Frequently Asked Questions

Answers?  We have them.


Before the Wedding

Love is Love. Because I am a firm believer in equality in every sense of the word, I will not single out any one genre of marriage and give it a special page on my web site. In other words, I am going to treat every couple with the same love and respect and kindness, regardless of the make-up of that couple. I am an Ally, supporting any couple who loves each other, and I would be honored to be the one to capture the magic of your wedding celebration in images you will treasure forever.

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Yes, I am always the principal (primary) photographer on my wedding packages. I do not outsource that duty to anyone else. If I get on-death’s-door-sick or severely injured to the point where I am unable to perform my duties responsibly, my partner photographers would be asked to act in my stead. All of my partner photographers are highly trained and all have been (and continue to be) second shooters for me. I would trust any one of them to photograph my own wedding.

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The goal of creating the shot lists in the Wedding Worksheet is so that 1) no one gets forgotten, and 2) we make an “order of operations” designed to help me facilitate those photographs as quickly and efficiently as possible for you.

In the question about the formal group photos, this is (for most weddings) where either before or immediately after the ceremony, family pictures are taken. These are often at the ceremony location (such as a church altar) but can be just about anywhere. It’s advised that you start with the largest groups such as extended family, and work your way down to just the two of you. Be also mindful of anyone who might need to be done first, such as an officiant, an elderly or ailing relative, and small children. The wedding party knows they are going to take longer, so put them last. It also helps to reduce people coming in and out and back and forth as much as is reasonable.

Here is a quick sample of a typical formal group shot list.

  • Couple with officiant
  • Couple with grandparents
  • Couple with extended family (one side)
  • Couple with combined extended families
  • Couple with the other extended family (now anyone not in the wedding party or immediate family can be released!)
  • Couple with one side’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined family parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined parents
  • Couple with other side’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined siblings
  • Couple with entire wedding party
  • One member of the couple with their wedding party members (individually and together)
  • The other member of the couple with their wedding party members (individually and together)
  • The couple

The second shot list will consist of people who might not be part of the group family formals. This is frequently things like “work colleagues” or “college friends” or some random guest who you haven’t seen in fifteen years and who flew all the way in from Siberia. There are no wrong answers here, just let me know who to make sure I get shots of you with. These shots are frequently done at cocktail hour and/or during the reception. One thing to bear in mind is, the larger you make this list, the more of your reception I am going to spend pulling you aside from your celebration to get photos with people. So, keep that in mind when making this part of your shot list.

The final shot list question is about you, specifically. This is an opportunity for you to convey to me any particular photographs you want taken. Some people have researched wedding photographs on sites like Pinterest and want to re-create one or two they really like. I’m very happy to do that. I do recommend that you choose pictures which tell your story. This is also an opportunity to specify images you do not want me to take. You might absolutely hate some pose that I sometimes do with my couples. Please don’t be afraid to let me know. This isn’t a dictatorship, it’s a collaboration. 🙂

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Primary Photographer

The answer to this question largely depends on what you want covered. I know that sounds obvious, but if you think about it, what portion of your day requires the coverage of a professional photographer? Here are some things to think about when making this decision.

End Time: How much of the end of your reception do you actually need covered? Many of the dancing photos at the end look alike after about half an hour. If your reception has two and a half hours of dancing, that’s going to be redundant. Unless you have some super-special send-off planned, you don’t likely need me there for the entire reception. A common end time for me is based on about half an hour after the last “activity” is performed. Most of the time, that activity is the cake cutting. For example, if your cake cutting is at 10:00 and your reception goes to midnight, you only likely need me to be there until 10:30.

Once you know what time I should end the day with you, you can work backwards. If my end time is 10:30 and you have a nine hour package, that means I would start at 1:30pm. Is that enough time to cover everything you want photographed?

Start Time: How much of your getting ready process do you want covered? If you want to tell the entire day’s story, you’ll need for my start time to be earlier. But, if you only want the last hour or so of your getting ready process captured, you can reduce the number of hours in your package. You should consider travel time to your ceremony location as well. Let’s say your ceremony location is fifteen minutes from where you are getting ready. Let’s also assume the worst and give it twenty-five minutes, just in case. If your ceremony is at 2pm and you’re planning on arriving at 1:30, that means you’re probably going to leave the getting ready location at around 1pm. If you want me to cover the final hour of you getting ready (some detail shots of the dress before you put it on, some staged hair/makeup shots, details, things like that) then you should have me start at noon.

Working backwards from the last things you need me to cover in your reception, back to when you will need me to start, will give you an idea of how many hours you will need in your package.

