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15 (or more) Things Your Wedding Photographer Won't Say, but Maybe Kinda Wishes You Knew...

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15 (or more) Things Your Wedding Photographer Won't Say, but Maybe Kinda Wishes You Knew...

#1. I’m really bummed when you go with someone else JUST because they are cheaper (or — my personal favorite — they are running a Black Friday deal)  
I understand budgets, and I understand that there is a chance that I might not fit into yours. But, this is your wedding day we’re talking about!!! Whoever you entrust to capture your day, at least make sure you love their work long-term, and that you guys are a good fit. Once the day is a blur (which for some happens the next morning, accompanied by a killer hangover), all you will have left to remember it by is your photos and the experience you had. Choose wisely, so you don’t have any regrets down the road. 

#2. When you say you have a Pinterest board with all kinds of photos you want me to get, it makes me want to run away screaming Ace Ventura style!!! 
My goal is to capture you and your day beautifully, in a way that tugs on your heart strings, inspired by your unique connection. Being presented with other photographers' work for me to duplicate with you two is a creative buzz kill, not to mention often completely impossible (different locations, different dress size, different time of day, different season?). Pictures in gorgeous rolling hills of Tuscany in the Summer are sure not going to look the same as our Minnesota in the Winter. If you booked me, chances are you love my work, and you love my style, so let me get to know the two of you, and try something fun and out of the box instead (i.e.: let me do the job you hired me for?). As long as you show up ready to enthusiastically participate in any play and shenanigans we come up with, we’ll create something awesome together! And, who knows - maybe it will be YOUR photos that end up on Pinterest’s most wanted next! 

#3. I don’t think having a 2nd Shooter is a luxury. It’s more like an insurance policy, actually. 
Booking a 2nd Photographer for the day is worth every penny!!! While I’m generally focused on making sure the day is running smooth beyond trying to capture everything (occasionally you might find me pinning the boutonnieres as well), the 2nd Shooter is a 2nd set of eyes and a MUCH needed helping hand when I'm so wishing for extra appendages. All kinds of risks, like completely unexpected equipment malfunctions for example, are made less impactful when there are 2 people photographing and managing your day. I pretty much always have a 2nd shooter with me, only leaving the small weddings (less than 50 guests) and elopements to cover by myself. It gives me more peace of mind, and it should make you feel more at ease as well, knowing that two people have your back. Oh yeah, and you generally get more photos too. That’s definitely a perk! 

#4. It bums me out when you want to skip the Engagement session, or “just have a friend” take your photos.
An engagement session is somewhere between a dry run and a dress rehearsal for your wedding day. It gives all of us the feel for working together, and it helps me figure out how to capture you best. Some poses can feel a bit awkward, where others will come completely natural to you. Your e-sesh gives me a chance to test some ideas and see what works well with the two of you unique people, figure out your sense of humor, and let loose with some unscripted fun. Even more than building your confidence for being in front of the camera and being directed, it also helps us get to know each other, so you feel like you’re working with a friend rather than a stranger come the big day. 

#5. Chances are I care WAAAAY too much. 
I probably get way more nervous than you do before the engagement session and your wedding. Why? It’s because I REALLY CARE so much, and I want you to have THE BEST experience and LOVE your photos. That's a lot to live up to, with things rarely going exactly as planned (wedding gremlins, anyone?). Nerves aside, you can count on me to do my best, be there to help keep you calm, and do everything I can to help keep your day on track. With a great plan, shaking off any small hiccups, your day will be AWESOME, and as unique as the two of you. We’ll have a blast! I can’t wait!!! 

#6. I REALLY hope that you come ready to play and completely ignore me, rather than just wanting to look at the camera. 
You likely already have a gazillion selfies with your sweetheart, and mom and grandma will get some classics for their fridge during family portraits. So, no worries! We’ve got the basics covered! As for me, I want to create some beautiful moments for you two to share - from quiet snuggles and kisses to goofing off and flirting away. With some direction and sometimes just letting you be (possibly papa-razzing from behind a bush), I want to capture real emotions, so you remember exactly how you felt when these images still make you smile years from now. And, if we are really lucky, you’ll get lost in the moment, and completely forget I’m even there. That’s when real magic is born. 

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#7. I want you to do a First Look on your wedding day. 
Though a First Look makes for a less complicated itinerary, it’s not the main reason why you should consider one. The First Look is a chance for you two to share a beautiful and intimate moment without an audience and without distractions. It also allows me to get MUCH BETTER PHOTOS of your reactions since there are no people to work around - we have the place to ourselves, and I can pick a spot where the light and background are MAGIC. If seeing his reaction as he sees you for the first time is something you really look forward to, and hope for me to document, I really hope you’ll do a First Look. 

BONUS! — You generally end up with way more images of the two of you when you do a First Look, because we can often knock out some fun photos of the two of you after the First Look AND also sneak away for sunset photos later in the day. Score, and hello variety! 

 Karri and Jamell's sweet first look at the Minnetonka Orchards

Karri and Jamell's sweet first look at the Minnetonka Orchards

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#8. There is no such thing as a “perfect wedding day”, and your dress will get dirty. Fact. 
When you combine the explosive anticipation, expectations, family dynamics, unpredictable weather, and the wedding gremlins, as much as I’d love for your day to go off without a hitch, things will probably go a bit sideways somewhere in there. The more chill you are about the small hiccups along the way, and the more you TRUST ME and allow me to be creative, the more PERFECT your day will be, and the better your photos will turn out. My advice? Have a good plan, but be flexible!!! Focus on what matters most (each other). Don’t sweat the small stuff!! Bring Shout on-the-go Wipes (for the dress, just in case). As long as you’re having fun, and let things roll off of you, you will remember the day as the unique and beautiful day it was. Not to mention, it’s much easier for me to get great photos if you’re enjoying yourselves than if you’re having a melt-down...

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#9. The Photographer's Post-Wedding Day Hangover. It’s a thing. 
With everyone and their grandma asking me questions, all kinds of decisions to be made on the spot, getting behind schedule and trying to catch up, working with crappy high noon lighting and figuring out how to make everyone look best, and many many more things that have me on my feet literally and figuratively, it’s a LOONG ASS DAY. Pardon my French. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and knowing that I create images for you to cherish the rest of your life is equal parts humbling and richly satisfying. Still, a wedding day is both emotionally and creatively draining for me, so if you see me sit down for a minute, don’t assume I’m lazy, just assume I’m quite possibly… tired, and I’m taking a minute to recharge and possibly grab a bite, or a sip of water, before the next set of events requires my full attention. 

#10. It reeeeeally gets to me when you put an Instagram filter on my photos. 
I spend COUNTLESS HOURS behind the scenes, editing each and every image to look beautiful for your gallery. I hope you share those images, swoon over them, and cherish them for years to come! When you take your own creative license and apply a filter to my photos (also known as a violation of my copyright), it just makes me feel like all my hard work is wasted since obviously you don’t appreciate it. Not to mention that my name is now attached to something that doesn’t look remotely like My Style, potentially costing me some awesome couples that would have otherwise hired me to capture their wedding. So, from the bottom of my heart, and EVERY SINGLE photographer in the world, I hope you use the photos as they were delivered (and list photo cred when sharing online). 

#11. Nope, you can’t have every Black and White photo in Color. 
Long story short, not every photo works in color, and some images only have SOUL in monochrome. I want to only give you the best images, edited to look their best, and that means that you will be getting an artful mix of color and black and whites in your wedding day portfolio. Working with very dim lighting, super tall ceilings and dark venues, mixed indoor/outdoor lighting, colorful distractions in the background, or plainly not having enough time to react and get the settings just right might be some of the ways a superb B&W will emerge where a color image would have otherwise be tossed. Since there are many reasons why and how a B&W is born, you can ask, but be prepared for me to say "sorry, no". Believe me, I obsess over this editing stuff way more than you will ever know. 

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#12. I do want to have input on your wedding day timeline (i.e.: review the final draft and make suggestions, NOT create the whole thing for you)
I get it, planning can be scary. That's why I've put LOTS of time and thought into creating an uber helpful Wedding Day Itinerary Template to help take the guess-work out of it all -- how much time to reserve for the first look, factoring in drive time, making sure mom's makeup is done in time for her helping you into the dress, remembering the cake cutting tools, etc. It's all in there!! I do need you to remember that I am your wedding photographer, not your wedding coordinator, and you need to own the planning process for your day. Keep in mind, the wedding season is an absolutely crazy time for me -- with every waking moment spent either shooting or editing, and I likely also have 5 brides planning their weddings at the same time, and asking me questions. It can get a bit much. So, as long as you use the tools I've provided, it should get you about 95+% of the way there. And, don't worry, it all tends to come together in the end! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. :)

#13. It's really disappointing when you post my images on Instagram and Facebook and don’t give me photo credit. 
Taking photos is not just a "sweet hobby" for me, I don’t do this on the side, it’s the way I help provide for my family. The way I can keep doing what I do easier is if lovely people like you help spread the word, and possibly help connect me with more lovely people that might hire me for their weddings, newborn sessions, and other events in their life. From the bottom of my heart - a huge thank you to everyone that’s given me photo credit and for every single sweet and kind word. Mua! You rock!! 

#14. “You can just Photoshop that out, right?” ——  No comment. 
Don’t assume that everything is super easy and quick to edit out (or edit in), because a lot of things ARE NOT (quick or easy), and some things downright require graphic design expertise (subject to a per Image Design Fee). I try to fix as many things as I can while I"m shooting, so I don’t spend hours fixing things that could have been easily avoided. So, let’s tuck in your dress's hanger strap (or better yet, cut it off), make sure your bra isn’t showing, tidy up the groomsmen getting ready suite just a bit, and definitely make sure that Grandpa Gary makes it into the family photos. 

