I am ready for summer. I am. But I do not think I am ready for peony season to be over just quite yet.
I come from a family where photographs are prized possessions. My grandmother was always afraid that someone would break into her house and steal her family photographs. Now there’s certainly a breakdown of reason (people steal things because they are valuable, not because they are valuable to you), but I think the sentiment is priceless. Her photographs of all of us were the one thing she didn’t want taken away from her. Of course, she didn’t preserve them properly. Many were in the magnetic photo albums from the 80s, and framed prints were stacked one behind another, ad infinitum, partly out of convenience and partly to hide them from would-be robbers.
My grandmother was right: photographs are great treasures, to us, to our families, to our histories, and to our cultures. And so, the photographic prints themselves—and their conservation—are essential, but often overlooked, aspects of your investment in wedding photography and in any photography period.
Sunlight damages prints, even high-quality archival ones. Don’t hang framed prints where they’ll get direct sunlight (or even really bright indirect light). You don’t want to look like The Munsters in twenty years.
Humidity can cause mold; extreme dryness can make prints brittle. Heat and cold are just as bad. And alternating among any of those conditions is even worse. Keep your prints, if at all possible, in stable room-temp normal humidity conditions.
This is one area where your photographer probably can help you quite a bit, since many of us work with our clients to create archival presentations of the photographs. Framed prints should be matted first, so that they don’t stick to the glass. The matting should be archival quality, with acid free archival adhesives, corners, mat paper, etc. UV-filtering glass can help framed prints, too. Albums and other presentations should be completely archival.
If there was one thing Grammy was militant about with her photographs, it was this. But it’s true: the oil from your fingers damages the print’s emulsion.
Naturally, if we wanted our photographs to last forever and ever, we’d leave them in airtight archival boxes at room temperature and never let them see the light of day. But that would be absurd, as the joy of a photograph is, of course, taking it in. So I’m offering some basic guidelines today. Then we’ll discuss each of these aspects of conservation in more detail in the coming months because the burden and responsibility of conservation of prints ultimately falls on the clients. In other words, no matter how careful your photographer is to create archival prints for you; if they are handled carelessly later, they’ll still be ruined. If at any point you aren’t sure about how to preserve your photographs, just ask your photographer!
iPhone photo: Gia Canali
I just got a copy of You & Your Wedding, a British wedding magazine, in the mail. It features Eunice & Daniel’s whimsical wedding. I think they did a fantastic job highlighting the wedding.
I’m pretty much smitten with these new business cards made just for me by Jennifer Parsons of Tiny Pine Press. If you see me soon, you just might get one …
… which reminds me: although it’s always fun to see my photographs in print, this is maybe my favorite “press” ever—front page of the Smyth County (VA) and neighboring county newspapers, with a larger-than-life full color print made from a bleached out Fuji 100c negative. This image of Jennifer looks somehow just right on newsprint paper.
photographs: Gia Canali
I have had drafts of this post floating around my computer for nearly a year and floating around my brain for much longer than that. One of the driving reasons for starting this blog is that I want to help or coach people into getting the best photography that they can possibly get, from me or from any other photographer. I want folks to be educated consumers (hmm … let’s say “patrons” or “commissioners”) of photography. The truth is that everybody wants to get the most out of their wedding photography, and out of their wedding. And each and every couple deserves an inspired performance from all their wedding vendors, right? But sometimes—surely unwittingly—brides and grooms can get in their own way of making that happen. I want to be delicate about this, but also truthful. Nearly all of my clients are so thoughtful and considerate of us that it hurts my heart (really!) … but small considerations (or—gasp!—mistakes) can really make an impact, whether or not the client is really aware of it in the end.
(Okay, let me back up and be clear on this: the term “vendor” does kind of make me gag. I’m used to it, after eleven years, but not happy with it. Meg over at A Practical Wedding has kindly suggested a reconsideration of the terminology, maybe wedding elves. It’ll do. It at least describes the work ethic and energy most of my colleagues and I put forth at weddings. But you could just call us artists. If you want to.)
Hire artists you trust, and then trust them. Nothing is more morale-busting or inspiration-deflating than micromanagement. You want artists who share your vision, obviously, but keep in mind that they’ll do their jobs how they do their jobs and not how you’d do their jobs. Listen to your wedding elves; we promise to listen to you. We want to get you what you want (and then some!)—whether or not you know exactly what that is and whether or not you can articulate it—and we know how to do that. The adage “expectations are premeditated resentments” fully applies, though. Allow yourself to be surprised and delighted with our interpretations of your secret hopes and wishes. We work so hard and consider our efforts a labor of love. We are soulful about what we do. I think there are probably folks out there who aren’t, but you don’t need to hire them, right?
This is a huge and, unfortunately, very common mistake we see. For instance, so many weddings run behind because of hair and makeup (despite our often-repeated and LOUDEST advice for folks to pad the hair and makeup schedule). I’ve previously always held an ill-founded vendetta against stylists themselves, but now that I have produced a short film (since I don’t have enough to do during wedding season), I can see how the makeup artists might feel flustered or set up to fail. That’s not a good way to go into a job. I know I can get flustered when folks step in and try to tell me how and how fast to work.
And I can’t tell you how disappointing it is when I have clients claim that portraits are so very important to them, how they’re envisioning all these set ups, lots of variety, and then they schedule fifteen minutes or less for portraits of themselves. Photographs are actually moments in time. So we need time to make them. Other artists need other things to do their jobs well. Producing a wedding and producing a film are probably not all that different in the end. You might want to think of yourself as a “producer.” On a film set, the producers (who put out all that money) make certain that everybody there—all the artists, all the talent, and all the so-called help—has what they need to do the best work possible.
These considerations are of course much-expanded with a destination wedding, but the same principles apply to one-day local weddings. My suspicion is that people can sometimes forget how really human we are. I have heard this complaint voiced most often by the wedding planners themselves. We need nourishment, water, and a little appreciation (see below). Keep in mind that you want your planner and photographers and videographers to be working their best all day long and after dinner, too – if you give them a crummy meal, not only does it literally leave a bad taste in their mouths, they’ll be running on empty and their growling tummies will be begrudgingly ticking off time until they can leave and get some real food … if that’s even possible.
I’m not talking about gratuity; I’m talking about gratitude. We’ll do our jobs either way (with gratitude or without), but we’ll do it better if we know you’re thankful for our efforts and creativity. We’re human. We’ll work to our own high standards for anyone, but we can’t help but go that extra mile for the couples who love us.
¹ If you feed us when you eat, all that you’ll “miss out on” are photographs of folks eating. Which you don’t want anyway. Feed us later on, and we’ll be missing the real moments. You might need to make this point to your caterers if they are providing the vendor meals. Sometimes they won’t feed the vendor-folk until after the dinner service is completely completed. This seems counter-productive because we’ll be eating when things are getting going again …
photos: Gia Canali