frequently asked questions
Stef Elizabeth Photo | Wedding Photographer Serving Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati and Worldwide
What can I expect once I book you for my wedding? What does a typical wedding consist of for you?
Most people realize that wedding photography is not simply showing up to a wedding with a fancy camera, taking a few snapshots and charging thousands of dollars - BUT very few people know just how time-consuming and grueling wedding photography can be.
Why Wedding Photography is "So Expensive"
Something most people don't know is that the work done during the actual wedding day is about 30% of the total work done for any one wedding. A nine-hour wedding usually translates into dozens of hours of work. When you combine that with time and money sunk into business costs, lenses, equipment breakage, liability insurance, education, gallery hosting and transport costs, the cost of shooting a wedding for the photographer quickly balloons. That is why wedding photographers charge what they do in this industry. I can spend up to a whole year and a half preparing for one wedding, depending on how early you book my services. While the most time-consuming part of wedding photography is the training, editing and exporting of final images, the most grueling part of the wedding is generally the 10 to 14 hours I spend with you during the wedding day.
Why Wedding Photography is More Difficult Than Other Types of Photography
Wedding photography is much trickier than other genres; it is not kind to mistakes and there are no do-overs, and as a wedding photographer, I have to be very aware of that throughout the day! I work very hard during your big day to minimize the chances of missed shots, blurriness, poor lighting, unexpected schedules changes, illness, crappy weather, unruly families, and relatives with expensive cameras competing for your attention! There are so many moments where there is no chance to do a "do-over": the first look between you and your partner, the bride's walk down the aisle, the first kiss as a married couple, the walk back down the aisle, the grand entrance into the reception. I have to make sure myself and my equipment are properly set up for all of these moments in any given lighting situation, whether it's in a dark church or during a rainy outdoor ceremony. That's why you should never hire an amateur for these situations - weddings can be incredibly tricky to shoot and you have to be ready for a number of different factors that come into play.
However, that is all part of being a wedding photographer and I've found that if you know how to "go with the flow" during the wedding day and prioritize your clients, my clients usually end up with a beautiful set of photos and memories.
Booking + Planning
The wedding photography process begins once you reach out to me and see if we're a good fit for each other! Before signing a contract, I normally like to chat with my clients over the phone, Skype or an in-person consultation at your favorite coffee shop. If you decide that I am the photographer for you, I will put together a customized contract. After all three of us sign the contract virtually, we start the planning process by figuring out an engagement session date. If you want a second shooter, I also start working on finding an available photographer and signing a contract with him or her. I have a social-media run network of second shooters, so you don't need to worry about finding and booking one yourself.
Engagement session . . . and more planning
We will get an engagement session date picked out, and have some back-up dates and locations in case of illness or bad weather. The session normally lasts between 1 and 1.5 hours (depending on your stamina for having your picture taken!). Before the session, I will send you a list of tips and locations right after booking, so we can figure out what suits your personality as a couple. The goal of the engagement session isn't so much about posed photos, but capturing candid photos of your relationship. After the session, you will get your engagement photos back in approximately 2-3 weeks, consisting of an online gallery with full-resolution, downloadable files.
During the months before your wedding, I will normally be emailing you back and forth about changes in wedding day plans and generally preparing myself as best I can for the day so I can deal with unexpected challenges.
The Wedding Day
My priority is keeping my clients' stress levels low because your wedding only happens once and I want you to enjoy the day instead of stressing about details! I generally show up an hour early on the day of the wedding to set up any additional lighting I might need, which generally applies during group portraits and during the reception (particularly in dark, poorly-lit churches and dance halls).
I tend to hang out in the background during the wedding day rather than get in your faces with lots of demands. I might ask you to move into a particular spot for lighting purposes, or I might make posing suggestions to improve the shot, but I generally concentrate on creating unposed, candid moments.
Wedding days tend to consists of five parts: the getting ready, the first look and couple's portraits, the ceremony, the group portraits, and the reception. The most challenging part of the wedding day is easily the ceremony and the group portraits, which normally follow the ceremony. I do my best to prepare myself for each lighting situation that a wedding presents, whether that is a long aisle walk in a dark church that doesn't allow flash, or a bright outdoor ceremony with a midday sun and harsh shadows. No matter where your ceremony is, I prioritize being ready to handle the lighting challenges AND making sure I don't miss any shots.
Herding cats. . . .
Group portraits are another part of the day where preparation is important. I need to know how many groups I'll be shooting, how many people in each group, the best lighting and how to pose. It might sound simple to stick a few people in a certain spot, snap the shutter and move on, but group portraits are much trickier than that! It helps to have a shot list and to have a "helper" - usually the best man or the maid of honor, who can help me "wrangle" people into photos before they run off the the bar. I try to make group photos take as little time as possible in order to free up time for you to enjoy the reception.
