Why I Won’t Shoot Your Wedding {Orange County Family Photographer}

Sometimes I get requests to photograph weddings.  It is tempting, I’ll admit.  Two people over the age of 3, who can both look at the camera and smile at the same time, on the happiest day of their lives? Win! 
Or … not.  See, weddings are like an entire different genre of photography.  Different equipment, different skills, numerous assistants,  the list goes on.  It is not the same thing as shooting a newborn or a family.  Photographers may be able and skilled with one facet of photography, but it does not mean they can do it all.  Can you picture Jack Black in The King’s Speech?  I rest my case.  (P.S.  Not that I am relating myself to the talent of Jack Black.  We share the same gut, and that is about it.)
I wrote about my wedding photos years ago on a family blog I used to keep, and I thought I’d share it with you.  When we were looking for a photographer, the mention of their services costing thousands baffled us.  I mean, don’t they just show up with a camera?  Snap, snap, snap and print?  How could it possibly cost so much?  Almost 10 years later, I know.  I know the difference between a professional and a … not.  I know the difference between great keepsakes and … not.  I know the difference between good and … not. 
Your wedding happens ONE time.  One chance for the shots of a day you will remember for the rest of your lives.  Don’t hire a not.  Get someone who knows what they are doing.

Here’s what I had to say about our wedding photos a few years ago … enjoy.  🙂 

Let me begin by saying that I LOVED my wedding. It was very small, humble and totally us … in other words on an extreme budget. My parents generously gifted us with the funds to plan the wedding, but we had no idea how expensive things were.  We saw dresses for $3000, cakes for $1000, etc.  And when I received quotes from photographers, $5000 packages made my stomach churn.

If only I knew then what I know now.

Anyway, we made our smaller budget wedding work, with the help of caring and skilled friends. For example, my dearest friend Melissa graciously offered her services as DJ. Here she is spinning her magic:

The boom box was on loan from my roommate at the time, who, if I remember correctly, even installed fresh batteries for the big day. You can see how the whole thing came together with the talent of our friends and family.

The one thing, the ONE thing, EVERYONE said to fork out the cash for, was the photographer. Matt and I both have appreciation for memorable pictures, so we understood this and accepted the fact that most of our budget would go toward getting stunning keepsakes from our special day. We found a photographer “who fit in our budget” (in other words … was cheap … red flag number one).  His studio was adorn with gorgeous sample photos of couples sharing moments under massive oak trees, near a swan filled pond, floating on puffy clouds (not joking) and walking on water, etc. I naively assumed that we would come away with something remotely similar to the puffy cloud pictures, as the photographer briefly mentioned that one of his associates would taking the pictures. Not him. An associate.

About the associate. Now I am not a professional, so maybe it’s just me, but I would think that a good wedding photographer should be almost like a phantom wedding guest. You shouldn’t even know that they are there. They should blend into the background and subconsciously know when to snap away as you and your new spouse share special magical moments under oak trees with swans and puffy clouds.

Our photographer showed up at the wedding wearing Joseph’s technicolor dream coat. Seriously. She could not have stood out more if she tried. That was okay, though, because she was so sweet. It turned out, as she made a point of telling us several times, that she was a single mother, working hard to provide for her little girl. Maybe that thought clouded our judgement as she mentioned 429 times throughout the night that if we really liked our pictures, could we maybe write a short letter of recommendation? Of course! we thought. Anything to help this nice woman get a new wardrobe take care of her young child.

Sweet mother of pearl, if only we had known. If. Only. We. Had. Known.

Before I begin the portrait presentation, may I say that this would not be at all funny if Matt’s aunt was not also snapping away that day, and if we did not get some great shots from her. If we didn’t have those pictures with which to remember our wedding I would probably still be huddled in a dark corner, rocking, crying and whispering “why???” over and over.

Also, I need to add that ALL of the pictures from the, ahem, professional are total crap. It’s not like we got a few bad pictures, hardy har har. The WHOLE album is laden with pictures that are off center, unflattering, eyes closed, poorly flashed, etc.

So, here are some of my favorites. First the C Lo.


Never mind that I am staring into oblivion, it is a totally unnatural pose, and the lighting is horrid. Please, look at my butt. (I will probably never ever ever say that again.) My dress had these two panels that tied together in the back. In this shot, I am holding a panel awkwardly, with my arm blocking any space between, thereby creating the J LO butt. And just so you know, I am actually staring up at a couple on their balcony, holding margaritas, and shouting, “Hey! Congratulations!” That is how ghetto quaint and cozy our wedding was.

Here we have the actual ceremony.