#15. I’m not God
I can’t control the weather, I can’t read your mind, and I can’t be in more than one place at the same time. Thankfully, we can mitigate some of these shortcomings with good planning and communication. Though it might also not be humanly possible to catch every single moment you envision, I can promise you that I will capture some that you never knew you wanted that you absolutely FALL IN LOVE WITH at first sight!!! So, keep me in the loop about any surprises not on the itinerary, get some clear umbrellas just in case the day is as misty as your dad’s eyes during his speech, take a deep breath, and smile at your beau! If you just trust me, and you’re up for some windblown hair, your photos will come out great. Rain or shine! (Fun Fact! I’m probably wishing for an overcast day anyway… It’s better for photos ;)).

#16. (BONUS!!!!) -  Things take longer than you think, so you need to make sure there is margin in your wedding day (for the unexpected). And yes, you might have to be selective, because as they say “You can’t have it all”. Sorry. I wish ;) - Yes, you heard me correctly — things take longer than you think they will, or should, take, and… you can’t have it all. I know. Don’t shoot the messenger.

There’s only so much time to work with on a wedding day (which, keep in mind is a long-ass day for me as it is ;)) And, though a photo is fairly simple to take, and it might look like a candid snap, it might take some setup time or cleanup or other prep. Not to mention, I need the right gear with me, the right settings, the right background, and so on. And, every 10-20 minutes of setup (or delays) adds up. If you try to squeeze every possible thing into the day, chances are at some point you’re going to hear me say “things are too tight” or “we don’t have time for that”. It’s not because I’m a mean droid trying to suck all the fun out of your day, I just know a tight itinerary when I see one (having done 100+ weddings at the time I write this). Think about it this way - if a recipe says the chicken takes 2 hours in the oven to bake, the chicken will not magically take 20 minutes just because you want it to. ;) You are welcome to test this one out of your next gathering, but I can tell you right now, you’ll be ordering a pizza. ;)

And, let’s also get on the same page about this one — I’m not a robot. Sure, at certain times of day I can (and do) bang out a checklist (ex. family photos I try to go pretty fast during), but you will not get the creative me if your day is nuts. And, you’re not doing me any favors by fixing your itinerary to be humanly possible to execute. We’ll either fix it ahead of your wedding day, and you might have to be selective on what makes it into the timeline, OR you will put all of us (you, me, your family, your wedding party) through an ordeal, and have to make nips and tucks on the go, which wastes more time. Trust me. The chicken does take the 2 hours! ;)

Lastly, things rarely go as planned on a wedding day. That ‘margin’ we’re talking about is to preserve all of our sanity so you don’t lose it when someone makes a human mistake and forgets something, or gets nervous poops at the wrong time (yes, I’ve seen it happen…) ;)

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How to Have an Awesome Engagement Sesh :: Featuring Ally + Gabe

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How to Have an Awesome Engagement Sesh :: Featuring Ally + Gabe

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Let's start with a cute and funny story :: featuring Ally and Gabe :: Just because. 
It's the weekend. I come to church Sunday morning after their engagement session, and...run into Gabe. His jaw kinda drops, he never expected to see me there since frankly I had never mentioned that I too go to Substance LOL ;). Totally unintentionally this little fact became a really well kept secret. See, he didn't know that after our initial meet-up at the oh so lovely Vicinity Coffee, I (like a total creeper) looked them up on Facebook. That's how I figured out that they were part of the Substance internship program, and David (my husband) and I had been part of Substance for about 12 years at that time, almost since the very humble beginnings. I was going to mention this fun fact when we met up at the engagement session, but we were so in the moment and having so much fun that I completely spaced it!! So, when he saw me waltzing in on Sunday morning and we ran into each other, it was a "SURPRISE!!!!! Your wedding photographer goes to the same church as you!" kind of a moment. LOL! His face expression --- PRICELESS!!!! Wish I had my camera!!! :) 

 

LET'S GET STARTED 

Now that we got you all amused, moving on to the actual TIPS on maximizing your and your beau's session.

I get a TON of questions about what the wear, what not to wear, recommended colors, how to pick a location, how to not look like dorks, etc. If these questions are rolling in your mind as well, this one is for you! I'll try to go semi-chronologically, in the order I usually get asked. Ready? It will be a hoot!

PREGAME :: LOCATION + LOGISTICS + PREP

FINDING YOUR LOCATION

Unique Access / Meaningful - Pick something either near and dear to your heart OR something super unique that you have access to that no one else does - that's my suggestion, and these two usually intertwine. Do you have someone with a sail boat or a row boat that's just dying to let you use it? A vintage car or truck in the family? Rooftop access? A friend with a cool RV or an Airstream? A family property that we can frolic? A light and airy house or an apartment that you guys just moved into that contains all the coffee and furry blankets (i.e.: where the heart is)? You get the idea - what do you have access to that's unique that no one else has access to? This is how we have fun with it and it's usually the first question I ask!! 

Traveling anywhere fun? - Here's another idea that's a bit more on the fringes - if you happen to be going on a vacation coming up OR have had a favorite place that's somewhere else than the Twin Cities, talk to me!!! There might be a bit of travel costs involved, but I'm actually very game for travel and I'll see how we can work together to make a fun and unique thing happen. I also go on vacations and travel lots myself, so maybe we can combine dates in such a way things work just right! 

Around the corner? - Nothing comes to mind in the above unique access category? Don't fret, let's figure out what you're into next and what's just around a few corners.

Here's a bit of education on the vibe, because the vibe of a place will set the vibe for the session: 
Urban / Industrial? - This kind of setting will yield some more editorial type of shots. Simple backgrounds, neutral colors. If we do actually go into the city, there will be some "city" distractions and charm that will make it into photos (graffiti, parked cars, some street signs, possibly maybe people). I try to avoid as much distractions as I can, but it is the city. If this is your vibe, you know you like it just the way it is. 
Nature Lovers? - This one will be more intimate, surrounded by plants, grasses, trees, etc. The weather and Season change a place, so factor that in when thinking up your outfits. And, speaking of private/intimate - if you and your beau are really not much for an audience, but love the outdoors let's pick a park where we can venture off the beaten path a bit - ex. Rice Park in downtown St. Paul though pretty, can be surrounded with cars, strangers, homeless people, garbage cans, and so on. We might be better off going some place with a bit less action. Now, if you're on the flip side of this coin, and kinda love the hustle and bustle of the city (like the Urban peeps above but with a nature twist), that might be just the location for you. Knowing what you will feel most at home with will help us pick just the right location for your sesh.

Looking for example? Here's one - For Ally and Gabe Lebanon Hills was a park with special meaning - a place of many sweet moments, and good times, so they really felt at home there. That's kind of the goal - pick something either super pretty or something you're comfortable with. I'm made of suggestions if you need one, just let me know which side of the cities you're looking to stick with.

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GO WITH THE FLOW - Don't get super attached to a single wall or background, or a tree (this one goes to weddings as well). Trust me to pick the right location based on the light at the time we're shooting, and what creative arrow strikes me in the moment. The spot in Ally + Gabe's engagement session was picked literally on a whim! I first told them to meet me in a specific parking lot, but when I spotted this gorgeous grassy hill on my drive in, I just had to start there! So, we met up in a different spot, and frankly it was the way I haven't seen or experienced the Lebanon Hills Regional Park before, despite having shot there a few times. When creativity strikes, just follow my lead. You won't regret it. I promise! 

OUTFIT TIPS - Above all wear something that you can move in, feel good in, and don't have to constantly adjust - that's just asking for stiff, uncomfortable poses. Wear something you can sit or roll in the grass in, run, be picked up, and have fun in. Whatever feels right in the moment, make sure your attire won't hinder any flirtation or interactions. If you're not the roll in the grass kinda couple, no worries, we'll find your own groove. You bring the mood, and I'll tune in and amplify. 

Oh yeah, and here are a couple articles of clothing I don't care for - 1. Wrap sweaters with tank tops underneath. 2. High heels
Many amazing photos have been tossed because the wrap sweater has moved away from the body while running or doing something fun, and exposing too much. Unless you are a size 0-2 and super comfortable in that tank top alone, wearing a wrap sweater or unbuttoned shirt with a tank is just asking for fat rolls (and believe me, I'm in this category too! And I'm a size 4-6. No wrap sweaters for me!). As for heels - they're just too cumbersome so you can't go climb places and you're more stiff. I'm more of a move, groove, have fun kinda session gal. You'll have more fun if your footwear allows you to play. 

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"PLAY = Interaction = Reactions = Unexpected Bursts of Laughter =
= Alluring Smiles = Flirting = Good Times =
= AMAZING PHOTOS"

STYLE + ACCESSORIES - Personally, I'm in love with anything spunky and full of character - cold shoulder tops, off shoulders tops, hats of any sort! - floppy, slouchy, etc. fingerless gloves, flowy (solid colored or flowery) dresses, strappy sandals, lace up anything, buttons, lace trim or a lace back... You get the idea - I love details, textures, amazing tattoos, and anything that makes you, you, and gives us something to be playful with. Very simple outfits - ex. jeans + a solid black crewneck sweater sometimes can be fun, but there really isn't anything to play with, tug on, tease with, and Play = Interaction = Reactions = Unexpected Bursts of Laughter = Alluring Smiles = Flirting = Good Times = Amazing Photos. 

COLORS - Currently I'm obsessed with powder toned-down pinks like Ally (and Hali) wore*. Anything rust brown I'm basically coo coo over!! It really doesn't matter the color, though, just make sure it's something you love and that's well coordinated with the rest of the feel + works with some fun interaction-inducing accessories, and you'll look awesome! Personally, neutrals and layering are my jam, with gold accents, and that's what I'd recommend, but to each his own. If you want to wear a fire orange-red maxi dress, go for it! Just make sure that whatever the pop of color or pattern is, it's the focus, and everything else works together in harmony with it. 
On a what-not-to-wear note, stay away from anything that messes with your skin tone. Example: If you have some acne or redness in your skin, skip red / pink outfit combos, go for neutrals like shades of grey and beige mixed in instead (blues, browns and deep greens also work well).  
* FYI - At the time of writing this (April 2017) Express Factory Outlets is basically full to the brim of this gorgeous powdery blush pink - everything from dresses to cute tops. 

