Your Experience With Sasha Photography
Over 13 years of experience documenting weddings large and small has shown that capturing great photographs involves much more than simply having good equipment or being in the right place at the right time. It’s critical to be fully prepared, and to understand all aspects of the wedding day. The schedule. The priorities of the wedding couple. The conditions and restrictions at the venue. The lighting environments. The temperament of the officiant. The needs of other vendors. The energy of the guests.
Moreover, my responsibilities to you extend far outside the wedding day itself. With some couples, our relationship begins more than a year before their wedding, as you get engaged and start putting the pieces of your special day together. (In fact, some guys even hire me to secretly capture the proposal itself!) Often, it extends for months afterwards as we collaborate on albums, fulfill print orders, and schedule after-wedding sessions. Many couples come back to me for years after the wedding for maternity and family sessions!
Below, I explain every part of the experience – from initial planning stages, to the nuances of the wedding day, to the wedding album, and everything in between.
Table of Contents
Before the Wedding
The Wedding Day
Ceremony Venue Establishing Shots
Guest Arrivals and Candids
Family / Formal Photos
Creative Photographs with the Couple
Cocktail Hour / Guest Candids
Horah / Money Dance / Performances
Garter and Bouquet Toss
After the Wedding
Before the Wedding
The first thing that usually happens is that someone pops the question. “Will you marry me?” If the answer is “Yes!”, then the real work of planning a wedding begins. The first thing couples generally cross of their to-do list is the venue. Without a venue, you cannot have a firm date. Once the deposit is laid down for the wedding space – or spaces (many couples host their ceremony and reception in different locations) – the next step is usually to select and retain the wedding photographer. The reason is that the best photographers tend to get hired more than a year in advance – especially for really popular wedding dates. For example, in recent years 8/8/08, 10/10/10, 12/12/12, 9/12/15, are just some examples of numerically interesting or auspicious dates that were booked far ahead.
When couples come to me with a wedding inquiry, and the date is available, my goal is always to provide as much relevant information as possible to help them make a decision. After all, wedding photography is an incredibly intimate art: you invite a relative stranger to a very unguarded, private event, and you ask me to capture people’s uncorked emotions, to document them at their most vulnerable moments. For this reason, I want my couples to understand not only my techniques and my approach, but also who I am as a person.
When we decide to move forward, I create a special repository for the couple, and I ask that you send me schedule drafts, vendor info, inspiration boards, and anything else that may be relevant to my understanding of how your wedding plans are evolving. Some brides even send me selfies from the bridal salon to give me a sneak peek at their intended gown!
The next step with many of my couples is to schedule an engagement or pre-wedding photoshoot. There are two very important reasons why this is a good idea:
(1) It’s an opportunity for us to experience one another – for you to feel what it’s like to be in front of my camera, and for me to learn your best angles, your expressions, how you fit together as a couple (or as a family – often children and pets will join the shoot), and
(2) many couples opt to use the photographs from the session for save-the-dates, wedding websites, and to share them on social media with friends and family, in order to build excitement for their day. I like to customize my engagement shoots to each couple. There’s a wide range of locations we can visit in and around San Francisco. Some couples have spots that they find special. Other couples like to do a session, or part of it, in their home. Some people have all kinds of ideas for creative outfits and costumes, and others want something simple and classic in a park or green space. I am happy and excited to work with you to craft a personal and meaningful session.
Meetings and Site Visits
Having been a professional photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 10 years, there’s a good chance that I am already familiar with your venue. However, some venues change over time, and new venues appear on the scene. My goal is to be completely knowledgeable about your wedding location(s), and if that requires a meeting or walkthrough, then assuming we have a reasonable amount of time to schedule it, I am happy to arrange one. For destination weddings, obviously, sometimes a scouting mission is not possible, in which case I will rely on meticulous online research to ensure that I am prepared. In one of my favorite films, Ronin, Robert DeNiro’s character says “…I never walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.” That’s pretty much my mindset when it comes to your venue(s). I want to understand all the ins and outs, the setup, the lighting, the restrictions, the best angles and spots, and all possible challenges that may arise.
