to my senses about giving up weddings. I’m good at them. I enjoy them. I’ve come through the grieving process of my own marriage ending and I can look at love with a clear heart again. Time to get back at it. 🙂

A Reflection Like No Other- Vernon Boudoir Photography

One of the job perks of being a Boudoir Photographer is constantly being given the opportunity to show our clients how their loved ones see them. We don’t see ourselves the way others see us – especially the way our spouses or our children see us. When we look in the mirror, we tend to focus on our flaws while the people who love us see all the little things that make us beautiful to them. If only we could look in the mirror and see ourselves the same way the people we love see us!
This is what Boudoir Photographers do – we use our cameras to become a reflection of the beauty within each of our clients. It is uplifting, fulfilling, heart-exploding work and I can’t imagine how empty my work life would be if I didn’t shoot Boudoir.

Feeling blessed today and looking so forward to the year ahead.

 

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Robyn2015-42

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Give me a call at (250) 320-4418 or check out my website at http://www.joleflufy.com and book a session today! The time to shine is now!

Finding a Wedding Photographer: Important questions I would be asking.

A few weeks ago I received a long and, at times, completely irrelevant, list of questions from a prospective Bride. Some of them were totally legit, some made me merely shake my head, but many of them had me laughing uproariously. My reaction to the list was not this lady’s fault, but rather the issue was that most prospective wedding clients have never been married before and, therefore, really have no idea about what kind of questions they should be asking a wedding photographer. Many people, like this lady, probably do a Google or Pinterest search and then copy someone else’s “recommended questions” list. It really made me realize that it’s time a photographer actually put out a list of questions that WE would ask if hiring another photographer to shoot our wedding. I, of course, have compiled a list for ya’ll and, while it probably doesn’t cover every question I would ask a wedding photographer, it definitely cuts to the basic important ones that would help me decide who I wanted to hire.

Before I get into the list, though, I do want to talk about a few things that I feel are a really important part of choosing your wedding photographer.

Firstly, there are a bazillion wedding forums out there where people recommend photographers for each other. Someone will post something like, “Looking for a talented and affordable photographer for our wedding. Who would you recommend?” and then there will be 500 comments from people saying stuff like, “Check out such and such! She shot our wedding and the photos are absolutely amazing. We highly recommend her!”. While I appreciate it when people like my work enough to tag me in these posts, I always say the same thing: Make the choice for yourself and don’t base it on what you’ve heard about photographers or their work from your friends and family. Photography is one of the most subjective professions and just because your homies love the look of a photographer’s pics does NOT mean you will too. Before you contact ANY of us, do some research. Look at A LOT of photography websites and Facebook pages in your area, read their testimonials and reviews, and then choose ONLY the shooters whose images you instantly LOVE. I’m serious. If the images don’t speak to you, don’t bother contacting the photographer. You’ll save both parties a world of disappointment. Narrow down your selections to five or even ten photographers whose work you like and then make a plan to contact (and meet) with each one (I’ll get to the why later when I explain the questions).

And, regardless of your budget, please…PLEAAAAASE, don’t contact a photographer and immediately ask about packages and prices. For people in my industry who spend a ton of time learning our craft, honing our skills, and spending hours fine tuning our editing styles to make our photos look uniquely our own, there is no bigger insult than having someone contact us and just ask about our prices. It pains me to admit it, but we photographers have fragile egos when it comes to our work and the thought of people “shopping around” for the most affordable photographer, rather than wanting to hire us based on our work, just doesn’t sit well with any of us. We like to live in our bubbles and believe that our clients hire us because they love us, for being the people we are and because they love our work. So, if you find a photographer whose work you absolutely love, but you are on a limited budget, use some finesse. Tell them you love their work and you would love to meet with them to hear about what you can do for each other. You would be surprised what a face-to-face can do to make miracles happen and magic ensue. I’m being brutally honest when I say that I turn away dozens of prospective clients every wedding season because they send me emails inquiring only about my prices and packages…and I’m not the only photographer around here who does this. I want every client I work with to have a connection with me. I want us to get along, be comfortable working together and build up some trust so they know that, even if I’m suggesting crazy shit,  the end result will be worth it. I can’t even gauge a prospective client if all they do is ask about my prices. So, if you are an engaged couple who is having a really difficult time finding someone to shoot your wedding, it could be for the very simple reason that your approach may, in fact, suck.

