Storybook Wedding Photographer M. Couturier

Here We Go!

Here We Go!


Wedding Movies by AMAX Film and Video

I just saw an incredible video teaser for a Wedding Movie by AMAX Film and Video that I had to share.





See AMAX Film and Video about having them make an HD Wedding Movie of your special day.


AMAX logo

The Art of Photographic Serendipity

Recently, I have had two different fledgling photographers ask me with great concern why they seemed to be missing a lot of great shots at weddings.  I suspected I already knew the answer, but after some questioning it was clear that it all boiled down to a lack of experience with weddings themselves.  Each had done less than ten weddings total, one only four.  (I have seen many “wedding” photographers come and quickly go over the years.  It’s not as easy as they all seem to think.)

I explained that they did not yet fully understand the wedding itself, not just the traditional aspects of ritual and formality, but those things that one can only discern and anticipate by having been around a LOT of weddings, not to mention the many different faiths, denominations, customs, indoors, outdoors, rainy, hot, dark, etc.  This experience gives you an intuition.  A knowing.  I often know what is about to happen moments before even the participants themselves know.  Having done well over 1,000 weddings in the past 15 years has heightened my sense of anticipation.  Having a heightened sense of anticipation allows one to be ready in advance and able to capture that fleeting moment that will escape those who only realize 3 seconds after it is over what has just happened.  Anticipation allows preparation.  I never have to re-stage anything because I capture it when it actually happens.  It just looks more natural that way.  ;)

Serendipity.  Making fortunate discoveries by accident.  All very nice, but as a wedding photographer you will come away with very few great images if you are just waiting for ‘accidents’ to happen.  I’m not talking about forced or phony moments, but about being prepared.  A quote from a movie that I have always remembered – “chance favors the prepared mind”.  You will be much more apt to be able to capture those serendipitous moments if you understand weddings and what is going on around you.  You will then be able to anticipate, some times minutes ahead, but usually seconds, what is about to happen so that you are in the right position, have the right lens on the camera, the right shutter speed, the right aperture. Sadly, for those in a rush to get to the top of their field yesterday, that only comes from experience.

Service and Quality Orientation

Our two main hallmarks are 1. Service and 2. Quality

We strive to give our clients top notch service.  Service that in these times is almost unexpected.  People’s expectations on service has dwindled to the point where they expect some things to go wrong and are in outright shock if nothing at all goes wrong.  We endeavor to go beyond that and actually delight our customers in how good service can actually be.

You, the customer, are our number one priority.  We do not put you one the back burner, so to speak.  So many businesses have gotten away from caring about service any longer and people are just numbers to them.  You are not a burden to us, but the reason that we exist.  It is our desire to please you and to exceed your expectations.  What we do is not all about money, but we also seek your appreciation and gratitude and love to see the look on your face when we’ve done a wonderful job for you, above and beyond what you expected.

We see quality no differently and strive to provide the best quality in terms of both what we do and the products that we provide.  We have trained and studied the art of our field to be extremely proficient on the technical aspect, so much so that we are in demand as consultants to others in our field.  And we have sought out the best products, methods and materials for what we offer in the way of tangible products to provide our clients with lasting heirlooms of their wedding memories.

It is our hope and desire to provide you with the best service and quality possible in all that we do.

Perks, Gratitude and Appreciation

We often throw in different perks to many of our brides when they first meet with us, or even after the wedding is over.  These are not things that are listed anywhere on my website, but just some extras that we may feel like giving to them when we meet in person and they select us as their photographers, or after we’ve worked with them on their wedding.

We believe in giving our customers more than they ask for, always trying to surprise them and exceed their expectations of what they will be receiving from us.

For example, last week we threw in an extra Parents album to a couple who was in the military.  We have a tremendous respect for the men and woman who serve and defend our country and always like to show our gratitude to them.

