Avia Photography

My photo
Columbia, Missouri, United States
Warning, the following ramblings are those of a sometimes sidetracked photographer avoiding accomplishing tasks on her list. All we ask is that if you use one of our photos from here or elsewise, you kindly give us credit. = )

Monday, August 30, 2010

.:megan & ben or, how-to-get-ridiculously-beautiful-photos:.

Months ago, I wrote a short "how to" guide for getting photos you'll love on your wedding day but I kept waiting for the right photos to illustrate it since, let's face it, a "how to" guide on a photography blog just doesn't cut it without pictures.

One night, I realized my inspiration was here. Meet Megan and Ben, the lovely couple who will be our unknowing guinea pigs today in our illustration of how to get ridiculously beautiful wedding photos.

Megan and her mom Kathy did a FANTASTIC job planning her wedding. So let's see if I can't use them as examples of how your hard work in planning can translate into spectacularly awesome photos. Bear with me, this will be long, but informative!

Step 1. Pick a photographer whose photos you are enamored with. Yes, yes, I know that we are photographers and it seems like maybe we are tooting our own horns here, but seriously! I get SO sad when I meet girls who talk about their wedding photos and end with, "Oh well, it's not like we would have kept them on our walls forever... I guess it isn't the end of the world that they didn't really turn out." They often say they knew they wanted good photos but either didn't spend enough time researching photographers or decided to cut the budget on their photos. (Or a family friend/cousin/uncle/roommate volunteered to do it for free with their new digital camera despite the fact that they'd never actually photographed a wedding before).

Call me silly, but I think that every couple needs a photo of themselves that reminds them why they love one another so much. The laughter, the passion... the EMOTION that a good photograph can display is astounding. Even more astounding sometimes is how not knowing/having the right equipment can easily strip emotion from an image (read: onboard flash may actually be the devil). You'll be surprised how many persons that call themselves photographers don't even know how to use their less-than-professional equipment on manual, let alone use flash in a way that isn't invasive and overwhelming. In the digital age it's easy to buy a digital camera, pull photos into photoshop and slop a few ridiculous filters and effects on a photo and then call yourself a photographer. I can feel myself getting on a soap box so let me stop before I get into a fullblown rant! If you are still curious why you should hire a professional rather than letting your friend do it, check out this short article done by a blogger who explains it much more intelligently and convincingly than I can: http://photofocus.com/2010/01/25/and-you-call-yourself-a-professional/

Chances are if you are already getting addicted to following a photographer's blog and stalking the photos they post on facebook then you are on the right track. (By the way, if you are not reading this on facebook, our facebook fan page is here--I frequently update photos from shoots there.) Each photographer has a different style that appeals to different brides. Our couples have a tendency to be much more laidback than many others. However, you'll know you've found your photographer when your breath is taken away (or when you read their entire blog in one sitting late one night). There are many area photographers whose work I love and deeply respect who all have a different point of view. If you love looking at their photos of strangers this much, chances are you'll love your photos that much more!

Megan and her mom signed with us almost a year in advance from a recommendation of a co-worker of Ben's. Funny story is that they ended up still attending a Bridal show we were at many months later and when they got to our booth Megan's mom let out an astonished, "Oh my gosh, these photos are so beautiful, but we already have a photographer booked! Oh no!" To which Megan coolly responded, "Well, fortunately these are the photographers we already booked, Mom." A good sign, no doubt, that they made the right choice!

Step 2. Make sure you have light-and LOTS of it. Great pictures need great light. Lots and lots and lots of it. If your ceremony/reception is not being held outside it's really helpful if you consult a professional lighting design company on how to best light up your spaces. The best light is natural and, on occasion, there is a church that has enough windows that extra light isn't necessary but these are few and far between. (We personally have the best low light camera on the market and we still get in sticky situations!)

As I learned in my art classes, lighting is KEY. If you don't have great light (or, as a photographer, if you don't know how to create great light) the photos look... well... not so great. There are companies like Millennium Music that do fantastic packaging services and will not only DJ your reception with style but can also bring professional lighting equipment at a great price.

