So you want to save money on your wedding photographer...

Oh, yes. We are going to talk about the dreaded M word. There's no turning back and I promise that although this will be lengthy, it will have a lot of information you need to know. Money. 

There. I said it. It's out there. Breathe. Money is a really stressful part of planning a wedding. How do I know? Because my husband and I paid for the majority of our wedding ourselves. And I totally understand why brides freak when they hear the price of wedding photography. Some photographers pull a random number out of thin air, slap it on a website, and expect you to write the check. Honestly, that's even what I used to do when I first started. Now I use a formula that includes the amount I pay into my business, taxes, advertising, and post production.  I then recalculate using the formula once per year and adjust my prices accordingly.

Now, photography is important to most brides. Not all, but most. It is the only service that you get to enjoy after the wedding day. It is the only representation of all the rest of the money that was spent. It is also the only service that increases in value as time goes on. Yes, that is a true statement. Why? Well, for example, Matt and I were married on September 18, 2010. Unfortunately, the following year my aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away last December. I can honestly say that I would pay more today than I did two years ago for those "silly shots" I have of her on the dance floor. They are that special to me.

That all being said, there are some brides who flat out just don't have the money. They've hunted through the couch cushions, broken their childhood piggy bank, and they just don't have the money to hire me. For brides in this situation, I really do understand and I really do want you to have the absolute best photography you can afford. I don't want you going into debt or having long, drawn-out fights with that wonderful man you're marrying because you wrote me a check. Here's what I suggest:

1.) Don't totally rule out hiring an awesome professional photographer. There are a ton of them out there and there are a lot who are willing to give you a discount or let you have a payment plan. Do you have a really cool theme that would make your wedding a great addition to their portfolio? Is your fiance in the military? Are you getting married on an off month (Jan-Feb) or on a day that isn't a Saturday? Do you want 4 hours or less of coverage so that a professional photographer is covering the important portion of the day? If so, ASK. Find out if they are willing to be a little more flexible with their pricing. Now. Important side note: be honest about what you can afford. It isn't really fair if you drive a desperate photographer down to $1,000 only for them to show up to your lavish $50,000 wedding. Give them your bottom line and see what they say. Emily-29

2.) Look for a photographer who is newer at wedding photography. You do get what you pay for in photography, but that doesn't have to mean that you don't get beautiful images. It just means you won't have the same assurance that you will get beautiful images that you would if you were working with a professional photographer who has a track record in the industry. Reach out to local arts schools like the Creative Circus or SCAD. Contact a professional portrait photographer whose work you love and see if they are trying to break into the wedding industry, and if they'd shoot your wedding at a discount. Talk to your friends and find out if they know of an up-and-coming photographer who hasn't quite filled up their calendar. The only thing I would caution you about is this: Be SUPER careful about hiring someone who has never shot a wedding before. Weddings are incredibly fast paced even for professional photographers. You have little to no time to get in position, frame your shot, check your exposure, focus, etc. and take the picture before that moment is gone. Not to mention, you as the consumer really need to see exactly what level of product you're going to end up with. If you are considering someone who hasn't shot their first wedding yet (which-again-I do NOT recommend) see if they'd be willing to come out and shoot an event you're having (engagement party, shower, etc.) It won't be the same thing, but it will at least give you a better understanding about what their candid photography looks like. Edit-15

3.) SIGN A CONTRACT!!!!!! Brace yourselves. I am stepping up on my soapbox with my megaphone for this one. I do not care what your reasoning is, there is absolutely NO REASON not to have a contract. Seriously. None. Zilch. "He's my uncle." Sign a contract. "She's my best friend." Sign a contract. "They are doing it for free." Sign a contract. "She didn't give me one." Then grab that McDonald's napkin in your car, write down what is being exchanged and SIGN A CONTRACT. Ok. I'm done yelling. But seriously, this is how serious this step is. One of my best friends (whose wedding I was in, and therefore couldn't shoot) didn't sign a contract. *Insert facepalm here.* She won a photography "competition" this particular photographer was running and was getting her wedding shot for free. Well, the photographer showed up with a terrible attitude, half-heartedly shot the wedding, put up 12 beautiful photos on Facebook for all of her followers to see and then handed the my friend a CD of 400 non-edited, horrible photos that took three months longer than she originally verbally stated to get. Yeah. Shots of the back of people's heads. Shots of the floor. Now I realize when you hire someone to document one of the most special days of your life, you'd think they'd have more integrity than to screw you over. On your wedding day. Unfortunately, there are many photographers who see brides as a walking paycheck and they really don't care if you don't have the pictures you wanted.