Secondary Photographer

The second photographer’s start and end time don’t have to be same as the primary. The second photographer is rarely needed for the same amount of time. Typically speaking, the second photographer covers the tail end of the getting ready process at the ceremony location, and sometimes get detail shots at the ceremony site prior to the ceremony start. They then cover the ceremony, cocktail hour (while your portraits might be being done), and the start of the reception. They help with documenting your guests at the tables and around the reception. They also help with the grand entrance, first dance, and perhaps parent dances. After that, they are not really needed.

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Over the years I have found that eight or nine hours does a good job of documenting most weddings. Some smaller weddings might not take that long. Some weddings, however, might need more hours of coverage based on the interval between the end of the reception and the start of the getting ready process.

My recommendation is to work backwards from the final moment you want me there. Let’s take a typical wedding day scenario and break it down. A reception might go from 7pm to 11pm with a cocktail hour beginning at 6pm. That’s five hours. Perhaps the ceremony is at 4pm and ends at 4:30pm. That leaves an hour and a half for post-ceremony portraits and transportation to the reception venue. You’ll probably want to arrive 30 minutes prior to the ceremony, and perhaps it’s a 20 minute drive to the ceremony from where you are getting ready. That’s pretty much 3pm to 11pm, which is eight hours. Add one hour for “Getting Ready” photos, and you’re at nine hours.

Now, there are variations on this which must be considered. If you want coverage from earlier in the day, you’ll either need to add an hour or two to the package, or have me leave the reception a little early. It depends on what is most important to you. If I know ahead of time that I’ll be leaving the reception one hour prior to its conclusion, I make sure the venue and DJ are both aware of it and I get all of the “activities” scheduled prior to departure time.

Basically, work backwards. Do you want the entire reception documented? If so, work backwards from the end of the reception time and figure out what time you want me to start.

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The engagement session is a photo session that is meant to tell a story about how you love each other. The subject of the photographs is that relationship, not the place where you take the photographs, or what you are wearing. You want those things to be secondary in the photographs, so while it’s nice to have a location that is photographically advantageous, it’s not critical to the story being told. That said, I can offer the following advice:

Where to Go for Pictures


If there is a location that has sentimental value to you which will help tell your love story, that is an excellent location to take photographs which will tell that story. Some people are shy showing affection in public places. If that’s you, find some place which will remove you from the public as best as possible. I’m not going to force you into public displays of affection if that’s not your style, but shyness in general will be avoided if there aren’t a lot of people walking around nearby. Parks and nature trails are good for that.

Some of the more common places I have done engagement shoots include:

What do I wear?


Keep it simple. Don’t wear things which are distracting to your love story. The more neutral, the better. Avoid stripes or patterns which will grab the viewer’s attention. Keep it contrasting to the environment around you. If you are going to be photographed in a forest in the spring, don’t wear something that is forest green. If you are being photographed on the beach, avoid sand-colored clothing or blue tops. If you are doing a winter session with snow all around, don’t wear white. You don’t want to blend into the background.

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It sometimes seems easier hiring someone on-site, but hiring someone closer to your normal residence ensures that your customer service experience is much better.  It helps ensure you already know and are comfortable with your photographer, and it is also quite helpful during the planning process. If your photographer is closer to your residence, you will have the chance to discuss your needs in advance and communicate your style preferences, hopes, and expectations. You will be able to have an engagement session or bridal portrait session with the same photographer who will shoot your wedding. You will also be able to establish a relationship and level of trust with your photographer, and that trust is a definite asset on your wedding day, one well worth the cost of transportation.

Destination wedding photography packages can be put together for wedding destination shoots around the world, or here in the good old U.S. of A.  Actual travel and housing costs get built into the photography package, and depending on availability, can be for multiple days of coverage. I handle all travel arrangements and work hard to keep them as affordable as possible. I am close to Philadelphia and New York, so I have easy access to several major international airports.

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Once we have discussed your wedding needs and determined which package is best for you, I will send you a booking proposal.  A 1/3 retainer is due to hold the date.  This can be paid online with any major credit card (get those reward points!) or by sending in a check.  

The second 1/3 is due one month before the wedding date.  The final 1/3 is due one week before the wedding date. Alternative arrangements may be requested, even including having the final 1/3 due after the wedding.

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Yes, I carry a $2,000,000 aggregate commercial liability policy and am happy to provide appropriate documentation to your venue upon request. I also carry a worker’s compensation policy covering my assistant and second photographer (when applicable). If your venue requests basic documentation, or “Additional Insured” documentation, please let me know at least a day prior to the event date. On certain weekends during the year I am often photographing multiple events, so getting these requests to me during the week is much better.