These perks do not always come in the way of free albums, but we try to do or give something special to our brides, especially when we feel that we’ve made a great connection and we’ve had a wonderful experience working with them on their weddings.

Photographing weddings is not all about money, we appreciate it when what we do is appreciated by our brides and their families.

Booking at the Last Minute

It seems as if I and many of my photographer friends have recently received a pronounced increase in last minute inquiries of availability.  The past 3 weeks or so we have had an average of five people per week calling to see if we were available to photograph their wedding that would take place sometime in the next 7-30 days.  Over the years we’d all get two or three calls like this per year, but 5 or more in one week is very odd.

Unfortunately we’ve had to disappoint all of these callers.  For many years our average booking was made between 1-1/2 to 2 years out from the wedding date.  In the past two years it has slipped down to about 9 months on average, with some even at 6 months, but still quite a few at the 1.5-2 year mark.  It is very unlikely that we (or our friends) are going to be available within 30 days of the wedding.  It is possible, but quite rare.

I’m just curious what has caused this rash of last minute calls.  Did Oprah do a show on weddings recently and suggest doing this?  Or a nationally distributed bridal magazine?  Maybe it’s an internet dare or hoax, I don’t know.

Some advise to avoid being disappointed though…

If you have your eye on a photography studio that you like and are in hopes of them photographing your wedding, I would contact them as soon as you can to see if they are available for your date.  That availability can last as long as it takes for them to get the next phone call.  Only a serious commitment (contract and retainer in hand) is going to lock in that date with your name on it.  Business is business.  We all get tons of people calling us every week asking us to pencil them in only to never hear from them again, so the standard procedure for photography studios is to not hold dates without written commitments, first-come-first-served, etc.  Promises don’t help make the payroll or light bill.

I’m not sure who started this fad of calling at the last minute or what the benefit is supposed to be, but if you want to be sure of who you are getting, I wouldn’t risk rolling the dice on something as important as your wedding photos.

Best Restaurant in the U.S.

My favorite restaurant in the United States:

Les Nomades – Chicago, IL

222 E. Ontario

Mary Beth Liccioni – owner

Click HERE for online reservations.

Photo Trek to Ireland

We have only six spaces left for our photo trek to Ireland.  This is going to be an awesome trip that you do not want to miss.  We will be seeing many sights in and around Dublin during our 7 days there.

The $2295 cost includes R/T airfare, 6 nights in a 4-star hotel, all of the transfers, entrance fees, breakfast each day, and more.

We are also giving away a NEW Canon 40D to the photographer of the best photo during the trip!

When the Price is Right…but everything else isn’t!

I received a call from a MoB yesterday.  She was concerned about the person that she had hired to photograph her daughter's wedding and had some questions.  Apparently she had hired a photographer on the cheap and was now having issues after the wedding.  This is not the first such phone call that I've had about this and it seems to be increasing in frequency lately.

She wanted to know why it was taking so long to receive the photos from her photographer and what the 'standard' delivery time was.  I explained to her that there really is no standard, it's different for each photographer depending on their methods of post-production and work flow.  It could be any number of reasons, there may be many images to cull through to narrow it down to the very best, some photographers then like to enhance every photograph while others show un-retouched images.  Some may have their proofs produced by a professional lab and some may take them to the corner drugstore.  The combination of reasons are infinite.  She said that her fear was that something had happened to the photos or that they didn't turn out.  I suggested that she contact the person who took the photos and take it up with them.

She also stated that they had received the photos taken for the engagement session a few weeks before the wedding and were not too happy with those, but decided to go ahead with the photographer for the wedding because "the price was right".  What can I say?  Or rather what can I say that will get people to actually think about this before leaping into a good price and the rest be damned?  All of my photographer friends have had similar conversations with distraught brides and grooms and their parents, it is not a unique thing these days.  Unfortunately, in those extreme situations where something did go wrong, not much can be done after the fact.