Here's what needs to be detailed in the contract: the location of the event, the specific hours the photographer will be shooting, whether or not they will be editing the pictures, who owns the rights and where you can have the images posted/printed, WHEN you will get your images, if there is a penalty if the images are late, what happens if the photographer has an emergency and can't come, and any additional services the photographer will be providing (engagement session, second shooter, etc.) This protects you and it will go a long way to ensure you receive your final images in a timely manner. And feel free to write in, or scratch out anything you don't feel comfortable with and have the photographer initial the change.Atlanta, Worldwide

4.) Choose a photographer you enjoy being around. One of the things I find I have to educate my brides on is the fact that your photographer will be with you your entire wedding day. Until the reception, you will be with us more than you'll be with anyone else including your fiance. Make sure you sit down and have a real conversation with whomever you're considering.  Weddings are amazing, but the emotions and tensions are high and you need a photographer who will help enhance the experience you have, not detract from it. I have been at a wedding where the father of the bride called the morning of to say he wasn't coming because he didn't realize the step-father was the one walking his daughter down the aisle. I have been at a wedding where the groom didn't show up until 30 minutes after the ceremony started and no one knew where he was. I have been at a wedding where the mother of the bride and the bride got into a shouting match in the hotel hallway. No matter what drama the wedding day brings, I'm still there to do my job, which involves witnessing all of that. I will give a hug when needed, make a joke to laugh something small off, or give the bride space-just like a friend would. Conclusion: free photography from your foul-mouthed, beyond-annoying, inappropriate-comment-making Uncle Bobby will have a negative impact on your wedding day and it won't be worth the free photography. Truth.Edit-26

5.) Educate yourself. If you are considering what we in the industry call a "budget photographer", make sure you do your homework. It's amazing to me how many brides don't look up reviews. This is definitely a step I wouldn't skip. Oh, and "reviews" or "sweet things'' people have said about them they have posted on their own website don't count (not saying they aren't true, just saying you should do a little more digging than that.) I once worked with a photographer (who works a LOT and is still actively shooting today) who was terrible. He left weddings early, booked the bride by throwing something in (unlimited coverage, Blue-Ray DVD, etc.) then would up-sell her on that same service down the road and charge her for it, called a bride fat on her wedding day, you name it. Well, as you can imagine, he got some really AWFUL reviews. However, once one popped up, he simply made 10 new accounts that were rave reviews so that that really bad one would bump to the next page. If you paid attention, you could see that they were all written on the same day and had the same style of writing and emoticons, but most brides didn't notice that.  He did this on the knot, wedding wire, google, etc. Actually read the reviews. And if there is ever a photographer that has really high scores across the board except for a handful who have given incredibly low scores, I would avoid them like the plague. There shouldn't be that big a discrepancy between what the brides experience. I also highly recommend asking your photographer to put you in contact with a few of their clients so that you can actually talk to someone about their experience. Any photographer who has shot even one wedding should have the ability to pass along their contact info. www.meaganophotography.com

6.) Ask questions. You know what they say about when you assume something...if you don't understand something, ask. There really is no question that is too stupid. You need to feel comfortable with the decision you're making and the only thing that will bring you that comfort is information. What happens if there's an equipment failure? Do they own back-up equipment or would they be willing to rent it? What if you don't like the pictures? Are they willing to do re-edits? Is there a limit to the amount of re-edits they'll do? Why is Justin Beiber a world-famous icon? Hey. I didn't say they could answer all of them.  Whatever you don't understand, just make sure that it's clarified before you finalize any decisions. Emily-1

Whew. If you're still here, HIGH FIVE! You made it!

Also, if you have any additional questions, please feel free to message/email me (meagan@meaganophotography.com). I promise not to give you a hard time about the fact that you didn't just get a second mortgage on your house to hire me. No. Joking aside, I really would be happy to help answer any questions you have.

 

Dress Up

Growing up, my absolute FAVORITE thing to do was play dress up. I used to have this floor length, fully sequined, cerulean ball gown that I would wear all. the. time. It's funny, the way I remember it, it was made of actual jewels, not sequins. I would run around outside in it and pretend I was being chased by the evil queen (aka my brother, Matt) and once I was caught I'd wait for my prince charming to come and rescue me.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage Interestingly enough, I found myself "working" two weeks ago and yet it looked incredibly similar to five year old me play time. I hooked up with Monique and Ashley at the Brock Cassidie Salon in Buckhead. Which is this INCREDIBLY adorable salon! It's decorated with all these vintage touches and they even have these cute silk robes you can slip into to really make the whole experience that much more relaxing! Well, we did a stylized shoot and they totally rocked all the styling from the hair, makeup, and set design! It was SO. COOL. Plus, I had that moment where I stopped, looked around and realized that I was basically playing dress up and that that is my job. Pretty awesome moment for me!!ImageImageImageImageImageImage

