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It might not always be about photography.

Unplugged Weddings? Why it’s not a big deal for us.

January 09, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

This is a wonderful time of year for planning a wedding; Designers showing off the newest dresses. Photographers jockeying for position and attention; bridal “showcases” every weekend; venues offering tours; caterers offering samples! Like I said it’s a great time of year.

No doubt, by now you’ve seen articles and posts advising you to have an “unplugged wedding.”  Briefly, at an unplugged wedding guests are asked (at least for the ceremony but often for other parts of the day) to turn off their phones and tablets and just sit back and enjoy the day.

There may be a number of reasons for this.  Possibly the bride and groom actually DO want you to watch their ceremony.  Another reason, the sound of a cellphone ringing or other various electronic chirps add nothing to the ceremony.

There are other reasons. Photographers frequently rant online about how their pictures were ruined by insensitive phone-wielding guests. Frequently their rants are accompanied by a photo ; a masterpiece worthy of the Louvre’ but for the clutter of cellphones.

As a photographer, I could tell you stories about guests taking pictures at weddings. All of them quite amusing, yet….it’s never been a problem for me for a number or reasons.

First and most important: The digital revolution has made photography available to people in ways that nobody could’ve imagined. There’s a good chance that you’re reading this on a device right now that has two cameras on it. It’s just a part of the world we live in.

Second, when people use their camera-phones to take your picture during the ceremony (first kiss, coming up the aisle, whatever) it’s because they love you. It’s sort of like giving you a hug and it helps them feel like they’re a part of and enjoy  your celebration.

Third; Let’s go back, let’s go waaaaaay back to when I was a news photographer, first in Chicago, later in Indiana. The idea of returning to the office and explaining to the editor that you didn’t get the picture because too many other photographers were in the way was NOT an option. If someone with a camera, or a street sign or a limo or whatever was in your way, it was your job to find a position to get the image to tell the story. That’s one of the things that made us professionals.

It never occurred to us (and it still doesn’t occur to me) to manage the behavior of those around me to make my job easier. These people are your wedding guests. Your family and your closest friends. They are part of the day and the photographer is there to capture it not control it. I say let the guests enjoy themselves. Let them BE themselves. And to tell you the truth, people are going to take pictures anyway.

One website suggests appointing a member of the bridal party to enforce the rule. Offbeatbride.com in their June 14 article by Ariel Meadow Stallings titled How to have an unplugged wedding: copy 'n' paste wording and templates  suggests this verbiage "The bride and groom have asked me to respectfully suggest guests to put down their electronics and just enjoy the day. Can I ask you to put your camera/phone away?" Hmmmmm. I think I’d rather have a grandmother enjoy herself than get called out (no matter how gently) by a bridal party member. Who in the bridal party wants to be the enforcer?

The same article offers this verbiage: “We've hired an amazing wedding photographer named _________ who will be capturing the way the wedding looks and we’re...” To all my future couples, PLEASE don’t post this at your wedding. I love that you have a high opinion of me as your photographer, but I’d rather not have attention drawn to myself in this manner.

Are there things I would change at weddings to make my images better? Sure and within reason I manage those things to make our images the best possible. Is someone between the bride and me with a camera? Take a step to the left and they’re no longer a problem.  Is there a trash can in the background as the bride and groom share their first dance? Move so it’s not. It’s what we do as professionals. But we really don’t feel like we need to manage the behavior of your guests in order to “create masterpieces.” It’s nice to take yourself seriously, but only to a point. Take a look at the work on our website. Does it really look like cellphones are a problem for us? You'll see people having a beautiful time and couples who trust their guests.

We realize our view on this is different from that of almost all other photographers. But, you see, your wedding day is a genuine and real experience for you to enjoy and the people closest to you to share. Let them be themselves. They’re so much better when they are. The day is not about pictures, the pictures should be about your day.






"Don't you see the time flashin' by?" -Stones

March 04, 2016  •  4 Comments

OhhhhKaaayyyyy, Since we've been at our First Street location nine years TODAY, I thought I'd pull out something form the first wedding we did as Bartholomew Wedding Photography way back in '04. This is from Kristina Linneweber Brown's wedding at Community United Methodist Church in Vincennes.

Something cool here: as I looked through their pictures I saw guests that I still see at some weddings; Max and Vera were at a wedding I shot last month. How cool is that!

I shot my first wedding back in the 80s when I was a student at Hastings College and that seems like a long time ago. It was film, OK!?!  When I look at Kristina and Wes’s pictures I see things that have changed: Nikon D100? Really? Or: “Was that really an accepted style back then?” I was back from my first WPPI convention and full of fire. It's brighter now. Alot more clear.