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While the vast majority of what I photograph is weddings, I do work in other areas. My online portfolio with all of the areas in which I have experience, can be found here: http://chadwickarts.zenfolio.com/portfolio

I do not at the present time offer photo booth or cinematography services.

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That’s a tricky one, and the answer depends on what you are referring to by a “shot list”. Some wedding blogs out there will publish an exhaustive list of 259 “must have wedding photographs” that are okay for getting ideas, but not for copying and pasting into your wedding worksheet questionnaire. I have actually had this happen more than once, and I know some of those couples didn’t even bother to read it because it listed shots with people who, in their cases, either didn’t exist or were actually passed away!

Saddling me with an over-zealous shot list, typing out absolutely every single photograph you might want, greatly increases the risk that I will spend the entire wedding day worrying about the list instead of telling your wedding day story. While I do ask you to be precise with your information, and not to make me try and read your mind, I certainly don’t need to be told to photograph things like the procession, or the kiss, or the first dance.

That said, don’t assume I know what are the most important photographs/moments to you. In the (fortunately) few instances where a couple or their family members have expressed displeasure with me over not getting a particular shot they assumed that I would know was important (and therefore didn’t specifically ask me for), it has invariably been something most other couples don’t express as important. So, do list the things which are truly important to you, but keep it within the bounds of moderation. Otherwise, I might spend your entire wedding day with my face buried in your list, and could possibly miss some really great and creative shots that might have been much better!

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The contract spells it out in more specific terms, but essentially if you cancel your wedding photography package at least ninety (90) days prior to the wedding date, your retainer fee (minus any actual expenses incurred) will be returned to you if and as soon as another wedding package is booked for that date.  Once the ninety day threshold has passed, any payments made are not refundable.

I understand that the unexpected can happen, and while I try to be understanding, I lose a significant amount of my livelihood income when a wedding is cancelled. I highly recommend purchasing wedding insurance.

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The Wedding Day

You know what they say: “No rain, no rainbow!”

Seriously though, rain or snow can actually be a fantastic photo opportunity. You should have (hopefully) selected a venue that has a backup plan in place, and running out with cute umbrellas for some quick portraits can be lots of fun!

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There are many pros and cons to seeing each other for the first time in a private or semi-private “First Look” on your wedding day. The more “traditional” approach would be to not see each other until the ceremony, but many couples now are opting to have a staged First Look for several reasons.

A First Look allows full wedding party and family photos to be taken prior to the ceremony. By doing so, it allows you to potentially attend your cocktail hour. For larger wedding guest counts, attending your cocktail hour (and/or having a receiving line) helps you greet many guests without having to table hop during your reception. It also allows you to be fresh for those portraits and family photos, especially on days where weather is a factor. On hot days in the summer and early fall, having a First Look might mean the difference between your wedding portraits looking fresh and vibrant, or hot and miserable.

If you choose not to have a First Look, it is recommended that you leave a little extra time between the end of your ceremony, and the start of your cocktail hour/reception. This way you can still possibly attend part of your cocktail hour. I always try to work as quickly as possible, but if you have given me a large shot list and we only have half an hour because you did a receiving line, you might miss your cocktail hour.

Ultimately there is no wrong answer. I will get your photographs accomplished, and I will be happy to guide you through the process of planning those logistics.

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That’s a tricky one, and the answer depends on what you are referring to by a “shot list”. Some wedding blogs out there will publish an exhaustive list of 259 “must have wedding photographs” that are okay for getting ideas, but not for copying and pasting into your wedding worksheet questionnaire. I have actually had this happen more than once, and I know some of those couples didn’t even bother to read it because it listed shots with people who, in their cases, either didn’t exist or were actually passed away!

Saddling me with an over-zealous shot list, typing out absolutely every single photograph you might want, greatly increases the risk that I will spend the entire wedding day worrying about the list instead of telling your wedding day story. While I do ask you to be precise with your information, and not to make me try and read your mind, I certainly don’t need to be told to photograph things like the procession, or the kiss, or the first dance.

That said, don’t assume I know what are the most important photographs/moments to you. In the (fortunately) few instances where a couple or their family members have expressed displeasure with me over not getting a particular shot they assumed that I would know was important (and therefore didn’t specifically ask me for), it has invariably been something most other couples don’t express as important. So, do list the things which are truly important to you, but keep it within the bounds of moderation. Otherwise, I might spend your entire wedding day with my face buried in your list, and could possibly miss some really great and creative shots that might have been much better!