I had an amazing day "playing" with Monique & Ashley! As well as the beautiful models, Ladee Danger, Candice Dupree & Stacey Culpepper. I'll be teaming up with the Brock Cassidie team again to do more stylized shoots, so if any of you have some way amazing ideas, message them to me and maybe we'll shoot it! Happy Tuesday!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Evolution of a Husband and a Wife

So, Matt and I just got back from having a BLAST in Colorado! This was my first time actually skiing somewhere that wasn't on the East coast. Wow. Different. But WAY fun! I think I had this secret fear that I would end up spending the entire trip on the little bunny slope. You know, the one that pulls you up on that little rope thing. Thank the Lord I took to it pretty quickly and actually skied mostly blues (and even a few blacks! WHOO!) Image

It was such an amazing, romantic and adventure-filled trip! However, Matt and I did have one interesting moment that will be placed lovingly in my "mental-scrapbook". It was the third day of the vacation and I was really starting to feel confident. Maybe even a little cocky. I mean, this skiing thing was FUN! We had decided to do one last run before lunch, and Matt suggested doing a black to take us toward our condo. Now, it should be mentioned that Matt has been skiing since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He's good at it. Really good. I didn't even know about ski school, which is where around 20 or so three year-olds are put in skis while an instructor tries to keep them from falling off of the mountain. Me, trusting wife that I am, assumed he would never suggest I try something that he didn't think I could handle.  And surely he had a better handle on what I was ready for than I did.

Right.

He then tells me that this run (that's a black-remember?) has these things called moguls. No big deal he says, "just ski around them." Sounded easy. Nope. First mogul and I'm on my butt. I struggle to my feet (which is difficult given the 85 degree slope) and try again. I pick up a bit more speed this time, which really adds to the awesomeness when  I wipe out. This time I lose both poles and one ski. Matt skis up behind me to help me up and all I can think about is how many more falls it'll take before I reach the bottom and how it's All. His. Fault. Not to mention how embarrassing it is to be experiencing this while these graceful, Olympic skiers are all flying around me. So, like any prideful 3 year old, I snatch my poles from him, get my ski on, grit my teeth and basically have a "temper-tantrum-ski-fit". That's basically a vicious cycle of collecting my skis, struggling up, propelling myself down the hill, then completely wiping out. Each time getting more and more furious, more and more exhausted and letting the four letter words fly at an increasing rate and decibel level. I mean, at one point I actually punched the mountain. Yes. That's right. Punched the mountain.

FINALLY, after probably around 20 minutes (seriously) I got past the moguls and managed to ski down the rest of the mountain. Legs shaking, face burning and giving Matt the all out silent treatment. I mean it was All. His. Fault.

However, on the trek back I started to reflect on my behavior and had that sickening realization. You know the one. The one where you start thinking "I was...wrong." Dang. I HATE being wrong. It wasn't Matt's fault. And not only that, but while he was trying to help me, I had pretty much decided to push him off the mountain.  AND not only that, but I had pitched a fit. I mean a full-blown-two-year-old-worthy-temper-tantrum. So during lunch I did what any other prideful person would do. I slid him little glances. Small smiles. And then he did something that reminded me why I am so in love with this man. He let it go. He didn't make me apologize, or chastise me for being a TOTAL brat. He didn't even try to reenact how I looked punching the mountain. He held my hand and we finished lunch. Thank God I married a man who will be my best friend, when it would be so easy to be the scorekeeper instead. I am constantly learning and evolving into a better person through watching his love for me.

Now for the evolution of my husband! See, Matt decided to grow a beard before our trip so that he could get away without wearing a full face mask. I've never really liked beards, but Matt's was downright sexy~! I kind of miss it...But we had a GREAT time shaving it off!

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I love this man :-)

Jenny & Jorge

What's up blog readers!? Long time, no see! I know, my fault. Forgive me? I'm back and super-crazy-pumped-amped-and-all-around-fired-up about 2012. So much so that I'm ignoring all grammar. Interestingly, this post was originally going to be about procrastination, but I guess I'll do that one later. ImageImageImageImage

So, what has me so pumped? Only that the first few weddings of the year have not only been beautiful and touching, but they have been to people who are unbelievably amazing individually. And then they get married and are even MORE amazing. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching people in love. In the same way I love watching one of those cool leaf tornadoes. I just stand by and watch the miraculous beauty, content to simply be in it's presence.

