Information :: What Makes an Image Important

Narrowing down the options when choosing a wedding photographer is typically multifaceted. You want to love the photographer's work. You want a personality that "gets" you as individuals and as a couple (put simply, you want someone relatable!). You need to be able to afford them. With this is mind, some of the most important reasons for why we blog regularly (fyi: we blog once a week and this is our 128th post) are:

  • to tangibly demonstrate how passionate we are about our role as wedding photographers

  • to show who we are and what this means to you as our client

  • to share tips and ideas

Essentially, the kind of information that we are hoping will be important during your decision-making process. Today, we are sharing a little more about us & some food for thought for our clients. A recent discussion about some of our most memorable & personal images to date was the catalyst.

We work really hard on perfecting our craft. We focus a lot of attention on people skills, composition, chasing the most ideal light, depth of field... have we lost you yet? ;) We decided to strip all that back during our discussions and we challenged each other to think of our personal favourite images (rule time: we could only pick a maximum of 2 images). Of course, we both gravitated to ones that have all three of us in them. However, we currently do not share images of our daughter, Chloe, online. So we started again. Naturally, our minds drifted to favourite shots of the two of us - mostly taken during travels. With that in mind (and as the exercise was beginning to feel too easy!), we narrowed the criteria down even further: Pete had to choose two images that featured only him and I had to choose two that only featured me.

{Try this for yourself! You might surprise yourself with what you end up choosing. Actually, why don’t you stop reading now and pick out your two all-time favourites. We’ll come back to yours in a moment.}

In the end, Pete settled on one image. He felt that this one summed up everything for him:

I chose two as they are from a similar time period (same year) but during very different experiences and I find the polarity striking:

Interestingly, all three are “okay” images (definitely not terrible). However, are they perfectly composed? Was the lighting nailed? Honestly, does it even matter? All three tell a story that is important to the subject. Pete chose his representative image for a range of reasons. Skydiving was a dream come true. He was proud of himself for taking the risk. Pete experienced freedom that comes with… well, jumping out of a plane with all risks carefully calculated. I chose my graduation image as I was (and am) so proud of this achievement. It is something that was the result of hard work & dedication. I chose the one from my first time experiencing snow. This moment features in one of the top 10 days of my life to date. Experiencing snowfall was (in my case, anyway) a magical moment. I don’t usually take selfies but this was a moment I wanted to freeze forever - literally.

When you selected your two images, did you think anything along these lines, “I really like x one but I can’t possibly keep it! If I took it again, I would make sure I was a little more off-centre. If it followed the rule of thirds, I think I would be more inclined to keep it”… “Hmmm, this is a good one but the shadows on my face are too pronounced. I think I will scrap it. Shame really as it always makes me feel happy when I look at it!”… “Oooops - the highlights are blown! Forget it! …

Correct me if I am wrong but I am guessing that you chose based on how looking at those images makes you feel?

Capturing an image in such a way that the subjects feel something for the rest of time is at the heart and soul of wedding photography.

In conclusion, we wanted to take this opportunity to re-frame the importance of capturing the moments that are important to you. Yes, we will strive for perfect composition, image processing, lighting, timing, & storytelling. However, we will not compromise storytelling & capturing raw emotion at the expense of perfection. We want the resulting images to tell your story; not be representative of our “brand” per se. We want you to love your wedding photography for a lifetime.

Brisbane :: Roma Street Parklands

This weekend, I (Em) am planning to enjoy some of the gardens that feature as part of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers. It should be a lovely & relaxed weekend that I will be able to share with some friends. I will be sure to take the camera along, too, and no doubt eventually share here. In the meantime, here are the links to last year’s posts:

Toowoomba :: Steam Train & Carnival of Flowers (1/2)

Toowoomba :: Steam Train & Carnival of Flowers (2/2)

Closer to home, we recently went to the Roma Street Parklands; as can be seen below, the gardens are looking spectacular and are full of pretty pops of colour. Wandering through the gardens is a pretty alright way to spend a spring afternoon. :)

Brisbane :: Botanical Gardens

We love our beautiful hometown of Brisbane. Previously, we collated a list of our favorite things to do and see and eat in Brisbane. Every spring, Brisbane Arcade hosts a flower show featuring spring fashion collections and a stunning bloom display installed throughout the Arcade grown and harvested by Redlands Fresh Flowers, one of Brisbane’s last remaining flower farms in the Redlands Shire. This year, the flower display:

  • was installed over 3 nights

  • required an estimated 150 hours of manpower

  • covered 850m2

  • featured more than 1340 stems

  • 1894 bunches of flowers

  • 36 bags of moss - and more!

We planned to pop into the Arcade and share some of the impressive work here BUT we were one day too late. :(

While at the Arcade, it was impossible to resist a spot of window shopping at Wendy Louise & Belle Folie (see below). We actually have a shoot featuring Wendy Louise accessories due for release next month. Looking forward to sharing!

It is a reasonably straightforward walk from the Arcade to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. The staff looking after the gardens always do a wonderful job of caretaking. The space is really welcoming and well-maintained. The most recent garden layout, however, would have to be my (Emily’s) most favourite to date, though. We are so grateful for such lovely, clean gardens in the heart of our city.