Step 3. Choose gorgeous locations. Nice hotel rooms with lots of fabrics and textures make for much better "getting ready" rooms than church nurseries with Noah's Ark decals on the wall. When the mother of the bride is shedding tears seeing her baby girl in her wedding gown it kind of kills the mood of the photo when the background is filled with cribs and brightly colored toys. (Weird we don't think about that, I know!) The same goes for ceremony and reception sites. The more textures and colors and more beautifully decorated the place, the more likely you'll love your photos. When everything has white walls and no decor, you'll be surprised also how it can so quickly make the moment feel much more bland in retrospect than it was in real life.

Megan and Ben did a FANTASTIC job with their locations. They picked a ceremony site that was not only dear to them (they were in youth group together in high school) but also absolutely dazzling. It had great architectural features, gorgeous teal walls, tons of stained glass, 8 million side chapels, and beautiful dark pews. It was a little scarce on light but we were prepared and the photos turned out beautiful!

For their reception, Megan and Ben knew they had to find a place with as much personality and spunk to complement their ceremony venue but the problem was that Fulton was a little sparse on classy reception sites. Finally, Megan's mom found them the perfect place--Westminster's new dining hall! When Megan and Ben first heard "dining hall" they were skeptical, but after they saw the photos on the website they realized that Megan's mom had found the perfect place indeed. With a castle-like facade, fantastically high ceilings, exposed wooden rafters, a huge stone fireplace, gorgeous wrought-iron chandeliers with glowing candle-like fixtures, and TONS of natural light, we couldn't have asked for a more amazing reception venue!

The great thing about Megan and her mom, though is that they knew not only to get great ceremony and reception venues, but to think about their getting ready photos as well. When I met with Megan and her mom a few weeks before their wedding, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had already booked a B&B for the morning of the wedding for Megan and the girls to prepare in! The girls had their wedding day breakfast that morning complete with fruit bouquet and brownies in a gorgeous B&B parlor and went upstairs to get all gussied up after they were done. I arrived around that time to take photos of the last minute preparations and we used the pleasant scenery around us to do the girls' shots and a few of Megan on her own (much more sophisticated than Noah's Ark decals!):

Brian, meanwhile, was a few blocks away at the church taking photos of the guys, Beatles style:

Step 4. Consider hiring a wedding planner (or at least a wedding coordinator the day of your big day), especially if details stress you out like they do most of us! We can tell you from experience that brides and grooms who don't have to worry about the details on their wedding day (not to mention mothers of brides and grooms!) are much more relaxed and smile a whole lot more on their big day (plus, they normally get more than two hours of sleep the night before!). More sleep and less stress equals better memories for your day and much better photos! I like to delete grumpy faces when I get home so the less grumpy I see, the more photos you'll see in the end!

If you or your budget isn't keen on the idea of a wedding planner or day-of coordinator, just put someone in charge from your circle of friends and family that will not hesitate to be the boss and bark orders (in a tactful way, of course) on the day of your wedding. Think of your friend or aunt that loves making lists, is ridiculously anal retentive about details, and loves to tell everyone what to do. If you don't have a wedding planner, put this person in charge and utilize their gifts! And make sure that you give that person your phone the day of so you aren't overrun with people calling you to ask questions every five minutes.

Though Megan and her mom didn't have an official wedding planner or coordinator, they had the rare gift we all want that meant that they took care of all of the details well in advance. No writing programs the night before the wedding or frantic shopping the day of, the two had lists and plans far ahead of the wedding day! That meant deciding on a pink and white candy bar for guests at the reception which translated into, sacrificially, having to rid those Valentine's red candies (I know, poor Megan and one of her bridesmaids had to eat all those extra red m&ms that came with the white and pink ones. Total bummer, right?)

It meant that they picked out talented professionals like Kent's Floral in Columbia and trusted Kent's to run with their vision. The results were stunning and Megan and her mom gave them very little direction other than their big picture and color scheme. Can we say smart cookie to trust the professional? (It makes you wonder why silly people like us try so hard to decide things on our own when we have access to such talented people who have been in the business much longer than we've been planning our weddings!)

It meant choosing a menu and a bakery, coming up with unique table cards and actually making them (which, by the way, were oh-so-adorable school photos of Megan and Ben throughout their growing up years).

And, finally, finding a way to make their wedding uniquely theirs. Megan and Ben honored their parents and grandparents by putting up black and white, poster-size images of them cutting the cake at each of their respective weddings years before and Megan's mom helped the groomsmen surprise Megan with her very own stylish ride (read: padded wheelbarrow powered by groomsmen) into the reception hall that mimicked the very same trick that happened to Megan's grandmother on her wedding day.