Also, the kind of camera a photographer uses has zero reflection on his or her ability to take amazing photos. If you look at a website and the photos speak to you, that is all that matters. This topic has been coming up a lot recently in some of the photographer forums I follow. I recently (because I had made a joke about this very thing to some of my buddies) made up a totally new camera for a prospective bride who asked what I shoot with. I laughed hysterically at her face expression because I told her I shoot with a Kensington 6800 BA. She stayed serious and wrote that down and then I said, “Ask me what the BA stands for?”. Bad Ass! LOLOL.  Then I explained to her that my cameras, no matter how amazing they are, don’t take good photos, I do. Asking a professional photographer what kind of camera she uses, especially after already telling her you love her work, is the equivalent of telling a plastic surgeon that he does amazing boob jobs and then asking him what kind of scalpels he uses, as if that would have any bearing on the final result.

Okay, I could blah blah blah all day about this, but we’ve all got places to be and things to do. Keep in mind, this list is made up of questions that I would ask if I were hiring a wedding photographer. I would already assume that, once I’d narrowed my search down, the photographer would already have a good handle on how to shoot a wedding day and I would know if that were actually true after meeting with them and asking these questions. Oh, and keep in mind that I’m kind of a snob, so I would only want the best of the best to shoot my wedding and to be certain I was covered in all areas.

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Shit I Would Ask A Wedding Photographer

(Please note: I’ll print the list again at the bottom, without explanations, so you can copy and paste it or print it if need be. The explanations are there for people who need to know the whys behind all the things.)

Start with THE golden question and say it nicely because nice goes a long way.

  1. Hi, I’m such and such and my fiance and I have looked at your photos and really like what we’ve seen. Are you available on such and such date? (Do NOT ask anything else until you hear back from the photographer because, if he or she is not available, you have wasted your time asking other questions.)

Then, if you hear back and they have your date available, then go ahead and ask these questions, in this order:

2) Are you comfortable and experienced with shooting in all lighting conditions and do you have image examples to show us of a variety of different lighting conditions you’ve shot in? (bright light, dark places, areas of high contrast-such as places with bright light and lots of shadows, places that don’t allow flash photography, etc.. You definitely want a photographer who is not going to panic and shit the bed if the lighting conditions change suddenly and unexpectedly. How much would it suck to hire someone who says they are a pro and then find out, after the fact, they don’t know how to use flash photography and off-camera lighting in tricky moments?)

3) Do you have a current business license to operate in your area? (If you hire an unlicensed photographer, be warned that they are, most likely, operating a business illegally in their municipality. If they can’t be bothered to pay for a license that costs less than $100, what else can they not be bothered to do?). If they don’t have a license, hire at your own risk. You get what you pay for.

4) Can we meet, either in person or on the phone? (WHY, you may ask? Well, would you hire that same plastic surgeon above based on hearsay and just trust that he’d make your boobs look spectacular, even if you’d never had a real conversation with him or a pre-surgery consult to make sure you don’t come out with boobs the size of your head or lopsided or worse? Why should it be any different when choosing your photographer? Don’t you want to get a feel for his or her personality and don’t you want to see if you will get along and be able to work together? Most people spend an entire day with their photographer. What happens if you hire someone without meeting and then find out on your wedding day that the photographer is a complete ass hat? Ain’t nobody got time for that.) There’s no reason ya’ll can’t have a phone conversation, even if you’re on opposite sides of the world. If the photographer says no to meeting, hire at your own risk. You get what you pay for.

5) What does your Wedding Photography Contract cover? (If they don’t have a contract, be wary and get ready to move on if they aren’t willing to draw one up. Nothing says “I’m a total amateur” like a photographer claiming to be a pro who doesn’t even have even a simple wedding contract.). At the very least, a contract should cover the following:

  • Date of Wedding
  • Names and addresses and contact info of all involved parties
  • Time and duration of expected photographic coverage
  • Amount owing for deposit and date it is due
  • Amount owing on balance and date it is due
  • All coverage, products and services being promised by the photographer (including Turn Around time-how long the photographer will take to get all of your photos edited, books made, etc.)
  • Any extra fees, such as travel or per diem food allowance, the photographer is asking you for
  • What happens if something prevents you from getting married and how the photographer will be compensated
  • What happens if something prevents the photographer from shooting your wedding and the back up plan or how you will be compensated
  • A cap on how much the photographer will owe you if something goes wrong and you decide you want to sue him or her (the normal cap is the price of the package you are purchasing, no more)
  • Anything else that is pertinent to you and the photographer being covered in all areas.