Story Bridge, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Elephant in the Room :: Pinterest

tl;dr: The best outcome is borne out of compromise.

Expectation vs Reality

Ah, Pinterest - in short, it's both a blessing and a curse.

When we were in the position of the client, we printed off the images we found that resonated with us and provided them to our wedding photographer. We get it. Totally. When it comes to weddings, there are so many different styles and concepts out there. Pinterest really gave me (Emily), in particular, some much-needed clarity during the planning process. Not even sure how brides figured it all out before Pinterest, to be honest!

We (Poppy & Sage Photography) have set some boards up to (hopefully) make life easier for our clients:

We are on your side, of course. However, like most things in life, Pinterest is not simply black and white for us. ;)

Tammie Joske (a photographer) states: "Photography is one part art, one part science, one part math, and that extra something else we can never put our finger on - usually we call it a 'good eye', or natural talent". We agree. You need all four components for a truly outstanding image. When you are busy focusing on replicating an image produced by someone else, there has to be compromise somewhere along the line. In addition to the above-mentioned components, there are usually environmental variables to account for, too: lighting, colours, natural elements*, to name a few. If everyone is okay with that, we can work with any situation.

[*For example, the image sourced from Pinterest might have a lot of movement in it from wind. We may need to bring along a leaf blower to replicate this situation. ;)]

I (Emily) worked at a small pharmacy on the Sunshine Coast for several years. One of the pharmacists I worked with was equally left- & right-brained (we'll call her Anna). To keep both sides stimulated, she worked as a pharmacist some days of the week and a hairdresser on other days. Hairdressing clients would come to Anna with cutouts from magazines or from hair colour boxes with the request to make their hair the same colour. Anna would ask the client a couple of questions to gauge what was motivating that particular colour choice (especially if she thought that the colour might not suit them best and she needed to find a diplomatic way to suggest a slight variation). One day, she mentioned that she had noticed an interesting phenomenon. Anna said that it very often became apparent that the client was more attracted to the image of the person rather than the hair colour per se. She found that stripping the situation back and addressing the colour alone was, in some cases, quite challenging. Sometimes the client genuinely seemed to think that they would look more like the model if their hair colour was similar.

This is just one aspect of how the concept of expectation vs reality can play out.

Some would say that this grey situation can stifle creativity and limit the creation of unique content. We would not disagree.

In addition, spending time replicating images has the potential to disrupt (to one degree or another) the organic flow of the day.

HOWEVER, a lot is dependent on the situation for us. We will explain where we are coming from.

If we are doing a personal project for our portfolio, we'll go out with a model and experiment... explore our creative realm... take risks... push boundaries; that is our personal creative release.

If we are shooting an event for a client, we are respectful of your wishes - including inspiration derived from Pinterest. No questions. No judgement. It is not our day.

Ultimately, you are hiring us to capture your story your way. One big aspect of our business model is to work closely with our clients. In fact, one reason for why we provide two photographers for weddings is so that one can be responsible for ensuring that we meet the brief given to us by the client. We print off communication from our couple (including Pinterest suggestions and the questionnaire) and that shooter has the responsibility of keeping the brief on track.

In addition, we love that Pinterest means that we see less matchy denim pants and white shirts, peeking awkwardly around trees, terrible studio backdrops that are Awkward Family Photo-worthy, and so on. Pinterest definitely has a place in the wedding photography world. On a personal note, my travel board is bursting at the seams and I am okay with that. ;)

Final Thoughts

Feel free to bring your lists from Pinterest to us. We will happily work through them.

One final thought is buried in this adage:

Don't give the client the images they want. Give them the images they need.

Elephant in the Room :: Wedding Tax

tl;dr: Things are rarely as black & white as they might appear.

Wedding vs Event

When talking about organising weddings, one often hears two words bandied about: wedding tax. When we were busy planning our own wedding, we had well-meaning people give us advice along these lines: "Call up x business and say that you are enquiring about an event. Call back a few days later regarding the same date but state that it is for a wedding this time. You can bet there will be a significant difference even if you mention that the same number of people will be involved. It's the wedding tax".

At the time we thought this was a great suggestion. We did not have time to implement the process ourselves but the concept sounded plausible, for sure. However, since starting our own business in the wedding industry, this additional cost concept has popped up again but from a different angle.

Personal Experience

We own a photography business. Here are just some of our personal expenses: Camera bodies. Different lenses for different purposes (macro, portrait, landscape, to name a few). Travel. Continuing education. Legal paperwork. Software licences. Website host. Website build. Memory cards. Hard drives. Flashes. Batteries. Computer. Insurance. Registration. Marketing. Advertising. Accounting. Tax. Liability. And, of course, time.

Time for: Planning. Emailing. Culling. More emailing. Editing. Emailing (again). Oh, and sick days and limited holidays (necessary for health, contentment and the opportunity to work to the best of one's ability) also need to be factored in there somewhere.

