Hayley Lehmann Photography Blog

Photographing a Friend’s Wedding

Tuesday September 27th 2011

This weekend I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of a long lost friend which got me thinking about this blog topic. Sometimes I get invited to a celebration as a guest rather than a photographer. My friends always say either that they want me to relax and enjoy myself or that they don’t want to impose or take advantage by asking me to take photographs. In truth I hate going to a function as a guest. Being a photographer takes you into the intimate world of the celebrants. You see and feel all their cherished moments. You are a part of the day. You create magic and memories. Plus, my partner says that I’m a real nightmare at a wedding. I can hardly sit still as want to chat to the toastmaster, band and other vendors that I know. And sometimes I can’t help myself and just start directing the photographer to capture things that I know are important that he might have missed or not seen with my eye.110925 3050 Wedding by Hayley Lehmann 300x240 Photographing a Friend’s Wedding

By contrast, photographing a friend’s wedding is one of the accepted ways a new photographer gets into the industry. It always amazes me that a young couple will save a few pounds by trusting their once in a lifetime memories to a friend who is just starting out.

I also have couples say to me that they have a friend who is a very keen amateur photographer and do I have any objections if they take a few photos. As long as he or she isn’t a professional and they don’t get in my way, I have no problem. I always add that if their friend takes a wonderful photo that they want to use in their album that I don’t have a problem with that either. The big day comes and one of three things happens. The friend sidles up to me and wants to talk about cameras and equipment. Yawn! The friend smiles sweetly all day and summons enough courage at the end to ask if they can be my next assistant. The friend takes pictures all day like a pro, gets in my way and yet when I enquire of the couple afterwards how the friend’s photos came out and was there anything usable, I get vague whimpers and eventually the answer is no.

In July I was invited to a family reunion which was tied in with a silver wedding anniversary celebration. I was very good all day until the appointed photographer took the reunited group shot. Fifteen people were organised into a long “conga line” and shot with a wide angle lens. My heart sank and I spent the next hour twitching until I finally asked the host and the photographer if they would mind if we took the shot again. It turns out that it was the photographer’s first professional job, and he was really grateful to learn. The group was reorganised around a bench to get a really compact composition. The camera was set up on a tripod and the photographer took the shot. Yes that’s me at the back feeling uncomfortable the wrong side of the lens. And as I was leaving I caught a quick shot of the tall lady at the back who was missing when we took this shot and I “photoshopped” her in later. The digital file was sent to the photographer so that he could include it in his coverage.110724 5759 Family Reunion 300x240 Photographing a Friend’s Wedding

So in summary all I can say is that I love what I do, whether I know the celebrants or not. And next time I am invited to a celebration as a guest rather than a photographer could you please send some handcuffs to keep me tied to my chair!

Wedding Photographer Ethics

Friday September 23rd 2011

My daughter is an estate agent which is a business that the public thinks has no ethics. She always tells me that when someone has made an offer on a property and reinforced that by having a survey, they stop taking new clients to view the property and effectively take it off the market. So how do those ethics relate to me as a photographer, and what goes on in my industry?

One photographer I know takes all the bookings he can for the same date without letting his clients know that he is already booked. On the day of the wedding he tells the clients that his mother-in-law has died and that he will be sending a substitute. At this late stage the couple have no alternative but to accept the situation. Although he sends along very reputable substitutes nothing can mask the disappointment of the families concerned that they are not getting who they booked.

I have always strived to be extremely ethical but often this has resulted in tears, some being my own. Let me illustrate this with 2 examples:

Many years ago two couples came to see me about the same date. I didn’t tell them about each other and used the principle of first come first served. Trouble is they both came back to me at exactly the same time. I felt like a property waiting to see who could get the surveyor in first. Both brides were in tears, and I had their mothers on the phone trying to sort the mess out. After that I decided to try something different.

I decided that I would always tell prospective clients about the status of other clients so that they should know exactly what was what. And if I was booked and I had a second or third enquiry for the same date I would try to sell the services of one of my other photographers rather than using the dead mother-in-law trick. If the prospective only wanted me, then I wasn’t wasting their time or my own time by courting them with examples of my work. Everyone knew what was what.