** I put a Pinterest board together with some outfit inspirations, so if you need more tips, you can head on over to my Couple's Outfits Inspiration Board

HOW MANY OUTFITS? - I generally say "one, but". The 'but' stands for accessories, and things you can throw on or change into quickly and on the go (so in effect it could be another outfit). If you layer, it's much easier to pop on another shirt (or a cute jacket) in a jiffy. A head to toe ensemble change basically keeps us from adventurously exploring, and ties us to your vehicle. I prefer to focus on getting you two comfortable, interacting and loosened up than showcasing various attires. Also, keep in mind that I want to 'capture the in-between', which might be the way you scramble over some rocks, with him gentlemanly giving you a hand, or carrying you down, in which case I am carrying all your stuff + carrying all my stuff. So, let's maybe minimize the amount of 'stuff' we're lugging along, but you are welcome to bring a variation to quickly throw on. 

PROPS ANYONE? - Accessories in a large way serve as props, because they are something to adjust, move, and tease with. That's why I love those fun little ways to create movement just by choosing a bit more spunky of an outfit or some quick-change outfit variations (example: different shoes + throw on a cute jacket). Blankets are generally great as well, because you can wrap in them, sit on them, dance / wrestle with them, etc. Just bring something that doesn't cover you with lint the moment you come within 2 feet of it. Please and thank you. Sitting in the grass simply rocks. Hot chocolate in cute mugs or bubbly can also create some super sweetly candid photos, just remember - as mentioned above - I'm carrying all your stuff for most of the session, so either pack it in something you don't mind showing in pictures (a cute, vintage picnic basket you can help carry?), and/or pack lightly into something like a backpack that I can lug along. 

MAKEUP - Getting your makeup professionally done is not a deal breaker, but I'd actually say go for it. Either that, or put a bit more effort into getting prettied up. For one, it will make you feel like a million bucks, for two it will make you look like a million bucks, so there really isn't a downside. If you're out of a product, places like MAC or Sephora will do a quick version of a makeover for you for free. Do be nice and buy something, though, those girls love makeovers but they get scored on their sales, so they'll be more helpful and spend more time with you if they know you have a purchase in mind (and, yes to false eyelashes!!! Always! MAC are best).
If you're going DaVinci on your own face, look up some YouTube tips for a smokey glamorous eye, and accentuate a bit more than you normally would for your daily makeup. It photographs better. 

 

DOWN TO BRASS TAX :: INTERACTION + WHAT TO EXPECT

Below is basically the most important stuff in this entire article, so tune in, pay attention, absorb it all - this is the secret sauce to great photos

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COME READY TO... PLAY, Dance, Flirt, Kiss, Hug, Snuggle, and show all kinds of affection towards each other. We will start with easy stuff that will get the excitement going and melt the jitters away (for both of us, since I get nervous too). Like a total dork, I bring a little portable speaker with me and blast some tunes. Music, I find, sets the tone and creates a hangout-type atmosphere, much like hosting a fine meal with great background tracks - it makes the conversation flow, it makes things feel less awkward. In short, I refuse to go anywhere without a soundtrack. 

MOVE MOVE MOVE.. and did I say MOVE? - The more movement we can create while you two interact, the better! Rock back and forth, run your hand down his shirt buttons, run your hand up and down her arm, touch both your faces (or take turns), playfully throw her hair in her face, pick her up, bump into him, tug on each other, swing arms as you walk, pretend to drunken walk, in other words - move move move. And to put it in layman's terms - basically what would you be doing if I wasn't there and you were on a date in the woods having fun together??? Don't overthink it! It's as simple as that! You wouldn't stand crazy frozen next to each other, fumbling for what to do what our hands if you were just hanging out, so why bring on that treatment when we're out together? The more you move the more natural the photos come out! If I keep having to tell you guys to move more, it will take my focus away from creating and capturing. So, put those hands on each other, make out a little, tease a little, flirt and PLAY! Let's create together! :) 

IF I'M QUIET FOR A MINUTE IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU'RE DOING ANYTHING WRONG! - Sometimes I might be absolutely loving what you're doing and be focusing hard on capturing it just right and in many different ways, which takes loads of setting changes since I shoot in Manual mode. OR I might be getting an idea for the next thing I want you to do. Other times I might be seeing something unfold and I want to see what you do naturally. This is how some of my absolute favorite shots have been born - by observing and catching in action or re-enacting something rad you did you didn't even know was rad! So, don't overthink the quiet, if it happens, just assume you're on the right track and carry-on, keep having fun with it. 

TRY TO FORGET I'M EVEN THERE - If she's flirting with you and you're spending all your energy on tracking my camera, something is missing. It's the connection. It makes me the imposter on a moment that could have happened. You can't connect with each other and be completely focused on where I'm at. You actually have to pay attention to each other. The most beautiful photographs happen when you two get lost in the moment - be it a sweet and cute and cuddly quiet one, or a fun and exuberant one. I'm there to see how you two interact, so forget I'm there, and let me capture you as if in that old adage "Dance like no one is watching". Now that's magic! I promise it will make your heart skip a beat too! 

HOW NOT TO LOOK LIKE A DORK, I get asked all the time - Deep breaths buttercup!!! I might know a few tricks to get you to look a bit better than in Grandma Marge's iPad snap. When you show up, try to bring the real you, bring the mood, be ready to move, groove, and play (oh wait, you've heard that one before?? Cool!) If you really want a practical tip - here's the best one I have - don't freeze or hold your breath, don't hold your reactions, and - you have two hands, and a few other limbs - go ahead, use them! Don't worry!! I'll be there to make some suggestions, I might adjust a thing or two if I want some different variation, so there's nothing to memorize. Let's create some imperfect (and yet maybe just perfect) moments together. THAT is not just what feels most natural, but it also is what photographs best. 

RESIST THE URGE TO BICKER - Yep, I said it. In YOUR hands you hold the key to awesome times and great photos. Remember, I'll be capturing your interaction, so keep it positive.
Girls - here's a little tip (file under marriage advice as well) ---Whether it's the way he smiles, or the way he spontaneously hugs you, squishing your boobs accidentally. In those moments when things aren't as picture perfect as you imagined, don't sweat it!!!! This isn't film era, I've got plenty of memory cards! Adjust, laugh it off, move on, try to enjoy his attempts at being charming, even if not quite Titanic-the-movie perfect. He'll be much more eager to play if he doesn't feel like you're scoring his every move. Being in front of the camera can be somewhat nerve-wrecking, so have tons of grace for each other.
Guys - As to not pick on your significant other exclusively, there are some tips for you as well. Guys can sometimes get stuck on "What do you want me to do?", and What do I do with my hands?" ---- RELAX. As long as you're up for anything, and use those hands, and lips, and manly arms of yours, you'll do fine. You know her, you know what quirky things get a laugh out of her. You know what makes you two tick, and you definitely know the art of 'making advances', if you didn't we wouldn't be here, the girl of you dreams marrying you. Let's simplify - you know how you love to hold her hand when you walk, you know how you like to hug her (each couple kinda has their unique way to do all these seemingly simple and unanimous things). Try not to question yourself or dwell on any gesture that doesn't come across just right. Laugh it off, move on, goof off, have fun, be charming. You've got this! 

IN CLOSING 

Guess what, it's OK to fumble sometimes. Fumbling can be cute and endearing, as long as you are amused by it and laugh it off. As I mentioned - move, play, breathe, be in the moment, let go, take things in, be your quirky self, and use your beautiful body to express your unique connection. There's no right way or wrong way, and some of the instructions I give are a bit vague on purpose, because I want to see your interpretation of it. Oops, I just divulged a secret. Well, now you know - sometimes I try to trick you and see what you do with "it", so not every photo I take look identical for every couple ;) 

I think that just about covers it. I hope this is helpful, and puts you at ease, if just a bit. 
If you come up with another plaguing question, let me know, and I'll think of something witty to add in ;) --- Hope you've enjoyed the read! --- Ester

PS. Aren't these two the cutest???!!! - ALLY + GABE brought it!!!

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How to have an Amazing Newborn session :: AKA Meet lil' Genevieve

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How to have an Amazing Newborn session :: AKA Meet lil' Genevieve

Newborn sessions are fun, but they do take it out of ya. They are on the long side, or so it seems, but when you add up all the feeding, changing, topping off, etc. we basically have just the right amount of time, because let's face - babies don't just have a mind of their own as to the timing of their earthly debut, they also kinda drive the session. We're at their beck and call. ;) Here is the scoop on what to expect, how to prep, and overall having a good time with your little bundle of joy :) 

Scheduling a Newborn Session - I generally put your due date on my calendar, schedule a tentative session for a weekday morning (10am, day 5-9 after due date), and we get in touch as things get closer. Day 5-9 are generally what I shoot for, since that's when the newborns are still most sleepy. Makes it a bit easier to work with since they tend to be cross-eyed when they are awake ;) 

Location: My sessions are very much of the 'lifestyle' variety, and take place at your home. I don't invade the household with a studio setup, we work with what you have - use the bed, couch, a pretty chair, etc. and I really just try to capture you in your element rather than stiffly studio-posed. You just enjoy your baby and I'll be there to capture those sweet moments. How and where I photograph really depends on where the best light is in the house. The photos of the baby alone also vary, depending on what I'm working with. I make the call once I have a chance to look around. 

Your House = Studio for the day – Please make sure it’s somewhat clean, and picked up, and ready for action. That means toys put away, beds made, mostly de-clutter as much as possible so we don't have a ton of re-arranging to do. I do need to mention that I charge a $50 cleaning fee if your house is extremely messy and I have to spend extra time cleaning it up. 
**PS. Moms and Moms-In-Law are generally just dying to feel helpful when the baby arrives, so this can be a great way to get them involved. 

 

:: NEWBORN SESSION PREP ::

  • Session duration - 2-3 hours, depending on baby. 

  • Goal – Keep the baby fed, changed, warm, and comfortable so. Sleeping is the end goal. 