Coordination with Other Vendors
Are you working with a wedding planner? Did they refer me in the first place? Remember, this is a different role than your day-of or onsite wedding coordinator. Typically a wedding planner will engage you from weeks to months ahead of the day, to help you put the various pieces in place. Many couples planning a destination wedding or if they’re simply too overwhelmed by other responsibilities will hire a long-term wedding planner. In this case, it’s important for us to be in frequent contact. I also like to coordinate with officiants, to understand the scope and flow of the ceremony, as well as videographers, in order to have a handle on how they plan to approach their documentation of the day. Event catering managers and onsite coordinators often require insurance paperwork, and have rules and regulations that must be signed prior to the event. Vendor contact info is a great thing to send my way as it becomes available. If you want my recommendations for certain vendors, I am happy to provide them – just ask!
Many wedding resources such as TheKnot.com and various wedding blogs and magazines are eager to provide you with shots lists, which contain items such as “the first kiss” and “the first dance” and “photo of the rings”. Keep in mind that a typical full-day wedding will yield several hundred images. I will not only capture the first dance – I intend to capture it from several angles and with different lighting and composition. In other words, those types of shot lists generally list very generic wedding shots, and you can expect all that and much more from me. What’s more helpful is a list of the personal must have moments that may occur at your wedding. For example, a grandparent in ill health who will be attending, a handmade item that will appear during the ceremony, or a surprise performance during the reception. The most critical list I will ask you to provide is a list of family photographs you’d like taken throughout the day. This typically will happen after the ceremony (although not always) and usually involves various combinations of immediate and extended family, friends, and co-workers. Having such a list, complete with names (at least for family) will be a key to success and efficiency on your day. More on this later in the family/formal photos section.
About 1-2 weeks before the wedding day is a good time to put everything together and touch base by phone or Skype in order to to a final check-in and review. At that point the guest list is usually set, the vendors aligned, the schedule fully baked. On the call, we’ll review the complete details of your day, walk through the schedule line by line, and make sure all questions are answered from both sides. By the end of the call, we should all feel that we’re completely on the same page about your day and your expectations.
The Wedding Day
Generally I like to arrive at the hotel/salon/flat/bridal room – wherever you’re getting ready – in order to capture the finishing touches of hair and makeup. I don’t need to be there when you get out of the shower in the morning. Same goes for guys. The most valuable shots are the candids of you and your entourage as you prepare, as well as the more editorial and stylized shots that are possible during this time. Couples often write or rehearse their vows, laugh and drink with family and friends, and of course finalize their outfits and details. For this reason, the hours of wedding prep are a beautiful and fertile time for photography. They are full of many emotions: anxiety, anticipation, giddiness, joy, silliness, and maybe even nostalgia and sadness (for example, as parents reflect on their children’s wedding day ahead, or on their own weddings decades ago).
This is a tradition that by now is quite familiar to most couples. Basically it’s the opportunity to stage a reveal (or “first glance”) before the actual ceremony / walk down the aisle. Some couples like this as an option, because it takes away some of the pre-ceremony stress, and also because it opens up some additional pre-ceremony time for creative photographs together. My approach to the first look is to pick a private location, generally at the ceremony venue (although it can be done at the prep venue as well). Sometimes the wedding party or family want to be present; other times the couple prefers total privacy. I scout a favorable location with a compelling background and good light, and then coordinate this moment. Sometimes I’ll recruit one of your friends or attendants to help ensure that things go seamlessly. Ideally I like to have two perspectives on the moment, and I’ll place my associate photographer in a good place to capture the decisive moment form a second angle.
These rich traditions take many forms, such as the Tea Ceremony in a Chinese or Vietnamese wedding, or the Ketubah signing and veiling of the bride (Bedeken) in a Jewish wedding. Typically close and honored family members are on hand, and this a great time for photojournalistic photography as well as a more traditional approach to capture moments with family VIPs.