ImageImageImageImage

Jenny and Jorge are two such individuals. It's funny, I actually knew them both separately before they started dating. Jenny is the pastry chef at Pricci (DELISH Italian place my hubby is currently a Sous Chef at). Her spirit is effervescent. She's the kind of person you simply love to be around. She gives great hugs and is the compliment queen. But not in that fake way, she's genuine about everything she says. I always walk away from a conversation with her feeling lighter and happier.

ImageImageImageImageImage

Jorge is a handsome man of seemingly few words when you first meet him. He started working as a server at Pricci, and that' where he met Jenny. I remember the day Matt came over and mentioned that they had started dating. "Who? REALLY! I would've never seen that one coming", was my impulsive response. How wrong I was. Jorge fits Jenny like an intricate puzzle piece. Being around them, I've seen him both encourage her independence and be the arms she can fall into when life just gets too hard. Likewise, Jenny seems to bring out a confidence in Jorge I'd never witnessed before they were together. She is so consistently pouring her love in him that he truly shines with her.

ImageImageImageImage

Such a beautiful couple with such an amazing story.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I count myself so privileged to have been a part of their tender wedding day and to think of them as my own sweet friends. Congrats you two!  Hope you enjoyed your sneak peek, you can see more HERE!

"Das A Positive!"

 So last week I had the incredible pleasure of shooting Liz and Mark's wedding down in the Bahamas.I honestly can't say enough about the two of them. Mark has an ease and general calm that surrounds him everywhere he goes and Liz clearly pours her entire heart into every relationship she has. It came as no surprise to me how awesome they were together after spending four days with their families. Awesome people breed awesome people. "Das a positive" is Bahamian slang for "That makes a lot of sense". And these two together...well, make a lot of sense.

   I went down with Courtney, one of my best friends ever since high school and we had a BLAST. We have always been the kind of people who come back from anywhere with a story. It could be a simple grocery trip or an international getaway, and somehow whenever anyone asks how our trip was it always starts with "well...you see, what had happened was..." I love it. And this trip didn't disappoint! 
 
   I think the best story happened to us downtown. If you've ever been to any Caribbean island you know there are a TON of diamond import/jewelry places. I mean they're everywhere. It must be a club or something. Anyway, as we were passing one I told Court that I wasn't really sure what kind of engagement ring she'd like when it comes that time for her. SO we should go in and take a look, and with much persuasion (alright, I physically pushed her through the door) I got her in. Now, Court has currently been dating a guy for about a month. It's definitely in the beginning stages, but he seems pretty great. However, this is obviously one of those things you wouldn't really want to get out that early in the relationship. I mean, can you imagine?! 
 
Court's guy: "So how was the trip?"
 
Court: "Awesome! I went shopping for engagement rings! Isn't that hilarious?"
 
Court's guy: ::insert puff of smoke::
 
   My disclaimer to you guys is that obviously I wanted to get that kind of trip out of the way BEFORE she gets to that point with said future husband. I mean, do you have any idea how hard it is to bring that subject up when it's even remotely close to happening? Pretty hard.
 
   All this seems like no big thing right? Wellllll...a little while later I noticed a camera crew. Oh yeah. Like five guys taping us. The director came over to me and asked if it would be ok if he filmed us. Of course it is! Hello! I'm an actress-could be my big break, right? I calmed Court down by telling her it was probably just a little local thing yada-yada-yada. Funny thing. It's actually for the cruise lines. ALL of them. It's going into an ad for all of the ships that cruise and port in Nassau. Um. Awesome. I think Court's forgiven me. Although, now I've blogged about it too...whoops. 
 

Newborn Baby Esther

After doing Jessica and Kyle's maternity pictures (check out the rest of the slideshow here http://meaganophotography.com/#/esther-slideshow/), it was a PLEASURE to get the opportunity to do newborn pictures of baby Esther. She is a stunning baby with a full head of hair! When I got there, I had the pleasure of meeting Jess's parents. Kyle and Jess were more than willing to oblige my every creative whim and, as always, it's just nice working with friends.

Matt and I have officially been married for one year and while we're waiting on the kids part (5-7 years sounds great to me!) We are really excited about being future parents. Based on how Matt acts around our adorable niece Blair (*cough* wrapped around her little finger *cough*) I'm pretty sure I'll end up being the disciplinarian.