The only advice that I can offer is that experience and consistency are the two most vital things to consider before hiring a photographer.  Photography is a visual product, you should do most of your research about that when looking at photographers and make price the last consideration.  An art collector does not fall in love with a certain Picasso painting and instead buy another Picasso painting that he doesn't care for just because it's cheaper.  I do not mean to just pay whatever anyone asks right off the bat, or that the highest price is always the best, but look at a few photographers and narrow it down by style and quality of work first, then, if you must, begin narrowing within those final selections based on price.  My photographer friends and I get tons of emails each week that state simply, "send prices".  Those people are not seriously interested in what type of photos they will end up with.

The cheapest price is not always the best either, especially in photography.  Red flags work both ways.  Unfortunately, many people's realization of what professional photography actually may cost has been clouded what with the cost of a photo print being 26¢ at Wal-Mart and the availability of $500 digital cameras.  These cheap consumer prices give the false perception that excellent quality wedding photography is cheap as well, but that's a misnomer that I could write an entirely separate article on.

Sadly, most people do not highly value photography any longer in this age of everyone and their cousin has a digital camera, even built into their cell phones.  Unfortunately, many people these days consider themselves to be photographers and today's perception is that anyone can take a good photo.  While many people are able to get a handful of really good photos out of hundreds or even thousands taken, only an experienced professional will be able to consistently create quality images throughout the day and night, and under pressures and time constraints that you have no idea even exist unless you have photographed a wedding before.

A friend told me at lunch today about a conversation he had with a lady who said that she didn't want to "pay too much".  He asked her what she meant and she didn't really know, she just wanted a good deal.  There is also the situation of paying not enough, such as the upset lady who had called me.

There is much more that I could say about this subject, and many stories that you just would not believe, but let me simply leave you with this thought -

It is better to have paid a little more than you would have liked, than to have paid a little less than you wish you had.

Repeat that to yourself several times and I think you will change the way you look at searching for a photographer to capture your one-chance-to-get-it-right, once in a lifetime wedding.

Last Wedding Shot on Film!

Shot Last Wedding on Film!

I shot my last wedding on film – 8 years ago today! (12/16/2000)

I had always been a computer person (I own 18 Macs) and could always see the eventual convergence of photography and computers and ‘digital’, but it could not come fast enough for me.

I had been fooling around with digital since 1994 with personal stuff, but it wasn’t quite good enough to use for paying customers until the end of 2000. My brother was working at Olympus (later to move to Canon) and had been sending me cameras to try out (point & shoots). They were getting to the stage where I would take one on trips and use it for travel photos, but not yet for paying gigs.

Up until then I had been shooting weddings on 6.45 and 35mm. I carried two Fuji 6×45 medium format cameras (auto focus rangefinders), two Canon EOS-3 35mm cameras and a Canon AE-1 Program. (I still have the Fuji cameras and the AE-1). I would shoot 12-16 rolls of 220, 10-15 rolls (36exp) of 35mm. My shooting style has not changed much since then, but the amount of work in post has dramatically increased, however having complete control was the goal.

My brother hooked me up with an Olympus E-10 camera in late 2000. The quality was excellent, although it was a bit slow, but I saw the light that digital would soon be king. I shot a few engagement sessions and some bridals digitally, and a few test shots at weddings through the end of 2000, but not an entire wedding. That would come in January 2001. I knew that I was over using film at that point.

Cigars at Weddings

It seems that cigars, aka stogies, are pretty popular at weddings, even among the brides!
Cigar Bride

Cigar Bride

Stogey Man

Stogey Man





Gallery Wrapped Canvas

I just had these new gallery wrapped canvas prints done and I am blown away by them.  They look awesome!

One is a 20×30 and the other two are split panel multi-canvas.

20x30 Gallery Wrapped Canvas
Split Panel

Split Panel Canvas

Split Panel

Split Panel Canvas

Storybook Wedding Photographer M. Couturier