I think the single biggest gift being a wedding photographer has given me has been reconnecting with people from my past on such a loving an important day as their wedding. I have photographed the weddings and special moments for people I’ve gone to high school with, people that I’ve gone to college with, people I’ve gone to graduate school with and people that I’ve met in while living in other cities. 17 years ago I was lucky enough to find myself working at ACCAD as a summer counselor for a women in technology program. Little did I know that program would change my life probably more than it changed any of the other girls attending the week-long camp. The other counselors became lifelong mentors to me and women that I continue to look up to and aspire to be. One of those women is Samantha. When she contacted me about her wedding day, to say I was honored would be an understatement. We FaceTimed together where I got to both meet her fiancé Lisa and start the ball rolling on planning their romantic Via Vecchia wedding.
Fast forward to their wedding day. It’s not often I get choked up on a wedding day, but when Samantha walked into the room with a blue sequined dress, I kinda lost it a little. She was so radiant. A little later, I was able to meet Lisa in-person for the first time in her suite down the hallway at the downtown Westin. It had felt like I had known her for years. Her brother and best friend were hanging out in the room with her and they had such great senses of humor, I immediately felt a connection with them all.
Lisa and Sam wanted so badly to get married in the alley at Via Vecchia, but the universe had other plans for them. It not only rained, but it down-poured to the point it was testing the capacity of the gutters. The entire ceremony setup was moved indoors at the last minute thanks to Via Vecchia owner, Michael, and Lisa and Sam’s friends and family. Let me tell you- it looked so amazing. I couldn’t get enough of the hot-pink uplighting. It ended up being the ceremony with the biggest visual cool-factor of the year. I know it wasn’t what they had envisioned, but it was just perfect.
My favorite parts of the reception were the speeches, as always, the shoe game where we got to see a little insight on Sam and Lisa’s relationship, and the sibling dance-off which was judged by Sam and Lisa’s parents. I’m not sure I’ve laughed that hard in years. Later that night, the rain stopped and so we snuck out and did a few evening shots under the Via Vecchia bistro alley lights. I can’t thank Samantha and Lisa enough for having me photograph their wedding. I hope you all love these as much as I loved taking them! XO Jess
Emily and Rob’s late July wedding had it all! Perfect weather, smiling faces, stunning surroundings and so much love throughout the day. From the church to the reception venue, there were stunning surprises around every corner.
Emily’s dress was just perfect for her. The A-line dress had delicate lace sleeve accents which were striking with her dark hair. The dress dropped softly into lots of alternating layers that floated away from her as she walked. Each bridesmaid wore a different cut of a soft pink or dusty rose colored flowy gown. Madison House designs provided the florals that tied the whole look together. Rob wore a blue suit, which you don’t see often but I wish more men would opt for it. It is so sophisticated and dapper.
Emily and Rob were married at the Church of the Messiah in Westerville. This church is incredibly cool inside. It has soaring modern stained glass windows. They line the center aisle with lit taper candles which makes everything inside feel warm and romantic.
From the church, we went to the spot that Rob asked Emily to marry him- the center of the OSU oval. Right nearby the Thompson Library made a stunning classical backdrop for some more photos. Afterward, we headed over to Via Vecchia for more romantic alley photos, one of the biggest perks of having your wedding there!
Inside, the scene was set for an elegant wedding that featured gold and candlelit table settings accented with greenery. The party got off to an amazing start with some wonderful and funny speeches. After, Emily and Rob performed a fairytale-worthy choreographed first dance together for all of their guests. When the open dancing started you better believe that dance floor was full of some of the best moves I’ve seen in awhile! Thank you so much Emily and Rob and I hope you love these as much as I loved taking them! XO Jess
Kelly and Jason’s June wedding was one for the ages! Everything from start to finished went smooth as silk and the weather was perfect. The couple both got ready for the day at the downtown Columbus Westin, however they opted not to see each other until their first look. They had their first look in front of Brewer’s Gate and it was so sweet and heartfelt. Kelly was a dream in here Lea-Ann Belter Gown and her Badgley Mischka shoes. After the first look we took photos around the Via Vecchia property and then hopped on a Trolley over to Schiller Park for some bridal party shots.