I can’t stress enough how important a contract is. Make sure the photographer you want to work with has one or is willing to draw one up with you. If not, MOVE ON.

6) Can you show me an entire wedding that you’ve photographed? (This is REALLY important-to me anyway. We photographers love to showcase our favourite and often our best shots on our websites and social media pages, but you can’t really get a sense of whether a shooter knows what he or she is doing unless you can see an entire edited wedding. Seeing an entire wedding will give you the best idea of what a shooter is capable of and whether or not he or she knows what to capture and what to look for while shooting. If the photographer won’t let you see an entire wedding or if they tell you they have never shot a wedding on their own before, hire them at your own risk and don’t overpay them. Experienced photographers in our area will charge anywhere from around $2500-$5500 for a full day of wedding coverage. If the person you are trying to hire can’t show you a full wedding, don’t pay them that much money or expect to get an amazing result. Even if you love their work, chances are if they can’t produce something simple like a full wedding, they probably haven’t shot a full wedding and they are not going to do an amazing job on all your photos. Why take a risk on one of the biggest days of your life when you can find someone whose work you love and who can deliver the whole shebang?)

7) Do you use a second shooter? If not, are you willing to use one for our wedding? (This is, of course, not a deal breaker by any means, but it does add a great deal of extra awesomeness to a wedding day. I shot weddings by myself for three years and I can say, with absolute certainty, that shooting a wedding alone does not produce half of the kick ass results that shooting a wedding with multiple shooters does, especially if you hire a crew that is a well-oiled machine and knows how to work together really well. Think about it, as a single photographer, it’s pretty hard to grab pics such as a kick ass shot of the bride’s face over the groom’s shoulder as she comes up the isle while at the same time grabbing a shot over the bride’s shoulder of the groom’s face as she walks toward him. There are, literally, dozens of mind blowing moments missed when only one photographer shoots an entire wedding, even though it’s not the photographer’s fault – one person can only see and do so much. Add into the mix the length of a wedding day and anyone, regardless of how creative he or she is, will start to lose their creative energy. When we shoot Full Days, we work anywhere from 12-16 hours straight and that is exhausting when we are wrangling people all day long AND having to be creative and fluid. Adding another shooter into the mix means they can spell each other off and rest a bit here and there to recharge their creative batteries.  My crew and I have caught moments that a single photographer could never catch and my clients tell me, all the time, how blown away they are that we caught such and such doing this or such and such doing that.)

8) If the photographer offers wedding books or canvas prints, etc.: Can you show us examples of your books or any other products that you offer your wedding clients? (This is a no brainer and a perfectly reasonable request. If they don’t have anything to show you, hire them at your own risk.)

9) Can you give us the phone numbers of three of your past wedding clients so we can call them and see what they say about you? (A photographer’s past clients can tell you a lot about his or her work ethic, customer service, etc.. Just as you wouldn’t hire a plastic surgeon without hearing some good word-of-mouth raves from his real clients, don’t hire a photographer without some either. And, just to keep it interesting, look through the photos on the website, with the photographer, and choose random clients!)

10)Do you have Liability Insurance? (This covers the photographer(s) while shooting and also covers you and your guests if he or she, I dunno, goes psycho and starts swinging a camera around and smashing people in the face with it or pushes a guest off a cliff in a heat-crazed rage. It also covers the photographer if something happens to the equipment and your photos are lost and/or damaged. And it’s relatively inexpensive, so if the photographer claims to be a pro, he or she will most likely have this. If the photographer has no insurance and isn’t willing to get it and show you proof, hire them at your own risk.)