Some things have stayed the same. I think I’m still using one of the same flashes that I used at this wedding, but now I have more of them. And from a style standpoint, there’s some stuff that we don’t do anymore but there’s some stuff that we still do. The picture included with this blog post is one I’ll always remember and I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot it again. It was the last frame before we headed to the reception (Moose Lodge, I believe.) The truck, if I remember, was a '54 ford that Wes and his Dad had restored.


Cheers Kristina and Wes!

Why Going to Wedding Rehearsals is Great....Or... Don’t Be That Guy

February 12, 2016  •  3 Comments




Attending a rehearsal can be a laid back good time. There can be some nice moments there Sadly, we’ve all seen it too many times.

A sacred moment when two people’s lives will be forever changed as they become one. With dignity the celebrant helps guide the couple through this most special time. It’s a time of reverence as the closest family and friends look toward the altar; just the couple, the clergy….and the photographer? Really?

It doesn’t have to be this way and when I see it happen, I want to beat my head on the back of the pew in front of me. But see it I have. I’ve seen photographers on the altar moving around the couple like a doctor performing a thorough physical exam, their auriscope a 150 watt second flash.

"People talking, really smilin'" at the wedding rehearsal.

We’re sure that the photographer on the altar is doing a bang-up job but upon reflection we ask ourselves, is it really worth compromising the dignity of the event to get that close? The simple answer is no.

When photographers behave in such callous fashion they’re a distraction for the guests, the couple and the clergy. There are other ways to tell this story.  The day is not about the pictures, the pictures are about the day.

That’s why we go to wedding rehearsals. Actually there are several reasons, but this is the first.  Going to the rehearsal helps us understand the choreography of the ceremony. Knowing this helps us to know where to be during the ceremony (and where NOT to be) so were well out of the way of the ceremony on the altar and at the same time able to capture these most important moments.

While we’re there we can introduces ourselves to the clergy. The clergy does not own the church, synagogue or venue of the wedding, but they are still the one in charge. At this time we ask them if there are any guidelines they’d like us to follow while we’re documenting the ceremony. Courtesy.

Getting to know people at the rehearsal. All of this helps us stay out of the way and help maintain the dignity of the ceremony.

A second reason to attend the rehearsal is to more closely understand and know the people we’ll be working with. We can see how people respond to each other and this helps us document those relationships. If I see a bride consult with her grandmother numerous times during Go to the rehearsal to get the full story. the rehearsal, I know that’s an important relationship. What about the groomsmen. Does the best man who’s also the groom’s brother hang with the rest of the groomsmen? Are they cohesive as a group or do they each have individual relationships to the groom? Knowing these things makes a difference in what we’ll look for the following day. The wedding day is about people and relationships so we try to be aware. Frequently the bridal party dresses up a bit at a rehearsal.

So we’re at the rehearsal. We’re familiar with the people, with the venue, with the ceremony, just about everything. The last perk I’ll mention is that by coming to the rehearsal, we’ve made the bridal party and family familiar with ourselves. I find it so much easier to work in an environment where people know me. It only follows that people will act more natural and feel more comfortable around a photographer who they’ve seen or met before. It’s a special day with a number of intimate moments. It’s hard to image people opening up as much to a stranger.

Going to rehearsals are a great way to find out how your clients will respond to being on the altar.

Cheers. And remember, don’t be that guy.

Because you can hold it in your hand.

March 31, 2015  •  1 Comment

MAYBE you should go up a size. I think that’ll look a little on the small side once you get it in your house.” This is something every photographer who’s sold a print has said. Let’s face it. Photographers love to sell big prints.  We like to see our work BIG! It makes us feel appreciated.

BIGGER is better, but is that always the case? Let’s take a look, shall we? The Wedding at Cana, Paulo Veronese, 1563The Wedding at Cana, Paulo Veronese, 1563

LET'S go back five centuries or more to a time when pictures (paintings in this case) were big. Hanging in the Louvre (and pictured at right) is Veronese’s “The Wedding at Cana.” At more than 10 yards wide, it spans an entire wall. Can you imagine how an image of this size and magnitude affects a room?

IF we look at the stunning image painted a century or so later by Adriaen Stalbemt, “The Arts and Sciences” (below) we can get an idea of how art was used to decorate and enhance a living space.

 A room with significantly sized works of art can wake the minds of the room’s occupants and spur their imaginations and conversations. The room and the people in it become alive.

PLAINLY I’ve presented an unassailable case for  big pictures. Right?

NOT so fast.