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Many couples are now performing was is commonly referred to as a “first look” in order to accomplish getting many of the group portraits out of the way. This enables them to get pictures while they’re still fresh, especially for outdoor summer weddings where you might get sweaty. It also enables them to eliminate some of the lost time between the ceremony and the reception where portraits would be taken, during cocktail hour.

There is a lot of “grip and grin” that you will be doing in order to greet all of your guests. If you are able to knock some of that out during cocktail hour, that means you will be able to enjoy more of your reception knowing that the obligatory greetings are out of the way.

If you are not going to see each other until the ceremony, be sure to leave a plentiful window of time between the ceremony’s estimated end time and the beginning of cocktail hour. This way you will not be stressed trying to fit an hour’s worth of family photo taking into 15 minutes. I do work very quickly, and having a specific order of operations (shot list) in hand helps.

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There are a few things to keep in mind when figuring this out:

  • How many iterations (versions of photos) will you want to have done? I will work this list out with you prior to the wedding day and I will advise you how long I believe that process will take.
  • Will all of the people you wish to be involved in those photographs be present and cooperative? It is strongly advised that you inform the people on the list, that these photographs will take place at a specific time and that they should be present and on time for it. Having to chase people down for photographs interrupts and delays the process significantly. Having to pull them out of cocktail hour is even more difficult and time consuming.
  • How long do we have in the church (if applicable)? Some churches, especially Catholic churches, might have activities coming up shortly after the ceremony. You need to be aware of the church’s schedule and we must work within that time. If, for example, you only have twenty minutes in the church before it opens up for other uses, that might dictate whether or not you do any or all of the family photos there. It also might eliminate that lovely receiving line for 150 guests you’ve been thinking about.
  • Are you seeing each other beforehand? If you are doing a first look, or otherwise seeing each other before the ceremony, you can knock out some of the family photos at that time. This will lessen the amount of time required to get specific shots after the ceremony has taken place. This can mean the difference between losing your cocktail hour completely and getting to enjoy it.

This process, as with most everything else in your wedding day, should be scheduled with the assumption that it will take longer than you think. It is highly advised that you build in “flex” time throughout the day so that if something gets delayed, it does not throw the entire day into a stressful logistical tailspin. If, after figuring out your family/bridal party photo shot list, the estimated time for facilitation is 20 minutes, give it 30.

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I understand the importance of documenting the guests who celebrate with you at your wedding reception, and I do my best to get photographs of everyone. I even recommend two photographers whenever your guest list exceeds 125, partially for that reason. I prefer a more organic approach to documenting your guests’ presence at your wedding, but I will happily do more traditional table shots if you specifically request it.

If you do not specifically ask for shots of each and every table, I will do my best to get who I can but will continue to focus on telling the story of you and your wedding celebration. If you do ask me to document each and every table, I will do my best but I cannot account for those people who are not at their tables during the times which are most appropriate for getting table shots within the flow of the day. I shoot with the intention of documenting everyone at your reception, either at a table or on the dance floor, but I make no guarantees due to the unavailability of certain guests during the course of the reception.

If getting a good amount of documentation of your guests both at their tables and elsewhere (such as the dance floor), I highly recommend adding a second photographer to your package.

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After the Wedding

This amount of time can fluctuate based on how many weddings I have in a given time of year. The standard “safe” answer is four to six weeks.  In the winter months and early spring it is frequently much faster than that.

The printed case and USB with your images sometimes takes a little longer due to the printing process of the case itself.  However, if the images are in the online gallery and you want an “unofficial” set prior to the really nice USB case getting to you, I’m always happy to turn on the download feature in your online gallery so long as all payments have been made. Albums can take longer, due to the design phases plus my efforts to get other wedding photographs processed as quickly as possible.

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That’s a rather broad question and difficult to answer definitively, because the number of photos I take depends on many factors including activity and environment.  I take multiple photos of any given shot (people blink, scratch, get distracted by a shiny), so what you get is a culled set of your day with only the best of each shot.  In other words, if I take three shots of a couple posing for the camera on the dance floor, I’m going to give you the best one of those three.  

For a typical nine hour shooting day, I will usually deliver anywhere between four hundred and seven hundred photographs.  But, there is no hard and fast rule and there is no guarantee of a certain number.  It all depends on how much actual shooting time there is, how much activity is taking place, and other restrictions sometimes beyond my control. Each wedding is different, and a Saturday night party with lots of dancing and activities is probably going to result in a higher number of photographs than a Sunday afternoon brunch wedding where people are mostly eating (since no one likes pictures of themselves stuffing food in their mouths).

