In Category: ‘Helpfulness’

There is a pretty clear line dividing the photographers who choose to feature music on their sites and those who don’t. It’s a bit of a heated debate easily found on various community forums. I understand both sides pretty clearly and think that both have their valid points. But in the end, as it does with almost everything else, it comes down to a personal decision.

For me, it’s like adding the music to a movie – personality, let’s say. After all, I’ve said it many times that I looove music, and my everyday life is hardly ever without its soundtrack. — As it happens, right this very moment it’s moving to Ingrid Michaelson’s The Hat.

Why should my website be any different? After much self-debate I opted to include music on my site. But there was a smidge of a problem.

Going back to said photography argument, one of its key points of argument centers on the difficulty in obtaining permission or rights to legally feature music. Many websites out there routinely post music illegally without any regard to artist rights. As an artist myself, I wanted to avoid doing this to anyone at all costs. It is a bit ironic that many photographers out there have no qualms about doing so, which sparks the debate on and on.

So I started doing some research to adhere to my personal principals. At first, I went the route that most people go. I tried contacting Indie artists via their websites/social networks to request permission or info on obtaining a license. But I quickly found that it is as difficult to garnish a response from these artists as it is from the big label ones. After a lot of online reading, I found the answer: BMI.

BMI’s licensing service offers folks the ability to feature music from countless artists – big names and newbies alike – for a fee roughly starting at $350 annually. It’s relatively easy to set up an account and the quarterly reports are simple as well.

If you are thinking of featuring music on your site, BMI is a great solution. The moderate cost is well justified by the wealth of music available, and the peace of mind that comes from doing the right thing and respecting the work of others.

There’s a slew of great information out on the web. But I came across this really cool site called Elegala that I thought was exceptionally awesome at providing information to brides. It has time lines, checklists, advice for everything from budgets to etiquette, unique gift registries, a vendor directory, giveaways, and a whole lotta details that can really come in handy.

Their motto is Elegant Galas – Made Simple. And they live up to it with a very user friendly, easy to navigate, nonsense-free website. This is what originally caught my eye. As I looked around, I also found some great articles that explain very clearly the many questions that arise when planning a wedding. It’s just a fabulous tool for any bride wanting to get some solid answers and creative ideas, regardless of budget or location, or anything else.

And I simply loved their advice/ideas section on Wedding Photography. As a wedding photographer, I’m certainly of the idea that your photographs are incredibly important. I also recognize that everyone has different needs and Elegala is great in that sense as well. So I was honored when they granted me a spot on their vendor listings.

So there, that proves how amazing they are! ;) But don’t just take my word for it. Check them out for yourself!

