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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview with my daughter's Wedding Photographer, Karen Watson

I am a freelance photographer based in Sydney, Australia. I shoot predominantly for the entertainment industry (music/film - album covers, publicity stills, live concerts, music video stills) and publishing (cookbooks etc) but have attracted private clients for portraiture and weddings. My style is relaxed and unobtrusive – capturing candid moments. Contact details: karen_watson@bigpond.com. My new website will be launched in Oct!

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a bride about choosing a photographer?

I think above all else you should choose someone with whom you feel a connection to - and that is also the basis upon which I also choose to shoot a wedding or not. No matter how technically great a photographer is, if they don't connect with you they will never truly capture the spirit of your day. Ask to see samples of their work and even if you can speak to some of their previous clients for recommendations. It's the best indicator.

How far ahead of the wedding date should you be contacted?

Don't leave it till the last minute! Most photographers are booked well in advance (in some cases up to a year in advance) - personally I like to meet the clients at least 3 months before the wedding so we can discuss concepts, visit some proposed locations for the wedding portraits and so I can do a dry run of the day (ie checking routes and timing how long it takes to get from brides house, to ceremony to reception venues etc). I also like to get a feel for the ceremony and reception venues in advance and meet the celebrant etc so I have a good idea before the wedding of lighting, positions etc rather than trying to do that on the day. It's also important for a photographer to check the etiquette for the ceremony - different religions and venues have different expectations and I think it's important for the photographer to respect that while shooting a wedding.

How can a bride on a budget get the best deal for the money?

Do your research. Get quotes from at least 2 photographers and get as much detail as to their pricing as possible. Most photographers offer packages - the idea here is to make it simple for the bride but that doesn't necessarily make it cheaper. Get quotes for individual items such as photography only and digital negatives only. If you are on a tight budget then you can save ALOT of money by being sensible and realistic about your choices. It's easy to get caught up in the "once in a lifetime" excitement of your wedding and feel you have take the "more bang for the buck" approach but that's where you can waste money. The reality is that most people will only ever "live with" about 50 images of their wedding day in the years afterwards so why pay for 400+ images if you will never look at them ever again? This is probably the biggest trap.

Areas where you can save money on photography if you’re on a tight budget:

1. Book your photographer to shoot the ceremony and wedding portraits only. The most important shots on the day are the ceremony and wedding portraits so these are the ones you REALLY want the professionals to capture. - combined, this will be no more than 2 hours and will save you a lot of money vs booking them for an entire day. You will find that most guests these days will have their digital cameras so there will be plenty of candid shots of the "party" taken by your friends and family...and for FAR LESS COST than getting a pro to take the happy snaps at the reception!
2. ONLY Pay for photography and all the digital negatives and consider getting the prints done yourself at a later date. Digital technology allows a bride to get high quality images printed in whatever format you want for a fraction of the cost. That way you can choose only the pics you want to be printed when you can better afford it.
3. Consider building your own wedding album at a fraction of the cost - these days you can source quality leather bound wedding albums (or something unique) with mount boards that will give you the same results as the professionals for up to 1/3 the price.
4. Pay for what you know you will use rather than volume for the sake of it. Remember that at the end of the day, most wedding albums and pictures languish in boxes or on bookshelves for years, unopened, so why spend a fortune on getting "unlimited photos on the day" when in reality there are probably only going to be no more than 50 or so that you will always look back on?
5. Book only one photographer to shoot the day rather than opting for two photographers or even a videographer as this will generally cost extra. Get a friend to video the wedding to save you money too.
6. Book a photographer who is local to the region where you are getting married. Generally you will be expected to pay extra charges if you expect your photographer to travel overseas, interstate or over an hour from their office to shoot your wedding.
5. A good photographer should be open to discussing various options with you to suit your budget so be open about your situation so that you get the best value!
How much should a bride expect to spend?
You can expect to spend anywhere from AUD $1000.00 up to $6000.00 + (which could include 2 photographers for 10 hours, professional lighting set ups, travel to locations, albums, parent packs, reprints, proofs, framed print and more). Don't forget that if you expect your photographer to travel a considerable distance to your venue then you may incur additional travel and/or accommodation costs for them, so go for someone local if money is an issue.

What are some of your favorite ways and times to photograph the wedding party? Before? During? After? Do you prefer candid to posed shots?