  • Awake Before – Keep your baby awake before the session, as much as possible

  • Longer Feeding – Plan on feeding your baby longer (even 40 mins) RIGHT before the session –

    think “milk drunk”. This one is important and the best tip to get the baby sleepy for the pictures

  • Change the baby right before the session. And don’t worry – there’s time for changing, topping off, etc. so relax, we’re not in a rush.

  • TEMP inside the house – If your house if on the cool side, please warm it up a bit. Around 72 degrees helps get a comfy sleepy baby. If a space heater is available, have it at the ready. I’ll help pick the best spot based on the light in the house and etc. Plan your own outfits accordingly - i.e.: Dress lighter, it will get toasty.

  • Baby Outfit – I don’t generally photograph babies naked, but we can get a similar effect by swaddling in a diaper, or using a diaper cover. Etsy is a great source if you’re looking for ideas. Have a couple alternative outfits and a couple white onesies at the ready (white photographs best!)

  • Baby Outfit No No's - Avoid really bright, neon colors – they cast a tint onto faces, necks, etc. and they are out of gamut for all currently available printers (i.e.: don’t print well).

  • Baby Props - I’ll bring a few things with me, but I’d love to see what you’ve got that’s unique. Think fringy blankets, wooden crates, knit hats and simple knit outfits, headbands, tulle, etc. Quick note – Quilts are cute, but they don’t really photograph well inside of boxes because they’re not very pliable, fringy blankets are best. Show me what you’ve got and I’ll help combine into cute ensembles. Textures are amazing and better than pattern (sweater knit, furs, lace bonnets, etc.)

  • Parents Outfit – Layering neutrals works great and photographs really well. Solids are better than patterns (pick one person in pattern). Sounds simple, but it’s a classic look you won’t likely have regrets over. Textures are great too! (lace, fur, knit, etc.)

  • Dressing the Family - Same as parents - solids and neutrals work very well. Try to avoid clashing patterns and too much pattern all together, as well as very dark or very bright colors (whites, greys, beiges, ivories, etc. work really well).

  • Bedspread / Bedroom Prep - If your bedroom has good window light, the bed can be a great place for some photos. White on white is dreamy if you have or can arrange for that kind of bedspread (otherwise light neutrals are best). If your bedroom has great natural light (as in window light), just make sure it's picked up (i.e.: everything off the dresser and nightstands, declutter, kleenex boxes and water bottles hidden away, etc.) 

  • SNACK for you (i.: the husband) and the kids - Newborn sessions do take a while, so it’s really helpful to have a snack at the ready in case anyone gets famished, and before they get hangry. 

  • Most important – Relax and have fun!! – There’s time, the baby’s safe, we’re here to have fun. So enjoy the moment, nibble and sip on something delicious, and go with the flow. Be ready to interact, play, snuggle, and have many sweet moments together of taking it all in, rather than mentally prepping for a photo shoot. :) 

  • And, a quick last note... Rather than always being concerned with where I'm at, try to forget that I'm even there. I'll help you know what to do, but I want you to just be yourself, allow for those beautiful moments to happen, and let me capture all that for you. No cheese. No posing. No fakeness. Just all that sweet intimate stuff that goes with being at home with your new baby. :)

You've got this!!! :) Absolutely cannot wait to meet your new family member!  

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You Asked, We Answered - a Q&A Project Collaboration

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You Asked, We Answered - a Q&A Project Collaboration

 
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HOW THIS BLOG IDEA WAS BORN

We first met on Instagram, creeping on each other’s work. You do it too, and you know it ;). Since it seemed like we’d hit it off, a coffee date at the Lynhall gem of a cafe (where ALL of twin cities’ coolest millennials gather apparently), was arranged. You could say it was a 'where have you been all my life' kind of feel, coupled with the world’s longest coffee meeting. We laughed, we learned A TON from each other, and we’ve been friends ever since. Each of us had the same hurdle it turned out - loads and loads of inquiries from people asking questions about various photography subjects and not enough time in the day to reply to everyone. Hence this blog idea. As we put our blonde heads together and answer some of the questions you asked us, we hope that you too get inspired to get out of your comfort zone and get connected with peers from the industry, so you can help propel and motivate each other.

Cheers! To Community over Competition!  - Ester & Nicole

 

SETTING THE TONE - AKA. EMBRACE THE RESEARCH

Photography is not easy. Unless you have gone to a Photography school, you are self-taught. This literally means that you are (should be, and will be) self-teaching ALL THE TIME, and doing loads and loads of research. Like, nauseating amounts. Before you know it, your best friend's name is Google, you wear so many hats (from accounting bonnets to shooting and directing fedoras), and it becomes very easy to keep all secrets super close to the vest since you’ve worked your bum off on inventing your own wheels! If you’re not in this spot yet, you will be. Give it time. In this blog we talk about all of the above, to hopefully give you a little Come-To-Jesus moment. Ask yourself, how much of your own research do you do? How many instructional videos have you watched this week? How many close photographer friends do you have that you can bounce ideas off of? Do not expect others to be your own personal, walking Google. Be self-sufficient. That’s our schpiel and ode to Google Search for the moment, and with that, let’s dive in on the Q&As!!

 

HOW DID YOU FIND JOBS AND PEOPLE TO PHOTOGRAPH WHEN YOU FIRST GOT STARTED?
(Any suggestions for when friends and family are not being super supportive and don’t really want their photos taken?) 

We each had our own ways, so we’ll divide and conquer on answering this one… 
ESTER - Honestly, once I ran out of personal connections Craigslist was super helpful for me. When you’re first getting started you’re generally at a bit of a lower price range, which is exactly the type of client you will find on Craigslist - a price-conscious one. I was totally honest about my experience level, I charged $150 for portraits to begin with, and they got 30-40 images, which seemed like a win-win. I made sure everyone knew that I was building my portfolio and that those prices were going to go up. Also, since there were a TON of photography ads out there for super cheap, I made sure to put out my best work, and to not be the cheapest listed. I wanted my work to stand out so people could tell that though I was newer to the craft, and a bit higher priced that the Free-to-$50 offers, my work rocked, and was WORLDS better than anything else listed on Craigslist as a whole. As a result they felt like they were getting a KILLER dealer at portfolio-pricing. Some clients stayed as I raised my rates, some found other cheaper options, either way I got my portfolio built up super quickly, and kept raising my prices a bit at a time. I made sure that my presence everywhere was professional and inspired confidence - from my Facebook page to my Website, how I interacted, how I dressed to the sessions, so potential victims (hehe ;)) could browse my work before committing and felt assured once they met me. Not sure if this Craigslist trick will still work for newbies out there, but that’s how I got loads of jobs, from which I then got tons of word of mouth referrals. 
***Disclaimer - BE SMART! If it sounds too good to be true or creepy (like meeting up in some deserted location), bring a friend or just don’t go for it. Don’t be scared, use your brain, trust your gut (require Facebook/Instagram handles if anyone is asking you to come to their home, and check them out. ) Example: There was one time a guy wanted dating profile pictures, and wanted to meet in a building to go up on a rooftop in uptown. It seemed slightly creepy, so I brought my husband along. David made sure to meet the man, get a read on the situation, and then just worked from the car while I shot. It turned out to be a totally legit professional (construction company owner) and a very nice guy. We made friends, I felt safe, he got great shots, I got paid. Done and done! 

As to how I booked weddings, I basically got duped into it! A friend really wanted me to photograph her wedding, to which I gave her a million reasons why I was not going to be the one to screw up her big day with my skillz. I gave her a TON of referrals to other photographer out of which she contacted a couple and felt they just weren’t her style. She wanted me. And, she waited me out! She waited till about 3 months before the wedding, giving me a heart attack, since I knew ALL good photogs would be booked. I wasn’t going to let her go with someone random and stepped up to do my utmost, with a fantastic 2nd shooter that basically kept talking me off the ledge every few minutes. Things kinda kept rolling from there  :)

NICOLE - My road is a bit different than Ester’s when it comes to portraits, but when it comes to weddings we kind of stepped into it the same way. 

Let’s cover portraits first. I REALLY wanted to take photos of people, and I was lucky enough to have three younger sisters who I was able to force into posing for me. One of my sisters was going into her Senior year of High School, so of course I was her designated senior photos photographer. Duh! Once she shared all her senior photos online and tagged me in them, my name started getting out there. Before I knew it a lot of her friends started seeking me out to shoot their senior photos as well. Huge shout-out to all Maple Grove seniors (and their moms lol) for jump-starting my photography career). This really is how things got started. 

As for how I booked my first wedding - one of my friends from high school that had seen some of my work, asked me to shoot hers. I immediately said no. But, she wasn’t a quitter, and persisted until I caved. Shoutout to my first brave bride that jump-started my wedding photography carrier. Thank you, and I’m sorry LOL ;). 

Moving on, to how I continued to get jobs. I needed a Wedding and Couples Portfolio for my website and social media in order to even show potential clients a reason to book with me. I sought out couples online (Facebook, Instagram, friends of friends, family connections, etc.) . Basically anyone who wanted free sessions that matched my ideal client style. Then once I did the shoot, I would ask my couples to share their photos online, tag me in every post, and re-share the blog post I created. So, for me, it was all about getting my name out there, working my butt off to find ideal clients, and working A LOT for free, and YES, this was on top of finishing my college degree and working a full-time job. Hello hustle! 

The sooner you realize that the ideal connections, jobs, photo-shoots, and work overall will NEVER just fall into your lap, the sooner you can start hustling your booty off! Start harnessing and working on your web of connections and it will yield results over time. If you don’t work hard to create and continue adding to that web, your leads will dry out and you will flat-line in this business. Consistency, persistence, and commitment are the requirements for making your dreams a reality. It can get hard because you also definitely really have to put yourself out there, but if you don’t try you will never know what could have happened. So, roll up your sleeves, and get to work farming your personal connections and going from there. Be willing to shoot for free to get started. You can’t expect people to pay for your work if you have no portfolio, haven’t quite figured out your editing, don’t really know how to work your equipment, and don’t have a lot of experience. 