And what a bridal party it was! There were 12 bridesmaids and 11 groomsmen. Madison House Designs provided the florals with accents of soft pink that matched the maid’s dresses.
Half way through the portrait session, Kelly casually mentions she has this amazing lace parasol and brings it off the bus. It was all I could do not to drool over it- and OMG the dreamy photos it made- just perfect for a summer wedding! By that time we had driven over to the docks at the Audubon center which had wildflowers in full bloom around the wetland area. The soft white flowers accented her dress in a way that you couldn’t have planned even if you wanted to. Next it was time to make our way back to Via Vecchia and get these two hitched!
Molly and her team at MStyle made sure everything was absolutely perfect both inside and outside of the venue. The ceremony took place in the Alley and to say it was romantic would be an understatement. You could really see how in love these two are. Kelly and Jason would hold each-other in their arms as they listed to their family give the readings during their ceremony. It was a small detail, but I noticed it because you usually don’t see such a tender interaction like that.
When the ceremony was finished, the wine started flowing. The reception was overflowing with the most stunning florals, delicious cookies and smiling guests. I can’t thank Kelly and Jason enough for having me with them on this spectacular day. I hope you love looking at these as much as I loved taking them! XO Jess
I can’t say enough about Christie and Ingmar. They are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. Christie is also blissfully unaware of how drop dead gorgeous she is, which makes it even more fun to get her in front of the camera. If I hadn’t slacked so badly last year because of having the baby, I would have posted their super quaint engagement shoot we did in German Village. If you pick up the current issue of The Knot Ohio, there’s a photo from that shoot along with their proposal story in it.
One of the fun things about shooting both the engagement and the wedding is getting to know the couple better one-on-one, and then getting to know them AND their family on the big day. This family is literally overflowing with love for each other. Christie’s sister seemed like the glue that helped everything run smoothly, and her fervent love was so palpable at every step. People flew in from as far as Dubai to be at this celebration. It was truly the party of the year.
Let me just say this- Christie wore a Matthew Christopher dress and Kate Spade shoes that were just show-stopping. I think I even swore a little when I saw her shoes because I love them so much.
The ceremony was held at St. John the Baptist. I hadn’t been there in a couple years and I just love every time I get to shoot there. The bright colors and intimate environment make for a spectacular setting for a wedding, large or small.
I just love this wedding…and this venue…and omg this couple. I’ve been really excited to share these images. The whole day was filled with spring color, non-stop laughter and beyond-crazy weather.
From start to finish, Adrienne and Adam have been nothing but sweet, generous and pretty much the coolest insta-friends you could meet. Last summer my husband Scott and I traveled to Chicago for their engagement session. Since then, I’ve really been looking forward to their wedding.
Adrienne was a complete knockout in her form-fitting gown. Her Kate Spade shoes were ‘be still my beating heart’ gorgeous with their glittery gold heel accents. Orchids & Ivy provided the stunning wedding party bouquets in shades of pink and ivory. The bridesmaids wore long flowy navy gowns which made the flowers even more vibrant. The men all wore black tuxedos which was very classic and dapper.
Via Vecchia served as the backdrop for the day. The decor and styling by Michelle and Molly, a.k.a. MStyle, was on-point. Wine bottle centerpieces, colorful flowers and an illuminated LOVE sign made the space feel warm and romantic.
The party came alive thanks to the live band, MoJo Flo. Anyone who’s been to a wedding they’ve played will know this, but truly- I dare you not to dance if you ever get lucky enough to see them live. They are just electric and will bring the whole place down. Their full band and light setup will make you feel like you walked into a concert venue.
So what could make this wedding even more awesome? How about stacks of cupcakes? Yea that pretty much makes everything better. Catering by Scott made me feel like I walked into my fairytale dessert dreamland with his cupcake and dessert display-tower-mountain. Next to this display were also late-night hot dogs and sliders for the guests to nom nom. Such an unforgettable evening!
Fair warning- photo wise, this is going to be a serious over-post. I have so many favorites from last year that it was hard to narrow them down. I’m going to do wedding details in their own “best-of” post later this month because there were simply too many to even begin to include them in this post.