Ceremony Venue Establishing Shots
Couples spend much time obsessing over how their ceremony space will look and how it will be experienced by the guests and by themselves. Whether it’s an organic setting such as a beach, forest or mountaintop, or an urban/modern setting such as a hotel or bar, my goal is to capture the ceremony set-up exactly as the venue sold it to you, and as you envisioned it. Pristine, perfectly arranged, and ready for the guests. Once the guests actually arrive, they’ll likely put their jackets and belongings on the chairs, and the perfect set-up will be gone. It takes solid planning, coordination with other vendors, and anticipation on my end to stake out the perfect moment to capture the ceremony setting.
Guest Arrival and Candids
As the guests are arriving and getting seated for the ceremony, I and/or my associate photographer will move among them, capturing emotional greetings, connections and other opportune moments. These are people who’ve invested lots of time, effort, financial resources and emotional energy to be with you on the day, and I want to make sure there are meaningful memories of them being there!
This is one of the most challenging parts of the wedding day, because so much happens in such a short time. Also, much depends on the behavior of the guests, who are eager to experience this peak moment of the wedding day. A typical processional will involve the wedding party and ultimately both partners walking down an aisle. Often parents, siblings or even grandparents will be involved. As the VIP’s move down the aisle, the guests may be leaning over with phones and cameras to capture it. Flashes and orange-focus assist lights from phones and cameras will go off left and right. When the couple appear – whether separately or together – the guests will stand, and the whole landscape of the ceremony space will change. Angles will be blocked, folks may step or lean out into the aisle. I have captured hundreds or processionals, and I am familiar with these shenanigans. I assess the guests as they are getting seated, so that I understand where the challenging angles and obstructions may come from. It’s not my goal to impose on your guests’ experience in any way – they have a right to capture the processional as much as I do. However, I never forget that I am the one you’ve entrusted and paid to get it right.
This is a continuation of the processional. It’s all about staking out the right angles, using the right focal lengths and lighting to remain as unobtrusive as possible yet always poised to capture the decisive moment. Many of the shots on your “shot list” happen during the ceremony: The recital of vows, special readings by guests, the exchange of rings, the merging of sand or candles, special blessings or religious traditions (the “seven circles”, the “breaking of the glass”, the “cord and veil”, the “coins”, the “seven steps”, the grinding of sugar, a glance in the mirror, and many more), the first kiss. All ceremony traditions require a cultural sensitivity and understanding, as well as strong preparation and vigilant anticipation of these decisive moments.
Typically after the couple are pronounced “partners for life” or “husband and wife”, they will make their way out of the ceremony room. I love this moment because it’s full of triumph and excitement. I make sure that I am in position to capture the couple as they make their way back down the aisle together. Some wedding traditions, such as a Jewish wedding, add a moment of respite after the ceremony where the couple must be alone for a few minutes, away from the guests. In Jewish tradition this is known as a “yichud”, but I’ve also seen this incorporated in many non-Jewish weddings where it simply makes sense for the couple to have a sanity break with one another. I refer to this as the “island of calm” amidst the wedding chaos, and you’ll see that there are several such opportunities throughout the rest of the day. While the bride and groom are away, I use the time to begin setting up equipment and organizing family for the formal photographs.
Family / Formal Photos
People have a love-hate relationship with these photographs. On the one hand, they are some of the most important and timeless photographs that will be captured on your day. On the other hand, people have a short attention span and a lot tolerance for an extended photo session when they are hungry, thirsty, and simply want to socialize and enjoy the day. Moreover, the ‘formal’ photo session can become chaotic if not properly organized and handled. I pride myself on completing those photographs quickly, efficiently, and most of all, beautifully. I take great care to look for the little details, giving posing suggestions, cleaning up clothing malfunctions, removing extraneous items, making people look their best. I will use the list you provide to organize the shots, and get everyone moving on to the next part of the day. The experience of your guests is paramount. Everyone will feel my focus on them, and my intent to make them look their best. My unique, proprietary techniques of lighting, composition and posing family pictures have been honed over many years, and will make your photos stand apart.