THE fact is, while some of these painters were creating work that would cover a wall or more, they were also making images that were barely larger than a common playing card. Why?

EMILY Kowalski, Communications Specialist with the North Carolina Museum of Art said in 2014 “Often, Dutch and Flemish painters created small self portraits they could use as ‘calling cards’ with potential patrons. “

A few more reasons: Someone might want to use the image in a place in a room that simply won’t accommodate a larger image. A person might rather put a framed image on a table, shelf or piano and not on a wall.

SMALL images can engage people differently than large images. A connection with a small image can be more intimate than with a larger wall mounted image. It can draw people in. It can literally move people across a room to look at the picture.

INSTEAD of having to stand back and admire it from a distance, a smaller picture…we can hold in our hand.

WE can hold it in our hand.

IN 2009 The Arthritis Foundation references a pain management study at the University of California in Los Angeles: “Simple reminders of loved ones, like photographs, engender feelings of being cared for and supported and can be strong enough to reduce pain….Images of their romantic partners lowered levels of pain even more than holding their hands. Viewing a partner’s picture also led to a significantly lower pain rating than viewing photographs of an object or looking at a picture of a stranger….Researchers say their findings suggest that bringing photos of loved ones to painful procedures may be beneficial, especially if those individuals can’t be there in person. And because people have varying abilities in providing support, in some cases photos actually seem to be more effective than in-person support.”

SO, maybe this blog post isn’t really intended for the general public or clients or potential clients. Maybe it’s for my colleagues. Big pictures are beautiful and selling them is great, but sometimes the small picture…

Vacation pics.; a few pointers

March 20, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


Spring is here and we’re staring down both barrels of our summer getaways. I’ve never been asked to give advice on vacation pictures and there’s probably a reason for that. With that in mind I’m going to post some of my thoughts on this and maybe a little advice.

First off, God bless our dads and grandfathers, camera bugs of half a century ago who tirelessly carried their big clunky cameras on vacations, forcing the family to line up in front of the Grand Canyon, St. Louis Arch, Golden Gate Bridge, light house for Kodak moment after Kodak moment. Today when we look back through those albums of prints (ALBUMS OF PRINTS) we don’t look at how the Grand Canyon has changed, we look at how we’ve changed. Sceenic Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C. These images not only document the history of our family, but they can spur these precious memories. Yes I remember that I went to the Grand Canyon when I was a kid, but actually looking at a photograph enhances and revitalizes the memory to a point that simply not be reached otherwise.

So thank your camera-bug dad for lugging his monstrous camera around. The pictures are worth it. And while he may have looked a bit dorky in his leather sandals and dark socks, using a Rolleiflex TLR and wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarers more than makes up for it.

Now some pointers and some of this is going to seem dumb almost to the point of being insulting, but if I hadn’t been there myself….

Disclaimer: These are rambling thoughts and this is in no way intended to be a comprehensive how-to post.

#1. Have your camera. Let’s face it, in this day and age it’s more difficult NOT to have a camera than to forget one, so there’s just no excuse. Phones have cameras, yes, but to take it up a notch a small point and shoot will go a long way. This has to do with image quality. Pictures from your cell phone will look best…on the cellphone. The images in this post were taken with a dated point and shoot Canon that fit in my pocket.

#2. Read the instruction book. I’m sorry! I’m not trying to insult you. Even the simplest cameras do a lot, but the worst is that they all have a bunch of tiny little buttons and it’s easy to accidentally change the settings and not know what you’ve done. Maybe you did something and it doesn’t take pictures when you push the button or (maybe worse) it beeps when you push the button. As I write this I’m sitting next to a camera instruction book that’s 502 pages long. All in English. Yours won’t be that long.

#3. Don’t NOT shoot a picture because you’re afraid it won’t turn out well. It’s your vacation. Respond to the way you feel. Relax.

#4. Photograph the people you care about. Unless you’re getting something that you really think is going to be a scenic that you’ll put on your wall, your life is about your family.

#5. Watch out for garbage in the background and foreground. It takes patience, but look at what else is in your picture besides your subject. Pedestrians? Other tourists?  Dumpsters? Sometimes you’ll need to wait for people to get out of the way. Sometimes you’ll need to move yourself.

#6. Shoot out of a window only if there’s no other way.

#7. If you have to shoot out of a window, watch out for reflections.

#8. And maybe most important, when you pull off to a scenic overlook, get your picture, and then actually take your camera down from your face and breathe it in.   Let your mind see it in real life.  Feel it.

Vacation Pizza PictureLeona's in Chicago on Sheridan Road.

Chicago Pizza. Leona's on North Sheridan Road.

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