All of these costs need to be accounted for. Moreover, the higher your costs, the more you need to charge the customer for your services. The more you charge the customer, the less competitive your pricing becomes. Adding an additional cost on top of the cost to run your business reduces your business' perceived value. We have a cost-of-doing-business spreadsheet and I can assure you that there is no column for "wedding tax".

So why can wedding services cost so much? The short answer is that different businesses work from different models depending on individual market drivers. We will explain.

We have an amazing business mentor in Las Vegas: Josh Line from Josh Line Photography (professional headshots). One of the first things Josh recommended that we do was to read "Oversubscribed" by Daniel Priestley. Daniel lists four main drivers of market imbalance: innovation (these businesses secure for themselves a niche position in the market), relationships (these businesses invest time in their clients and really get to know them), convenience (these businesses focus on producing the most frictionless solution to client needs), and price (these businesses create an imbalance in the market based on price). You will find these applicable to most, if not all, industries (wedding-related or not). The specific individual driver for each business you approach during the planning process will influence the price you are quoted - more than any arbitrary and ambiguous additional cost in the form of a wedding tax.

Furthermore, we recently read an article entitled The Wedding Tax Is Totally Real Except When It Isn’t. In it, the author (Rachel Sugar) interviewed a high-end planner who works in New York state. He explained the reality of his job like this: “If I ask a corporate client what kind of chair they want, I show them one or two options, and they say yes. If I talk to a bride and groom about what kind of chair they want, it’s a 25-email exchange. Your mom has a chair she liked sitting in at the last wedding she went to; your dad has an issue with pillows and seats; your groom wants long, rectangular tables; and you want round tables. I price so I can stay sane.”

Real Life Example

Lovely Anna, owner of Raw Cotton in Swan Valley, Western Australia, sums up how most of us feel in the bespoke small business industry: "When buying from a hand maker, you're buying more than just an object. You are buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation. You are buying days, weeks and months of frustration and moments of Pure Joy. You aren't just buying at thing. You are buying a piece of heart. Part of a soul. A moment of someone's life. Most importantly, you are buying the artist more time to do something they are passionate about. So thank you for supporting me". (Check out Anna's instagram @rawcottoncollection.)

Final Thoughts

Our advice is to find products and services you love and/or people you value and want to support. We all have a story so find one that resonates with you and your priorities and get behind that small business. Even if you are someone who would score much the same as your cat on an empathy quiz, we are sure that you can appreciate why Rolex charges the amount it does as compared to Quartz. If you're on the market for a Holden, you won't go to a Lambourghini dealership and ask them to match Holden's price.

Work out your wedding budget and set your upper limit. Be realistic. Source your three quotes and get to know each of the businesses at the same time, if possible: you might find you're not ultimately drawn to the lowest price. Perhaps you don't feel like a number with one and they allocate more than enough time to get to know you. Perhaps another one is a standout based on product or service alone. Perhaps another one is hard to beat for price. Or another one offers the most convenience at an already stressful time in life. Figure out where your priorities lie; perhaps you want a unique venue or designer dress or stunning cake? Whatever it is that adds to your story as a couple, find the product and/or service that meets your criteria and support the hardworking people making it all happen. We want to wish you a smooth, fuss-free (wedding tax-less) journey of wedding planning!

Wedding :: Destination & International

We hope everyone is having a great start to 2018. We are. During this annual holiday period, we have been reminiscing about some of our recent travel memories. We were trawling through some of our albums and were reminded of a beautiful Indian wedding we attended. Our attendance was quite random and not planned and, like most adventures in India, has a story behind it.

India is so unpredictable and we find that aspect a bit intoxicating. We love traveling to different parts of the world for different reasons. Sometimes it's the food. Sometimes it's the people. Or architecture. Perhaps it's the culture. Arts. History. Or landmarks, to name a few reasons. India? It is delightfully chaotic and, if you hang around for long enough, you might discover a method to the madness.

Back to the wedding. We were staying in Kerala at the time and our accommodation was with a beautiful family. We had met the son, Ebin, here in Australia and his family welcomed us into their home. We were spoilt and treated like family for several days. We have so many lovely memories from our stay that we will treasure for our lifetime. On one of the days, Ebin's family invited us to a friend's wedding. We went along for the ride and it was such a unique experience!

The bride and groom were very happy and full of personality. The food was incredible. Furthermore, in Kerala, you will find Christians, Hindus and Muslims all living side-by-side. They are neighbours. They come and go in and out of each other's lives. They celebrate with each other in the good times and they support each other when things are challenging. This wedding was no exception. The guests came from different religious viewpoints and ways of life but managed to respectfully support their friends on their special day. It was quite remarkable and the uniqueness of the situation was not lost on us.

We love immersing ourselves in different cultures. There are always lessons to be learned and new perspectives to be gained. Now that we have a little one, we are committed to investing in the next generation of open-minded and respectful humans. Travel is certainly an excellent opportunity for achieving these goals. At Poppy & Sage Photography, we welcome destination and international weddings. We are happy to discuss the finer details so feel free to message us with any questions: admin (at) poppyandsagephotography.com.au. Take care and happy, safe adventures! <3