Should you order prints for your wedding photos?

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Bridal preparation

Bridal preparation

~ Written by Chuck Jackson

Most photographers offer an eclectic mix of wedding packages to fit all wedding budgets. Although most modern photographers offer clients edited wedding images digitally on DVD, USB drive, or some other media, consider packages which include photo albums and loose prints, as well. Why do we still do this in the digital age? Because more often than not, most of your digital images will never be printed and remain on your PC and wedding DVDs forever – even after telling ourselves we will print them once we get the digitals. Why should we care? We can simply share them on social media or on our family website for the world to see, right?

There are 3 main reasons I urge printing wedding images on the front end…

1) There is still something special about the portability of having a 4×6 print of your handsome groom or beautiful bride taped to your mirror or on your office desk in a lovely frame. There is still something magical about giving a loved one an 8×10 print of you and your spouse from your wedding day. Having a beautifully designed coffee table book of your wedding day to show off to your friends and family when they visit your home is one of the best reasons to order a photo album. Sharing your wedding images on social media is great but you cannot touch and feel it – which brings everything to another level.

2) Just ask yourself, “How many of my vacation photos are still in that same ‘My Pictures’ folder that have gone un-printed?” While we have the best intentions to print the ones we love most, we are all busy and sometimes we never get around to doing it (and trust me – I am guilty of this, too).

3) Additionally, as a keepsake your wedding album can be passed down to future generations as a tangible reminder of your love and dedication to family. If the power goes out, you can still view your album/prints! Computer crashes, you can still view your album/prints! Don’t like sharing via social media, you lend/give albums/prints!

Consider investing in a custom designed photo album and loose prints at the front end and you will be happy you did!

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Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

Brides: Factor enough time for photography in your wedding day schedule!

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Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

Written by Chuck Jackson

Brides: When planning your wedding day, please make sure you leave enough time for the photographer and/or videographer to adequately do their job(s). As a photographer, there are few things worse than feeling rushed and not being able to take the pictures you really want for the bride and groom on their big day. As professionals we will work with what we have but there is a give and take equation that means the best work may elude you if time is short.

Although there are many factors to consider, here are a few guidelines that work for me. In order to deliver the best possible photos (quality and quantity), generally I like to have 45 – 60 minutes for post ceremony traditional/posed shots, 1 – 2 hours for preparation photos, and at least 2 hours of reception photos. Ceremony lengths are what they are but I recall having one wedding ceremony that was literally 7 minutes long (procession to altar and back again) – that was WAY too short.

In summary, time is money but with ART, time also allows for QUALITY and QUANTITY of photographs/video footage. It can take time to get those “perfect” shots so do not leave your most important day to chance: be proactive and discuss scheduling with your wedding planner and photographer and you increase your positive outcome potential immensely.

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B&G Formal Portrait

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

The Joy of Children in Wedding Photography

 

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– Written by Chuck Jackson

There are many reasons weddings bring us such joy. I contend, one of the best reasons for this joy is due to the roles children play on wedding day!

Children personalize some of the fundamental truths of the human experience: proliferation of the family and its culture. In that essence, we are reminded of the innocence we all once had before adulthood further corrupted our nature. Children embody so many things: our hopes, our dreams, our love, the circle of life.

rtw0047lvigsmWhether acting in an official capacity of the flower girls, ring bearers, junior bridesmaids or groomsmen, etc., or attending the wedding as family and friends, photographs of children make for some of the most inspiring and memorable moments of any wedding. Additionally, they are so much fun for photographers to capture in time!

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL.  Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

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Making the Best of the Wedding Venue

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The First Dance

The First Dance

Written by Chuck Jackson

In poker, players have to deal with the hand they are dealt. In weddings, photographers have to deal with the venue we have to work with. Like poker, not all venues/hands are created equally.