Ultimately, I’m going to give you many photos for you to enjoy, telling a complete story of your wedding day journey.

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Photographic still images you are given are 240dpi jpg files and vary in file size from 5 to 12 MB depending on the color content in the photograph and any cropping I might have done.  If you wish to have a different resolution, you must let me know prior to your wedding day. There are no watermarks on the full-size set of photos, though on the online gallery photographs a small watermark appears on the bottom of each photograph.

Your photos will easily be high enough resolution to get good sized prints up to 11×14 or larger before seeing any reduction in quality.  While I encourage you to go through me for any prints or products requiring even higher resolution files, I am always happy to provide my couples with large format individual files when necessary.

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While I shoot every photograph in a RAW format, I do not provide the original RAW files to my clients. The jpg images you receive are art which I have created for you. The RAW files are the tools I use to create that art. Asking for the RAW files is like buying a house and asking the builders for the tools they used to build that house.

If you wish to have the RAW files as well as the provided .jpg images included in your package, you will need to purchase them separately and a different agreement must be drafted transferring the entire copyright and intellectual property of the photographs over to you. Having the RAW versions of your pictures would give you the ability to change the META data (which contains the copyright information) on the photographs. This is a costly difference in your package price (as in, several thousands of dollars) so it is not recommended unless you have a very good reason to have the RAW files. If you simply wish to have a modification done here or there, I do not charge for post-processing requests like that unless the requests take longer than an hour to facilitate (which is extraordinarily rare).

As for editing the photographs yourself, I respectfully ask that you let me do it. Most edits you might need are things I do at no charge to you, as part of the overall service you are receiving. Your photographs are my art work, so I want to make sure anything with my name on it is actually something I created. If you need help formatting a particular photo for placement into a product you want to have printed, or if you need them altered for any other reason, please ask me to do it for you. As long as the request is something which takes less than an hour, I don’t charge you. I will very likely do it faster, and better.

I cannot stop you from editing a .jpg image, but I do ask that you refrain from doing so. No matter how good a job you think you might do, please leave it to the professionals. Otherwise, things like this happen…

ecce_homo

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You get personal use printing and publication rights to your photographs.  That means you can do just about anything except sell them or publish them without permission.  Permission to publish them electronically and in print is granted in your contract so long as they have a photo credit such as “Michael Chadwick Photography” included.  Any commercial use of the photographs is not permitted without specific permission.  If you wish to use any photograph for commercial (trade) use, please contact me to work out the commercial rights.

Editing the .jpg images is not recommended, and technically not within the rights your contract provides to you. While I cannot realistically stop you from editing the .jpg files, I do ask that you respect my work enough not to modify it on your own. Please ask me for assistance with modification to any of your images.

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General Questions

Love is Love. Because I am a firm believer in equality in every sense of the word, I will not single out any one genre of marriage and give it a special page on my web site. In other words, I am going to treat every couple with the same love and respect and kindness, regardless of the make-up of that couple. I am an Ally, supporting any couple who loves each other, and I would be honored to be the one to capture the magic of your wedding celebration in images you will treasure forever.

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My company does not hire employees, but rather has partnerships with established independent contractors. The partners I choose to work with exhibit certain qualities and a thirst for improvement. We strive to be at the highest performance level at all times, and that includes not just technical skill with a camera. We continuously educate ourselves in photographic techniques, and also work on various other skills which are useful at weddings. I have monthly collaborative workshops with partner photographers, where we work together to form interesting new ideas and try new and creative ways to approach wedding photography.

What I Look For:

  • Professionalism: Punctuality, Proper Dress, Proper Interaction with Colleagues and Clients
  • Experience: This is not a school, it is a business. Learn the skills, get the experience, then contact me.
  • Eagerness: I want people who are eager to improve, eager to give clients a great experience, and eager to make art.
  • Humor: The ability to laugh and make others laugh is really important at weddings and when interacting with clients and their guests.
  • Adaptability: Weddings and other shoots require people who can pivot on the fly and not get stressed out. We must be the calm for our clients at all times.
  • Confidence: If you second shoot with me, you are going to receive feedback in the interest of always providing my clients the best photographs. If your skin is not thick enough for that, do not apply.
  • A Strong and Creative Portfolio: I want to see your work, skill, and how you compose your shots.