Another part of the wedding day I make sure not to miss is about 10 to 20 minutes for portraits of you as a couple. These will include a few traditional, formal portraits, but the majority will be candid moments brought about by using prompts (similar to your engagement session). I will normally try to fit in the couple's portraits right after your first look, or right after the group portraits if you're not seeing each other until the ceremony. I always try to find a few minutes for photos during the hour before sunset as well. From the grand entrance at the reception onward, I generally stay in the background and focus on candid moments between you two as well as documenting your guests.
Normally, I have previews posted to your wedding gallery within 2-3 days of your wedding depending on how busy the season is. Prints and other products will be available to order directly through your gallery, but you will also be provided with printing rights if you prefer to print through another vendor.
Your gallery will remain on my photo hosting website for about three months so you and your loved ones have enough time to place an order. I encourage all my clients to download the full gallery and save it to separate hard drives. This is because I have had clients approach me years after their wedding to see if I still had their wedding photos because they don't know where their backup photos were. Please don't be that couple, and make sure your photos are saved to at least three locations!
How long have you been photographing weddings?
I have been working weddings as a second shooter since 2013. It was early 2016 when I began my own business and became an active primary shooter. It has been a crazy learning curve in terms of navigating the wedding industry, but I've enjoyed the ride so far and want to continue documenting weddings. Wedding photography combines a lot of things that I love to shoot: fashion, documentary, candids, portraiture, and landscapes.
Do we get our images?
Yes! I include fully edited digital files with a print release with all of my wedding packages.
Please note that I do not give my clients my raw images as they look totally different than the edited images.
How would you describe your wedding photography style?
I would describe my style as a combination of photojournalistic, fine art, and candid photography. I’ve worked as a
journalist, photographer and freelance artist (digital and traditional), all of which have helped shape the way I use
natural light, composition and color in my photography. It has also given me a lot of experience with photo editing programs such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Alien Skin, and other programs.
Please note that I don't limit myself to one "style" of photo editing. Some photographers make all of their photos overly-exposed, "bright and airy" style; some make them brown-toned, dark and moody; some make all of their images overly warm and "golden-hour" themed. While I can appreciate the beauty of each of these types of editing, I try to light wedding photos in a classic style that won't look dated in ten or twenty years. Photographic trends come and go, but I want your photos to have a classic look rather than one that was popular twenty years ago.
How soon do I get my images after the wedding?
I normally post a sneak peek (a small collection of images) two to three days after the wedding, normally consisting of the big moments - the walk down the aisle, the first kiss, first dance, etc. How long it takes to get all of your images depends on the season and whether you add on a second shooter. I prefer to go through and edit each file to my liking: correcting colors and exposure, smoothing skin, removing blemishes, enhancing the colors and lighting, removing distracting elements, and generally just transforming each image to reflect my particular style. For this reason, it can take up to six weeks to receive your full set of images.
In what format will I receive my images?
You will be able to download the full-resolution edited images as well as share them easily on social media. You can favorite the images you love and order high-quality prints through my website. You will be provided with a print release, so you can order professional prints from your preferred vendor if you prefer not to order directly from ShootProof.
What about prints?
While I do provide a print release, I cannot guarantee the quality of prints you order from vendors like Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. I highly recommend ordering high-quality prints through your online gallery. Believe me, it's worth the cost to have your heirloom wedding photos printed without muddied colors or green casts on skin tones.
What about heirloom wedding albums? Do you do those?
Through the flexibility provided by a print release, you'll be able to design and order your own wedding albums after receiving your digital files. You can order albums through my online store, but you can design and order them at other places as well via your print release. If you're short on time or just don't know where to start with albums, I do provide the service of album design for an additional fee. Designing a wedding album is time-consuming and requires working with individual tastes and preferences. I put all of my time into preparing for the wedding for the wedding day and into editing - for this reason, designing and ordering albums for your wedding is an additional fee.
Why should I hire a professional wedding photographer and not my friend with a nice camera?
There are more than a few reasons why hiring a friend with a nice camera, rather than a professional who does this for a living, is most frequently a mistake. Planning your wedding photography can take months, and for good reason - there's a lot to go over! A professional wedding photographer must be able to deal with the multiple unexpected challenges that never fail to pop up during the wedding, from minimal church lighting during the ceremony, to equipment malfunctions, to schedule delays. The person documenting the wedding must be ready for anything that happens, because weddings rarely run completely as planned! Hiring a friend who has never professionally shot a wedding is likely to result in missed shots, bad lighting, unflattering angles, blurred photos, and lost files. It's better to go with a professional. You won't regret it!