 

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ANY SUGGESTIONS ON FINDING MENTORS WHEN FIRST GETTING STARTED? 

Every photographer that’s at least somewhat experienced gets A TON of requests for shadowing, 2nd shooting, assisting, and other questions. Both of us get at least 5-10 DMs or emails a day during the busy season. So now, given that little fact, what are you going to do to stand out? What value are you going to provide to a photographer you want to be mentored by that will make them want to invest their time into you? Since we do not get paid for any free advice we give out that likely took us years to figure out, what value do you bring to the table to make a potential mentor pick you out of the big bunch? 

ESTER - When I first wanted to get into weddings, I found a few photographers that I really liked and asked if I could buy them coffee or lunch. I let them know I was interested in potentially 2nd shooting or assisting for free. I knew I had something they could maybe use (a pair of willing, extra limbs), and I knew I was willing to do anything to be of help to them. The gal that I particularly clicked with and wanted to learn from was 10 years younger than me, which made it super hard on my ego. And, I’m being very real here. I texted a friend to get advice, cause I was super put off by the language in the “intern” agreement I was supposed to sign and agree to. You know what he said? He basically did me a huge favor and called me out on being prideful. He said if you want to learn from her, suck it up buttercup, quit trying to prove to her how much you know, and do whatever you can to be invaluable - carry their bag, bring her food, be respectful in front of her clients, etc. and, definitely swallow your pride, which is exactly what I did. And, let me tell you - I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for that simple decision to humble my ego. I signed up for the dates that no one wanted, the out-of-towners (with overnights), the long drives, the not-so-great venues, giving her some company so she didn’t have to shoot them alone, and getting to pick her brain on the long rides, learning her story. I got A TON of value out of the 11 or 12 weddings I shot with her FOR FREE, we made friends, and I basically learned how to run a chill wedding day. I had 2nd shot / assisted for other wedding photographers that had basically made me never ever want to get into the biz, but she made it seem so doable and all her weddings seemed so fun and low-key. Having shot many of my own weddings now, I know for a fact that wedding days are far from easy, and she was really just that good, but I also know that what I learned from her helped me emulate that ‘easy day’ feeling in how I plan for and run things. I’ve since found my own style, utilizing all my project management skills from my past corporate day job, but it was she that really helped me know what was possible. Not to mention I got to see 12 very different wedding day scenarios that helped make me feel somewhat prepared for what a wedding day could bring, which gave me the confidence to book my own dates. 

NICOLE - I have never actually had a mentor, to be totally honest. I probably should have, but I was too scared to ask, fearing that I’d annoy people with my questions. I told myself that if I ever made it big, so to speak, I would make it a point to answer some questions for others, to reward their guts for reaching out. It can be really intimidating to contact someone that you admire. They don’t know you from Adam, and you don’t really have much to offer them as a newbie. I don’t suggest going the route I took, because I know very well that I could have learned so much more, so much faster, rather than feeling very overwhelmed and lonely for a long time doing it all on my own. One advice I can give is - if you are too scared to connect with a potential mentor, connect with someone less intimidating first - your peers. I have recently started getting more into my local photography community, and in just a short amount of time I love how much I have grown! So, I encourage you! If you are not making any traction on the mentor route, OR if (like me) you are too shy to reach out to a potential mentor, try hard to get connected still, and find people with the same passion so you can motivate and inspire each other. 

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WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PROMPTS FOR COUPLE'S POSING, ANY IDEA ON HOW TO MAKE THINGS MORE NATURAL? HOW ARE YOU SO GOOD AT CAPTURING THE PERFECT MOMENTS?!!

Oh boy could we basically spend this entire blog talking just about this question? It’s a bit of a big nut to crack in here, so we’ll give you some resources where you can get some of this info, and cover a few base ideas to get you going. 

The caveat in posing and directing, is that not every prompt or pose works for every couple or every photographer. It really depends on what your personal shooting style is, and what feel you’re trying to create in your photographs, which also goes to who is your ideal client that you are trying to attract with your work? 

For both our shooting styles, and the ideal client bait, creating movement is an absolute must! We love that high energy feel (call it the loud moments)! Rather than focusing on poses, having couples perform actions (or add movement into poses) allows us to right off the bat work off that nervous energy our couples show up with, and create a space where we get a ton of genuine reactions so we can capture that more candid look. 

We both start our sessions with walking, running, jumping into each other’s arms, tugging on each other, bumping hips together, spinning around, whipping hair, and so on, because those are all great moment and reaction-inducers. You can always use a couple of the same things more than once and build on a single action. For example: tell them to run towards you, holding hands, while looking at each other (or variate where you are looking - look, at each other, look where you’re running, look away, etc.) Set up the mood! Tell them to skip like it’s the first day of school, or most fun they’ve ever had walking! Then build on this first action - now tell them to run towards you, while looking at each other, and when you get to about this spot pick her up from behind and spin her around. Kick your feet out as he picks you up! Those are just some ideas on a few setups. 

One piece of advice we want to give you is to be vigilant and not just focus on that one pose start to finish, but also shoot the in-between, the after, and so on. Basically, as long as something is going on, be shooting. Also, keep an eye on your couple for those after-feels and after-laughs (the best!). Make sure not to get lost nose in the camera, reviewing your prior shots, while they are laughing at what they just did, giving each other that post-run-hug. If you’re too consumed with your LCD screen you might be missing out on those awesome un-posed moments. The best kept photography secret is to make them feel like you’re not looking, so they relax just a bit thinking they are not being photographed, while you are ready to jump in and snap a totally candid shot that just might end up being your favorite. 

If you are having trouble remembering your prompts, Jasmine Star (an incredible photographer and brand strategist) comes to mind with her “Shooting with Intension” idea from the Wedding Photography Bootcamp on Creative Live. Instead of trying to memorize prompts, think about what feel you’re going for. If your intension is “Playful and Natural” - that will help you remember the play-inducing prompts, and also ‘sell’ the mood to the couple (Be playful with it guys!). If you’re going for "Romantic and Sweet” it will help you remember those sweetness inducing ideas, and get them to think along those quiet moment lines. 

Here are some good resources for poses, prompts, and ideas that will help you find your own directing magic

  • Facebook group called Couple’s cards (read through posts and comments to find awesome prompt/action ideas for both couples and families) 
  • Ben Sasso Posing and Directing course (absolute GOLD if you are really struggling on how to run a session from start to finish! Covers Couples and Individuals) 
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WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO LENSES? ANY RECOMMENDATIONS?

We both started with a 50mm (F1.2, F1.4 or F.1.8) prime lens, and both agree it’s a fantastic learning lens, especially if you can only efford 1 piece of good glass to begin with. A prime lens is an absolute must, because not only can you get a much better, more blurred background, but it also forces you to be quick on your feet since there is no zoom (you are the zoom). Once you get comfortable with the 50mm, it really depends on what you’re shooting and what you need to accommodate + what camera you use (ex. Crop or Full Frame) to pick the best lens lineup. National Camera Exchange is a great resource for all camera and lens related questions, they’ll help point you in the right direction if all this prime vs. zoom, crop vs. full-frame gives you a migraine. 

What’s in my camera bag? (wedding setup) 

  • ESTER - Canon 5D Mark IV (primary), Canon 5D Mark III (backup), Sigma ART 35mm F1.4, Sigma ART 50mm F1.4 (spare lens, in case something happened to my 35mm), Canon 85mm F1.8, Canon 24-70 F2.8 (zoom lens). Flash - 600 ex-rt (x2), Large battery bag (Canon, AAA), 2x SD/CF card wallets (1 for empty cards, 1 for full cards, so I can tell them apart), Business cards! Black Rapid Sport strap (with underarm Jack strap) 
  • NICOLE - Canon 70D (primary) + Battery Pack, Canon 6D Mark ii (backup), Tameron 24-70mm F2.8, Canon 50mm F1.4, Tameron 70-200mm F2.8, Flash Di622 Mark ii (Nissin digital) with defuser and extra batteries; Numerous camera batteries, battery chargers and memory cards 

POPULAR WEDDING USES FOR EACH LENS TYPE (IN CASE YOU ARE STRUGGLING FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU NEED AND WHY)

  • 35mm - A bit better than the 50mm for tight indoor spaces where you can’t back up far enough (ex. bride/groom getting ready room). Can also be used for family photos if you have enough room to back up. A great go-to lens for portraits overall (ex. engagement sessions) 
  • 50mm/35mm - Detail shot queens! (ex. bridal details, reception table setups). Also a fantastic portrait lens. Pick either a 50mm or a 35mm. You don’t really need both. 
  • 24-70mm - Works awesome for family photos, wedding party photos, recessional / processional (ceremony overall), and flash-use photos during reception
  • 85mm/70-200mm - Both work great for reception candids (closeups without being in people’s faces) and ceremony closeups (as well as other closeups, like when you have to sit far away at Ceremony with strict photographer seating policies)

NOTE - The lenses above are listed for a full sensor camera. Keep in mind that on a crop sensor these lenses perform differently (ex. a 24-70mm lens on a crop 70D body is more like a 35mm on a full frame 6D/Mark iii/Mark iv). You have to know what you shoot to pick the right lens lineup for you. And, if you are serious about photography, NEVER invest in any lens that only works on a crop body (OR in a KIT lens i.e.: lenses F4.0 and above). Pick the lenses that work on a full frame as well, in case you want to switch some day. 

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WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FEW TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING INTO FULL-TIME PHOTOGRAPHY?

Keep your day job as long as possible, and get a budget! These are absolute musts we agree on. Before you move on to quitting any jobs, make sure you know exactly what your expenses are, how much money you need to bring in monthly in order to not just survive but not struggle, and make sure you have enough jobs booked that you can make a living and not go into debt during the slow season (either that, or marry a Sugar Daddy / Sugar Mommy with a regular monthly income ;)). 