Creative Photographs with the Couple
These photographs mark a very special time during the wedding day. If you decide to have a first look, then it’s possible to begin these photos prior to the ceremony. Without a first look, your first creative photographs together as a married couple will happen after the ceremony. After we get through the family photo session, we’ll send everyone away to enjoy cocktail hour and mingle with guests, while the three of us will stay behind. At this point it’s quite nice to have the catering staff bring over some refreshments for the two of you, so that you can clink glasses and indulge for a few minutes to get your energy up. The creative photography time I have with my couples is very special, because it allows for an “island of calm” amidst all the chaos and social obligations of the wedding day. I will seek to highlight your connection with one another, in the context of the most photogenic parts of your chosen venue. We will play around with motion and stillness, natural and studio light, capture the two of you together and, perhaps briefly, apart in solo portraits. I will look for color, texture, interesting detail. If outdoors, we’ll make use of scenery, light and shade, sunsets and even night skies. The photographs that emerge from this shoot will the art you’ll want to hang on your walls, and surely compelling candidates for your Facebook cover image! After this fun and energetic session, we’ll return you to the remainder of your cocktail hour so that you can also mingle with guests and prepare prepare for the reception.
Cocktail Hour / Guest Candids
While we are creating art together, the guests will generally be mingling and enjoying cocktail hour. This is actually a great time for my associate photographer to be capturing the event in a photojournalistic way, looking for emotion, connection, and fun details. It’s nice to have great candid shots of your guests as they enjoy the event. After I return you from the creative shoot, I’ll generally roam around and capture some artistic cocktail shots myself.
Just as with the pre-ceremony setup, capturing the reception settings in pristine condition is a priority. The window for this is quite small, as it has to happen after all the details are finalized by the venue (tables arranged, centerpieces set, candles lit, etc) but before the guests enter and place their personal items on the tables. Typically I will coordinate with the wedding planner and/or event manager to ensure that guests are not let in before I have a chance to capture the decor. I want to make sure that you can remember your reception just as you envisioned it – as it will be presented to your guests when the doors open.
Most couples like to be announced into the reception room in a ‘grand entrance’. The entrance typically reflects the personality of the couple. Some prefer to have a big, boisterous entrance with the entire wedding party, theme songs, and the guests on their feet. I’ve even seen an entrance where balloons and thunder sticks dropped from the ceiling. Other couples prefer something more subdued. No matter what your entrances looks like, this is an important moment to capture: all the honor, emotion and excitement of being presented to your community as a married couple, and officially kicking off your evening festivities. I will coordinate with you, as well as with the venue staff, to be sure that my lighting is set up properly and that I am in the right place to catch the decisive moments.
One of my favorite parts of the wedding are the speeches that will be made by family and friends. I enjoy this time because I get to learn even more about the couple – together and individually. I love the humor and originality that usually accompanies these toasts, and I also love the opportunity to candidly photograph you and the guests as everyone gives their undivided attention to the speaker or performer. As we review the schedule of your day on the check-in call, we’ll review the planned (and possible surprise) speeches and performances, so that I’m prepared to capture them for you.
You may choose your first dance as an opportunity to showcase your skills and perform for your guests. You may decide for your first dance to be another “island of calm” during your reception, where they two of you can simply sink into one another and relax on the dance floor for a few minutes. Some couples spend weeks or even months choreographing and rehearsing a first dance. Some prefer to simply circle together in a warm embrace on the dance floor. For me, this is a critical moment to capture the two of you, as well as the reactions of your guests. By this point in the wedding day, the anxiety and nerves have mostly melted away, and many social obligations have been fulfilled, allowing you to be a bit more selfish and to enjoy more time together. I treat the first dance much as I do the creative photoshoot – searching (or creating) interesting lighting and backgrounds in order to best highlight the mood and connection between the two of you at that moment.
Much like the first dance, the dances with parents are a very meaningful and often emotional time. For many couples, this is the first chance to reconnect with their parents with a wedding band on their finger. Giving away your son or daughter into the care of another person is a watershed emotional experience, and of course I look to highlight this emotion in my images.