We’ve all been there; horribly lit chapels with strict “no flash policies” relegating you to one small area in the back of the church. I recall one such wedding in an Orthodox church that required photographers to shoot from a small roped off box in the back of the sanctuary without flash. Your only choices in that scenario are a tripod and long lens.  Period.  And then, the flip side; the most PERFECT day for the PERFECT outdoor wedding where the sun and clouds are just PERFECT for creating BEAUTIFUL images! After booking the wedding, you may or may not have an optimal lighting situation for the wedding ceremony, reception, etc. and you have to make the best of it. That is our job.

Regardless of the wedding venue and lighting situation, as professional photographers we are hired to capture the best possible wedding pictures for the Bride & Groom’s most important day! Having said that, we must understand how we can make adjustments and optimize the wedding venue we have to work with. Here are a few scenarios and suggestions…

  • Poorly lit ceremony venue: Usually, either the pastor, priest, etc. or venue has very specific restrictions against flash use in a poorly lit venue. Tripod use is a must to reduce camera shake with slower shutter speeds, wider apertures, and/or higher ISO’s. Don’t leave home without your tripod!
  • Nighttime outdoor wedding ceremonies: With adequate lighting, these can be beautiful and may not require on or off-camera flash. However, “good lighting” can be expensive and this is oftentimes not in the budget. To combat this, on or off camera flash units can be your best friend to really light things up! Strategic placement is key – and more than one helps!
  • Low light reception halls: Some halls have fabulous lighting (particularly spot and up lighting) setups which can make things tremendously easier for photographers. But lacking this, on or off-camera flash units can save the day! In almost every case, receptions are intentionally low light situations so shooting with mid-to-high ISO’s, using flash units, and/or fast lenses are the norm.
  • Trussed ceilings in low light situations: These cast horrible shadows when using flash; particularly when bouncing off the ceiling if low enough. I try to avoid low angles (looking up) and prefer to use on-camera or off-camera flash to light.
  • Mid-day sun outdoors: Bright, harsh, and high sunlight can make photographing things challenging due to harsh shadows. On or off-camera fill-flash is a wonderful equalizer. High-speed sync (HSS) flash photography is something I use automatically (I leave it set on my camera and speed-light all the time) and this can really help by allowing full depth-of-field control and appropriate fill flash levels.

In all cases, it helps to know the lay of the land (including lighting policies) in advance of the wedding day so you can be prepared. Sometimes, this is impossible, but some advance recon to figure out the best settings can make a significant difference.  Whatever the situation with the wedding venue, it is the photographer’s job to capture the best possible images by adapting to the situation. Doing so will mitigate some of the challenges inherit with certain restrictions and scenarios.

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

Laura & Brian at sunset

Laura & Brian at sunset

Off camera flash for wedding receptions

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Bride and groom during their first dance

Bride and groom during their first dance

Written by Chuck Jackson

During wedding receptions, I always try to use off-camera flash in addition to no flash and/or on-camera flash. For me, this varies the look and feel of the images so everything isn’t looking exactly the same. Furthermore, some effects can only be achieved with an off-camera flash/light source. Without a light source emanating away from the camera, it is impossible to capture images like the above or below.

The Bride during her first dance

The Bride during her first dance

If not for any other reason than adding texture and depth to the images using light and shadow, this is a good option to have. It is also a wonderful technique for mixing it up a bit by adding partially silhouetted images to the shot list (see shots below of the Bride and Groom and Bride and her Father).

The first dance of the Bride and Groom

The first dance of the Bride and Groom

Father and daughter dance

Father and daughter dance

The other HUGE advantage to using off-camera flash units (studio strobes in particular) is that their power can light up the room and subjects to such a degree that you can still shoot at ISO 100 or 200 without any problems. This may be harder to do with less powerful speedlights (on-camera flash heads used off-camera), but still a viable option for adding dimension to your images using light and shadow.

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

Bounce you fool, bounce!

