8 Things Your Photographer Wants You to Know (But Won't Tell You to Your Face) | Flower Moxie
Written by: Amy McCord Jones
Welcome to the debut of our vendor spotlight series, where we share insider tips from seasoned wedding vendors.
We're starting with the MOST IMPORTANT vendor of them all: No, not your waxer! Your photographer.
As much as I want to think my job is the most crucial, photogs got me beat.* I can't tell you how many times I've seen my brides spend thousands on all the Pinterest details only to skimp on the photographer and hand off the job to their 'up-and-coming' cousin. No one wants bad angles and blurry portraits on their $30k day. Get my back fat in the good light, son!
*At least my job is the best smelling.
Elyse Fair is an incredible OKC-based photographer in Oklahoma City, and is the visionary behind Ely Fair Photography. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, Style Me Pretty, Southern Weddings, Brides of Oklahoma, Southern Living, and more. I sat down with her to get her hot take on 8 things she wants prospective clients to know:
1. Editing Expectations
On one hand, we have Aerie and Dove redefining beauty, and on the other I still want my double-chin 86'd. What level of editing is reasonable to expect in all our pictures, Ely?
"Managed expectations are the key to happiness, right?? So when it comes to getting your photos, knowing what type of edits to expect is a good idea. Now, every photographer is different in their approach so it would be a good idea to ask what type of edits you can expect. That said, it’s unrealistic to think every photo will be ‘vanity-edited’.
Our basic rule of thumb is that every photo is edited, meaning that it has been color and contrast corrected. All photos are given some loving care to make sure the image itself is the best possible.
The next tier of editing is beauty editing; I do beauty editing on portraits, and then a handful of other shots that I know are spectacular and frame worthy. Let's say that you have a zit, or a couple of flyaway hairs, bags under eyes – I'll help you out with those on the portrait images. Simple and basic fixes, things that are not normally part of you that happen to pop up on wedding day.
The next level of editing is what I call vanity editing. Think Kylie Jenner type editing – making you more skinny, removing double chins, editing things in the background, etc. These edits take a lot of specialized skill and time, and are not a realistic expectation for every photo in your gallery. However, requesting a few extensive edits on a handful of your favorites wouldn’t make us mad. We want you to feel beautiful and love your images!”
2. Lighting is Bae
Let’s journey back to my cousin’s wedding in 1992. I wore a lavender dress with loofah-floof sleeves and cheesed for the photographer in a dark church basement. Though the experience was lacking, the photos turned out surprisingly decent thanks to an arsenal of lighting equipment. Given most weddings of today do not allow for technical lighting, Ely shares some tips on how to maximize natural light.
“If photography is high on your list of important things, you will want to base the timing of your wedding (or when the bulk of your wedding photos will be taken) around when the light will be nice. The best light for photography is typically the hour before the sun goes down. Naturally, this can be tricky during different times of the year so consider first look during winter months or carving out time between the ceremony and reception during summer months”
3. Pinterest Boards are NOT Holy Grails
Probably the most disheartening thing you can do to a photographer is bombard them with specific images they need to ‘recreate’. Tell us why, Ely.
“I find that I don't shoot as well at a wedding when a bride wants us to recreate specific shots. The first thing it does is makes us feel like you don't trust us. But the main thing is that it disrupts our normal work method because I have to refer to those images instead of noticing the natural movements and flow of the day and making choices based on that.
In a technical sense, there are so many things that go into a photograph than just a specific pose. So many factors impact photos such as time of day, location, color palettes, the season, intensity of light, skin complextions, type of dress, and a lot more. Even if I try to recreate the photograph, it will still be completely different. But with all that said, it’s helpful to see images, especially of my own work, to see what is attractive to them and what feelings are most important to them that day. But there’s a difference between ‘copy this’ and ‘inspo’.”
4. Bridesmaids: Less is More (GASP!)
As a veteran wedding planner, I 1000% agree with this statement. I’ve done over 700 weddings across 12 years and I can only think of a few times where a gaggle of girls was actually supportive and non-drama causing.
Ely says, “People are not going to like this, but I think more than 5-6 bridesmaids is too many. This is not a hard rule of thumb, but I tend to find that weddings that have more than 6 bridesmaids add more stress to the day than joy.
Reason being, 6 logistically takes more time, the ‘getting ready’ spaces are always a wreck and chaotic, and I ALWAYS hear people complaining about other people. So and so is running late, so and so hasn't been helping with this, so the photos are less intimate.