Everyone is different…some people know exactly what they are looking for from the get-go. Others begin their search with recommendations from friends and figure things out as they go along. I meet with a lot of couples who need a little help in figuring out how to narrow down their search for a wedding photographer. To that end, I have a list of questions that I think are important in finding just the right person. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer for everyone. Here are the basics that will help you on your way as you compare service providers for your wedding photography and get to know Plum Tree Studios:
  1. Do you use a photo assistant? Whose work am I viewing? Yes, if requested. I will always present my personal work separately from that of any other photographers that work with me. All images on the website are my personal work only.
    Can you provide us with current references? Absolutely.
  2. How long have you been photographing weddings? How many wedding clients do you have per year? I started shooting 17 years ago. I began shooting weddings in particular 4 years ago. Plum Tree Studios is currently in its third year of business. Due to my schedule, I try to do no more than 24 weddings per year.
  3. Do you ever anticipate and prepare for the possibility that something will go wrong? How would you handle it? I always try to expect the unexpected and handle these situations by preparing ahead as much as possible. I come with a sewing kit, band-aids, a lint brush, and Kleenex, aside from extra gear!
  4. How many pictures would you recommend? Why? Enough to get the job done. Because anything less would be too little. ;) I don’t restrict how much I shoot or believe there to be a standard. On average, from me you will get between 80 to 100 photos per hour (depending on the level of activity at the event).
  5. What is the latest time frame for making changes? The day of, depending on the changes.
  6. What style of pictures do you produce? Do you specialize in any in particular? Do you take black and white as well as color pictures? I am a photojournalist and this is my specialty. I do recognize the importance of traditional portraiture and am well versed in this too. For the most part, aside from your formals, your photos will consist of candid shots. I will adjust photo colors for every wedding (you can always request a standard color photo if you are given a colorized one).
  7. What kind of equipment do you use? Do you bring back-up cameras and flashes? I’m a Canon girl, and I shoot digital. I bring back-ups of all gear to every wedding, no exceptions.
  8. Do you offer touch ups, hand coloring/digital coloring, or any other services included, or are there additional fees for these services? Yes, I do offer this with every wedding. It is my standard practice to touch up all photos for you at no extra charge. If you require additional touch-up work there may be a fee, depending on what you are looking for. I don’t do photo plastic surgery, though. ;)
  9. How soon before the wedding will you go over your procedures with us? How many consultations do you provide in your package prices? I offer two in-person consultations. The first is like an interview for both of us. When booked, you will get a second consultation at least 30 days before your wedding to iron out the details. I am available by phone or email as much as you need me aside from this.
  10. How long before the wedding reception will you set up? It depends on the specifics of your wedding. I usually do a pre-event visit to locations I’ve not photographed before to plan ahead as much as possible.
  11. How do you interact with the wedding party and guests? How would you handle it if guests do not cooperate? Always in a professional and cheerful manner. I’m pretty easy going, though comfortable providing more firm direction when needed. Folks who do not wish to be photographed will be given a healthy dose of a guilt-trip. Just kidding, I‘ll gladly respect their wishes.
  12. What attire will you wear at our wedding? I dress professionally, typically in black. In my style of photography it’s always better to blend in as much as possible.
  13. Will you require a meal? I do not require a meal, though if you are not providing one please tell me so that I can prepare accordingly. If you are, rest assured that I will not be sitting down to have a “dining experience“. My priority is to get every single shot, so I eat on the run. And I will NEVER consume alcohol before or while I am working. Neither will any photographer that is working with me.
  14. What are your fees? Are taxes included in the price? What additional expenses may be charged? (other than overtime)? Wedding packages start at $1000 and are completely customizable. Taxes are NOT included (the rate is 8.25% if booking in Texas). The only possible additional expense is travel, though this will be discussed up-front.
  15. What is the farthest distance you will travel? Are travel fees included in the package or are they additional? Can you travel to more than one location, do you charge to do so? I will travel ANY distance. In fact, I love to travel. If you are booking me for a location that is further than 25 miles from Downtown Houston, you will be asked to cover a travel fee depending on the location. I do not charge extra for traveling between church and reception site within a reasonable distance. Additional locations may require a fee depending on location. I’m flexible, just chat with me.
  16. Can we view the photographs online via the Internet? For how long after the wedding? Do we need a password or login to view them? Absolutely. T
    his is one of 2 complimentary things I include with every booking. Your photo gallery will be available for a minimum of 3 months and can be password protected if you request it. The other thing you get with your booking is an online slideshow set to music and it’s compatible with Facebook. This will also be available for a minimum of 3 months (or until I run out of space on my server, whichever comes first).
  17. What is the time limit for ordering the photographs? How long after placing the order will we receive the photographs? You can order photos forever. Just keep in mind that if your photo gallery has expired there won’t be a self-service option. You’ll need to email me. Your gallery will be up within 2 weeks of your wedding (a little longer for multiple photographers), and you will receive most items ordered within two weeks, if not sooner. Albums and other keepsakes may take longer depending on the number of revisions needed.
  18. Will I get the negatives, or if digital, a CD of the pictures? I do provide a high res CD of retouched photos with every booking. I also include a print release so that you can print your own photos for personal use. This is different from transferring the copyrights. For more info on that, please see below.
  19. How long do you keep negatives or digital files? How are negatives or files stored? Are there backups of all negatives or files? Forever. I keep hard copies, back-ups on two computers and remote storage as well. I treat my work as art and preserve it as such.
    Will you be able to purchase additional pictures in the future? For how long? Yep, see question 19.
  20. Do you require a deposit? How much and by when will we need to put down the deposit? Do you accept checks and credit cards? Yes, it’s 50% due at time of signing to block off your date. It is non-refundable and I accept all forms of payment.
  21. Will you provide us with a written contract? What are your cancellation terms? Every. Single. Time. I require a deposit and signed contract to block off your date and consider you booked. All payments are non-refundable, with the exception of special circumstances such as acts of God. Under such situations you will be asked to provide proper documentation for a refund (minus applicable expenses). Again, I’m flexible.
  22. Do you permit family members and guests to take photographs at the wedding? No way. Just kidding! Of course…it’s the digital age and just about everyone has a camera. As long as they do not interfere with the job you are paying me to do, all is good. No other pro-photographers, please.
  23. Do you carry liability insurance? Yes, and should your venue request it, I can have them named on the policy.
  24. Are you a member of any professional organizations? Do you attend workshops, seminars or classes to learn new trends and techniques? I hold a Bachelor of Art in Art History and Studio Art/Photography from the University of Houston. I am currently in the process of joining the WPPI & PPA and I attend at least 3 workshops a year to keep my skills sharp and improving. My last workshop was with world-renowned photographer, David Jay. He’s my hero!
  25. Do we own the copyrights to the photos? I’m sorry, but no. You do get a print release but I will always retain artist rights.

The copyright issue is VERY important! It is illegal to publicly post or make copies of a photograph, taken by a photographer you‘ve contracted, without their expressed, written permission. A good lab will not let you print photographs from a copyrighted CD without a print release. Fines are steep at a maximum of $250,000 and 5 years imprisonment. In my case in particular, I do encourage my clients to share their photos with friends and loved ones in a free manner as long as it is not for commercial use. And I also greatly appreciate being credited for the work, especially if these are posted online. In other words, feel free to brag about me! ;)

Lastly, before you sign any contract, be absolutely sure of the following:

  • You like the photographer’s personality and professionalism and will be comfortable working together.
  • You like his or her style.
  • You are happy with the price.
  • You agree with the conditions posed by the photographer and that the photographer agrees with yours.