My shooting style is candid though I will take some posed shots. I personally like to shoot the wedding party during the ceremony and on location immediately after the ceremony - particularly as they interact with one another and guests. Best time of the day is definitely late afternoon, approaching "magic hour" when the light is at it's best for shooting portraits.

What are the most popular or standard wedding photos that you do? Are there various packages?

The most popular locations are the beach and the bush which I guess reflects our culture here in Australia. The most popular shots I have taken are ones where the bride and groom are having a quiet moment together as they walk away from camera and also some candid moments with their bridal party as they all laugh and chat amongst themselves. I generally take along champagne, towels and water (to wash sandy feet!) which I find generally gets the wedding party relaxed and carefree - this just creates a mood where everyone is comfortable and enjoying the moment and I find that makes for better candid photos. I am finding that these days, couples don't want formal wedding shots but pics that reflect their personalities. I do offer packages but my approach is generally to sit down with a couple and figure out what their needs and expectations are and then to present them with various tailored packages to suit their needs and budget.

Do you have a ‘most memorable’ wedding or wedding incident to share? What’s the most unusual, beautiful, or interesting place or photos you’ve ever done?

I have had a few incidents while shooting weddings - one of the most memorable was for a secluded outdoor beach wedding. The weather had been fine and hot for the weeks leading up to the wedding and on the day there was a torrential downpour and the temperature dropped to 12 degrees Celsius! The wedding limo crashed on its way to collect the bride from the hotel so the makeup artist and I were standing in the street in the rain, flagging down cars to help us try to get this bride to the ceremony. By the time we got there, the bride was wet, the guests were wet, I was wet and we were all squeezed into this tiny beachside cafe for the ceremony but for all the disasters, it was an amazing and joyous wedding!

The most unusual and interesting place for a wedding was in Melbourne at an artist’s colony called "Montsalvat". (See picture) Set in among the rural landscape, the architecture was amazing - a gothic looking church over-run with vines, a medieval inspired dining hall with stained glass windows and candelabras and the artists cottages themselves with Juliet balconies, cobbled courtyards and olive trees - it looked like Tuscany. One of my favorite wedding photos comes from this venue: a shot of the bride and groom walking down a path next to the gothic church. It was an amazing venue.

Karen Watson

Look out for the rest of her wonderfully in-depth interview on Sept 15!


Anonymous Hannah said...

Hey Karen, thank you for blogging and thanks Melissa for arranging it. They are gorgeous shots (brave bride & groom getting close to 'backward squitz' geese :) Those guys can hit a bullseye from across the room!

I've just sent your blog advice to a friend who's trying to pull together a low-budget wedding on zero notice because her mother is in the final weeks of a terminal illness and she's determined to have her there (as you would be).

So that will really help her.
Thank you.

I look forward to the next installment and to your site launch in October.

September 9, 2008 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Hannah

Yes those geese were a lot of fun! Thanks for your lovely comments and I look forward to sharing my site with you once it's launched!

I am sorry to hear about your friend so I hope some of the advice is useful to her in planning her wedding.

Without knowing the details of the illness I would also suggest to her also that she should select a photographer whom she believes will be sensitive to the circumstances when photographing the wedding.

I have shot a wedding where the mother of the bride was also terminally ill and on the day was wheelchair bound and with oxygen. it's important to capture them in a positive, enlightening way. Think about accessible locations if she is wheelchair bound or has limited movement so she can feel included and isn't made to feel like she's a burden.

If she is mobile I would still ensure there is a chair available for her during the photos in case she becomes tired.

Also the photographer should consider how shots are framed so attention is drawn to her joy and not to her illness. It will mean so much to her and also her daughter to have those memories. Make sense?
All the best

September 9, 2008 at 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Totally makes sense and is brilliant, thank you.

September 9, 2008 at 2:03 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Hi Karen,

LOL It is so true about all the madness of the day and the fussing and the choosing which photos out of so many and then the album sits on the shelf unopened for years. You know, reading your blog made me go and get mine down and have a look at it. Can't remember the last time I did and we've been married for 25 years. I hardly recognise the girl in the photos *g*

September 9, 2008 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

Applause for being a sensitive photographer. We did not have a good experience but our son and daughterinlaw did, and it made all the difference.

