Nestled in the rolling countryside of Midlands, UK, is a wonderful turreted estate gatehouse with a textured old-world character perfect for romantic elopements. We were there in early February to capture these beautiful moments with Erica Melargo and Marco Bialigio.
Jill and I work hard. Last fall I decided it was time for us to work on the bucket list. The topic of the Aurora Borealis has come up a few times, and that and Jill’s upcoming birthday seemed like a couple of great stakes in the ground for planning something exciting. After some research, I settled on taking us to northern Finland. There’s a cool little resort there with an amazing home for rent — a little house with a big view, if you will. The view, a north-facing plate glass wall in the living room, is the centerpiece of the Northern Lights House at Levin Iglut in Levi, Finland. But there’s also the sauna, showers, fireplaces, and outdoor hot tub. All ours for five days. And, of course, the views are spectacular. We were fortunate to have a rare, hours-long Northern Lights display the night before Jill’s birthday, and we spent the -17 degree evening huddled behind tripod and camera capturing undulating moment after undulating moment of the Aurora phenomenon. Enough writing. Here are our favorite pics from the trip.
We spent a couple of days roaming nearby Levi, countryside, and surrounding hamlets.
And finally, the Aurora Borealis!
A quick read on terms you need to know
Conversing with a photographer about what’s included in a booking can be confusing. Here are some terms and concepts that’ll help make sense of it all.
Image resolution: this drives whether an image is printable or can only be viewed electronically. Image resolution is all about a) the number of pixels per inch (ppi) in an image — the more the better — and b) the height and width of the image in number of pixels (px) — the bigger the better.
Most commonly, photographers deliver images that are either 72ppi (low-resolution pics good only for electronic or online viewing) or 240ppi or 300ppi pics (high-resolution and printable).
Printable size: To know how large a print in inches that you can make from a digital image, divide the image’s height and width by its PPI.
Example: An image with dimensions of 2400 x 3600 pixels and a PPI of 300 can make a excellent-quality 8″x12″ print. This is the natural print dimension of a photo produced by most professional digital cameras. The same image at 240ppi would make a good quality 8×12 print.
Native image format: this is the image format produced by a professional digital camera. The generic term for this is RAW file. Native-format images require conversion to viewable formats such as TIF, PNG, or most popularly, JPG. The aspect ratio of native images is 2:3. In printing terms, it’s 4×6 or 8×12. If you want an 8×10 or 5×7 print, the RAW image must be cropped to fit those sizes.
Watermark: a watermark is a semi-transparent mark
placed on an image to indicate studio ownership. Sometimes, watermarks
are striped through the middle of the image to make the image
undesirable for online sharing or printing. Sometimes, a watermark is a
studio’s logo discreetly positioned in a corner of the image.
Proof/proofing gallery: a proof is a low-resolution image, usually watermarked, and delivered to the client by way of an online gallery or through some other file-sharing means like Dropbox. Proofs are delivered for client viewing, on the condition that they not be printed or shared with others.
Okay, that’s enough jargon for now, and it’s enough to clear the way for an intelligent conversation with your photographer when you’re discussing what your pro might include or charge extra for.
When you hire a photographer to cover your wedding, you’ll typically sign an agreement that states not only when, where, and how long your photographer will be on hand to take pictures, but also whether the agreement includes print products, and digital images, and in the case of the latter, under what terms if so.
Whether a full set of images comes with the package you’re considering depends in large part on 1) how much you’re paying, and 2) the philosophy and priorities of the pro you’re working with. So you need to understand where your pro sits on the continuum of people with cameras charging money for taking pictures.
As with so many things, people with cameras have varying intensities of devotion, skill, talent, experience, and ambition. We’ll oversimplify and describe the traits of the two extents, and then the pack in the middle.
At the high end are the full-time professionals who are winning industry awards and running a for-profit business. They might have a brick-and-mortar studio, or several of them. They’re likely to have the support of a team of photographers, photo editors and other specialists and various assistants, all of which translates to overhead recouped through bookings and product sales. Or they might just be working for themselves at a superior level of quality and devotion to their craft. Either way, it’s common for this group to book anywhere from 60 to several hundred weddings a year. They value their time, lifestyle, and the quality of images that they deliver to their clients, and they charge accordingly.
Conversely, there are part-time photographers who have day-jobs paying the bills, and they sling their cameras for fun, as a creative outlet, or for extra money. They value the success of winning your business, the experience of working for you, and making you happy more than they count the dollars you give them. The quality of their work varies from elementary to budding talent. You might not get a snap of every important moment on your wedding day, but you’ll get lots of pics and a few lucky ones.
Between these extents stand a spectrum of photographers of varying skill levels and experience, time commitment, devotion to quality, and business acumen.
From the full-time professional you can expect an agreement that’s spare on included deliverables, unless you’re purchasing a rich package, and even then the package price won’t buy you the whole farm. Commonly, you’ll receive access to a proofing gallery with the understanding that you’ll be sitting down with him or her after the wedding to talk about purchasing albums and matted and large prints. A digital collection of proof images on thumb drive or CD might be offered for a price.
To the full-time professional’s credit, you’ll receive heirloom-quality work for your money that can be displayed proudly in your home and handed down with love through the generations.
Back at the opposite end of the spectrum, the neophyte will give you an abundance of unedited photos with no restrictions on printing. If the photographer is an aspiring professional, you might find them more conservative in what they include. Even so, the overall bottom line is you do get a lot of images for your money, if not a lot of quality. So if expressions like more is better and quantity over quality resonate with you, then this is the kind of photographer you should look for. They’ll also be considerably cheaper to hire.
The middle 60 percent or so will have some blend of these characteristics, and that can make it hard to decide who to book, because in this group you’ll find a mix of cost, quantity and quality of delivered photos.
So if you’ve read this far, you get the benefit of a list of questions to ask your prospective photographer. The questions aren’t intentionally loaded to favor a particular response. They cut across consumer objectives.
1, On average, how many photos do you deliver for a booking such as mine? Not looking for a promise, just a level-set.
2. Do you adjust all the delivered images for white balance and exposure?
3. Can I share on social media the adjusted images I receive?
4. What are the printing rules for the images I receive?
5. What images do you professionally edit?
6. What’s the difference between a professionally edited image and an adjusted image?
7. What images do you deliver with online sharing rights with your package?
8. What images do you deliver with printing rights with your package?
8. Can I print images through other providers or do I have to use your studio?
This year marks the third year that Jill and I have been putting our heads together, and it marks the second year of One Soul Photography. In 2018 we shot weddings across the southeastern US, Jamaica and Cancun, and we finished the year shooting a wonderful boudoir session at the former Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York City! Coming into 2019, we’ve hit the ground running with a dozen Southeastern US weddings on the books and weddings in Costa Rica and the UK in the works.
On Friday, Feb. 1, we fly to London for a bridal shoot in Shrewsbury, UK. Then we jet to Kitilla, Finland, to spend a few days with our cameras ready to capture the Northern Lights!
Thanks to more referral business, we’ve been able to move our marketing concentration away from quote-based services like Thumbtack in favor of more personal face-to-face opportunities. So we’re upping our game at bridal shows in Georgia and south Florida. So keep your eye out for One Soul Photography!