Category Archives: Photography

The Full Picture

Recognize anything in that photo? Yep, it’s the feet from the HitchDied header image.  Those are the feet of one Hitch and Died, dancing about in the Pacific Ocean. Now you’ve seen the full picture.

The photo was taken last January, when we were visiting Collin’s older brother and sister-in-law in Long Beach with the rest of his family. We had, at this point, decided we were going to get married. Collin’s entire family knew that he was going to propose. They knew that I knew, too. But we didn’t really talk about it, as though it were still a surprise. This sometimes got awkward, like when Drarrie (Drunk Carrie) gave me a speech about how excited she is to have me become my sister-in-law, and how important sisters-in-law are to her because she only has biological brothers, eventually remembering to add, “I mean, IF you and Collin end up getting married.”

On the plane out to California, Collin apologized that he didn’t have a ring yet, because he knew it would be nice to become officially engaged when we were on vacation and with his family.  “I’m not just saying this to psych you out so you’ll be surprised when I pop out a ring. I really don’t have the ring yet.” (I’m glad he said that, because I thought that was what was happening.)  I asked him if he would be ok with us “announcing” the engagement to his family (even though they already knew) while we were in California, and he said he was. I had him draw a ring around my finger with a highlighter. At dinner that night Collin said something like, “Even though everyone at this table already knows about this, while we are all together I want to celebrate that Robin and I are going to get married.”

[Me and Carrie: “We’re gonna be sisters!!!!”]

The photo I used to make the HitchDied header was taken the next day, somewhere in Orange County where we met up with Collin’s cousin and his wife.  Viki told us to try to keep it from them or “EVERYONE will know” (Sorry, Steven and Anna!).  While Collin and I ran around in the ocean making kissy faces and otherwise being cute, Steven took pictures of it with my camera, and Anna said, “These look like engagement photos!”

And in my head, they kind of are. Even though we weren’t “really” engaged yet. Even though we had a proper engagement shoot later.  When I want to think about the giddy bliss of first being engaged (before all the stressful, complicated reality of wedding planning butted in on the fun) I look at these photos from California. Which is why I used one for the header of my blog.


Look How Badass My Wedding Photographer Is

[Photo of Louis Stein by Brian Kunst]

Read the story of how Louis got in that pool here!

On Being Photographed

I have a ridiculous hobby.  Even more ridiculous than blogging about my wedding.  I’m an amateur model.  Some people get together with friends to shoot hoops; some people get together with friends to shoot tequila; I get together with friends to shoot photographs.


Abby and me.

After five years and literally thousands of photographs, I have gotten really comfortable having my picture taken.  I didn’t realize before I got engaged what a valuable asset that is for a bride.

I want to try to share my wisdom with you, but you may not like my advice.  Sure, I could say, “hold up your chin and don’t let your arms just hang there,” but you probably already know that, but a picture of a person with her chin stuck out and her arms akimbo can still look awkward as hell if that person hates having her picture taken.

This is me with my arms out and chin up.

I could say, “Just relax and be yourself,” but I think you all figured out around first grade that advice is the epitome of “easier said than done.”

My advice for how to learn to be comfortable having your picture taken is to have your picture taken A LOT.

You don’t need to have a goofy set of friends like mine who call each other up on Sunday afternoons and say, “Frick Park, 20 minutes.  Wear a cocktail dress.” You don’t need to have a friend with a badass SLR.  You need a camera, any camera, and someone to take your picture.  You can even take your own picture if you have a timer or don’t consider yourself above the MySpace Reach.

Take your picture in different lights, in different kinds of outfits, with different amounts of makeup.  And look at the photos.  Really look at them.  Not just so you can train yourself to not make that face next time you’re being photographed (although that can be a plus), but so you get to know what you really look like.  And embrace photos where you are making that face as photos of you.

This is also me.

Which is not to say that photographs are fair representations of reality.  That’s the second lesson I want to impart in this post: photography can involve a lot of trickery, and that’s before Photoshop comes into play.   But on your wedding day, there won’t really be time for elaborate three-flash setups and beauty dishes and soft boxes.

Who needs a beauty dish?