One thing you have to understand is that this is NOT a 9-5 job. Basically the whole idea of a Monday through Friday work week with free evenings and weekends to yourself are completely out the window in this industry. And, though you might be tempted to say “duh, I know!”, the idea of a work week and a fun free weekend are so ingrained into our society that this is actually a really rough transition for most people, even if you think you know what you signed up for. In photography you will basically be working two jobs in one. During the day you will be working a regular job (emails, editing, scheduling, planning, blogging, writing, social media, planning out wedding itineraries, prepping your gear, making travel and logistics arrangements, etc.), during the week night evenings you will be shooting sessions, and Saturdays (and sometimes Fridays/Sundays/whole weekends) you will be shooting weddings. This is often way more than 40 hours a week! In fact, let’s not even try to convert this job into $ per hour, cause one of us might start crying… LOL ;) Photography is an awesome hobby, but most people don’t actually realize how much work it is as a business. If you really want to do this full time, you have to start busting up the myth of a 9-5 job, and make sure you are up for this. We both agree that it’s just a matter of time till you start feeling like you are missing out (happens right around that gorgeous Memorial Day weekend when ALL your friends go boating or hang out at the cabin and you can’t because you’re shooting two back to back wedding). Also don’t forget - weddings are a seasonal business, so May-November (the ‘warm months’) you will have almost all your weekends booked up (including a lot of major Holidays). Then comes the Winter, when you start working through your arm-long Winter To Do list, catching up on everything that couldn’t get done during the Fall (because you were too busy shooting all the “Fall Colors Sessions”), and all the accounting and tax prep you need get done! Now doesn’t that sound like fun??!!

Let’s keep going though, we are on a roll! Since this is a seasonal job, your income stream really dries up in the slower months (Nov-April), and this is where the need for having a budget really comes in strong! You absolutely have to know what your expenses are in order to plan your busy months' earnings to last you through the winter. Kinda like a squirrel with a bunch-a nuts. 

Let’s bust up another myth while we’re at it, shall we? The Travel Myth! Everyone on social media, every photographer make it look like travel is the ultimate goal in life! Like you are less than if you don’t travel. Travel is NOT all it’s cracked up to be, and it gets old very quickly. We won’t go into details on the hours spent booking accommodations and actually in transit, but just trust us on it. 

Lastly, let’s cover weddings - the holy grail of what everyone and their grandma is trying to get into. You spend the day directing, anticipating, and planning ahead, hungry, sweaty, and smelly. You pretty much don’t get to pee all day, because you are always worrying about missing something important, and therefore you try not to drink water either so you don’t have to pee. Add dehydrated to the list. Just getting real here. 

DEEP BREATHS… The above sure makes it sound like this job sucks, OR like we are just trying to discourage you (the competition) from entering into the space, but it’s actually not either one of those. This is ALL totally honest, the not so talked about truth about what it’s really like. What we talked about above is not meant to get you to quit, but more to help you go into this with eyes wide open, knowing that once the novelty wears off things might not be easy, and not as glamorous as social media makes it all look. We don’t just shoot beautiful people frolicking in fields all day long, we also shoot awkward clients that are hard to direct and make us want to pull our hair out. Trying to create beautiful photographs for lovely, real-live (non-model) people can be hard, despite best intensions. What we’re trying to say is you need a strong, iron-clad WHY to get you through when the going gets rough if you’re seriously considering doing this full time. The “why” are all the things that you can go back to and review when you want to quit that will help you pull yourself by your own bootstraps and face the music! (hopefully even bob to the tune!) Hope this makes sense! 

If the idea of a budget is way beyond you at this time, check out a resource like the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (local churches like Substance often offer it at a great deal!) 

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ANYTHING YOU LEARNED OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU WISH YOU KNEW WHEN YOU FIRST GOT STARTED? 

Oh gosh, so many things! Let’s maybe list a few that each of us thought of… 

ESTER - Over the years I learned that "Photography is at most 20% capturing, and more like 80% directing". I think if I knew that little fun fact, I maybe wouldn’t have gotten into it LOL ;) I had all these grand ideas of just capturing this beautiful love and these moments that just magically happened, and then I’d get to a session and the first thing people would ask me was “What do you want us to do?!” Or “What do I do with my hands?!” to what I wanted to scream out loud “Anything! Do anything! Just don’t stand there!” LOL :) I mean you’d think people had never made out in their life before coming to my session because every little bit of affection seemed so awkward. Then I figured out that your photographs are only as good as your directing skills. I spent hours and hours researching prompts, prepping, practicing silly jokes, practicing poses and actions with my husband, etc. I started bringing music to sessions to help create a fun and relaxed atmosphere, and getting people to let loose a bit. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am constantly seeking to learn more and get better when it comes to directing.

Another lesson I learned pretty early was to always create a separate Lightroom (LR) catalog for each session/wedding rather than having a single giant catalog with thousands of photos, to avoid your LR to slowing down to a crawl and possibly crashing, losing all your edits. I learned this from an SLR Lounge class on Creative Live that talked all about workflow, naming conversions, and things like LR catalogs. Such an amazingly useful class!!

NICOLE - I’ll be honest and say when I first stared I had no idea that RAW files were SO DANG BIG! (By the way you absolutely should be shooting in RAW and not JPG! And if you don’t know what that is, then please research it and don’t make the mistake I did). I put them all onto my laptop and crashed my computer, thus losing everything and learning the hard way of the importance of using an external hard-drive and having multiple backups. I also learned that traveling is not all its cracked up to be (as we mentioned above) - it takes a lot of work to book the type of shoots you want to travel for. Not to mention often times it takes paying your own way for the travel and building that travel portfolio till someone is actually willing to pick up the tab for those expenses. 

Another thing I wish I knew was the importance of consistent branding and editing - deciding on what the “style" and look is that I’m going for, and making my website, my photos, my social media, etc. work together, look the same, without constantly changing up the style and confusing my clients. I want people to see one of my photos and know I took it before seeing my name on it. THAT is when you really know you’ve nailed it when it comes to creating a brand!

Learning and using programs available to my advantage and to save me time was also a huge growing pain! (ex. Dubsado, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, Preview for Instagram, etc.) Start them as soon as you can. They all took a long time to get the hang of, but they’ve really freed up my brain space to be more creative and get through those menial tasks faster. 

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HOW DO YOU DELIVER PHOTOS TO CLIENTS? DO YOU JUST OFFER DIGITAL COLLECTIONS OR DO YOU MAKE THEM ORDER PRINTS? For digital collections what do you size your photos to? 
Hip Hip Hooray to PASS Plus! It’s one of the best Gallery services out there, and we both absolutely love it! There’s also an option (with some limitations) to start for free, and bar none PASS is the best and we can’t recommend it enough! As for the file size, we both upload high resolution JPGs into collections. The clients get a print release, so they can download all images for their personal use, and through PASS we also can give them the option to download ‘web-sized’ files, and even print prints directly through our pro photo lab. 


IN YOUR OPINION WHAT IS THE BEST PHOTO EDITING SOFTWARE? 
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) for Photographers hands down! For ‘volume editing’ which is what everyone shooting weddings does, Lightroom is the way to go. With the Adobe Creative Cloud $10/month subscription you get both Lightroom as well as Photoshop, and all the latest version upgrades.
 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHY SOFTWARES OVERALL THAT HAVE MADE YOUR LIFE EASIER? 

Here are a few of our favorite Mac software and iPhone apps that have saved us a ton of time, or things that we use on a regular basis:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud for Photography - Lightroom (LR) and Photoshop (PS) for $10/month
  • Dubsado - CRM (Client Resource Management) System - This is where all your Sales client data lives. You can input your Contracts, Pricing List, and other questionnaires you want the client to fill out, or sign electronically. You can set up separate to do lists and workflows for different session types and see who owes you money, send remaining due reminders, etc. If you are in a desperate need of getting organized in the financial and client data realm, Dubsado is clean and pretty intuitive. If you want to give it a try you can, for free, and if you want to sign up you can use code EKPHOTO20 to get either 20% off your first month, OR 20% off the year (annual is a better deal, since you end up with basically $50 off - average $16/month rather than the $20/month regular price). Honeybook is another really good CRM option that does basically the same things as Dubsado (you can use India Earl’s 50% off code for the first month/year) if you want to go the Honeybook route. You can’t go wrong either way! If your client data is a mess, you need a CRM!
  • Quickbooks (QB) - With your Sales data safely in a CRM, you still need some place to handle all your business expenses for tax purposes. This is where an accounting software comes in. Quickbooks is the best in the biz of financial tracking for small businesses. The options are either Quickbooks Online with a monthly subscription or buy a version of Quickbooks software directly from Quickbooks (you can download it right from their site). (Ester - Personally, I don’t like any monthly subscriptions of any sort. This is why I went with the non-online version fo Quickbooks. Just know, that if you want your CRM to integrate with your accounting software you will need Quickbooks Online; otherwise you have to manually enter your Sales bulk figures into QB and let it take care of all other expenses). 
  • Evernote - This program literally has a million uses and an amazing search engine! You can organize anything that’s in your brain - write blog posts, ideation for instagram, keep track of frequently used hashtags, keep track of your wedding dates, and so much more!  Most importantly, it is accessible and updatable from either your computer or cell phone, and syncs across all devices. Awesome!
  • Blog Stomp! Hands down the best blogging tool around! It will cut your blog creation time by hours! Best feature - you can (under Settings) click your photos to keep the original names you exported the images with, so when you create image collages (ex. 2 vertical photos side by side) they will be given the name of the first photo in line. Then you can us batch processing (just resize) of any images you want to use as is (ex. Your horizontal stand-alone non-collaged images). If you have all photos keep the original name, once the batch stomp is done your collages will fall right in line with the other images, so all you have to do is maybe move a couple collages around for aesthetic purposes rather than try to plug every single collage into the flow. Eureka!!!!! And Hallelujah!!! 
  • Photo Mechanic for culling - also known as the best $150 ever spent! - This software renders all RAW images instantly so you don’t have to create smart previews and have LR import overnight. It also helps shed unwanted images (so none of the blinks and other weird faces end up in your Lightroom Catalog thus cluttering it up and slowing it down). 
  • Google Maps - Comes in so handy for staring or hearting favorite (and wedding) locations so you always know where you’re headed. 
  • Dusk and Dawn app for iPhone (in App Store) - It will tell you when the Sunset is in any location on any date (even years into the future) so your brides can plan out their Itinerary around the Golden Hour photo slot!
  • Sun Surveyor app for iPhone (in App Store) (Sun Seeker is another alternative)- If like us you first tend to scope out the best spot for the First Look and Wedding Party/Family Photos when you arrive at the Wedding location, this app can be of huge help! It will show you in live view where the sun will be at let’s say 10:45am so you get an idea on which backgrounds are your best bet on a full-sun kind of a day. 
  • Instagram Preview app for iPhone (in App Store) - This app can help you plan out your photos in the Instagram feed so everything flows together. You can plan out your captions and be ready to post whenever (or even schedule out your posts) 
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HOW DO YOU FIND GREAT SHOOTING LOCATIONS IN THE TWIN CITIES? 