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Kristen preparing for her wedding day

Kristen preparing for her wedding day

Written by Chuck Jackson

For me and my photography and lighting style, I prefer not to use direct flash in most instances – particularly when covering events of any kind (weddings, in particular; sometimes it works better for direct flash but I avoid it if at all possible). Light modifiers for on-camera flash can be great but they still place light on the subject in a linear, direct fashion, which can still (even though mitigated by a softbox, bounce card, etc.), produce some undesired shadow behind the subject. One of the best alternatives, is to simply bounce the flash off a near wall or low ceiling.

In the shot of the bride, Kristen, above, I bounced the flash off the ceiling at about a 90 degree. Notice the pleasing shadows and light on the bride. Also notice there is not harsh shadow behind the bride as there’d be if I used direct flash.

Below is an example of what bouncing flash off the near wall (at about 90 degrees horizontal and 45 degrees up angle to the camera right) looks like! The speaker is well-lit, but not too much so and there is still some dimension to him due to the light and shadow.

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The secret is very simple: If you are indoors (with relatively low, non-color casting ceilings), most experienced photographers have preached “bouncing” the flash off the ceiling (with white or off white color; any colored surface will create a color cast on the subject when light hits it) when possible as gospel for achieving softer, more pleasing light on the subject (versus direct flash). While I too do this, there is a one more thing…

Do not simply bounce the flash off the ceiling, bounce the flash off of a wall at about 90 degrees to the subject (angled up about 45 degrees)! Make sure the subject is within range of the flash’s light being bounced and have at it (the closer you and the subject are to the wall, the better; but not too close…)!

This non-direct flash approach leads to more creative lighting and better pictures! Give it a try and you’ll love the results!!!

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

Choosing engagement session locations

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Greg and Melissa's engagement session

Greg and Melissa’s engagement session

Written by Chuck Jackson

Engagement session locations can be wide ranging. When considering an appropriate location to do the Bride & Groom’s engagement session, I always use their personality and “likes” or preferences as my guiding factor. The location and theme (if any) must say something about who the couple is, what they are all about, and/or what makes their relationship special.

I ask them to reflect on a special place in their relationship, their favorite place to spend time together, or a place that epitomizes the kinds of activities they enjoy doing. This not only empowers the happy couple, but helps ensure that they will be motivated and excited about their engagement session. When direction is needed on my part, I offer couples a variety of choices and let them decide.

Ultimately it is all about the Bride & Groom so their input is critical in deciding the location for their engagement session.

Ashley & Andrew's engagement session

Ashley & Andrew’s engagement session

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

Awesome wedding lenses!

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Laura & Brian at sunset

Laura & Brian at sunset

Written by Chuck Jackson

As a wedding photographer, some of the most important, if not THE most important, tools of the trade are our lenses. Given the fact that we often shoot in low light situations, fast lenses (defined as f/2.8 or faster) are a definite must have for any wedding photographer’s toolbox. Furthermore, the depth of field control provided with these fast lenses makes for even lovelier shots!

For me, I have 3 favorite lenses (in no particular order): I love my Nikkor 85mm/1.8, my Sigma 50-150mm/2.8 OC EX HSM, and my Nikkor 35mm/1.8. Since I shoot weddings with two camera bodies at all times, I almost always have my 50-150mm/2.8 on one body (because of the extreme versatility of this lens’s focal length) and something else on the other body (usually the 35mm/1.8 or the 85mm/1.8, depending upon the situation.

Note: My 4th favorite lens would be the 18-55mm/VR lens for wider angle use, however, my style favors tighter composition in many cases so this is normally not one of my initial choices.

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

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Lastings & Depree’s first dance

Whatcha, whatcha, whatcha Want?

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Bridal Party

Bridal Party

Written by Chuck Jackson

 

Brides: Figuring out exactly what you want for your wedding day can be a daunting task. Everything from the dress, catering choices, florals, location, wedding party participants, guest list, color scheme, theme (if any), music and DJ, photography, videography, etc. – it can get extremely challenging to manage all of these things. This is why a good/experienced wedding planner is your BEST WEDDING BUDDY!

