Thursday, May 12, 2011

It's Not The Wedding Book Your Grandparents Had

Wedding books are arriving. And wow, how things have changed.

Wedding albums used to be rather plain and boring, but now there are a range of choices and options available, and sometimes those choices can be overwhelming. LaVere Media decided to take the "simple yet elegant" route, and use a company called "KISS Wedding Books". We couldn't be happier.

First, the books arrive extremely well-packaged with lots of TLC given to every detail. Instead of a cardboard box, the book is packaged in a beautiful cloth sleeve:

The binding is incredible; we've had a sample book that has been to countless wedding shows, handled by hundreds of people, even loaned out for potential customers to take home, and it still looks as good as new. These folks do amazing work:

The pages are thick, with a heavy substrate. The books are available in a variety of sizes and colors; our bride chose a 10" book with a black leather cover. The leather is smooth and supple, and the book feels substantive when you hold it.

What we really like about these books is that the two-page "spreads" are printed without a visible seam in the middle; the printing goes across the two pages. Again, our sample book looks as good as the day it arrived; there's simply no breakage across the seam. You almost have to see it to believe it.

Wedding books like this are available with any photography package purchased from LaVere Media, and are included without extra charge in our deluxe wedding package. We do all our own layout and design, using photos you choose from the proofs you receive with your package. We also provide you with a PDF file for review before we send the book off to print to ensure that you're getting exactly what you want with no surprises.

These books aren't just for brides—we can assemble them for senior photos, pets...we can even scan your parent's wedding album and put it together in a stunning presentation book that can be handed down for a whole new generation. The possibilities are endless!

Seeing the looks on the faces of our customers when they view their book is one of the best parts of our job. We can't wait to put one together for you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Big Box Weddings

It was the strangest job posting I've seen yet.

A national bridal chain was advertising for photographers and videographers. They specify the equipment the video or photo professional needs, they book the wedding, and the shooter is responsible for providing them with the raw materials. Get in, shoot, get out, and pass your raw materials on to some unknown assembly-line "artist" in an undisclosed location, who hands it off to the big box bridal store for their client. I guess after practically decimating the privately-owned bridal shops that used to be common in communities all across the country, the big boys are finally going after the last remaining personalized service offered for weddings: your photographer and videographer.

I can't even begin to tell you why I think this is a huge mistake. But I'm going to try anyway.

Hiring a photographer and/or videographer for your wedding is not like buying a tuxedo, renting a limo, or any other service you'll book for your wedding. As I've pointed out on these pages before (and in countless conversations with brides over the past two decades), when the meal and cake are eaten, the guests have all gone home, the flowers have wilted, the dress is packed away, and the honeymoon is over, you have two tangible reminders of your wedding day: your pictures and your video.

Your photography is not a service you should hand off to just anyone.

Photography and video are personal. You'll spend more time with your photographer than anyone else on your wedding day, and yes, that includes the one you're marrying. By the time we arrive at a wedding, we've already spent hours consulting with our brides and grooms, we've attended the wedding rehearsal, we've met the families and wedding short, we've developed a working relationship that helps ensure the best possible result. No one should meet their photographer on the day of the wedding.

I've been solicited by companies taking this kind of approach before, and I've always turned them down. Part of the reason is because, philosophically, I don't agree with their tactics. It cheapens the relationship between the photographer and client, and turns photography and video into something it isn't: another commodity. I don't know many couples that would hire a band for their reception without hearing them first; why would you do it with your photographer or videographer?

But I've also turned them down because "taking the picture" is only part of the process of creating a great memory. Any reputable photographer will tell you that as much time (usually more) is spent editing photos afterward, tweaking the digital image to bring out certain elements, fix bad reflections on glasses, or make any of a hundred other adjustments to make those images special. When photographers are hired by these "services", they hand off the digital files to some unknown assembly-line retoucher, who handles the creation of the final image. That should be unacceptable to anyone who cares about their final product.

I once knew of a photographer that painstakingly airbrushed out someone's oxygen tube in all the formal photos, at the request of the bride AFTER the ceremony was over. That's the kind of personal service you're not going to get from some anonymous faceless conglomerate.

It also bothered me greatly that the requirements of the big box store centered around the kind of equipment the photographer needed to have. I've seen amazing photographers work with very little gear, and I've seen shooters weighed down with so many lenses and accessories that they could barely move, and the end result wasn't worth the deposit the bride and groom paid, let alone the finished product. While I understand the importance of good quality equipment, I was dismayed to realize that (no pun intended) the gear was their primary focus.