Step 5. Create a "first look" and do your photos beforehand. I'm not a salesperson and I never want to be, but if I had to sell something about weddings, I would sell the fact that it is sooooooooo incredibly wonderfully fantastic and romantic and amazing and cute and insert-positive-adjective-here when couples decide to set up a "first look" meeting prior to the ceremony (plus it makes really stellar photos when the two of you are crying and staring deeply into one another's eyes all alone or giggling together). Many, many couples are doing it today and I can promise you that all the ones we've photographed are still together, despite the age-old admonition around here that it's bad luck! I can pretty much guarantee you that you will not be disappointed that you saw one another before the actual ceremony.

We've found that couples who do a "first look" tend to be not only much more relaxed and enjoy their day more (you'd be amazed at how much just the sight of your hubby-to-be will relax you prior to the ceremony!), but it also tends to afford us a lot more time to capture those amazing photos of the two of you together that day, whereas photos after the ceremony tend to be rushed since the guests are waiting. Ultimately, it's your decision and your photographer will totally respect that but I can bet you that there isn't a photographer I know that would not be thrilled to add on to the list of why it makes everyone's lives less stressed that day!

By the end of the ceremony your crabby Aunt Irma is ready to get to the reception and get some nourishment because being around all of these people has drained her (and don't think she won't give you glares letting you know that she's sick of waiting around for her turn at pictures), the ring bearer and flower girl refuse to cooperate because they have missed their nap time because of your wedding, your bridesmaids' feet are killing them from wearing the oh-so-cute-but-ridiculously-painful-heels and they just want to be done and into their flip flops, the groomsmen have had ten too many sips that day on the monogrammed flasks you gave them the night before and are more than ready to get to the reception to get alcohol in larger quantities, the guilt is weighing heavily as the faces of friends and relatives that told you in the receiving line that they have to leave town early so they'll just say 'bye' to you at the reception haunt your imagination between shutter clicks, and, to be honest, you're sick of smiling and standing and you just want to sit down and rest for a moment since it's been three straight hours of you being on your feet so far. What should have been a leisurely photoshoot afterwards often ends up rushed and stressed with lots of crabby, hungry people and we, as photographers, do our best to work quickly, efficiently, and kindly despite the myriad of complaints that are often thrown our way. Instead of a peaceful photoshoot full of emotion and wonder between the bride and groom, their shoot is often tacked on at the end, hurried and... well... not what you probably want to put above your fireplace for the next twenty years.

Megan and Ben are among many of our couples who choose to do a first look. They have known each other since they met in youth group and still haven't lost their joy for one another. I always count it a privilege when we are there for those first moments when they see each other. What joy!

It was ridiculously hot the day of Megan & Ben's wedding but since they saw each other prior, we had plenty of time to get the shots they wanted. When it came time to family and wedding party photos, we had the time to take breaks between every few sets of shots to let the bridal party run inside for a quick air conditioning and water break and then run back out to put their smiles back on. The bridal party was relaxed, cool, hydrated, and decidedly UN-crabby thanks to Megan and Ben's planning ahead. And also, the photos we got of Megan and Ben were great because they were so relaxed the whole time! With time to breathe we got to explore with just the two of them.

Step 6. Remember to enjoy your wedding day together! I think one thing that surprises couples most often as they look back on their wedding photos afterwords is that, other than their posed portraits from the day and the two of them up at the altar during the ceremony, there are so few photos of the two of them actually together. Often brides and grooms are so preoccupied with saying hello to everyone that they forget to spend time with one another! We will have the photos of their first dance, their cake cutting, the two of them laughing at the best man's ridiculously short and unprepared toast and then... well... that's it.

Megan and Ben stayed by one another's side almost the whole day. They remembered what many of us forget on our wedding day, that they like being together, which is, apparently, why they got married in the first place! They figured out long ago that their wedding day was one they wanted to share with one another as well as family and friends. We were so honored to be a part of it!

So thank you, Megan and Ben, for choosing us, for being so cute, and for becoming unknowing guinea pigs on how to have amazing wedding photos. You all are inspirational, for reals. (Oh, and your new puppy, Maci, is too adorable!)

