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Frequently Asked Questions
In addition to reading this page, be sure to visit my Brides Information page for more hints and advice to make your wedding photography go more smoothly.
Probably the single most important thing you can do to make your wedding day go smoothly is to allow plenty of time for the unexpected. Weddings are almost by definition chaotic events, and having extra time to catch your breath will be appreciated by all and will greatly reduce your stress level! Get a realistic idea of how long it will take to do your hair and makeup. My experience has been that brides tend to underestimate how long this will take, sometimes by a large margin. Not surprisingly, this tends to be even more true when a friend is helping with hair/makeup rather than a professional makeup person. Allow extra time!
I specialize in what I'd describe as a natural, story-telling style of wedding photography, combining traditional posed photos with pictures taken in a photojournalistic style. Every wedding is different, with a personality of its own, and it's my responsibility to document that. I have fun capturing events as they happen rather than contriving photographs, allowing you more time to spend with your guests. You'll receive a mixture of spontaneous action photos as well as more traditional group photos of family and wedding attendants. I try to personalize every wedding, so the more input you can give me about the type of photos you want, the better.
You bet! I will frequently take the bride and groom (and sometimes the entire wedding party) to another location for some of the formal photographs. This means some extra planning to make sure there is enough time to take all the photos you want at all the locations you want, but it is well worth the trouble.
This depends on whether you choose digital photography or film photography. For digital photography I am Canon all the way! I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, a pro-grade digital camera, with a selection of L-series lenses and top-end strobes. For film photography I use medium format cameras (Bronica ETRSi) for the formal photography, and 35mm (Canon EOS, several different models) for candids. I also have a full set of portable studio lights that I use for formal photos taken indoors, with either digital or film cameras. This lighting is essential for quality indoor photos, yet many photographers have not made the (admittedly pricey) investment in this equipment. I also have a large assortment of other equipment (strobes, lenses, filters, etc.) that I use for both film and digital photography, as well as multiple back-up cameras in case there are any problems.
When you hire me as your photographer, you GET me as your photographer. I will never send an "associate photographer" to cover a job. All of the work that you see on my site are photos that I personally shot. This way you know that you will get the same quality photography at your own wedding.
Usually not. I like to take charge of my own equipment, which makes it easier for me to make a quick lens change or grab a special diffuser for my flash. I have also found that when I work with a second photographer I spend too much time making sure he/she isn't in my sight line when I'm trying to get just the right angle for that special candid shot. After shooting over 1000 weddings on my own, I have a very good feel for where I need to be to get the photos I want, and find that at the great majority of weddings there simply is no need for a second shooter.
I am a big believer in shooting for quality, not quantity. As someone who shot with film cameras for years, I learned how to visualize the photo before taking it; with a film camera you don't get the "instant feedback" of a digital camera, and if you don't know how to be sure you got the shot you are probably in big trouble! I laugh when I see that many photographers say that they are going to take 1000, or 1500, or even 2000 photos at a wedding that may take 6 hours. I suppose if they are going to take the same photo 10 times, just to be sure they got it right, and do that for every picture they might be able to take that many photos. But why take lots of pictures just so you can say that you took lots of pictures? I'd much rather take fewer shots, while taking the time to make sure that I compose the photo correctly before I take it. Typically I will shoot an average of 80-100 photos/hour, or 500-600 or more photos at a 6 hour wedding. After removing the photos that don't "make the cut" I typically end up with ~500+ optimized photos. My goal is to work to get the best possible photos that I can, not to just take a huge quantity of photos and hope the law of averages will take care of me.
A lot of this differs between photographers, and how they define the terms. To me, "editing" and "optimizing" are interchangeable, and involve looking carefully at each photo to decide whether it is a "keeper", and if so then making sure the color balance, exposure and cropping look the way that I want them to. I might throw out 10-25% of the photos I shoot at an event for a variety of reasons; perhaps someone moved at the wrong time, eyes are closed, a "photobomber" snuck into the frame, the photo is a near-duplicate of another, etc. Or maybe it just didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.
"Retouching" involves taking the photos the next step, such as removing blemishes or wrinkles, making sure there is detail in white wedding gowns or flowers, lightening or darkening (also called dodging and burning) parts of a photo to further enhance it, and converting to B&W or Sepia tone. I do not take this step on every photo or it would take weeks (or more) to process every wedding. But I do some retouching on a few of the images so you can see the possibilities for your other photos. If you choose a package that includes an album, after you give me your photo choices for the album I will retouch all of these images.