2015 was a year that we’ll never forget! Scott and I moved into our first home and we welcomed the world’s cutest little boy to our family. Most of the year I was pregnant, however I consider myself lucky because it never really slowed me down as far as mobility when photographing. I was just a little more rolly-polly towards the end. Because of our little bundle of joy, my wedding season ended a little early at the beginning of October. Our year ended with the announcement that Jessica Miller Photography won The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2016, which is the fifth year I’ve won the award in a row!
As you will see, my couples this year were really really good looking. Each was super fun to work with and I feel so lucky that the couples that hire me tend to be laid back and genuine in spirit. All of my weddings this year were in the Columbus area, which is the first time ever I believe I haven’t traveled for a wedding. From the engagement shoot through the wedding and book design process, my couples really start to feel like great friends. I think that’s probably one of the best parts of this job.
This summer came with a lot of rain and a lot of outdoor weddings were pushed inside as a result. This of course isn’t ideal on a wedding day, but the wind that comes with rain can make for some fun and unexpected moments.
Thank you to everyone for your love and support this year! It’s been our best year yet and 2016 is gearing up to be even busier and better! XO Jess
Happy 2015! I would like to dust off this blog and give a special thank you to all of the amazing people I was lucky enough to meet, work with, and photograph this year. It has truly felt like two years all rolled into one and to call the experience rewarding would be an understatement. I will be blogging the remaining weddings I photographed in 2014 in the coming weeks, but this blog is reserved for my most favorite wedding photos from last year. Thank you so much to the other fantastic photographers who shot as my second shooters this year- Kim, Carmen, Zak, Steve, Jared, Melissa, and my husband Scott.
In 2014, Scott graduated graduate school in Occupational Therapy and now works during the day at his dream job helping others live a more active, pain-free life. To celebrate his graduation and our life together, we took off most of the month of September and went on a grand tour of California together. I will also blog about this trip in the coming weeks. We saw some amazing things that I can’t wait to share.
Last year I did a lot of soul searching about what direction I wanted to take my company. I overhauled my website with a fresh, new design that’s easier to navigate. I found a lot of clarity in 2014 about what I think is most important about the field of photography, which can be read about here. I attended workshops and seminars on how to enhance my practice and there wasn’t a complacent bone in my body. I’m so excited to enter into 2015 with a full schedule, a new camera body added to my arsenal, and the most wonderful, fun couples I could ever ask for!
So on to the good stuff! The photos below all pulled at my heart strings in one way or another. All of the couples I was lucky enough to photograph last year were so amazingly creative. The details were simply breathtaking, and this post would be 5,000 photos long if I included all the ones I wanted to. I hope you enjoy these and cheers to a happy, healthy, fantastical new year! XO Jess
Congratulations on your engagement! Pop some champagne and celebrate! Now, guess what? It’s time to narrow down the hundreds of photographers that are in your local market.
I have talked to many a bride who have found the process of vendor selection to be somewhat daunting. Sifting through countless local photography sites and looking at so many pricing options that it’s all become mental mush.
After countless consultations, answering thousands of questions, and helping clients figure out what they’re looking for, below are my top ten things you should know before you hire a wedding photographer. This list is geared to help you narrow down between your top few “true” wedding photography professionals who make their living at photography. Questions like, “Do you bring backup gear” and “Do you have insurance” are assumed to have already been answered with a resounding “yes,” as questions like these are geared more for a wedding photography novice.
As an additional side note, a lot of the pricing references below are based on what I’ve observed in the Ohio wedding photography market. Because there is so much diversity in the industry, not everyone will fit into these categories and I encourage you to meet photographers and explore on your own, but use this as a general guide to help you get where you want to go.
1) Photo-Journalistic vs. Artistic vs. Traditional Shooting Styles
There is a spectrum for photographic shooting style that has photo-journalism on one end, traditional on the other, and in-between the two falls artistic. How do you know which shooting style is right for you and your wedding day? The answer is, which a lot of photographers won’t tell you, most weddings require a little bit of all three styles to create the perfect collection. It is how much of each style they utilize that will be what you’re ultimately deciding on.
A lot of clients these days are drawn towards a more natural approach to their photos, which does not typically include grip-and-grin photography and robotic line-em-up poses. They are also not too terribly exciting or fun to go through for the photographer or the couple. There are some photographers who exclusively shoot in this style, but it’s an older style that seems to be fading by the wayside.
