Posts Tagged ‘Cancun Mexico Wedding’

How to choose your wedding photographer

I got an email from a bride that will be getting married at the Hotel Marina El Cid, in Cancun Mexico. That’s the resort I shot Jo Anna and Todd’s wedding at.  Jen lives in Minnesota but found me searching the web for information about the resort. She emailed to hear details about the venue and ask about the resort’s staff photographer. She already had a Minnesota wedding photographer in mind to take with her to Mexico.

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

Jo Anna and Todd - Cancun Mexico

When anyone anywhere asks me questions relating to photography I am always willing to help.

We exchanged a few emails before she found out that the photographer that shot their engagement portraits wouldn’t be able to go to Cancun to shoot the wedding.  Hiring the resort’s staff photographer was now back in the equation as was hiring a new photographer to fly in from the U.S. The resort’s wedding package was $950 for 90 images on disc and in print. Yes – Nine – Zero.  Not that volume is necessarily better, but the idea of only seeing 90 images of my entire wedding doesn’t strike me as a good value.

The view most of Jo Anna's guests saw during the entire ceremony

The view most of Jo Anna's guests saw during the entire ceremony

Jen wasn’t looking to hire a photographer she couldn’t shake hands with first but I was willing to provide her with some info on how to find a local Minnesota photographer and what to ask. So here’s my advice on how to select your wedding photographer.

It doesn’t take much to call one’s self a wedding photographer. All you need is a website, some decent photos and a camera. When I shot my first wedding in 2005, that was all I had. I didn’t even have any wedding photos on my site and had never shot a wedding. A friend of my wife’s took a gamble and hired me. My first wedding involved shooting on the sand, in bright late afternoon sun, in Long Beach. It could have gone horribly wrong and I could have ruined their wedding photos. I borrowed or rented a second camera because at the time I didn’t own two cameras. The photos turned out great, the photos still stand today and they got a great deal on their wedding photography by taking a risk with an inexperienced “wedding photographer”.

Lori and Curtis  - Long Beach Wedding 2005

Lori and Curtis - Long Beach Wedding 2005

A website is a great way to get attention and it’s also an easy way to misrepresent the quality of your photography. It’s one thing to have 20-50 edited images on a site, it’s another to be able to deal with the stress, importance and dynamics of a wedding and produce great images throughout the entire day. When I was searching for our wedding photographer I looked through a friend’s wedding proofs. At the time Selima was still shooting film and box after box of proofs had solid images. That makes for a great wedding photographer.  I suggest to my clients that they look at an entire wedding’s proofs and possibly the resulting album to get a true gauge of what to expect. Selecting a handful of the best images from a wedding and then making sure they are perfect via Photoshop makes someone a smart editor, not necessarily a great photographer. Ask to see proofs, read their blog archives, look at other photo shoots, ask for references, ask to see albums.

A good friend of mine was duped by a great website. They didn’t hire me to shoot their wedding because they wanted me to have fun and “be able to enjoy the wedding”. They selected a photographer based on a website and the resulting photos from their wedding didn’t come close to the quality they saw on the website. I took my camera and shot most of the wedding anyway.

Shane and Eileen - Santa Ynez California

Shane and Eileen - Santa Ynez California

I don’t think being a “wedding” photographer is a necessity.  If someone is a good photographer and has ever been to a wedding before they can figure it out. Being a working professional photographer is a must. What does that mean? It means they make part of their living as a photographer. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting a handful of weddings in the San Francisco Bay area and used Rob Snavely as an assistant or second shooter every time. When I met and first hired Rob he still had a “day job”.  It didn’t matter that photography wasn’t his main job. He was and is an amazing photographer.

Don’t be afraid to ask about their equipment. Having back-up equipment is a sign of professionalism (so is insurance which some wedding venues will ask a photographer to have). Cameras break, accidents happen, baggage gets lost – that’s why we have at least two of everything.  In regards to destination weddings , whether in the U.S. or another country, having a laptop is another must. You can be assured that there are at least two copies of your wedding photos before the photographer gets back on a plane. When I shoot a wedding in LA backing up the files is the first thing I do.