"Altering" is where things start to really get interesting! This involves doing things like removing distracting objects (or people), opening closed eyes, adding various creative filters, or making use of a variety of other enhancements that I have learned over the years to make your photos even more stunning! As with retouching, I usually do a small amount of this so you can see the possibilities; when I see some photos they just cry out for me to play with them a bit, and I can rarely resist! When it is time to make your album, or to print enlargements, you have the option to ask that I do some alterations on the photos you choose.
If you are not horribly bored at this point and would like a more detailed explanation of this topic, please visit the Editing Information page on my site.
I always shoot RAW unless specifically asked to do otherwise. Taking wedding photos in JPEG mode leaves the photographer at a serious disadvantage. The JPEGs produced by a camera allow very little latitude for making corrections after the fact. If you don't get the exposure, color balance, etc. exactly right you are probably out of luck! Shooting in RAW format gives the photographer a huge advantage when doing post-processing corrections of the files; it is as close as you can get to having true "digital negatives". Because RAW images require time-intensive post-processing work on the computer there are many photographers who will try to get away with shooting JPEGs. These photographers are known in the industry as "Shoot to Burn" photographers. Basically they just trust their camera to make all of the exposure decisions, shoot the photos, and then burn the result straight to a CD or DVD without doing any editing or post-processing work. This is not someone who you want to trust to take your wedding photos! I know of very few serious wedding professionals who don't shoot in RAW, and I frankly don't understand the reasoning of those who don't. If you talk to a photographer who tries to tell you there is no difference between the two formats you should seriously question his competence, and keep looking for someone else!
After I download the files to my computer, I spend a lot of hours (usually two to three times as much time as I did actually taking the photos) looking at all of the images and making corrections for exposure, color balance, etc. as well as cropping images when I think it is warranted. I always take at least a few images and make copies that I convert to B&W, sepia tone, or add some other effect so you can see some of the possibilities available with your photos. Once I have everything looking the way I want it to I make high-resolution JPEG files of all of the images and burn them to a CD or USB stick, which you get to keep. The reason that I give you JPEG files is because few people who are not professional photographers have the specialized software needed to view RAW images, and the initial RAW images are just that - raw and unfinished. Also, photo labs are not able to print images directly from RAW files.
I saw an answer by another photographer to this question that I think is perfect - This is like asking your cake baker for bowls of batter and frosting and expecting that to be the finished wedding cake! Taking the photos is only the first step in the process of creating your photos. You are paying me not just to take photos, but to create outstanding images of your wedding day! Please refer to the last question where I describe my complete process for editing your photos to better understand all that I do to give you the best photos possible.
That's up to you, but after 30 years of taking wedding photos I have to strongly recommend that you take as many photos as possible before the ceremony. There are many reasons to do this...You'll get more photographs of the two of you together, and be able to spend extra time during the reception with your guests! You'll have fun taking the photos in a relaxed manner with your closest friends and family without that big crowd of people waiting for you to finish your photos and join the party. Many brides have commented that any nervousness they had completely disappeared as soon as they were with their grooms. And if you're having an evening reception, you will probably be able to have some photos taken of the two of you together outdoors during the daylight, possibly even at another location (nearby park, for example).
If you decide to take all of the photographs of the the two of you together after the ceremony that's alright too, though this means you probably won't get as many photos as when pictures are taken before the ceremony. Unless you have a minimum of 60 minutes between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception I strongly recommend against this. To photograph you both with your family groups and wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) takes about thirty minutes, and another ten to fifteen minutes for the two of you alone. That's time enough to get those key photos as long as everyone is ready. If you choose this option, please discuss it with me well ahead of time, so I can give you some tips to help things go smoothly.
While roughly 90% of couples choose to take their photos before the ceremony, there are still some who want to be "traditional" and not let the groom see the bride until she is walking down the aisle. To these couples I want to give some straight talk, even though this may mean you won't like what I have to say. Taking your pictures after the ceremony will increase your stress level significantly, and that is not something you need on such an important day. It usually means that your guests will be waiting for you at the reception while you rush to take your photos. I have seen situations where the photos took longer than planned, and by the time the bride and groom made it to the reception a good number of guests had already left. Not a good thing! Though many brides will tell me "That's OK, my wedding will be different", please believe me when I tell you that after photographing over 1200 weddings I know that your wedding will almost certainly NOT be different!
If you have allowed a fairly large amount of time between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of your reception then the situation is different. If you have a time gap of greater than 90 minutes after the ceremony and before the reception, and if you don't have a lot of travel time between the two locations, then taking the posed photos after the ceremony is very feasible. Unfortunately this is rarely the case; usually the reception is planned to follow immediately after the end of the ceremony, leaving no time for photos. Remember, while you are taking your posed photos with the wedding party and your family, your guests are all waiting for you to show up and join the reception.
