Behind the Scenes: Creating amazing sunset images

Sean and Michelle had a beautiful wedding at Doubletree in Gilbert. They were referred to me by Mark Sanchez of Professional Mobile Entertainment (one of my fave DJs to work with.) We had an amazing sunset and were having such a great time in the field next to the hotel. I didn’t realize the my assistant, Michael, had started shooting some Iphone video but I’m so glad he did so I could create this!

The Cost of Saving Money: Hiring “The Friend” vs. “The Professional”

A while back I photographed a wedding for an absolutely wonderful couple.  They originally mentioned having a band but decided late to have a friend be their DJ.  When I heard this I was very concerned because I’ve seen the results so many times when well-intentioned clients cut corners to save money.  Granted, weddings aren’t cheap and I’m absolutely grateful that photography was where they put their priorities in the budget.
I won’t be using their names because I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed about their big day and I love, love, love this couple!   Yet, as a professional who makes a living as a full-time photographer, I feel I have to tell this story and hope that other couples can avoid disaster at their reception.  Basically, I think it is a valuable lesson to share.  After all, choosing the right vendors is crucial to a smooth and successful wedding day; while the cut-rate vendor has a tempting price tag there are often huge risks associated with cutting corners.Here is how the evening played out:
First, the DJ didn’t seem to know how to operate the media player on his laptop.  There was a lot of song starting/stopping and he never seemed to have the appropriate song ready.  The couple was on the dance floor for their first dance for more than a minute, waiting and waiting and then he started the wrong song and had to stop it.  When the correct song finally played and ended, it started over because he had “repeat” selected and wasn’t ready.  Ok, so I captured a few more romantic first-dance (now 2nd dance) images.   Then, 15 seconds into the repeat, he abruptly stopped the song. Throughout the evening there were repeated and long moments of silence interrupted by “BZZZZZZTTTTT” “PSSSSHHHHHHHHTTTTTT” “POP” and, my personal favorite: “FWWOOOOOOOOOOOM.”  The frequent feedback and “bad cord crackling” became part of the “ambience” of the reception and we just had to roll with it.In addition to the music mess, there was nobody to keep things on schedule for the main events.  For example, the cake cutting happened 90 minutes late.  Everything seemed to happen at random and there was no schedule.  Also, because there was no organization, the hotel staff didn’t have champagne poured for the toasts either.  In most weddings I’ve photographed, either the coordinator manages the timeline or the DJ.  In this case we had neither.

Just when my assistant and I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the DJ’s laptop froze, mid-song, with a loud “BAAAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNNNNT.”  About a third of the guests had already left at this point.  Now we have no music at all.

Ever watch The Office?  When Jim looks at the camera with that “I can’t believe this” look….that was my assistant and I all night.  I felt really bad for the couple but, to their credit, they had great attitudes and rolled with it.

At this point I had to politely intervene: We had my Macbook there because we often will create a same-day slideshow for later in the reception and I had a dance mix in iTunes.   We offered to have my assistant, Michael, take care of the music while I continued photographing and we were able to get people back on the dance floor. Later we were able to finish the evening with the slideshow re-cap of the day.  It was stressful but, thankfully, it worked out and we stayed about 3 hours past the time we were scheduled to wrap up the photography.

Hiring their friend nearly ruined the reception…and I mean he killed it.  His intentions were good, and it wasn’t ruined due to a bad attitude or any carelessness.  He just simply didn’t know what to do or know how to anticipate important moments, much less overcome obstacles on the fly.

While I hated to see this happen to my clients and I’m relieved we were able to help, I couldn’t help but think “this is what we risk when we cut corners.”  This lesson applies to just about every aspect of the wedding industry.  What if they had chosen to go with “a friend who is a photographer?”  Unfortunately all this new technology has created the impression that it is the equipment doing the job, not the person.  Anyone with a laptop and speakers can call themselves a “professional DJ” just like anyone with a camera can claim to be a “professional photographer.”  Does that mean they really are?  When your wedding day comes, it is too late to find out that a bargain-priced vendor was cheap for a reason.

Here are a few of my favorite DJs and they all do an amazing job:
All American DJ, Chad Trapeur

A New Look To Ceremonies

Have you always wanted to give each one of your guests a front row seat to your ceremony?

You have spent the time, money and effort to make your day be perfect. Why not allow it to look unique too! This spiral ceremony set-up is something fresh to the wedding day trends. Although it isn’t for everyone, there are a lot of cool touches to add to your ceremony with this arrangement!  Personally, I like the idea of capturing 360-degree views of your wedding.

This is The Raven at Verrado.  It is a stunning venue and I’ve had the pleasure of photographing several weddings there.  For more info about The Raven contact Ann Mattis at 623-388-3002 or check out