At my own wedding, I had 7 bridesmaids, and looking back at it I should have had 3. There were only three that really made a difference being there and everyone else was kind of doing their own thing.”
5. If You Dig the Details, Add the Time
As a florist and stylist, I can say with complete accuracy that those fun ‘detail’ shots take fo-eva. The ribbon doesn’t magically lay right, those fancy wedding shoes are scuffed, it’s hard to get those rings to perch inside a garden rose and CRAP - the dog ate the moss ball. Everything is doable, though, if you allot enough time.
Ely says, “I got married over 10 years ago, and I often think to myself that I am SO glad that I got married before the era of wedding blogs and Pinterest. Although I LOVE all the special things that people do nowadays, I also think it must be exhausting to feel like you're competing for every little perfect detail to be unique.
As an artist I really love getting to do full coverage of a wedding with lay flat photos of all the little thoughtful details/invites/florals BUT they are a huge time sucker. You would be shocked at how difficult it is to do a beautiful lay flat of an invite. So if you want specialized photos of your detail shots, you might think about adding an hour to 1.5 before wedding coverage for the photographer to style. Or hire a stylist that will work with the photographer to make that process go more expertly.”
6. Your Wedding Isn't Going to Look Like a Styled Shoot
AMEN! (Raising hands up Pentecostal-style!) I love a good styled-shoot but they’re completely unrealistic and not scalable without a hefty celebrity budget. Styled shoots serve the vendors by helping to get them published, building up their portfolio/brand, and flexing artistic muscles. What say you, Ely?
“Styled shoots are all over the place and give an unrealistic impression of what a wedding can be. To do a wedding that involves three plate settings, custom name plates, crystal flutes, and individual wedding cakes would be an astronomical cost. Unless you’re having a super small intimate wedding or you’re marrying Nick Jonas, the average bride can not afford a wedding that looks like a styled shoot.
Instead, reduce the ‘perfect’ deets to the head or sweetheart table. You'll still feel good about having something custom and special, but it leaves more budget for doing things like having a cool getaway car, or an impressive floral installation.”
7. You Don't Need a Photographer for the Whole Reception
Yup, another truth. After the cake is cut, toasts are given, and the dances have wrapped they could bounce and you wouldn’t miss anything. Plus everyone likely has wine spilled on their bodices by now.
Ely says, “So I'm probably being a bad business person, but you don't need to hire me for every second of your wedding day. I often talk about how aside from the reception events like the dances, speeches, cake cutting, we could probably get all the dancing pics we would need to edit in 3 good songs because group dancing shots are not the ones that you will likely cherish and hang on your wall (or album). And sure, you probably want the ‘we’re leaving the wedding’ picture so let’s do that after the ceremony because it will be filled with non-boozy guests, lighting will be far better, and your make-up and hair will still be on point.”
8. Feed Us Good Food
Sweet baby Jesus, she’s really preaching truth now! I can’t tell you how rudey-rude it is when a client looks at me and says, “Do I have to feed you?” Yes, Brenda, I actually need to eat something after being on my feet for the past 12 hours and Lord knows I can’t make a Taco Bell run mid-reception.
Ely agrees, “Consider giving your vendors the same meal that you are serving your guests. We don't need a seat at a table (actually please don't give us one, we would rather wolf down our food in a closet) but your vendors work suuuper hard for you at your wedding, and we need 15 minutes to take a break and replenish some calories for energy to carry on.
I remember crying at a wedding when I was big and pregnant because I wasn’t given the guest-provided meal but rather a lunch meat sandwich that I was not allowed to consume while pregnant.
Also, I'm just gonna throw this out there: when your photographer feels like you've taken care of and valued them, they're much more likely to take the extra time to edit that bit of arm fat rather than just chalking it up to that's how you looked that day. Just being real here.”
There you have it, 8 hard truths from a seasoned wedding photographer. No vendor will say these things to your face but they sure are great to know! Did any of these tips surprise you? Will you approach your wedding photographer in a different light now that you're in-the-know? Let us know in the comments! Ely, thank you so much for sharing these fantastic tips with us!
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About the Author
Amy is the founder of Flower Moxie and our fearless leader! When she's not waist-deep in flowers you can catch her snuggling her adorable dog Smithers, adverturing with her hubby, or painting in her home studio.