This week I had two couples make appointments to see me about the same date. The first one came on Saturday. They went away to think about it and left a message on my answer phone on Monday morning to say “We love your photography and want to book you but just need to discuss a few things first”. The groom was from a family whom I had worked with before. I photographed his brother’s wedding in 2002. It felt lovely to be back with a family for a second wedding. I tried to call the first bride back twice that afternoon but only got her answer phone. Just before the second couple were due to come and see me on the Monday evening I phoned the groom in desperation to clarify whether I was booked or not. He said that he was in a meeting and could he phone me back? If he had been in a meeting why had he answered his mobile phone? I said very quickly “Could you kindly confirm that you wish to book me because I have another couple coming to see me now for the same date”. He confirmed, and when I saw the second couple I told them that I had just been booked and showed them the work of my colleague. After much phone tag during the week the first groom phoned today to cancel their booking. In essence the groom didn’t like being interrupted in his meeting when he’d asked if he could phone me back.

So what is the moral of this story? I guess like in the world of the estate agent, a man’s word is not his bond. Unless a deposit is received and a contract is signed, a booking is not a booking.

Wedding Vendors

Thursday September 22nd 2011

Jumeirah Carlton Towers 110918 1824 300x200 Wedding VendorsThere are so many details to think of when planning a wedding, but some of the vendors chosen really affect what I can achieve as a photographer.

Last Sunday I photographed Lara & Daniel’s wedding at The Jumeirah Carlton Towers. I always tell prospective couples that money spent on “production” not only transforms a room but forms the backdrop for many of my photographs. The ballroom looked very elegant with the addition of lilac mood lighting and crystal chairs. Everyone always thinks of the flowers, but production can incorporate everything right down to tablecloths and crockery. I have been working with Great Expectations for many years, and with the right budget have seen them transform the blandest of ballrooms into something exquisite.

My heart sinks when I ask a prospective couple the “Who is the toastmaster” question and it is answered with “we don’t want a guy in a red coat so a friend is doing it”. Luckily for me, Lara and Daniel employed the services of another Daniel called Daniel Stollar as the “toastie”, and although he did indeed wear a red coat, the toastmaster doesn’t have to if you would prefer a black jacket or a DJ. David Collins one of London leading toastmasters even told me that at one barmitzvah he had to dress as an accessory from James Bond!Daniel Stollar 110918 9331 200x300 Wedding Vendors
The toastmaster is the one who makes sure that the timings keep on track, and if not, reorganises things to ensure that the event runs smoothly. A good “toastie” will work with me if an extra few minutes are required for family photos (although I rarely run late), and he will also ensure that the photographer and videographer are in place before introducing a speech or other event. Other toast masters I frequently work with are Howard Robins, Steve Warwick and Simon Green.

 Most of the weddings I cover are Jewish weddings. Inevitably the coverage is twelve hours from the bride getting ready until the end of the party. Logistically that means that I eat breakfast and generally don’t get to drink or eat again until the guests are having dinner. So imagine….it is 8.00pm, I am starving and my energy levels are dropping. The guests are tucking in to a banquet which looks and smells divine, and the caterer considers that the vendors are just a nuisance and will be fed when there is time. Carol Sobell 9336 300x200 Wedding VendorsRemember that the client has paid for the vendors to eat, and contractually they are obliged to offer me a hot meal when attendance is in excess of six hours. They eventually serve us diner but we can’t eat it because we have to go and cover the next set of dancing.
Carol Sobell was the caterer at Lara & Daniel’s wedding. She really spoilt the vendors with food which was exactly the same as that served to the guests. Sometimes we get a “carbohydrate” buffet of lasagne & chips from other caterers. Carol doubly spoilt us because she served us all three courses.

Wayne Hart Music 110918 9228 300x200 Wedding VendorsNaturally I can only create good party photos if people are having a blast. Wayne Hart produced the musical entertainment for Lara & Daniel, and his band kept the crowd moving and grooving all night.