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It sometimes seems easier hiring someone on-site, but hiring someone closer to your normal residence ensures that your customer service experience is much better.  It helps ensure you already know and are comfortable with your photographer, and it is also quite helpful during the planning process. If your photographer is closer to your residence, you will have the chance to discuss your needs in advance and communicate your style preferences, hopes, and expectations. You will be able to have an engagement session or bridal portrait session with the same photographer who will shoot your wedding. You will also be able to establish a relationship and level of trust with your photographer, and that trust is a definite asset on your wedding day, one well worth the cost of transportation.

Destination wedding photography packages can be put together for wedding destination shoots around the world, or here in the good old U.S. of A.  Actual travel and housing costs get built into the photography package, and depending on availability, can be for multiple days of coverage. I handle all travel arrangements and work hard to keep them as affordable as possible. I am close to Philadelphia and New York, so I have easy access to several major international airports.

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I prefer to tell the natural love story of my couples, providing subtle guidance when needed, but staying out of the way as much as possible. I remain unobtrusive but always present, not interfering with the wedding day story’s organic flow. I do provide guidance to my couples and their friends and family so that they will look their best in photographs, but for the most part the style would be described as learning toward the candid. I capture natural moments, adhering to the belief that act naturally is an oxymoron.  I utilize humor and a fun approach for the process of shooting both candid and formal portraits because it’s important that everyone has a good time – and that translates into much better photographs!

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While the vast majority of what I photograph is weddings, I do work in other areas. My online portfolio with all of the areas in which I have experience, can be found here: http://chadwickarts.zenfolio.com/portfolio

I do not at the present time offer photo booth or cinematography services.

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I laugh and have a fun time with guests while working so that they’ll all feel comfortable around me and will be themselves when I am shooting.  I am professional, unobtrusive, friendly, and helpful. I work very hard to make sure you don’t even have to think about me during your wedding day.  I plan ahead in order to avoid problems and to know as much as possible going in. Behind the humor and seemingly cavalier facade during the actual wedding day, is a fierce professionalism that is dedicated to making your experience as perfect as it can be.  I do sincerely have a good time with you, but it’s all business on the inside.

I act and dress in a professional way. During weddings and other shoots I do not drink or act inappropriately. Outside of shoots I can’t make any promises on that one.

My business style is modeled after a company which many people hold dear to their hearts: Disney.  I love the business model they have developed in terms of customer service and experience, and feel it is vital to your satisfaction that I follow that same model.  When my wife and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World, we came back and told everyone about how wonderfully we were treated and what a magical experience it was.  I will always provide the same unbeatable customer service and love to all of my couples.

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The contract spells it out in more specific terms, but essentially if you cancel your wedding photography package at least ninety (90) days prior to the wedding date, your retainer fee (minus any actual expenses incurred) will be returned to you if and as soon as another wedding package is booked for that date.  Once the ninety day threshold has passed, any payments made are not refundable.

I understand that the unexpected can happen, and while I try to be understanding, I lose a significant amount of my livelihood income when a wedding is cancelled. I highly recommend purchasing wedding insurance.

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I’m very glad you asked. Nearly every family now has at least one person with a pretty good camera. That’s fantastic, and I’m all for it. However: Owning a nice set of golf clubs does not make you ready for the PGA Tour.

A professional photographer is not just someone who happens to have a nice camera.  There are years of practice, education, skill, and expertise required as well.  Wedding photography is so much more than just pointing a camera at something and pressing a button. It’s even more than just knowing how to take a great photograph. Wedding photography is a rare combination of photographic artistry and skill, experience, logistics and troubleshooting, psychology, specific styles of social interaction, and concierge service.

Your wedding day is not going to be reproduced for the sake of going back for a retake if something goes wrong. There are no do-overs!  Additionally, you will spend months, if not years, planning your wedding day. Your photographs are what will remain, telling the story for you to have and share for the rest of your lives. On your wedding day, there is only one chance to get the photographs you will be looking at forever.

If that much pressure was being put on a basketball player to make a free throw to win the big game, who would you rather trust to shoot that free throw: a top-level NBA star with years of training and experience under pressure, or your Uncle Bob who just bought a nice new basketball?

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For the same reason you don’t want to buy a cheap, untested parachute off of Craigslist.

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I do not charge more for certain holiday dates, but there are certain dates I do not accept any bookings at all. These include Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

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I am happy to answer any of your questions by email or phone, which can be found in the contact page.

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Wedding Planning Advice

Primary Photographer

The answer to this question largely depends on what you want covered. I know that sounds obvious, but if you think about it, what portion of your day requires the coverage of a professional photographer? Here are some things to think about when making this decision.