This is a job interview and you are doing the hiring. Remember all the hoops potential employers made you jump through to get jobs? The applications, the tests, the “what would you do in this situation” questions? This is your chance, ask good questions. How many weddings have you shot as the main photographer? Do you shoot for or assist other wedding photographers? If so can you provide references? Have you ever photographed a destination wedding? Have you ever shot a job in a foreign country? How do you handle the proofs? Do you color correct and edit the files or does that cost extra? How much are wedding albums? How long will it take before I see my proofs?

When shopping for wedding photographers or any other vendor ask around. People remember and are always willing to share their experience. Ask enough people and you will hear stories of bad photography, lousy DJs, horrible catering and late florist deliveries.  You’ll also get glowing reviews and referrals.

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Destination Wedding Preparations

I’ve had the pleasure of shooting weddings in Austin and San Antonio Texas, Baltimore Maryland, Santa Clara, San Jose and San Francisco and locally in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  Traveling is never easy, add 50 pounds of photography gear that you can’t let out of your site and it becomes downright comical. Remember that scene in Meet The Parents where Ben Stiller won’t let the airline stewardess (is that term PC?) check his bag because the engagement ring is in it? That’s me on Thursday with my camera bag. You’ll check my bag over my dead body. As a backup I’ll pack a reusable grocery bag because I’d rather throw my equipment in a cotton bag under my seat than let the baggage guys throw it around.

On Thursday I venture to Cancun Mexico and The Riviera Maya for Jo Anna and Todd’s wedding. A few days ago Jo Anna left this message on my facebook page:

“Airplane tickets- $550
Reception- more money than I would like to say…
Having one of your oldest, truest friends as your wedding photographer- Fricken PRICELESS!!!!
Thanks so much for being such a huge part of my big day, Chuck. And be sure to thank Robin for the extra effort of having to man the house without you for a couple of days. Much love to you both!!!!”

That meant the world to me. I moved to LA in 1997 and met Jo shortly thereafter. I’m honored and excited to be shooting their wedding. I’ve shot a handful of friend’s weddings and I’ve also had a few friends hire other photographers because they wanted me (and my lovely wife) to enjoy the festivities. Despite the “guest” status at those weddings I always take a camera (only one camera) and on a couple occasions my friends weren’t happy with their photographer’s work yet loved my shots. If you’ve got a friend who is a photographer, my vote is to hire them. You’ll most likely get a great deal and your relationship and comfort level will lead to better photos. When someone is spending all day chasing you around with a camera you’re going to want to like the person.

Thursday will be the first time I leave for an international destination and it brings it’s own set of issues.

  1. Language barrier.  Despite three years in high school and having once been fluent as a child, mi Spanish es muy malo.  Apparently the on-site coordinator isn’t as fluent in English as Jo Anna had hoped.
  2. Assistants. When anyone, anywhere asks me about photography I’m always happy to help. With every out of town wedding I’ve photographed I’ve always send out emails to local photographers asking for referrals for assistants. The local photographers have always been happy to help. I’ve met and worked with incredible photographers in all of those cities. I guess I’m not welcome in Cancun, because only one photographer I emailed bothered to reply that she was booked as was her assistant. I’ll be shooting this one solo.
  3. Gear. I’m taking two cameras, four lenses and three flashes. Enough compact flash cards to shoot three weddings and enough AA batteries to power a Prius. I’ll have the added fun of explaining to a customs agent why I’m traveling with $10K in equipment. I also have the added risk of having to check some of the gear because it won’t fit in my carry-on.
  4. More time on site equals more photos. More photos means more editing. I’ll be attending and shooting the rehearsal dinner, wedding rehearsal as well as all the wedding related festivities.  It’s included in the package. I’m happy to do it and look forward to designing an amazing wedding album.

Here’s a couple shots from Jo Anna and Todd’s engagement session we shot at Santa Monica Pier.

Jo Anna & Todd Engagement Session

Jo Anna & Todd Engagement Session Portrait

Jo Anna and Todd - Santa Monica Pier

Jo Anna and Todd - Santa Monica Pier

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