We are basically always keeping an eye out for cute places, even when just driving around running errands, just in case there is a super cute doorway that’s got the perfect light at just before sunset time! If we spot a good field, woodsy area, etc., we keep it in the back of our minds as a possible location for a shoot (or better yet, drop a pin in it on Google Maps and label it accordingly, heart it as a Favorite!) We also always pay attention to where the sun sets in those locations we have in mind so the sun isn’t on the wrong side (some locations are really not ideal during certain times of day and certain seasons). We always pick places depending on session time - the goal is to always be able to have the sun behind your subject, to avoid harsh shadows. We ALWAYS shoot with the sun behind our couples.

Google Maps (as mentioned above) is awesome at keeping track of favorite locations. If you are really short on location ideas you can literally type in “Park” and see what comes up. If the photos under the location look at least somewhat enticing, set an exploration radius and go for a location scouting date with a friend. You can check out each park, make some notes about it, and grow your database. 
Fun fact! - Once you’ve been hearting some of those awesome places you find, all you have to do in Google Maps is type in “Favorites” for it to bring up a map of all your finds. You can then match the best location to your couple’s ideal radius, and voila! You’ve got it! 

Another piece of advice on finding great spots, is to make super duper close friends with another photographer in your area, join a local Instagram pod, etc. and swap location ideas, go scouting together. It’s always fun, and there’s always coffee! Plus, it peels you away from your computer for a bit, so your eyes don’t go permanently cross-eyed from all that editing ;)

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Woohoo! THE END! 

If you’ve made it this far, KUDOS, and you’re obviously made of questions, and hungry for all kinds of information, which is EXACTLY where we were when we first started. Frankly, most days that’s still us! We salut you for being a doer, a learner, and A MAKER. We hope all this was super useful and we wish you all the best in your photography career as you grow, make friends, explore, push boundaries, and break some rules. 

Still, we understand the you might have many more questions, and as much as we’d love to produce these kinds of blogs and live videos and share share share, we do have businesses to run, clients to take care of, so our time is very limited. If you found this very helpful but want to know more, and want to pick our brains much more than what we discussed here, we will be offering Mentoring sessions, in a super low-key non-intimidating atmosphere - think a  coffee meeting (in person or over Skype), and those will be available for signup at $150 / HOUR. You can hit either of us up regarding a Mentoring session via our website contact form, and we’ll be happy to help! 

(PS. Your best bet of getting a mentoring session on the calendar is during the Jan-April timeframe, since during the wedding season May-Dec things get pretty crazy with work). 

Thanks again for showing up! And good luck! 

Ester + Nicole

 

BONUS!
HERE ARE SOME MORE GREAT RESOURCES FOR PHOTOGRAPHY KNOWLEDGE THAT WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND (beyond just Google and YouTube)

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Navigating the Weather :: The Inside Scoop

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Navigating the Weather :: The Inside Scoop

// FEATURING: KRISTIN AND ALEX'S BLUSTERY SESSION //

Sunny days, and what most consider "the perfect weather" are awesome, but some weather hiccups can actually create a beautiful challenge and push creative boundaries. Kristin and Alex asked if we should reschedule, since we were going to have around 12-20 mph winds. I said, nope. Definitely not! The result? Some of my absolute favorite shots were born on a day where we tried not to blow away. Check out Kristin and Alex's windy session shots, and some weather planning inside scoop below :)

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:: THE WEATHER :: WHAT GIVES ::

ENGAGEMENTS + WEATHER :: WAIT IT OUT
My rule of thumb for navigating the weather is to "wait and see". Weather forecast are generally pretty inaccurate far out, so, Russian-Roulette-style, we basically have a 50/50 chance of getting lucky. Once we know what the morning looks like, and we have access to the hourly forecast, we can go from there. 

COME WHAT MAY
I generally reserve session reschedules for really nasty weather. If it's your Engagement session we're talking about, it's really fun to "work with whatever the day brings", especially since come what may, the Wedding Day will not be getting rescheduled due to a 15% chance or wind, so dreading the weather is entirely unnecessary. With a bit of planning (umbrellas? clear umbrellas?), going with the flow, and being up for some gusty or misty play, fun and unique shots are born (rain, shine or snow). If you're up for it, let's do it! 

FLIRT WITH THE WIND :: BLUSTERY SESH
We do not reschedule if it is to be gusty. I actually absolutely love windy sessions!! (Kristin and Alex's photos are proof why!) Wind creates motion, and adds a sprinkle of flavor to any pose. There is one caveat, though, you have to come ready to "flirt with the wind". Let go of the 'every hair in the right place and direction' idea, and let the wind direct the dance. It's actually really fun once you get into it.  

SPLASH SPLASH :: RAINY SESH
Rain can be kinda fun too! Nothing spells romance like cuddling up under a cute umbrella. You could go for fun and natural shots, running through puddles with colorful rain boots and coats on. Or, if you are really adventurous and into the sultry editorial flavor -- getting soaked and sprinkled on together -- now that is truly sexy! It takes a special kind of couple to pull this one off, though -- you know who you are ;) 

Practically speaking - In order to maximize inclement weather fun, here are some tips:

  • Plan on leaving your car warmed up and running, in case we need to jump in and warm up (I can do that as well if we pre-arrange)
  • Bring a change of clothes (especially shoes and socks), so you can warm up on the way home (much nicer to drive home dry) 
  • Bring an umbrella (clear or otherwise) 
  • Bring a blanket that's good in the rain - running / cuddling up with heads under the blanket shots are just darling!
  • Dress for success - awesome rain coats where you can throw the hoods on are golden! Wear rain boots or Sorels, dress warm. 
  • If you have access to a fun car / old van / a camper (airstream anyone?) - let me know! Possibilities are endless! (rain or shine ;)) An SUV with the trunk door up, blankets, hot chocolate - spells cozy times and super cute shots. 

JUST NOT UP FOR IT
If you're really not up for shooting in the rain, and sprinkly fun doesn't sound like fun at all, let me know and we'll find another day. 

WEDDINGS + WEATHER
For weddings, I generally check the weather a couple days ahead, and if it looks like we might have a chance of rain I suggest a last minute umbrella run (1 umbrella per couple in the wedding party will suffice, if you're getting a head count). Extras might be nice just for general need of umbrella, but those don't have to coordinate. 

If you're getting married in the winter, plan on dressing for the cold, it likely will be. I suggest leggings under the dresses, cute fur parkas or thick shawls (cute plaid anyone??), UGGs or boots, fingerless gloves or mittens, etc. Umbrellas are also awesome for rain or snow (picture a dusting of snow on those clear domes - darling!!). When booking a wedding in the "iffy months" (November / Winter) - consider that if it's really nasty outside we will be forced indoor for the majority of the pictures. Pick a venue that's picture-perfect, or as close as you can get, to be on the safe side.  

FAMILY SESSIONS + WEATHER
I give some leeway to families with kids when it comes to weather. For some families it's really hard to have fun with the kids when it's sprinkling outside, or if it's really exceptionally absolutely nuts kind of windy. Here again we wait and see till the day before / morning of, to have a more accurate idea. I generally do encourage everyone to wait it out. We'll get in touch if things look really hinky. 

 

:: FUN FACTS ON WEATHER AND LIGHT ::
 

  • CONFESSION - I SECRETLY WISH FOR A CLOUDY DAY - Sorry, I know you have visions of 'gorgeous and sunny', but I (and everyone else wielding a camera) wants overcast. Why? On a sunny day when the light is super bright we have to worry about harsh shadows (ex. Dracula shadows under the eyes), blown out backgrounds, people squinting, and the non-flattering streaky kind of lens flair. A dark background or good type of shade is sometimes hard to find, and there are less options overall for the right light + background combo. On a cloudy day we have more options of where to go, the light is perfect, colors pop, and things are overall easier to work with. So, relax -- if your day is overcast, that's actually perfection!! 
  • THE GOLDEN HOUR = MAGIC - i.e.: The 1 hour before sunset, up until sunset time - it's absolutely dreamy! On most sunny days (or post-rain evenings) as the sun is setting the light gets more golden, soft, directional, it's easier to work with, and flattering. The golden hours is where most photographers camp out for life, with undying devotion for the almighty magical lens flair. 
    PS. Technically the 1.5-1 hour before Sunrise is another Golden Hour option, but I've been hard-pressed finding people up for photos at 5am-ish ;) 
  • NO GOLDEN HOUR? NO PROBLEM - On cloudy or overcast days the sun might not set in its usual golden ways, but that's not a bad thing. As mentioned above - if it's cloudy, the light is perfect all day, so we can shoot anytime with flattering light.
    NOTE - If the day is unusually dark, we might just want to push up your session (or start 'sunset photos' a bit earlier) so we don't run out of daylight. Confer with me, I'm always paying attention to how things are progressing.
  • THE PERFECT INDOOR LIGHT = MORNINGS!!! - There is a reason why newborn sessions, getting ready shots, cafe e-sessions, and any photos indoor take place in the morning --- the light is dope! Later on the rays start peeking right into the windows, making things hard to work with, but mornings are perfect for indoor or at-home sessions. 
  • IF WE GET REALLY LUCKY, WE GET FOG - People in love surrounded by bluffs and fog. There's something sultry and mysterious about it. I'm totally crazy about fog, and it's one reward for going with a misty sesh - if we get lucky, there might just be that silvery fog. 