End Time: How much of the end of your reception do you actually need covered? Many of the dancing photos at the end look alike after about half an hour. If your reception has two and a half hours of dancing, that’s going to be redundant. Unless you have some super-special send-off planned, you don’t likely need me there for the entire reception. A common end time for me is based on about half an hour after the last “activity” is performed. Most of the time, that activity is the cake cutting. For example, if your cake cutting is at 10:00 and your reception goes to midnight, you only likely need me to be there until 10:30.

Once you know what time I should end the day with you, you can work backwards. If my end time is 10:30 and you have a nine hour package, that means I would start at 1:30pm. Is that enough time to cover everything you want photographed?

Start Time: How much of your getting ready process do you want covered? If you want to tell the entire day’s story, you’ll need for my start time to be earlier. But, if you only want the last hour or so of your getting ready process captured, you can reduce the number of hours in your package. You should consider travel time to your ceremony location as well. Let’s say your ceremony location is fifteen minutes from where you are getting ready. Let’s also assume the worst and give it twenty-five minutes, just in case. If your ceremony is at 2pm and you’re planning on arriving at 1:30, that means you’re probably going to leave the getting ready location at around 1pm. If you want me to cover the final hour of you getting ready (some detail shots of the dress before you put it on, some staged hair/makeup shots, details, things like that) then you should have me start at noon.

Working backwards from the last things you need me to cover in your reception, back to when you will need me to start, will give you an idea of how many hours you will need in your package.

Secondary Photographer

The second photographer’s start and end time don’t have to be same as the primary. The second photographer is rarely needed for the same amount of time. Typically speaking, the second photographer covers the tail end of the getting ready process at the ceremony location, and sometimes get detail shots at the ceremony site prior to the ceremony start. They then cover the ceremony, cocktail hour (while your portraits might be being done), and the start of the reception. They help with documenting your guests at the tables and around the reception. They also help with the grand entrance, first dance, and perhaps parent dances. After that, they are not really needed.

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The goal of creating the shot lists in the Wedding Worksheet is so that 1) no one gets forgotten, and 2) we make an “order of operations” designed to help me facilitate those photographs as quickly and efficiently as possible for you.

In the question about the formal group photos, this is (for most weddings) where either before or immediately after the ceremony, family pictures are taken. These are often at the ceremony location (such as a church altar) but can be just about anywhere. It’s advised that you start with the largest groups such as extended family, and work your way down to just the two of you. Be also mindful of anyone who might need to be done first, such as an officiant, an elderly or ailing relative, and small children. The wedding party knows they are going to take longer, so put them last. It also helps to reduce people coming in and out and back and forth as much as is reasonable.

Here is a quick sample of a typical formal group shot list.

  • Couple with officiant
  • Couple with grandparents
  • Couple with extended family (one side)
  • Couple with combined extended families
  • Couple with the other extended family (now anyone not in the wedding party or immediate family can be released!)
  • Couple with one side’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined family parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined parents
  • Couple with other side’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with combined siblings
  • Couple with entire wedding party
  • One member of the couple with their wedding party members (individually and together)
  • The other member of the couple with their wedding party members (individually and together)
  • The couple

The second shot list will consist of people who might not be part of the group family formals. This is frequently things like “work colleagues” or “college friends” or some random guest who you haven’t seen in fifteen years and who flew all the way in from Siberia. There are no wrong answers here, just let me know who to make sure I get shots of you with. These shots are frequently done at cocktail hour and/or during the reception. One thing to bear in mind is, the larger you make this list, the more of your reception I am going to spend pulling you aside from your celebration to get photos with people. So, keep that in mind when making this part of your shot list.

The final shot list question is about you, specifically. This is an opportunity for you to convey to me any particular photographs you want taken. Some people have researched wedding photographs on sites like Pinterest and want to re-create one or two they really like. I’m very happy to do that. I do recommend that you choose pictures which tell your story. This is also an opportunity to specify images you do not want me to take. You might absolutely hate some pose that I sometimes do with my couples. Please don’t be afraid to let me know. This isn’t a dictatorship, it’s a collaboration. 🙂

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There are many pros and cons to seeing each other for the first time in a private or semi-private “First Look” on your wedding day. The more “traditional” approach would be to not see each other until the ceremony, but many couples now are opting to have a staged First Look for several reasons.

A First Look allows full wedding party and family photos to be taken prior to the ceremony. By doing so, it allows you to potentially attend your cocktail hour. For larger wedding guest counts, attending your cocktail hour (and/or having a receiving line) helps you greet many guests without having to table hop during your reception. It also allows you to be fresh for those portraits and family photos, especially on days where weather is a factor. On hot days in the summer and early fall, having a First Look might mean the difference between your wedding portraits looking fresh and vibrant, or hot and miserable.