Horah / Money Dance / Performances
Living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area has given me a front seat to myriad cultural traditions at wedding receptions. I’ve captured Jewish Horahs, where the couple are hoisted up in chairs while the guests swirl around them. I’ve documented Tongan and Philippine money dances, Bhangra dance performances, Mexican drinking games, Greek circle dances, you name it! I love to be surrounded by all the energy and creativity of these traditions. Often times I will get right into the middle of all the fun and chaos to get the best shots.
The cake cutting, just like the grand entrance, often reflects the personality of the couple. Some choose a towering cake and prefer to be surrounded by all of their guests as they make a slice and feed one another. Some escalate the moment by smothering cake into each other’s faces. Other couples prefer to cut their cake quietly and in private. Some couples don’t have a cake at all – I’ve seen pies, cake pops and cupcakes take center stage during this ceremony.
This is a great time for you and your guests to finally cut loose after a day of events and traditions. I love to get in the middle of the action to capture the most exciting shots on the dance floor. Often times little kids will end up in the middle of the action and will ham it up for the adults and the camera. The high-energy in-motion shots from this part of the day are always some of my couples’ and their guests’ favorite moments.
Garter and Bouquet Toss
Articles appear all the time talking about how wedding trends come and go. A recent New York Times article talked about how the bouquet toss has waned in popularity. Typically if a couple has many young unwedded guests, they’ll choose to do these traditions – more for the enjoyment of their guests than for their own amusement. I love capturing the guests who are vying to catch the object! Sometimes they resort to all kinds of shenanigans to ensure that they are the one to snag it. I’ve been surprised quite a few times at how high a woman can leap even though she’s wearing heels. For both of these traditions, I coordinate with the wedding couple to make sure I have them in the best position and the best light before the fun begins.
Before it’s my time to depart the event, I’ll always check with you to ensure that you have all the shots you want, and typically I’ll steal you away for a few more minutes in order to get some beautiful closing shots with you. Some couples choose to have a sparkler exit or have a car waiting to take them away from the reception. We’ll coordinate to make sure that I am there for you if you have special departure plans.
After the Wedding
I understand how impatient you will be to see the photographs from your day, and how important it is for many couples to be able to share their photos on social media with friends and family. Even during the busiest time of year, you can count on a sneak peek from your wedding within a few days at most. You’ll receive a file from me that will be optimized for sharing on social media.
What type of post production is included on the photographs? I do my best to capture images as perfectly as possible in camera. I shoot as I did in the film days: every image has creative intent and the right technical ingredients. All images in your set will receive color/white balance correction, contrast, lens correction, cropping/straightening, and a reasonable level of retouching to get them ready for print. I will also be putting my own proprietary artistic and creative touches on the photographs. Deep skin retouching and other complex photo manipulation are not included unless you specifically select a package with enhanced retouching ahead of time. Otherwise such requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis. You provide a detailed request, and I’ll provide guidance and a quote.
Complete Set of Images Delivered
Contractually, I guarantee that the complete set of images will be delivered to you within 6 weeks of your wedding day. However, it’s always my goal to have the complete set of images delivered to you within 1 month of your wedding day – even at the busiest times of the year. You will receive a private, password-protected, print ordering-enabled gallery. Some clients may choose a package in which a download of high resolution image files is also included. In this case you will be able to download the image files directly from the gallery with a special password, and this will give you the ability to make your own personal prints through the lab of your choice.
Sharing On Social Media
You are welcome to share photographs from your wedding with your community on social media. I only ask that you provide proper credit to Sasha Photography when doing so.
Anyone you share the gallery with will be able to order prints and other photo products of any size, and they will be fulfilled directly to the orderer. The photographs are uploaded to the gallery in full resolution, which means you can make prints as large as 40×60″ at full quality. I also offer specialty metal and canvas prints on demand.
The album process is quite simple. You send me your set of favorites, and I will design your album with those photographs. Once I have your approval for the album layout, you’ll pick cover materials for your book and we’ll send it off to print. Design and printing each take up to 6 weeks, which means that couples who get me their picks soon after the gallery is delivered can have their album back within 5-6 months from the wedding day.
If something you need falls outside the standard workflow described above, just send me an email and ask. We’ll make it work!