Peace, Julie

September 9, 2008 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Nikki said...

Karen, that's a very glamerous job you have there... photography, publishing, music industry, beautiful people... care to be a heroine in a romance novel ;)


You must have faced the same 'leap of faith' moment (setting up your business) as many writers do when they commit themselves to being a success in print. Sounds like your leap is paying off, bigtime. Congrats.


September 9, 2008 at 2:50 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Alison

I am glad to hear you peeped at your wedding pictures again...even if you had trouble recognising the bride :-) Hope your album brought back some special memories.

September 9, 2008 at 2:58 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Nikki

Well I'm a heroine in my own romance novel at least ... now just need the hero to come riding into the next chapter LOL.

You are spot on about the "leap of faith" - I still have my "what am I thinking" moments. But I am truly thankful to have this opportunity to do something I love. And with that I have been fortunate that success has found me! May it continue - it has totally changed my life.


September 9, 2008 at 3:02 AM  
Blogger Eleni Konstantine said...

Gorgeous pictures Karen. Can't wait until you launch your website. Good tips for picking a photographer on a budget. I have been a bridesmaid many times and I always like to get one of the photos from the photographer. In one of the first weddings I was in as an adult, I went mad ordering photos and I was just in the wedding party!! I think they saw me come from a mile off *g*.

And very good advice about finding a sensitive photographer for Hannah's friend, who would understand and try and get positive photos.

Glad that you are following your dreams. May it definitely continue.

September 9, 2008 at 3:17 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Eleni

Thanks so much for your comments and good wishes! I laughed when I read about you buying all those pics - yes it's certainly easy to get carried away! But I am sure you chose some special ones for yourself and that's the most important.


September 9, 2008 at 3:38 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Karen,

What great advice. I'm planning to one day marry my long-term partner (13 years so far!) and I'll probably do it at home. But two things I decided I can't skimp on are the flowers and the photographer. I think everything else can be handled by family.

Your advice is very sensible and practical, so thanks!

Love the shot of the Gothic church, so gorgeous.

September 9, 2008 at 4:39 AM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Hi Rachel

Getting your family and friends involved in helping to organise your wedding is a great idea. I find it makes the event more intimate in many ways - not too mention can save you some money!

If you do decide to get married at your home it is a good idea to get your photographer to visit in advance so you can show them things around the house that are special to you. This could be a favourite room, the garden, favourite piece of furniture - anything that will make a unique and interesting feature in your photos or a great backdrop.

Also don't forget your favourite pets as they can make uniquely individual photos! I photographed a home wedding a few years ago and the couple's favourite dog was very old and practically immobile. They had settled the dog on the front lawn away from the crowds and after the ceremony I noticed the bride quietly slipped outside to check on the dog. Without her noticing I shot the most beautiful photo of the bride in her dress talking to her dog in a quiet, very personal moment. It was the couples favourite shot from the day.

Anyway something to think about! Good luck


September 9, 2008 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Oh, what a fabulous photo that would have been! Yes, my dogs would definitely be part of the day, so I'd want them in the photos.

Great ideas!

September 9, 2008 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

What absolutely lovely photographs! Those are truly memorable.

I had a friend photograph our wedding a brazillion years ago and so my "memories" are little more than enlarged snapshots. If I knew then what I know now.....

You all will see one of those photographs when I do my post on Regency Weddings!


September 9, 2008 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

We weren't lucky enough to have professional pictures taken at our wedding. I wish we had. Your pictures are lovely, I especially like the one with the gothic Church and the bride and groom.

September 9, 2008 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Melissa James said...

We did have professional pictures taken but I can honestly say they were nowhere near as great as my daughter's that Karen took. You'll see some later in the month when I blog about their wedding.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Karen, and everyone! And yes, looking forward to that blog on Regency Weddings, Diane!


September 9, 2008 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Karen Watson said...

Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments. I really look forward to chatting to you all again on the 15th!

If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to contact me.


September 9, 2008 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Margaret said...

Hi Karen. Gorgeous photos, and thanks so much to you and Melissa for this great info. I've sent the blog address to my future daughter-in-law, the organised one of the pair planning their wedding for next year, and I'm sure she'll love reading it all. What a great site!
Margaret Riseley

September 9, 2008 at 7:34 PM  

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