But if you’re used to how you look when you smile for a pocket digital camera, you’ll probably be wowed when a professional takes your photo with her fancy machine, even the lighting is all-natural and there hasn’t been one pixel of digital manipulation.  If you are only used to how you look in a mirror, it can be a little more jarring to suddenly flip through hundreds of proofs.

Which brings me to my final lesson: quantity yields quality.  I’m guessing that some professional photographers pride themselves on being able to “get it in one,” but in a post-film era that’s just macho posturing.  When you’ve got hundreds of photos to choose from, some are going to look great, and some are going to look weird.  Wedding photographers in particular have to capture fleeting moments, and the best ones must have impeccable timing for shots like “your face crumpling as you say your vows.”  But I think a lot of them just take as many pictures as possible and get lucky.

Which means you’ll end up seeing a lot of pictures that were just coverage.  Pictures where your crumpled face looks more like you are trying to suppress a sneeze than a true expression of the overwhelming emotion of your love.  Pictures where only one of your eyes is open.  Pictures where you can see your nose hair.  It’s easier not to get hung up on those if you’re used to them.

So embrace your vanity. Get used to your face. Get used to staring down a camera lens.  And then ignore it on your wedding day.

[Photos by the lovely and amazing Louis Stein.]

More Engagement Photos

On Louis’ blog.

Plus, another of my personal favorites, featuring our competing takes on SexyFace:

[Buy the T-shirt]

On the Spot

We took engagement photos yesterday. We were not aiming high on the originality front: beautiful fall day in a park, matching T-shirts, cutesy poses. Because I am extremely lame, at some point during the proceedings, I thought, “This is not going to impress the Internet at all.”

Then something magical happened:

Collin: “How many engagement photos do you think have been taken inside porta-potties?”
Louis: “By the end of today, at least one.”

[Photo by Louis Stein. Do us a favor and click on over to his blog and then click on some ads.  He took our pictures for free yesterday, because I forgot to bring the negotiated payment of a four-pack of Red Bull.  He deserves an influx of ad-click nickels.]

Dead is the New Sexy

Collin was just driving me home from the doctor, who was all, “Yeah, you have ATOMIC eczema… that will be 25 dollars.”  Tragically, he had his eyes on the road instead of where I was pointing and mumbling, “Holy… um… holy… UM HOLY POINT POINT POINT.”  So you’re just going to have to take my word on this one…

But I swear to god I saw a woman in a bridal gown lying upside down on the steps of the Mellon Institute.

I think she was being photographed.  I mean… I didn’t see a photographer.  But… why else would that be happening?

She maybe was just some poor bride who finally fell down after trucking through the ceremony, the reception, the after party, the after after party, the post-wedding brunch, the brunch after party, the brunch after after party, the brunch after after after party, a Monday at work where everyone kept asking her why she hadn’t changed since Saturday morning (how rude), happy hour, running back to the office to grab her brief case and a few cruel steps away from the bus stop tripping on the concrete steps and dashing her wifely brains out.  But I guess it’s OK because she didn’t die single?

Which brings me back to the photo shoot possibility: assuming there WAS a photographer hiding behind a column or something, why is “dead bride on concrete steps” something that should be the subject of a photograph? Maybe I don’t get art.

Or maybe I hallucinated the whole thing.  That’s somehow the least upsetting possibility.

I Think I Am So Funny

Because reading wedding blogs makes me see the world differently, I ran around my friend Liz’s 4th of July BBQ taking “detail shots,” and then I did some crappy photo editing.

First the detail that inspired it all, the detail that actually merited a detail shot: Kaitlin’s masterful red, “white,” and blue sangria pitchers. In addition to white wine and fresh and frozen fruit, red had brandy, “white” had apple-flavored gin, and blue had brandy and blue Curaçao:

I had to follow up with a shot of my brother-in-law’s idea of how to present libations:

At this point I was on a roll, so I hit up a classic: a pair of shoes without feet in them.

Here’s another detail actually provided by the hostess:

And finally, the alley out back after ten people shotgunned beers:

You can tell it was a great party because I have shown you close-up photos of the stuff at it.