11) Run us through a typical wedding day with you? (This is where I explain the difference between First Look weddings and Traditional weddings and run them through a typical timeline of both and what needs to be done during each type. This will really give you a good idea of how seasoned a photographer is. The really good ones will know little details about what needs to be done on the wedding day, such as making sure the bride has time to refresh her makeup before the ceremony or where to position shooters during the ring exchange to get the best angles or when the photographers need to eat in order to ensure no candid moments get missed during the reception, etc.. Trust me, you’ll immediately be able to sense if the photographer has his or her shit dialled in while they run you through a typical day. Go with your gut. If you feel less than confident with their run through, hire them at your own risk.)

12) Can you explain your pricing and packages to us? (Yes, after alllllllll that, it is time to ask about prices. And, if the prices and packages are WAY out of your budget, don’t panic. There are many ways to figure these things out without just giving up and walking away and without both sides feeling like they are missing out. If I meet with clients and I know I’m going to love them and love working with them and my prices at first seem a bit too much for them, I have alternatives to offer that still keep me within my desired profit margin. For example, I am willing to offer half day coverage and hourly rates for weddings instead of full day and leave it up to them to choose what aspects of the day are most important and what they want covered. I also offer payment plans (which clients jump on all the time) where they can pay the initial deposit and then make equal monthly payments until their balance is paid in full. Many photographers talk about their clients finding money for photography from elsewhere in their budgets, such as buying a less expensive wedding dress, dialling down the flowers, going less lavish on the decor, etc.. The bottom line is, if pictures are important to you and you really want a certain photographer to shoot your wedding because ya’ll get along like besties, there is always a way to make it happen. People make the cost a huge big deal, but it’s often not a big deal at all if you truly value photos and the work of the photographer. At the very least, if you go through this process and do decide that you can’t afford the photographer, you’ve already established a good relationship and that photographer is likely to recommend some of his or her buddies who have similar styles and may be more affordable AND you’ll know how to handle the next photographer interview after going through the process once. Win/win!)

13) Do you have any special requests from wedding clients or is there anything you are not comfortable doing? (For example, I have it written into my contract that all guests must stay in their seats during the ceremony and stay seated while they are taking photographs. It saves me the stress of having a guest step in front of me or any of my shooters while we are capturing important moments. I also request dinner for myself and my shooters and I won’t accept lists from couples of shots that they believe I “must” get during the day. My reasoning is that I’ve shot close to 100 weddings and they’ve either never been married or been married once, a long time ago, so I know better than some list they got off Google or Pinterest what I need to be shooting. I do, however, give them a Q&A form that asks if they have any special ceremonies planned during the day (so my crew and I know they are happening and are ready to shoot them) and also asks for a list of family photos they want taken. These are just a few things I discuss with all prospective clients while we are meeting.)

I could probably list a dozen more questions, but the ones I’ve listed are, IMHO, the most important questions to ask in order to know whether you’ll be hiring someone legit or not.

Also, to top this off, a seasoned pro photographer will cover all of this, and a whole lot more, without any questions at all, but if you feel like you need to bring something with you, my list is a good place to start.

Okay, this is a buttload of information, so here is a recap, in short form, that you can print and bring with you to the meeting.

Here’s a recap:

  1. Are you available on our date?
  2. Are you comfortable and experienced with shooting in all lighting conditions and do you have image examples to show us of a variety of different lighting conditions you’ve shot in?
  3. Do you have a current business license to operate in your area?
  4. Can we meet, either in person or on the phone?
  5. What does your Wedding Photography Contract cover?
  6. Can you show me an entire wedding that you’ve photographed?
  7. Do you use a second shooter? If not, are you willing to use one for our wedding?
  8. Can you show us examples of your books or any other products that you offer your wedding clients?
  9. Can you give us the phone numbers of three of your past wedding clients so we can call them and see what they say about you?
  10. Do you have Liability Insurance?
  11. Run us through a typical wedding day with you?
  12. Can you explain your pricing and packages to us?
  13. Do you have any special requests from wedding clients or is there anything you are not comfortable doing?

Now that this blog is done, I’m thinking of writing another one called “Shit to NOT ask wedding photographers while interviewing them”, just because I know it will make a lot of my photographer friends bust a gut.

Until then, good luck with your search and I wish you all enough of whatever it is you need.

One Love, people. One Love.