Did she not drink her V8 that day?! Trust me, I scanned this as straight as possible, as not to lose any of the awesomely horrible composition. Magical, isn’t it? (Also, you can see where the margarita couple was in the upper left hand corner.)

Now, the group photo:

Nothing says remembering fond times like playing Where’s Waldo with your wedding photos.

Here we are with my family at our reception:

Where do I begin? How about the gorgeous red fire curb in the background? Or maybe the fact that my dad is like 6 feet 3, and Matt is … not … and she placed us on a slanted driveway so that it looks like my Dad is two feet taller than Matt? Even my sweet grandma looks gargantuan compared to my mom. And I do not know where that little boy came from, he just showed up on our wedding day and I asked Matt if we could keep him.

Here I am with the stray boy:

Red curb, again, and isn’t that a beautiful, tender shot? The bride dropping her son off a rock wall? Everyone should have one of those in their wedding album.

Our reception was held at a restaurant overlooking Dana Point harbor. Of course we picked this place for it’s amazing view, and the opportunities for … amazing … photos …

First, here is what Matt’s aunt captured from her point and shoot, and I think she was behind a window.

Pretty. Just so you get an idea that it was early summer evening, and still light out.

Now, this is the piece de la resistance. Our favorite wedding photo. Almost turned it into a 20×24 canvas print. The Ring Shot.

So you know, this photographer told us that “this might be her best ring shot ever,” and “do we mind if she takes a few more in this pose, it is just gorgeous!” Needless to say, when we got the proofs, we were anxious to see how The Ring Shot had turned out.

I think the aqua-marine railing provides a beautiful background for the giant bird poo next to our fingers and the loogie trailing down the right-most bar, don’t you? And I am so glad she poorly exposed the shot and blacked out the harbor in the background. That would have been ugly.

So, here we are. A couple a crazy kids in love, staring out at our future … of dark, black, abysmal gloom …

with a stray boy.

P.S.  If you are looking for a wedding photographer in the Southern California area, I have some great recommendations for you.  And later, after the honeymoon, you can call me for newborn photos … 😉



Bre Thurston - March 4, 2011 - 9:58 pm

OMG, I’m dying. hahaha. That ring shot is FAB and I do love the J-Lo booty! 😉

Kimmy Gibbler - March 4, 2011 - 10:24 pm


Christie, can I just say that you should write for a column (in your spare time – LOL)!

You are hilarious… your wedding photos: not so much. I can’t believe somebody would put their name behind their “assistant’s” work like that.

I’m pretty anal when it comes to photos and I think I’m learning as I mature (HAHAHAHA), that there are certain things we should never cut corners on. Yes, you can buy Kirkland brand toilet paper, it’s ok to skimp on a sports bra from Target… but photos (no matter the occasion; in my opinion) MUST NEVER BE COMPROMISED! Think of it this way: if you are taking a photo of something, it is so that you can “capture” a memory… a memory that seldom can be “captured” again. Many people think they can “take a picture”, but can they “capture the moment?”

…Oh hell, can they at least realize there’s a big red curb in the background and that the gazebo is no where near-parallel to anything else around it. And the best of all: There is this amazing software called Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop can’t take the picture for you, but it can sure as hell help with the lighting, saturation, contrast, and a few extra cropping, cutting, and fine-tuning “musts!”

Girl, I would be rocking back-and-forth in the fetal position in the dark corner right next to you if mine ever turned out like that… And it is at this time, I would love to take you up on those recommendations, please. I live in SD, but if he/ she is willing to travel, we are more than willing to assist with the expenses. My #1 priority when I tie the knot (besides the dress and flowers) is my photographer.

Then, in about a yeaer, we will line you up for our almost instantly-conceived baby photos.

You Rock!
Love the rant. Thanks for letting me rant too 🙂

XOXO Kimmy

P.S. I think Melissa did a pretty damn good job DJ-ing
P.P.S. you should have totally called security on that darn little boy that just kept crashing your wedding 😉

Kimberly Whipps - March 4, 2011 - 10:37 pm

It is stuff like this that makes me glad to call you a friend. You ROCK.

Shirley Womack - March 4, 2011 - 11:42 pm

I am still rolling as I write this! You are so funny. I’d read your blog for sure! We are in the era of so many grandbabies in the lives of our friends and I cringe when I see some of those so called newborn shots from the not a clue photographers. My favorite arrival recently was the newborn with the macro-head…hmm I’m thinking that photographer missed a few classes. I was so pleasantly to see the most beautiful normal looking baby when his mother presented him to me a few weeks later and happily removed his name from my prayer list.
I am also happy to see that my lovely daughter-in-law has another talent to add to the list of expertise in our little wedding business…DJ! MMM…funny she never mentioned that!
I am grateful for the beautiful pictures we have our darling Reagan…thank you my dear! Between you and Melissa I’d say we have the state covered with some beautiful talented PROFESSIONALS who have an artistic flair and style.