The larger issue here is that weddings have become a huge industry. Year after year, I see more and more people swarming after brides for a monetary piece of the wedding day pie. Granted, I'm part of the swarm. But believe me, there are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living. Anyone who shoots weddings for a living does it, at least in part, because they love what they do, love weddings, and enjoy the hands-on aspect of making a lifetime memory (see this blog post from another photographer for an excellent writeup on this subject). It frankly sickens me to see something as important and personal as photography and video services reduced to the level of renting your shoes.

Having said that, I've been faced with the phenomenon of the "out of town" bride who hires me sight-unseen for photography or video. But I also know that I spend a great deal of time consulting with those brides before the wedding on the phone, I make certain that they've seen my portfolio and know my style, and I do my best to make them comfortable with the work coming out of my studio. My name is attached to that final product; it's important to me that the work is of the highest caliber I'm capable of, and that the client is thrilled with the end result.

Could I sign on with this company? Sure. Could I probably double or triple the number of weddings I work each year? Most likely. It would probably be very lucrative for me to work this way. The appeal is definitely worries about scheduling multiple meetings with the clients, attending the rehearsal, working an all-day schedule (the big-box package limits the number of hours the shooter has to work), or any of the tedious and time-consuming post-production editing of photos and video. It has its appeal if, as a photographer or videographer, money is your only concern.

But it cheapens the work.

Ultimately, that's the problem I have with what I call the "commoditization" of these services. Whenever I talk to a bride and groom, I tell them this: "I don't care if you hire me, or if you hire someone else. Obviously, I'd like you to hire me. But more importantly, I want you to hire someone whose style you like, whose personality meshes with yours, and with whom you feel comfortable. Yes, price is a consideration, but it's only ONE consideration. Your memories are too important to trust to just anyone."

Please don't make that mistake.

/ Rich LaVere
April 4, 2011

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

Yes, today's post takes inspiration from the great bard. No, not Shakespeare...Vanilla Ice.

No, I haven't lost my mind.

This summer, I've been asked several times to work as an assistant photographer at weddings for other photographers in the area. It's a privilege and an honor to work with these folks, some of whom I've looked up to and emulated over the years.

Working as an assistant photographer brings with it its own unique benefits and challenges. I've worked with a handful assistants over the years, but haven't had the opportunity until this season to do it myself. Here's what I've learned.

Yes, the advice of Vanilla Ice is solid. Stop. Collaborate, and listen. Being an effective assistant means that, first and foremost, the principal photographer has the responsibility for directing the work that's being done. So here's what I do.

First, I make a concerted effort to stop doing things "my way" and learn the ebb and flow of a different photographer. There's no way I can emulate his or her style; that would be an effort in futility, and that's not why I was hired in the first place. But what I strive to do is emulate their personal style. Some photographers are very subtle, quiet and passive. Others are more upbeat, involved and have an up-front style. The photographer's style is usually why they were hired in the first place.

I'm there to collaborate. It's fun to work as an assistant, because a lot of the pressure is off my shoulders. I don't have to worry about shot lists, locations, timeframes, etc. I get to share ideas with the main photographer, work with him/her on different ways of shooting, and come up with ideas that may not have been possible otherwise. For instance, on one shoot I was able to photograph the bride and groom from a third-story hotel room with a long lens while the primary photographer worked with them on the ground. We came up with some great shots that wouldn't have been possible with a single camera.

Most importantly, I'm there to listen. Listen to the needs of the photographer, the family, the venue. I'm always free to offer my own ideas, but I was hired to assist, not direct. I've learned more by listening and learning than I could ever have imagined.

So there you have it. In the immortal words of the IceMan, Stop. Collaborate, and Listen. It's good advice.

About the author: Rich LaVere is a videographer and photographer based in Elmira NY. It's not true that his personal motto is, "If there was a problem, yo I'll solve it."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Senior Portraits

Over the past few days, we've had several calls from High School students and their parents asking if we shoot senior portraits. The answer is yes.

It's no secret that senior portraits are one of the biggest expenses facing a soon-to-be graduate. We've seen portrait packages that cost in excess of $300 to $400 and higher. Frankly, we think that's just ridiculous. Additionally, many of the local school districts use out-of-town photographers, so your money doesn't stay local. We generally advise students to use the school's photographer for the yearbook portrait, and come to us for what we call an "extended session".