Might As Well Jump

When we first met our planner, I explained that we’d be using a friendor photographer, and that part of the reason is I don’t want to be instructed to do the silly things that have somehow become mainstays of professional wedding photographers’ must-have shot lists.

In particular, I made fun of the ubiquitous photo of the wedding party mid-jump.  Possibly trying to secure the contract, maybe just being of the same mindset, our wedding planner said, “Ugh.  I don’t work with photographers who make people jump.”

Friends, I am here to announce that I have turned around on the subject of the jumping wedding party photo.

This is because while visiting Collin’s family last weekend, I looked through his parents’ album from Carrie [Collin’s twin sister] and Matt [her husband and my former law school colleague]’s wedding, and the two-page spread of the wedding party jumping was maybe my favorite thing in the book.

[This is the part where I would show you the photo in question, but I can’t because their professional photographer owns the copyright.  Another reason I am so excited to have a friendor photographer available!  Creative Commons License WHAT WHAT!]

I now understand that the point of the wedding party jump photo is to provide fodder to mock your friends and family:

“Jessica’s gonna have to work on her vertical if she ever wants to get off JV”

“There’s Justin taking off for his world famous triple lutz-triple toe combo!”

“Based on the expression of joy on Collin’s face, I’m gonna guess part of him was hoping he had just learned how to fly.”

Now, those were all actual insults tossed while looking at Matt and Carrie’s wedding party jump.  But with the power of imagination, I’ve realized another big selling point for the wedding party jump photo: what better way to preserve some of the most dramatic moments of your special day!?    You can capture forever the moment before your sister snapped off her high heel.  Remember trying to glue it back on with Big Red and a can of Aqua Net?  Oh, the laughs.  You can see the precise second the best man strained his Achilles tendon, which lead to that classic Percoset-influenced toast at the reception!  Uncle Roy still quotes the best parts every Thanksgiving.

Without the wedding party jump photo, not only would these memories not be preserved in an album, they would have never happened.   And a wedding day without ruined shoes and untimely injuries is like a wedding without CAKE.

So there’s one wedding culture mystery solved.  Maybe someday I’ll figure out why people always take pictures of their wedding dress on a satin hanger.

On Friendors

This week’s inbox poison from The Knot is the “Top 10 Wedding Planning Myths,” the first of which is “hiring friends is the same as hiring wedding vendors.”  In the busting of this myth, The Knot warn that no matter how brilliant and talented your friends may seem, they are inexperienced with the delicate field of weddings and therefore will be one of your lifelong wedding regrets.

Does “shut up” go without saying?

Although honestly, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, The Knot is right.  Hiring friends is not the same as hiring wedding vendors.  Allow me to mythbust:

1. Friends are generally more affordable than wedding vendors. Sometimes even free!

2. Friends are more pleasant to be around than wedding vendors. Personally, I prefer having a close friend hang out with me for hours on my wedding day, using his familiar photography catch phrases of “this is nothing!” (for test shots) and “Laa!” (to force natural smiles) than some stranger who might, for example, always try to shoot me from my right so you can’t see the scar on my eyebrow.  Because Stranger doesn’t know I like the scar on my eyebrow, and frankly I don’t want to have to put a scar-representation clause in my contract.

3. Friends care more about you than do wedding vendors. Wedding vendors want to avoid breach of contract and want to secure a nice tip and good word of mouth.  Your friends want to be a part of what makes your wedding wonderful. That sounds more valuable to me.

So we’re trying to use friendors as much as we can (almost definitely for photography, probably for ceremony music, but we have a lot of negotiating ahead).  I’m really not concerned about “not getting the same results.”  What does give me pause about hiring friends is I want them to enjoy our wedding instead of feeling on the clock.  If I wrote for the Knot, and I needed to soullessly terrify brides into hiring wedding professionals, I would definitely emphasize that concern.  [Dear The Knot, please see “contact” on the right margin to inquire about my freelancing rates when the time comes for next quarter’s wedding myth column.  Kisses!]

How about you? Are you using any friendors?  Have you any doubts?

P.S. I really enjoyed this post a few weeks back on A Cupcake Wedding, poking fun at how friendors are not necessarily available to all, nevertheless emphasizing that if you are so blessed as to have friends with wedding-adaptable talents, take advantage of it!