That's All Folks! Hope this helps take some mystery out of the weather and light, and how to plan for it all!! --- Ester

 
 

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Cozy At-Home Session Tips :: Arri + Patrick

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Cozy At-Home Session Tips :: Arri + Patrick

There's nothing like an at-home, cozy, lifestyle sesh -- relaxed, surrounded by the things you know and love, not distracted by cheering bystanders (beyond me, of course, hopping up and down cause I get so dang excited!!!). I just love this! There is a reason why "Home is where the Heart is".

Arrianne and Patrick's session was no different - 'sweet' is the best way to describe it. With kisses and hugs and laughter between sips of coffee we explored their dreamy White Bear Lake boat docks apartment. And, since they basically have a coffee shop in the building, we explored those common spaces as well, and with great pleasure (on my part anyway - kid in the candy store! I tell ya!). I, of course, had to peek into all kinds of spots and corners, playing with angles, and these two were just perfect for all of it and up for anything - the setting, the tunes, the games. Loved every minute of it! Can't wait for their wedding!!! Enjoy a sneak peek from their sesh!!! 

PS. If you and your sweetheart are drawn to just this kind of cute at-home style, let's do it!!! You don't need an occasion (newborns are great, but an engagement session is not the only reason to have your love documented at home). If an anniversary, or a no-reason sesh seems frivolous, make it your anniversary (or early Valentine's?) present to each other. What a better way to celebrate love?? 

Here are a few things to know about at-home sessions:
(i.e: what Pinterest won't tell you ;)) 

  • The light is generally different indoor than outdoor, i.e.: those awesome shots you see indoor vs. outdoor where likely taken at completely different times of day, and different sessions -- our best bet is to stick to one option (either indoor OR outdoor). If we get lucky I can try to make something happen, but plan on one and you'll get better results. 
  • Best light indoor is in the morning (9 or 10am works great). WHY? It's because while the sun is getting towards overhead (which is not great for being outdoors - think Dracula shadows, harsh bright light, squinting, etc.), the light comes in from the windows, in a diffused manner. The later in the day, the more sunshine peeks into the windows eventually flooding the space with light (that's when the light is directional and it's starting to be better to be outside than inside)
  • Pre-plan - make sure your space is clean and fairly clutter free or we'll be spending more time dusting and vacuuming than snuggling and shooting
  • Cozy is best - so wear something you can semi-move in, sit on the ground or couch in, etc. Otherwise my conclusion from the sesh will be - she looked cute and... he wore really tight pants (read - couldn't breathe LOL ;)) Go barefoot whenever possible. 
  • The details - I love oriental rugs, nail-head couches, white-on-white bedding, and overall seeing what makes your space spell "you". We might not stick to one place (sometimes a kitchen or a seemingly un-romantic space like laundry room can create the coolest photos!). I go where the light is dreamy, and capture the story, so don't obsess over me shooting a couple frames of your fern, just relax and get into the whole experience. :) 

Hope these few tips are helpful! Feedback? Send along to my email esterknowlen@gmail.com 

-- Ester 

 
 

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15 years in - On marriage, and playing on the same team

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15 years in - On marriage, and playing on the same team

Yesterday was our 15 year wedding anniversary (as I write this on June 28th, 2017). What?! Jaw drop. Gosh, it’s kind of a momentous occasion. It really made us both stop and think, take things in, drop some serious moola on celebrating (hello Spoon & Stable!!!), and enjoy the day to the fullest. That’s kind of also why I didn’t post anything. A moment like this, it’s made me think - what do I even say? I mean, whatever I say, it better be pretty good. No pressure! 

We’ve semi-recently figured out that we love sitting at the bar or in the bar area. It’s just so much more intimate when we can sit next to each other, close enough to cuddle and whisper, and have a more intimate conversation, than yelling across the table.  And, as we sat at our little tucked away corner, slightly overwhelmed by the number we’ve racked up, for being only in our early-ish / mid-ish 30’s, we both had the same thoughts on our minds. What is the best and the worst marriage advice we ever got? What did we prove right or prove wrong? Did we de-bug any myths? Do we have any regrets? What helped us get to where we’re now? How did we even make it this far given our slightly rocky first 5 years? 

 

WORST MARRIAGE ADVICE Never go to bed angry. 

Hands down! We instantly agreed on this one! It must have been given by one of those sweet couples in the 70’s (married 40+ years), we thought we needed to listen to. And I will say without a doubt - as good as it sounds in a fortune cookie - you can feel free to ignore this advice. Take our word for it. We wouldn’t have been nearly as sleep deprived in our first 5 years of marriage had some brilliant person not wished this one upon us. Yes, I get the ‘never let the sun set on your anger’ piece in the Bible, but based on the context that’s more likely to mean - don’t let your anger fester for so long that you shish-kebob your neighbor with a sword in a fit of fury, once you’ve reached boiling point. For a marriage, I say the opposite is true. If you’re pissed off and can’t seem to resolve it, and it’s getting late, GO TO BED! Sleep on the couch if it makes you feel better (I know I have!) I guarantee you, once you wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, you might grumble a ‘hi' at each other, and as the coffee kicks in and the brain has its chance to start working you’ll think to yourself “I can’t even remember what the hell we were arguing so fiercely about”. When you wake up all rested and logical you will have a better chance of resolving your issues than hammering them late into the night. I mean, have you ever tried to have a rational discussion with an overtired toddler? Doesn’t work so well either. Go to sleep, and make sure not to say anything in anger that you cannot take back (some things you might regret and apologize for in the morning that will never be forgotten). 
 

BEST WORDS OF WISDOM WE'VE PICKED UP OVER THE YEARS. 
As we sipped on our wonderful wine and talked, we agreed on all of these. We just had a his and hers perspective. 

  • Speak things you want him to be even if he might not be quite there yet (Ester) - As a woman and a wife you have the incomprehensible ability to either clip his wings or make him soar. If you see potential in everything in him before he realizes or shows all of it, he’s gonna catch up to your amazing vision of himself. On the flip side - if he’s constantly feeling like he’s failing in some way (or same way), he’s gonna want to take his ball and go home. Guys are not good at wanting to play a game they can’t win (thank you Craig Groschel!)
  • Show him that you respect him, especially in public (Ester) - I decided pretty early on that I was never going to bitch about my husband to my friends, or in front of my friends (whether he could hear me or not). I’ve heard plenty of people do that and I’ve always wondered why they were still married. It didn’t seem like either of them was having a good time. I didn’t want to become that. Don’t know. It’s worked for us. 
  • She will never think exactly the way you do, and vice versa (David) - It’s easy to get wrapped up in the other person seeing your point, fully understanding how you think, but no matter how hard you try, you are never going to get there. You have to let those differences ignite your passion for each other, learn to appreciate those nuances, rather than trying to change them. 
  • Be willing to let your spouse be alone and stew for a bit if needed (David). - Don’t be clingy. Give them the space they need to process things in their own way. Sometimes proximity, can continue the irritation. It’s a hard thing to let your spouse sleep away from you when they are mad, but being close might just re-gnite things and continue the fight. So, let go, and let them do what they need to do, even if it lasts more than a night. 
    • Ester FUN FACT (and how I learned to respect my man) - He’s talking specifically about one of our early fights where I was so ticked off I told him to get out! There was no way we were sleeping in the same bed! Upon which he (mostly calmly) said “You’re not kicking me out of my own bed! If you want to go sleep on the couch, be my guest.” I stopped dead in my tracks, tried again (this time with more verve), but he wouldn’t budge. I was pissed off enough to storm out of the room (with a good door slam, I’m sure), pillow in hand. See, in the movies the guy always runs after the girl, so when he didn’t I was like “Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to chase after me and beg me to forgive you?” When I had some time to think, disappointed by the lack of dramatic effect, and after a couple of nights on the couch, I was willing to talk terms. 😉 Marriage is not about showing each other who’s boss, or being overly and unreasonably proud, but there sure is something to having respect for your man for standing his ground when the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime, i.e.: it’s his bed too. 
  • Be willing to be the one to stop the crazy cycle - If you’re constantly arguing about the same things, the only way you’re gonna change things is if YOU are the change. If you don’t like what you’re getting then you should look at what you’re putting in. 


WHEN THE HONEYMOON SEEMS TO BE WAAAAY OVER...
You will go through stages where you don’t feel anything for each other. It’s like the love is gone, evaporated, and you ask yourself ‘did we ever actually love each other?' Tricky thing is, you might or might not be experiencing this stage at the same time. Be very careful what you do and say in those times, because it’s a phase that you can bounce back from, but there are things you cannot take back. If all you do is work around the clock, eat dinner with the TV on, and haven’t actually connected in any meaningful way in a while, your feelings are just naturally following your focus, which is away from each other (thank you Peter Haas). You need to tune your radio back onto the right channel. Do something that only crazy in love gushy people do, even if you don’t feel like it - buy flowers, write a note, have a candle-lit dinner, have sex (yep, even if you’re not that into it). Your feelings will follow your focus. It takes some time, though, so set a reasonable timeframe and go to town on rekindling your romance. Don’t expect instant gratification. Be the one to stop the crazy cycle, and let the cake bake.

David + Ester Knowlen (married July 27th, 2002) 

 

A side note - To all my amazing couples!! 
I hope you are as happy 15 years from now as I am. You have found the one, I have pictures of your happiness to prove you were that happy when you said “I do". Don’t let small things get in the way. Don’t let distractions steal focus off of each other. Consistently make time to do silly and fun things together. I hope you grow, and learn, and make room for each other’s quirks. I hope your love grows deeper and stronger as you navigate this thing called life, with all its ups and downs, and learn to truly appreciate the other’s uniqueness. Playing on the same team

--- With love, Ester   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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