Melissa Zihlman - March 5, 2011 - 3:03 am

Great post!!

Evelyn - March 5, 2011 - 10:12 am

I don’t think the photos are that bad…that is, if your 4th grade nephew took them with his mom’s old camera and you DIDN’T have to pay for them. GREAT blog entry…..the J.Lo pic was the BEST!

dsr - March 5, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Awesome post! I hope you’re ready for the millions of incoming links!

Amanda - March 6, 2011 - 7:06 am

Oh wow. I could have written some of this myself! The photographer we hired also sent his ASSOCIATE! Although he didn’t tell us that….we hired him and his associate showed up the morning of the wedding with his grandson in tow! Yeah…not good. Although I have to say our pictures turned out okay (not quite as bad as yours above) definitely not like the original photographer that we paid full price to. This is also why I don’t shoot weddings!!! Give me newborns all day long!!! 🙂 Great post!

Jessica Washburn - March 7, 2011 - 4:08 am

Christie, I seriously just love reading your blog so, so much. Thanks for sharing your pain, er, I mean timeless wedding images.

Jaclyn L - March 11, 2011 - 1:02 pm

OH MY GOD! Christie!!! I am dying over here! This was so friggin funny. and sad… but look what you turned it into! haha.. so many favs here. and you are piss your pants funny!

Evo B - March 11, 2011 - 2:43 pm

Bahahaha! Sorry that your wedding photos didn’t turn out but OMG do you ever have the funniest story! LOL @ the kid who crashed your wedding.

jennifer ecker - March 15, 2011 - 2:24 pm

I’m really really sorry about your big day and a sucky photographer, but I got such a good laugh about your humor in this. I hope you and your husband got some anniversary photo’s!!

Birdee - March 25, 2011 - 12:05 pm

I have never laughed so hard, sorry it’s at your weddings expense, but you tell a great story, and make a very good point worth passing along for everyone to read. Brides Need To Know This!

Jennifer Nicole - March 29, 2011 - 9:25 am

I just came across your blog today and was laughing hysterically at this! As a bride-to-be and a photographer, I truly appreciated the honesty of the post. I’m glad that you are able to make light of it!! Knowing me, I would have been devestated. I will be budgeting, but definetly not on my photographer. 🙂

Camilla Amateur - April 28, 2011 - 4:13 am

A good deed is never lost.

Brandie - May 21, 2011 - 12:26 pm

You’ve hit the ball out the park! Inecrdilbe!

eucenys - May 22, 2011 - 6:06 am

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Alexandria V - August 4, 2011 - 4:15 pm


jill p. - August 4, 2011 - 4:37 pm

Shirley, I don’t know you but I seriously almost peed my pants when I read your comment! “My favorite arrival recently was the newborn with the macro-head…hmm I’m thinking that photographer missed a few classes. I was so pleasantly to see the most beautiful normal looking baby when his mother presented him to me a few weeks later and happily removed his name from my prayer list.”

Too funny! Thanks for a great blog post Christie.

Kaela - August 4, 2011 - 4:40 pm

This really made me laugh, but it was your writing that got me! You looked beautiful on your wedding day 🙂

Brie - May 19, 2012 - 6:50 pm

omg. too funny!

Lia - May 31, 2012 - 7:55 pm

This was a great read. I enjoyed it a lot. Tears are still blurring my vision. I do shoot weddings and I believe I do this because I am totally out of my mind. It is an environment I just strive in. Love the chaos the quick changes. Guess it is not for everyone…
I wasn’t always a photographer and I have been a bride some years ago and I didn’t know anything about the wedding industry back then.
I hired a videographer whose work I really loved. They were not cheap at all. I really had to go head to head with my then fiance to invest in this once in a lifetime opportunity. They also sent one of the staff videographer not the person I have talked to originally. My video turned out absolutely fabulous. There is nothing wrong with it except…
The guy was a total jerk. He was chasing my sister all night long. Many times I had to run around trying to find him to let him know that we are doing something like throwing the bouquet and would he be so kind and tape it. He went so far he requested a slow song from the DJ and took my sister on the dance floor. So the video turned out great and my kids love watching it over and over again but each time I even think of it I have a knot in my stomach and loose all interest in joining in on the fun. Even hearing the song reminds me of him and this was over 15 years ago. Make sure you like the person you hire.

Laura Morita-Yeun - January 30, 2013 - 8:30 pm

I know this is an old post, but OMG, you are the funniest person in the entire world.

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