In talking to several of our friends about planning weddings, it seems that one of the difficult and most stress-inducing experiences for many couples is choosing their wedding photographer. I suppose this is because wedding photographs are such important mementos, the tangible reminders of the day’s events, and wedding albums have certainly been one of the crucial ways in which family lore is stored, transmitted, even generated for many people.
We were especially fortunate to have a super talented professional photographer in our family. Laurel’s sister, Jennie, has been taking and making incredible photographic art for more than a decade now. So we knew that Jennie would bring her camera, and that we’d be sure to get some great shots in the days leading up to the wedding (and we did!). We also knew that Jennie was our sister and that we wanted her to be able to attend the wedding and surrounding events as a family member and not a photographer, so we decided that we’d look to hire a professional photographer, at least for the wedding and the reception.
To make a long story short, our first thought was to ask Sam or Monika Crowfoot, photographer friends of mine in Madison to shoot the wedding. Sam had photographed Laurel and just before we got engaged and we really liked several of the images from that session, and we knew that they had done weddings and would have given us a super-friends rate, which would have been awesome. Unfortunately, their fourth child’s due date was really close to our wedding date, so they weren’t really a feasible option for the wedding. We contacted several local options, did some pricing, and then asked Jennie if she’d look into photographers in our area and give us her recommendation. She did, and we met with Sarah Maughan of SLM Photography. She fed us (pastries) and showed us some of her recent work, and we talked about our vision for a wedding photographer (simple, candid shots of us and our loved ones–nothing elaborate, nothing too posed or staged, but honest, clear, loving photographs of the two of us and several of the people that we loved). Sarah expressed confidence that she’d be able to shoot our wedding day in the way that we wanted, seemed professional and honest, and quoted us a price that we felt was fair and within our budget (I don’t feel comfortable giving the exact price that Sarah charged us, but it was under $2000). We decided to book Sarah as our photographer, and she told us that she’d bring her husband Todd along as her lighting assistant and second photographer (it was the first time that they shot a wedding together, which was lovely). In my opinion, one of Sarah’s greatest talents is still-life photography, which meant that we ended up with several stunning images of things that were involved in some important way in our wedding day. It wasn’t something we were expecting or had given much thought ahead of time, but were really surprised and pleased with.
Sarah and Todd were really kind and treated us very well, and we ended up with hundreds of really lovely photographs of the ceremony and the reception (many of them are scattered throughout these wedding planning series posts, but you can see all of them here or read Sarah’s blog post about her experience shooting the wedding (with several photos included)). SLM photograph owns the copyright on all of these images, and they’re very important to us, obviously, so please don’t use or repost these images without permission.
Laurel and I also decided that we wanted to videotape the wedding ceremony itself, so I checked out a really fancy Panasonic AG-HMC150PJ with tripod from the Digital Media Center, a fantastic UW-Madison campus resource for anyone working on digital media project. The camera was free and super high quality, and we asked Mike Sherk, one of our more technologically-inclined guests, to set it up and operate it at the wedding. The video recorded wonderfully and looked fantastic, but for some reason we didn’t get any audio from Mike’s recording (looking back, I really wish we had asked him to test it before the ceremony began). Fortunately for us, my sister Bonnie brought her own small hand-held video camera and had set it up on a tripod on the balcony of Gates of Heaven. Her recording wasn’t in HD video, and the sound quality wasn’t great, but both the audio and video worked, so we at least have video and audio of our ceremony. I still haven’t attempted to clean up Bonnie’s audio or merge it with the HD video that Mike shot, but I’m planning to get to it sometime this summer. We didn’t pay a thing for the video–which suited us great–I only wish that we had checked to make sure the audio was recording properly on the Panasonic.
The other wonderful surprise from all of this was that my sister Bonnie had her hand-held camcorder because she decided to make a short film for us as a surprise wedding present for us. Unbeknownst to us, she had stealthily recorded nearly all of our friends and family telling stories and sharing memories about Laurel and I at the pizza party the night before, video taped the wedding ceremony, and then got a lot of footage from the reception. About 2 weeks after the wedding, we got a small package from Bonnie with two DVDs in it–she had made a documentary film lasting nearly 2 hours which documented our wedding weekend. We watched the first disc right away–it was wonderful and very touching, and have saved the second disc–we keep planning to watch it and then forgetting about it. Perhaps this evening? In any case, it was a wonderfully loving and creative thing for her to have done, and we couldn’t have asked for a better record of what took place on that weekend–it’s absolutely something we will treasure for decades to come.
Apart from hiring a reasonably priced, kind professional to photograph you wedding day, our advice for photos and videos is pretty simple: have a really creative sister or two and let them do great work. It’s that easy! Jennie and Bonnie! We love you and are so glad that you shared your art, care, and talents with us.