With love and peaches,

Mallory (& Brian)

.:for you, beautiful woman:.

My dear, sweet sister reading this,

It has come to my attention again recently that way too many women, like you, hate their bodies. Or parts of their bodies. Yes, I am talking to you.

You and others like you sit in front of a mirror or a photo and tell yourselves (and sometimes those around you) how your nose is too big or your forehead too small or your bum too skinny or your thighs too fat or any number of other things on a list of why you are ugly because you don't look like a Victoria's Secret Fashion Model.

Well I am here to remind you, just as your friends and family often do, that you are absolutely stunningly gorgeous. It doesn't matter that I have not seen you. It doesn't matter that your knees turn inward or that your ankles are a little thicker. It doesn't matter that there are a few hairs on your chin that, had you let them grow at their own leisure, would be dark and sticking out of your moles. Let me tell you that you are beautiful, mole hairs and all!

You are too hard on yourself. All your friends tell you so when you complain about some part of your body that has plagued you for most of your life. You don't believe them. But now is your chance! You are precious in God's sight and creatively and uniquely made--tailored to His tastes! He fashioned your nose to have character and be decidedly yours (mine has a huge bump on it that Brian swears is adorable). He gave you a body with lines and curves that are unique to you. Rather than hating yourself, embrace yourself! You are gorgeous, my friend! Don't listen to the lies of all of those magazines and books and ads that tell you that you need to look like that. Look at your friends around you and how you love their curves or unique nose or curly hair or funny limbs! You, too, are a stunner!

My dear friend, if you are still not convinced you absolutely, 100% need to watch an episode (or two, or ten) of a show called "How to Look Good Naked". It isn't scandalous or risque or inappropriate. It's about ordinary women like you and me learning to love their bodies again. It's time, my dear, that you love yourself again.

So curl up in front of your computer and give yourself at least 45 minutes to watch an episode. I PROMISE you'll begin looking at yourself in a new light. Maybe even love what you see when you see yourself in your skivvies!


Monday, August 23, 2010

your prayers are desperately needed

I know I've been absent for awhile from the blogging world, catching up on photography stuff and the like, but I make this exception for something very important, baby Lane who needs you!

This is baby Lane who is 6 months old. Thursday, August 19th, he was life-flighted to Columbia from Jefferson City in an induced coma after an accident involving a fall. He has had a lot of internal brain bleeding and seizures and, if my information is correct, has yet to wake up. They think the emergency surgery they did last night may have stopped all external seizures but he is still in really rough condition. His parents and family are beside themselves. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated for this little one.

For those that doubt the efficacy of their prayers, I give you this excerpt from a study on the effects of prayer!:

In 1998, Dr. Elisabeth Targ and her colleagues at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, conducted a controlled, double-blind study of the effects of "distant healing," or prayer, on patients with advanced AIDS. Those patients receiving prayer survived in greater numbers, got sick less often, and recovered faster than those not receiving prayer. Prayer, in this study, looked like a medical breakthrough.

In 1988, Dr. Randolph Byrd conducted a similar study at San Francisco General Hospital involving patients with heart attack or severe chest pain. He found that patients receiving prayer did much better clinically than those who did not.

Currently, Dr. Mitchell Krucoff at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, is studying the effects of prayer on patients undergoing cardiac procedures such as catheterization and angioplasty. Patients receiving prayer have up to 100% fewer side effects from these procedures than people not prayed for.

These are impressive double-blind studies, meaning that no one knows who is receiving prayer and who isn't. This eliminates or at least reduces the placebo effect, which is the power of suggestion or positive thinking. However, the studies I find most impressive are not done on humans. For example, when bacteria are prayed for, they tend to grow faster; when seeds are prayed for, they tend to germinate quicker; when wounded mice are prayed for, they tend to heal faster. I like these studies because they can be done with great precision, and they eliminate all effects of suggestion and positive thinking, since we can be sure the effects aren't due to the placebo effect. Mice, seeds, and microbes presumably don't think positively!

(If you want to read more on the effects of prayer, go to this page http://www.dosseydossey.com/larry/QnA.html I haven't read it all but you are welcome to explore!)

Your prayers are effective and greatly coveted, whomever you are! Please take a moment (or two or ten!) and pray for baby Lane.