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service! Happy shopping!

I’m in love! Every once in while I find something that really knocks my socks off! This is one of those times!

I joined Etsy’s community of artists a few months ago, and have found within a playground for inspiration as well as a minefield of temptation. I could get lost in there for hours, at the detriment of my pocket book and my time. Yes, I can be a shop-a-holic!

If you are looking for creative ways to decorate your home, a means to add to your art collection, or for some thoughtful, one-of-a-kind ways to shop for your bridesmaid and wedding party gifts, you HAVE TO check out Etsy!

Of particular interest is Homestudio, run by Mark (a painter/furniture designer) and his wife Stef (a jewelry designer). Together they produce one of the funnest, most unique pendants imaginable — made of scrabble pieces!

scrabble+pendants Bridesmaid Gifts   Unique & Inexpensive

Each pendant is shipped in a dainty little organza bag accompanied by a card with more info on the artists and care instructions. The four above are my first in what I can only hope will be a growing collection. Best of all, Mark & Stef accept commissions for custom pieces, making the possibilities endless and perfectly suited for your specific purpose! Shipping is quick and Stef is super responsive to any questions that you ask.

As beautiful and eye-catching as they look on your shiny computer screen, they’re even better in person. It’s no wonder they’ve sold over 2100 of them in just over three months! I can’t say enough about these little squares of art. I just love them!

This month, I decided to include some tips for taking better photos in my newsletter. Here is a copy of that text:

Simple Changes for Improved Shots
We all do it, even me. We’re so excited to get started with our brand new camera that we forget the most important thing: reading the manual. I know all-to-well how easy it can be to feel intimidated by all the jargon in these palm sized books. So, until you find yourself with the extra time/courage and can remember where it is you stashed your manual, here are some simple tips for some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why are my pictures blurry?
Many times, lighting situations are less than ideal when you click that button. Even with your built-in flash turned on, sometimes the dreaded “camera shake” creeps in and ruins your precious photo. Using a flash should, in most situations, remedy this problem. But what can you do when using the flash fails?

Move closer. Using the zoom, is not always the best option. Moving closer helps your flash illuminate your subject more fully, something that your zoom can’t achieve. The “camera shake” phenomenon is much like trying to make your way through a poorly-lit room without sacrificing the bruising of your shins. That’s because a camera lens works much like our eyes do. It needs light to interpret details; without this it gets harder to focus properly and avoid that poorly placed ottoman. Unless you can put a larger flash on your camera (only available for cameras with an external flash mount) your best option is to inch a little closer.

Have you ever noticed that right before you take your photo you see a little light turn on at the front of the camera? Most cameras have this “assistant” to help your lens achieve better focus without fully activating the flash. Just hold the button HALF WAY down while you focus on your subject. This gives your camera a few more seconds to read and interpret the information…much like one would do before plunging into a darkened room.

But how do you make it look professional?
While I’d like to say that my photos are solely the result of 15 years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree, the truth is that with just a couple of modifications you can have a more professional looking photo, too.

The easiest trick to implement: Move closer.

Nope, it’s not a typo. This works great for improving your composition as well! Those adorable freckles, the glimmer in your subject’s eyes, that dewy complexion, these are all details better captured from a closer angle. The other advantage is that you will, at the same time, be cutting down on distracting backgrounds or objects in your image.

Composition is what sets most pictures apart. The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle that will make a great deal of difference in your picture quality. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Basically, it is based on the concept that perfectly centered subjects make for uninteresting shots. This is because it leaves very little to be discovered. A good photo will guide your eyes throughout, delivering the story little-by-little and culminating in visual delight.

You can achieve this by imaging that your image can be split into 9 equal sized boxes, 3 across and 3 down, like tic-tac-toe.

Based on this tip, every time you compose a shot, the main subject of your photo should be located primarily on one of these “third” lines.

Another great and easy tip is to pay attention to the colors that make up your image. If your subject accidentally stepped into an 80′s time-warp and their clothing colors resemble the stylings of the Cosby Show, there is a simple solution: change the image to black and white. Clashing colors can radically affect the quality of an image. If you are unable to guide your subject before they decide on their wardrobe or if, through no fault of their own, the backgrounds clash with your subject, minimizing the distractions is the best way to resolve this issue. The fastest way to do this is to cut out all that color with your camera’s black and white editing option.

Armed with these simple tools you can take more professional quality pictures. So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather, blooming flowers, and the simple joy of the great outdoors with a camera by your side! And if you want to share your handy-work with us, feel free to shoot us an email at You may just see yourself featured in an upcoming newsletter issue!