So why do any traditional posed photos? A lot of family members from older generations love these photos, and over the years I’ve started to understand why. Formal photos at the front of a church or outside are a great way to document what people looked like at the time of the wedding. As people grow older, and life changes with its ups and downs, those photos become more valuable. It is not always possible at larger weddings to do organically inspired photographs for everyone outside of the bridal party, so the traditional methods serve as a quick and accessible way of including family members and people of importance in the wedding day.
I’ve had many couples reach out to me after their wedding thanking me for their posed family photographs, as members of their family had since passed. It’s one of the beautiful things about photography. Not to sound cliche, but it really can preserve the memory of those important people in your life. Not every couple opts to have posed family photos, or any posed photos at all, but when they do, it’s important the photographer knows how to manage large groups of people quickly and efficiently.
Artistic photography is mostly about composition and fulfilling the photographer’s creative vision. Some photographers are more pose-oriented in this approach, while others are more prompt-oriented. This style allows the photographer to construct the shots and couple in a way that makes them look their absolute best while retaining artistic and creative ingenuity. These are the photos you will most likely hang on your wall or put in your wedding album, so a little framework is given to the process to ensure a stunning outcome. A lot of photographers call themselves photojournalists or documentary photographers but are actually mainly shooting under this artistic style.
There is a true art to being able to tell a visual story and not interject yourself as a photographer into that moment. Photo-journalistic photos are pure and true-to-life. They are taken from an observer’s prospective. A quiet, artistic fly on the wall. You will never hear a photo-journalist say “look at me and smile!” These photographers have an impeccable sense of timing and innate ability for anticipating the opportune time to take a photo. Getting ready photos, ceremony photos, reception photos, and most importantly some of the portraits all require a photographer who has mastered this art.
2) Editing Style
The wedding vendor selection process has changed a lot since our parent’s generation, and in my opinion for the better. Couples are treating their wedding as a creative extension of who they are, which always makes for a memorable and genuine celebration. It’s only natural that the wedding photographer matches the style of the couple in the way they photograph an event. “But what if I don’t know what my style is,” you might ask.
You don’t need to know your style as much as you need to know what you like, and in that, you will find your style. Do you love beautiful vibrant, colorful images? Are you in love with a soft faded vintage look? Are you drawn to contrasty, black and white photos? It’s important to take timelessness in consideration. Style and preference usually change over the course of our lives. To your best estimation, do you think you will still like that photographic style 30 years from now?
Also, editing style is a great way to see a photographer’s experience right off the bat. If every photo in their portfolio is edited in a different style, the photographer you are looking at has probably not landed on their brand style yet. Always look for consistency. Consistency in editing style is a great signifier for professionalism and experience.
3) Raw files
If you don’t know what a RAW file is, good. If you do know what they are and you are wanting them as part of your wedding collection, you are most likely looking to hire a novice. A true professional will not even consider giving their raw files out, with some commercial exceptions. This is because editing style is very much a part of the brand of the photographer you are hiring.
As a client, even if you purchase the digital collection of images as .jpgs, editing these images to change them could very well be a breech of contract. If you are not going to allow the photographer to execute what they do best, then why spend the money to hire them? With that said, some photographers have a price for everything, so with them, if you want to buy the RAW files, expect to pony up some major Benjamins.
4) Budget & What to Expect at Different Price Ranges
It would be downright un-American NOT to try and find the best deal for your hard-earned money. Keep in mind, photography may be the only thing you walk away from the wedding with that’s tangible. If you’re willing to drop 5k on a dinner that people will finish in 15 minutes, wouldn’t it make sense that you would spend the same if not more on a product that will last a lifetime? Ideally money should be just one part of your defining criteria and artistry, experience, personality and professionalism can help round out that decision. It is completely understood, however, that not everyone has the luxury of even having a wedding. Whether you elope in a courtroom, have a quaint, 20-person backyard wedding, or a huge, 200-300 person wedding, at the end of the day it’s about your story and your love. But know, on average, you get what you pay for.
This is the price range for those photographers who are students, new to the industry and are looking to start their portfolio, and hobbyists who enjoy photography in their spare time but wouldn’t consider themselves professionals. It is entirely possible that in this price range, the photographer hasn’t shot any weddings yet.