Bridal Session

Bridal Session

Look, we are all operating on a budget of some sort (the size of the budget may very greatly but this is all relative). But wedding planning is way too complicated and way too emotionally draining a process to try and handle all by yourself (speaking mainly to the brides on this one). You have enough to worry about and having a professional on your team will make a world of difference. Quite frankly, you cannot afford NOT to have a wedding planner.

Make SURE you factor the cost of a good wedding planner into any wedding budget – this should be one of the very first items you check off your list because they can help you with just about everything else as soon as they are brought onto the team. Figuring out “whatcha want” becomes exponentially easier when you have the assistance of someone with plenty of experience guiding brides through the process. That alone is worth the piece of mind it provides during one of the most stressful times of your life – planning your wedding.

Bridal preparation

Bridal preparation

Why is whether or not you hire a wedding planner so important to a wedding photographer, you ask? Simply put, I have witnessed both well planned and poorly planned weddings and the poorly planned weddings directly and negatively impact me, the photographer’s, ability to do our job (and the DJ’s, and the caterers, etc.). When weddings are poorly planned, the timing is horrendous – when the timing is horrendous, photographers cannot take the time needed to do our jobs correctly/adequately. And when we cannot do our jobs correctly, that may reflect negatively on both the quality and quantity of the pictures.

Bridal Preparation

Bridal Preparation

So please, please, let ME help YOU make a good decision about this – hire an experienced wedding planner so they can make EVERY aspect of your wedding (including wedding photography) flow smoother and better. And this will make wedding photographers, like me, VERY happy and, in turn, YOU will be much less stressed and ultimately happier with your wedding day experience. Your husband will thank you, your bridesmaids will thank you, your family will thank you, your guests will thank you, and your vendors will thank you for providing a “Bridezilla Free Zone” on your wedding day.

The logic is simple: weddings and their planning are stressful; wedding planners help relieve the stress; when the Bride is less stressed, everything and everyone else is less stressed; less stress means everyone is happier; therefore, hire a wedding planner! Okay, not quite Aristotelian logic but you get the point.

Wedding planner = Happier Wedding Day

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!

 

Why should your photographer take your wedding seriously?

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Written by Chuck Jackson

While we would like to think every wedding photographer takes their weddings seriously, sadly, this is not the case. Many times, weddings are nothing more than another job in the minds of some. This is a mistake to be avoided when selecting your wedding photographer. “How do you do this,” you ask? It starts when you begin talking about your wedding with the photographer…

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One of the first questions I ask the bride and groom is to describe their wedding vision to me. Everyone envisions their special day quite differently and this comes out clearly as they begin to express the details of the day. Everything from the theme, the colors, the look & feel, the style, etc. can differ, and differ significantly, from wedding to wedding. Your wedding is uniquely yours!

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Why do I take being a wedding photographer so seriously and enjoy it so much? Simply put, I consider myself to be a visual family historian. Capturing the joining of two families and their histories together is an important day in both family lineages that will continue on for generations. Additionally, when meeting with clients, I believe it should be made clear to the bride and groom that their wedding is NOT just another job, but a part of their heritage. As your wedding photographer, we are capturing precious moments in your family history that will be passed down from generation to generation. This is what we like most about our job and why we SHOULD take it seriously.

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Interestingly enough, some photographers approach weddings as just another job, just another paycheck, just another high-stress”bridezilla” experience. You want a wedding photographer that approaches YOUR wedding day as the keeper of some of your family’s most cherished records – your wedding pictures and memories. Not only should good wedding photographers chronicle your wedding day from start to finish, they should do so meticulously, capturing as many moments and memories as possible. Photographic images represent the thoughts and emotions associated with specific moments in time and, in that sense, a picture is truly worth a 1000 words.

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The joining of families through marriage is an age-old tradition. It has been a pillar of every society and culture since we’ve recorded history. Wedding records often provide key insights into family histories and genealogies, and even that of entire communities, when other records were unavailable.

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This is the legacy of the wedding photographer – WE are the keepers of some of the most important records you will pass on to your children and your children’s children.

Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactiveweddingphotography.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!