If you choose not to have a First Look, it is recommended that you leave a little extra time between the end of your ceremony, and the start of your cocktail hour/reception. This way you can still possibly attend part of your cocktail hour. I always try to work as quickly as possible, but if you have given me a large shot list and we only have half an hour because you did a receiving line, you might miss your cocktail hour.

Ultimately there is no wrong answer. I will get your photographs accomplished, and I will be happy to guide you through the process of planning those logistics.

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I highly recommend getting wedding insurance. Many weddings cost more than $20,000 to produce, which is more than some brand new automobiles. You insure your car, right? Well, you should insure your wedding as well.

Why would I need insurance? What could possibly go wrong?

I have had multiple people tell me about situations that have come up where wedding insurance would have proven helpful. One couple told me about having to find a new florist at the last minute because they found out the florist they paid in full for the service suddenly went out of business and disappeared. Another bride had a nightmare situation with her dress. She paid for the dress in full, and then found out the shop went out of business. The designer said they could send the dress to another retailer, but that she would have to buy the dress again! Can you imagine? Well, one of my brides didn’t have to imagine it, this actually happened to her!

These are relatively minor ‘disasters’ in the realm of what is possible. Some are much more tragic and disastrous. I have had weddings cancelled due to family illness or even death. What if you booked a reception venue that went out of business? What if the venue has to reschedule your wedding due to a city-wide event such as the Pope coming to town? What if on the day of your wedding, there was a huge blizzard or hurricane? What if the reception venue burns to the ground? If there were some legitimate emergency that required you to postpone your wedding, wedding insurance would cover that as well.

How much does wedding insurance cost?
It varies from policy to policy based on what you are covering and which provider you go with. It is typically going to be a couple to a few hundred dollars, but while that cost might seem high, it is a tiny fraction of what you are putting on the line with your wedding day planning.

If you want more information about why wedding insurance is so important, here is an excellent article from The Knot on the subject. I highly recommend reading it.

https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-insurance-101

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The very first thing I recommend people book is the venue. Often times the venue books so far in advance, it can have an impact on your actual wedding date. Once you have secured the venue, the next two steps are typically photography and music/DJ. I sometimes book weddings as far as two years out if it’s for a popular time of year such as Spring or Fall. More often my bookings fall between the one year and one and a half year window.

Other vendors such as florists, invitations, transportation can be booked less far out from your wedding day. However, if you have a specific vendor in mind, you should always contact them as soon as possible to ensure they will be ready to provide you with service for your wedding.

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Some people consider this a luxury and think it’s a good place to save money. However, I would counter that argument by saying two things. First, time is money. Planning weddings takes lots of time, energy, and can be quite stressful because you are dealing with a process with which most people are unfamiliar. Second, don’t reinvent the wheel. Planners and coordinators do this for a living. They are well experienced in dealing with the challenging logistics of a wedding day, they do an excellent job assisting you with finding the right vendors, and they allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride when the wedding day finally arrives.

Unless you are experienced with producing events, a wedding can be a daunting and stressful project to undertake. It consumes your time and energy, and there are people out there whose jobs are specifically to take that stress off your shoulders.

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Over the years I have found that eight or nine hours does a good job of documenting most weddings. Some smaller weddings might not take that long. Some weddings, however, might need more hours of coverage based on the interval between the end of the reception and the start of the getting ready process.

My recommendation is to work backwards from the final moment you want me there. Let’s take a typical wedding day scenario and break it down. A reception might go from 7pm to 11pm with a cocktail hour beginning at 6pm. That’s five hours. Perhaps the ceremony is at 4pm and ends at 4:30pm. That leaves an hour and a half for post-ceremony portraits and transportation to the reception venue. You’ll probably want to arrive 30 minutes prior to the ceremony, and perhaps it’s a 20 minute drive to the ceremony from where you are getting ready. That’s pretty much 3pm to 11pm, which is eight hours. Add one hour for “Getting Ready” photos, and you’re at nine hours.

Now, there are variations on this which must be considered. If you want coverage from earlier in the day, you’ll either need to add an hour or two to the package, or have me leave the reception a little early. It depends on what is most important to you. If I know ahead of time that I’ll be leaving the reception one hour prior to its conclusion, I make sure the venue and DJ are both aware of it and I get all of the “activities” scheduled prior to departure time.

Basically, work backwards. Do you want the entire reception documented? If so, work backwards from the end of the reception time and figure out what time you want me to start.

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