Generally speaking, they are still exploring their craft, so they will edit the photos in an array of different styles and will typically give you all of the digital images. Very infrequently will this price range offer you any sort of finished products, like books.
In this price range, you will find photographers who have done more than one wedding and who are more familiar with their camera. A more substantial portfolio is being established here, so their style is a bit more defined. However, you will typically find a lot of different editing styles in the same portfolio.
Sometimes an inexpensive printed option is offered. Flash photography, which is important for the reception part of the event, might be lacking for this price range and below.
This is a starting price range for a lot of mid-level professional photographers. In this price range, you might only receive a certain amount of event coverage and nothing else, or a lesser-expensive book option might be included as well. Depending on who it is, a digital collection of images is also a possibility, but typically speaking, is included with higher price ranges.
I would say most active, experienced and dedicated wedding photography professionals fall within this budget range. A solid portfolio has already been established. This is the range where you will observe true creativity from the photographers, as their knowledge and experience allows them to try new things and take advantage of any lighting situation.
Typically photographers in this price range are well versed in shooting in dark churches, lighting dark rooms for receptions, and lighting during sunset. These photographers have shot years worth of weddings and can pretty much walk into any situation and know what to do. They have a solid gear kit complete with top-of-the-line lenses, camera bodies, and lighting. They value on-going education and continually stay up-to-date with the industry.
Higher-end wedding coverage and products start in this price range and can go as high as $50,000+. Yes you read that correctly. And yes, there are some photographers that are completely worth every penny of that. Contact me if you’re interested and I can send you some links that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Photographers in this price range tend to win local and national photography awards and have been published online and in local and national print magazines. They are recognized not only for their skill, but more importantly, for their artistry. It is not uncommon that these photographers travel nationally and internationally.
5) Digital Images and The Book
There are a lot of different view points on releasing digital images as part of a package. Some photographers simply don’t do it. Some include them in their packages and some charge extra for them. Having the files and a print release are great. You can easily share them with family and friends, print your own photos and make your own products.
Before you decide the digital files are the ONLY thing you want with your package, however, think about this fact: technology is fleeting. Mac is currently making computers without DVD drives. That custom disk that you wanted so badly with your wedding package will be obsolete in less than 10 years. So what about a USB drive? Same thing- it will also be obsolete some day. Think of it like having all of your wedding images stored on a VHS tape. Yikes! Everything is moving towards cloud-based storage. It’s safe, reliable, and easily accessible. And yet, I’m sure someday that too will become, *sigh,* obsolete.
So what if I told you there was a way to preserve your wedding photographs for the rest of your life without having to worry about technology, upgrading systems or information storage. This method has been around for awhile, with the oldest one in existence reaching an estimated 2,673 years old. It’s called a Book.
In a world that is so digitally-based, the book offers a tactile experience that will be rare and precious for future generations. I’m not talking about the book that your parents had either, where the photos are all tilting in their sleeved pages.
It’s an extremely exciting time for wedding photographers and their clients because the options are endless when it comes to creative album design. The companies that make these one-of-a-kind, 100% custom, hard-bound heirlooms have really mastered their craft. Working with a photographer that not only is a great photographer but also has great taste when it comes to album design will really ensure you receive a product that you’ll want to have for the rest of your life.
6) See a full wedding album- both digital and print versions
Photographers now double as designers, arranging photos into book layouts and spreads. The DVD, USB or digital download will never tell your story in a comprehensive way like the book will. Having a photographer who is also successful as a book designer is extremely important. A photographer could have the most beautiful images and be completely horrible at telling the printed story, or vice-versa.
You want to look for someone who can take beautiful photos and then translate them into beautiful books and products, even if you have no intention of purchasing any products. There should be a level of sophistication and thought behind the finished pieces. Seeing these is a great marker for taste and overall style. Keep in mind the notion of timelessness here as well. Will the album design still look beautiful and timeless in 30 years, or will the way the photographer arranged the photos look dated?
An online viewing gallery is not a story, nor is a stack of digital images a tangible keepsake:
Well thought out page layouts visually re-create the story of the day in an elegant way and are compiled into a book that will last a lifetime:
7) Second Shooter
Any seasoned photographer can creatively shoot a wedding on their own. There are certain instances, however, when you will want a second shooter. If the couple is getting ready in different locations and you want both locations photographed, you will need a second shooter for that segment of the day. For any church who places restrictions on where the photographer can go during the ceremony, you will want a second shooter. Some strict churches will not even let a photographer move from one spot the entire ceremony.