What if we need to cancel or change the date?
The retainer is non refundable in the case of a cancellation, as once a contract has been signed and the retainer paid, I turn away other commissions for your date.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I use two Sony full-frame camera bodies, eight different lenses, and two off-camera flashes in additional to any extra lighting I may need for group portraits and reception halls.
Will we get to see the original unedited files?
I don't share the unedited files with my clients because (1) you probably won't be able to open them as they are in RAW format and require the latest version of Photoshop or Lightroom, and (2) I like to have full control over the final "look" of my photos. I have worked hard to establish my own brand of photography style, and sharing photos that I took that don't look like the rest of my work is harmful to my business.
Please note that I do not offer my raw files or the copyright to the wedding photos to my clients. Unless you plan on putting your wedding photos on billboards, a print release should be all you need, and I include one in all of my collections!
Do you keep the original raw files?
I shoot on two Sony Alpha full-frame cameras. If you're familiar with photography at all, you may have a good idea of how large each raw file is and how much space it takes up on a hard drive. Because of the immense size of each unedited raw file, it isn't logical to hold onto the files indefinitely. It is simply too expensive to store thousands and thousands of massive raw files for years. So, I normally delete the raw images from your wedding one month after your final images have been safely delivered via your gallery. I always tell my clients to back up your delivered images in at least three to four places, because all hard drives fail at some point!
Can I post my images on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc)?
Absolutely yes, under the condition that you do not edit the files in any way (no Instagram filters, cropping, changing the hue, etc). I have worked very hard to establish the "look" of my images and changing the colors, tone, or general look of my photos is harmful to my brand and my business.
Of course, for your own personal purposes, the photos are yours to do with as you wish (just don't share the altered images on social media, please!).
How much do you edit your photos?
I edit every photo that is delivered to you! I put a lot of time and effort into retouching every single photo I take so that your wedding album will truly be an art collection. To be honest, I spend a lot more time in front of a computer than I do shooting because my editing process is a huge part of how your photos turn out.
I feel super uncomfortable in front of the camera. Is this whole being photographed thing going to be painfully awkward?
As a person who hates being photographed, I totally empathize with you. My goal is ultimately to capture the moments between couples in which they're wrapped up in each other and lose awareness of the camera. I don't want to document cookie-cutter, forced poses that make everyone feel awkward. I want to bring out the natural dynamic between the couples I shoot and make a visual story of your relationship.
I do have a method of making my subjects comfortable in front of the camera. It involves giving you prompts and shooting your immediate reactions to a bunch of silly questions. I have found that this method effectively elicits genuine reactions and prioritizes capturing the emotional connection between couples. I've found that it works better than asking my subjects to give me their best fake smiles! I want your engagement session and wedding day to be FUN rather than torturous!
Furthermore, I am very discreet about which photos I edit and publish - if you happen to be making a weird face, are mid-sentence or it's just a bad angle, no one will see it but me! And believe me, I haven't met a subject who takes a perfect photo every time. ;) I also try to make everyone in your bridal party comfortable during the wedding day by assuring them that I do not publish embarrassing photos of people.
I HATE my double chin, acne, and other unsightly features! Will you edit that stuff out of my wedding photos!
I understand those who hate photos of themselves. I myself dislike being photographed and thus can empathize with you folks! Therefore, I go the extra mile in to make you look your best in your photos. While I do encourage my subjects to make my job easier by putting effort into attire and makeup, I do know my way around Photoshop in terms of retouching. For wedding portraits where certain elements are noticeable, I remove blemishes, smooth skin, whiten teeth, correct skin tones, and fix those pesky double chins if they happen to appear in an otherwise great photo!
Ultimately I want you to love your wedding photos and the way you look in them. Between my experience in lighting, angles and retouching, I will make sure to capture you in your best light.
How do I reserve your services for my wedding?
I book weddings on a first-come, first-serve basis. To confirm your booking, I need a signed contract and a $500 deposit. If you are unable to provide the deposit within a week of all three of us signing a contract, I cannot guarantee your booking.
How far in advance do you book weddings?
I book weddings up to two years in advance.
Do you do destination weddings?
Absolutely! Traveling is one of my primary loves in life. I have traveled to 50 countries so far and I never turn down a chance to photograph some place new (or some place familiar for that matter!). I do require you to cover my travel expenses, including a coach plane ticket, excess baggage fees for transporting my equipment, and dinner for each night spent at the destination. I also require compensation for two nights' accommodation as well as transportation to/from the hotel.