Shoot, even how he acts around our dog, Max! Here is some typical dialogue from the O'Neal household: Me: Alright, Max. Time for bed. Crate time! Matt: Oh, he's alright! Let's just let him cuddle with us for a few more minutes. Fast-forward to around 2:33am, Max has all 69lbs of himself sprawled out on his back, mid-bed, legs splayed. Meanwhile, my 6'2'' hubby has contorted his body in an interesting shape so as not to disturb said dog, leaving his beautiful wife to lay precariously over the edge of the bed. Good thing they're both cute!

Sweet Family

I had the immense pleasure of photographing the Alexander family last week. Lakeyshia Alexander had just given birth to her sweet new baby, Khalip on August 8, 2011.He weighed 8 lbs 7oz and was 21 inches long. He also has a big brother named Bryce. Bryce was so helpful and sweet the entire time we shot.
And it looks like he is already the best older brother EVER!
As beautiful as this family is, it isn't complete without dad, who's been overseas fighting for our country. When I arrived last week to shoot these pictures, Lakeyshia told me that he would be returning home on September 10 to rejoin his family and meet his new son. I was so elated to hear this for them! There is so much love in this family for one another, and I am ecstatic to get the chance to get a family portrait for them once he gets back!

 

And as sweet and precious as brotherly love is, it is possibly even more precious to see a mother's love for her boys. 
It was such a pleasure meeting this family! And you can check out their entire slideshow here.

Sweet love

      So on my escapade to Destin, I had the pleasure of shooting Evelyn and Mike's vow renewal. I have to say, there is something really beautiful about seeing two people professing their love for one another after being together for years. The ceremony was close family only and was relaxed and honest in nature. There was no priest to perform, simply Evelyn and Mike standing in front of people they love announcing to them the commitment they made to each other and their continued love and devotion toward one another. They chose each other then, and they choose each other now. Beautiful.
 
When I took this shot, I remember wondering how many times they've laced their fingers together.
They truly light up when they're around each other. You can tell by how he looks at her, he is still in love with the woman he married years ago.
 
You can view their entire slideshow here!

Love your guts out!

I had a shoot on Friday with Lisa and Rob Fortner that I thought turned out AWESOME! I love this family and how they interact. Not to mention, they're pretty :-) One of the cute quirks about Rob and Lisa is that when they were dating, they used to say "love your guts out" to show affection. I think that's awesome, and it's stuck with me. Now, they have two beautiful kids and a family solidly grounded on love with a side of goofball. It was a blast to hang out with them at the park. Enjoy the shots-you can view the entire slideshow here Now, everyone, go love someone's guts out! :-)

 

Wow...what an incredible idea!

So I was chilling out on Stumbleupon.com (the arch-nemesis of productive time-but so awesome!) and I happened upon this idea that a few individuals had. Apparently, someone started this movement where filmmakers from every country in the world were going to film something on 10-10-2010. What an incredible concept! Kyle Ruddick is currently going through 3,000 hours of film to edit it all together. They do need help with donations, so if you're moved by the trailer (and how could you NOT be) here's the link to give http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/onedayonearth/one-day-on-earth-filmed-in-every-nation-in-one-day?ref=live They are also already planning to do an 11-11-2011 as well. What an amazing concept! To see the world laid out on one specific day and observe all the different things occurring in that time frame. Check out the trailer! It gave me crazy chills! 

Things I love...a LOT!

I love finding funky scarves in thrift stores, an endless evening with a nice bottle of wine and inspiring individuals, the smell of Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen, watching for the first signs that Christmas is approaching, learning something new, freshly painted toes, dancing my heart out, performing on stage or on camera, singing Broadway show-tunes, wrapping presents creatively, getting kisses from my puppy, Max, laughing about auto-corrects with my husband, ferrer rocher chocolates, a great cup of coffee, going to indie movies by myself, an early morning run (sometimes), puzzles!, meeting couples who are totally in love and getting to take pictures of them, playing super competitive card games, pushing the elevator button, snuggling, loooonng baths with a great book, a great book, my relationship with Jesus, seeing live theatre, going to fine dining restaurants and pretending to be a "foodie", laughing til I cry over something most would find silly, feeling the sun between my toes, spending time with my amazing, albeit crazy family, and lots LOTS more! If you wanna know, just ask! :-)

Jessica + Kyle

So this past weekend, I had the ultimate privilege shooting Jessica and Kyle Beardsley. They are so precious to me! They are expecting their first little one and I can't wait for he (or she) to arrive! These two are going to make the most spectacular parents! Here are some of my faves from the shoot and at the bottom, you can view their complete slideshow. Enjoy!

The entire slideshow: http://meaganophotography.com/#/jessica-kyle-home/