For this reason, a second shooter is needed to provide another view point for that portion of the day. From this photographer’s perspective, the more points of view, the better. I love having a second shooter work with me. It allows me to divide and conquer. This person can step in and act as a lighting assistant when needed, and various other roles that can help execute a creative shot. If you can afford it, adding a second shooter is great for rounding out your entire collection. Just make sure the person who will be second shooting is also a professional photographer, as this will get you the most from your investment.
8) The Engagement Shoot
There seems to be a shift lately where clients are now embracing the idea of an engagement shoot. A few years ago it was seen as an “add-on” or an “extra.” Some people still may not see the point in having one, so this one’s for you. Talking specifically to newly engaged couples, have you ever had photos taken with your partner? I don’t mean selfies at the bar. I mean true images that show the two of you together, interacting, and representing your unique relationship in an artistic way? My guess is that your answer is “no.”
The engagement shoot photos show a couple in a more down-to-earth way. It’s a way of capturing what you look like every day, as opposed to the wedding day when you’ll most likely be in formal attire. It also gives the couple a chance to have their photos taken so they can get used to how it feels to be in front of the camera.
This session helps both parties feel more relaxed and will give you a good feel for the style in which the shoot is conducted. Some people find out that they like to be put in poses, and that makes them feel more secure. Other people discover that they like a more natural, prompted approach. At the end of it all, it’s also fun to utilize the photos in creative ways, including having them as part of the wedding reception decor.
9) First Look
There are two very different ways to see your fiance for the first time on your wedding day. You can go the traditional route, where you walk down the aisle and see them for the first time standing on the other end. The other way is called the “first look.” This is generally a private space for just the two of you to be together. Both have their benefits and whichever way you choose is up to you. Sometimes photographers try to push for one or the other based on wedding day schedules. Keep in mind this is your wedding day, so never feel pressured to take an approach you don’t want to take.
For the traditional route, your fiance and guests see you for the first time as you walk down the aisle. It’s very romantic and guests of course love seeing the live reactions of the couple as they see each other for the first time that day. Bridal party photos and the couple’s portraits would then take place after the ceremony. Depending on how much time there is between the ceremony and the reception will depend on how much time you have for photos. The more time you allow for your photos, the more robust of a collection you will walk away with.
The first look is done before the ceremony. It is a nice private place where just the couple can see each other, be together, and talk with each other. They are free to hug, embrace, kiss, and talk, where none of those things would typically happen if they were to see each other for the first time during the ceremony. Bridal portraits would then take place after the first look freeing up the couple for their cocktail hour.
10) Reception Photos
If I were to critique a photographer’s portfolio based on technical skill, I would go straight to their portfolio’s reception photos. These are an Achilles heel part of the wedding for some photographers. The reception tends to be very difficult to photograph, as most are held at night in dark rooms. Getting lighting to look balanced and dynamic is a skill and an art form in itself. On-camera lighting can flatten a subject and can sometimes dull down the entire frame.
To compensate, changing the photos to black and white helps add contrast. The only problem with this is that you don’t want to be delivered an entire reception collection of only black and white photos. Off-camera lighting allows for the light to “wrap” the subjects, making them appear more three-dimensional. The photographer also doesn’t have to change the photo to black and white for it to appear striking. When choosing a photographer, ask to see color reception photos. It will easily help some photographers stand out among the rest.
It’s February and thinking about Spring portraits makes me happy as I’m unpiling the 7 inches of snow off my car. In an effort to make you equally as happy, I’d love to extend this one-time-only offer to you and your families. Up until February 28th (OMG that’s a whole month!), I’m offering $300 off my complete portrait sessions. WOWZA! That’s only $200 for a 45-60min session, online ordering, and the digital files of 40-60 images (in black and whaite and color). Think Pets, Family, Gifts, Engagments, Portraits, Senior Sessions, Children, Maternity, etc. There is no minimum order, so contact me today! Sessions must be used before September 1st, 2014. Travel additional if outside Columbus. XO Jess