Here is an alternative - the "First Look" session. The groom is brought to either the altar or perhaps a private outdoors location, where he waits for his bride with his back to her entrance. When the bride gets close to the groom, he is allowed to turn and get a true first look at the woman he will shortly be marrying. I like to keep these sessions for just the bride and groom; no bridesmaids or mothers hovering and crying! I take a few photos of the initial response when the couple first see each other, and then I leave to give them some time together to talk; something that isn't possible when the groom first sees the bride when she comes down the aisle! Couples who have chosen this approach to the "first look" have been almost universal in their satisfaction and approval, and I frequently hear that this was one of their favorite parts of the day.
I have a basic list of photos printed on my site on this page. Use this list as a starting point to design your own list. But please remember that your list will serve mainly as a guide - I can't guarantee that every photo you request will be taken. The more detailed you make your list the harder it is for me to get every picture you request. Having a member of the wedding party or family help organize various groups can make things go much more smoothly.
I have no problem with family members or friends taking pictures during the ceremony and reception, as long as you make sure they understand that I am the professional that you have hired to record your wedding, and they need to stay out of my way when I am trying to take a photo. People popping out into the aisle to take photos with their iPad during the ceremony are distracting to the guests and the wedding party, not to mention that they don't help make your photos any better, so I do try to discourage this behavior!
However, extra photographers during the posed "formal" photos can be a serious problem. Recently I have had far more problems with well-meaning relatives getting in my way while trying to take photos using their own cameras. With multiple photographers/cameras in action, the subjects can become confused about where they should be looking. A group picture with everyone looking in different directions just doesn't cut it! If other people wish to try to take photos of the poses I arrange they will have to wait until after I finish my own shots, and I would prefer it if they simply turned their cameras off and let me do my job without interference. The best thing you can do is to tell these amateur photographers that you can make copies of the photos for them if they want one. After all, you will own the negatives or digital files and can easily make copies for anyone who wants one. And I can guarantee that the quality of my photos will be better than anything the "wannabes" can produce with their equipment!
To the best of my knowledge I offer the FASTEST turnaround time of any photographer in the Seattle area (and possible anywhere else) for wedding photos. For all of my Digital packages I try to have all of your photos posted online where you and your friends and family can view them in 5 days or less. Yes, you read that correctly, 5 days or less! I want you to be able to see your photos while you are still on your honeymoon! And yes, I do all of the editing personally, I do not "sub out" the editing of your photos as many other photographers do.
It takes a little longer to get your photos printed; with digital packages I should have your 4x6 prints within 2-3 weeks, and with film packages I usually will have your 4x6 photos ready within 4 weeks. Depending on the package you select, you may also receive an album or a quantity of enlargements. You order the album or enlargements after you've had a chance to look over your files and your initial prints. Some couples are ready to order their album/enlargements within a few days, while others might not order for several months - it's up to you.
I always like to finish the formal photos at least 30 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to begin. Depending on the size of your wedding party and family groups, the group photography takes roughly 30-45 minutes. To do photos of the bride and groom both separately and together takes another 15-30 minutes. To be safe, figure you should start your formal photos no less than 90 minutes before your ceremony, usually two hours before if you have a large family and/or wedding party, or if you want to have more time to spend creating a variety of photos. If you choose to do some of your photography at another location, you need to plan for both the photography time as well as travel time to the ceremony site. I'll help you plan your time line to make your photography go as smoothly as possible.
If you choose not to see each other before the ceremony, this might be a typical scenario. First photograph the bride alone, then with bridesmaids and bride's immediate family including parents, siblings and grandparents. Then play "hide the bride" while the groom, groomsmen and the groom's immediate family have their photos taken. These various photos take roughly an hour, so we would need to start at least 90 minutes before the ceremony. Then after the ceremony you will need another 40-45 minutes to get all the combinations with the bride and groom together, plus wedding party and family.
Yes. With film packages I always carry several extra cameras, and can load one of them with black and white film. With digital packages any of your photos can be produced in color, B&W, Sepia or a variety of other tones. Talk with me to go over the details.
I can't hold a date open for you while you make your decision, but I will try to phone you if someone else contacts me about the date. However, I frequently am contacted by couples who are familiar with my work who want to book my services immediately. It isn't fair to these couples to make them wait while I contact someone who hasn't been able to make a decision. No wedding date will be held unless a deposit has been paid
I accept cash, checks, credit cards and Venmo. Credit cards are processed by PayPal, and if you use a credit card there may be an additional 3% fee to cover the fees charged by PayPal.
All weddings develop a momentum. You have done your homework and hired people in whom you have a lot of confidence. If a glitch comes up, let them handle it and don't worry about it. Nothing should get in the way of you enjoying your day!
Tom Ellis Photography
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