Our portrait packages include an hour of unlimited photography, either in our studio or at your location (for a nominal location fee). Our studio shoots can also include a number of local locations within walking distance of our Downtown Elmira location, with parks, "industrial" backgrounds, even the Chemung River. When you hire us, you "own" us for that hour. We don't put limits on wardrobe changes, locations, backgrounds, or the number of poses.

In addition, we take the time to get to know you...what your interests are, what you like to do, what your hobbies are, etc. Then, we tailor our portrait packages so that your photos are uniquely you, not some cookie-cutter assembly-line photograph that looks like everyone else's.

Our portrait packages for seniors are the same as our standard portrait package...we don't mark up anything. Our package pricing is simple and affordable; w
e offer two simple photography packages that cover most situations, including portraits and pet photography:

Package One ($125):

• One-hour photo shoot
• 4x6 proof book of all photos taken (includes a LaVere Media watermark)
• No contractual limit on number of photos
• Reprints available based on our pricing schedule below
• Online web gallery for viewing and ordering

Package Two ($200):

• One-hour photo shoot
• 4x6 proof book of all photos taken—no watermark
• No contractual limit on number of photos
• CD-ROM with high-resolution electronic files of all photos
• Copyright release form (allowing you to get your own reprints at a lab of your choice)
• Reprints available based on our pricing schedule below
• Online web gallery for viewing and ordering

Additional options with either package:

Location fee (within a 20-mile radius of Elmira): $50
Travel outside a 20-mile radius of Elmira: .35/mile

Reprints beyond the initial proof book are priced as follows:

4 x 6: $ 2.00
5 x 7: $5.00
8 x 10: $12.00
Wallet (4): $5.00
11x14: $20.00
16x20: $30.00
20x30: $40.00

Other sizes at quote. Other products such as books, calendars, etc. are also available at quote.

Give us a call, or check out our pricing and information at We think you'll like what you see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

February's Most Important Holiday

In honor of Groundhog Day—the only holiday that celebrates an animal—LaVere Media is offering specials on our great pet photography packages. We already offer the best value in pet photography in the area, and these specials make our great pricing and exceptional service even better!

Special #1: 10% Donation to SPCA

During the months of January and February, we're donating 10% of all proceeds from Pet Photography sessions to the Chemung County NY SPCA. Get your pet photographed and contribute to a great cause at the same time!

Special #2: Free Softcover Photo Book

When you purchase a pet photo session in January or February, you'll get a free 20-page softcover book with photos from your session! You can also upgrade to a hardcover book and a range of options. The book is absolutely free with your level 2 package! Click Here for pricing...opens in new window)

Special #3: Groundhog Day Gift Certificates

Are you celebrating Groundhog Day and don't know what to get that special someone? Why not a LaVere Media Gift Certificate? We're offering special pricing on a portrait session you can use for yourself, a loved one, or that special Groundhog in your life! Use the link on our "specials" page to order today. We'll even gift-wrap it for you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's That Price Again?

Recently, a customer booked us for a portrait shoot after investigating several alternatives, including photography at a well-known department store and another big-box retailer.

We've all seen the photography specials at these stores; they promise dozens of portraits at a ridiculously low price. In fact, the price they offer is often below our actual printing cost for the same amount of portraits.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in this case, that's exactly what our client found.

First, she was limited to a single pose. That wasn't going to work for her; she had three children that she wanted in individual poses, she wanted a family shot, a photo of her and her sister, a photo of her parents, and a large group shot. Oh, and could she include her pets?


The single pose was out of the question.

She wanted multiple prints of those multiple poses. But at the department store, she was limited to prints from a single pose without incurring extra costs. And to top it all off, she was limited to a small number of poses per session.

The big-box retailer seemed to offer a good price and selection, until she asked if she could buy the rights to use the photos on her own. That price alone pushed her simple package above the cost of ours.

In the end, she became our client because we were not only cost-competitive, but for what she was looking for, we were actually cheaper. Her final package included a one-hour photo session, well over a dozen different poses, over 100 4x6 proofs, a copyright release for all her photos, and all her pictures on a CD-ROM. She can place orders directly from us, through a secure website, she can print them at home, or use her favorite photo processor.

Just as important to our client was the service she received, and the individual attention. Working with two dogs, three children and four adults is a challenge, but one we took on willingly and with a lot of fun. She wasn't pushed through on a schedule, and we took the time to give her a great experience.

That's the difference between having your portrait taken at our studio versus the store where you bought your lawnmower. Give us a call, and compare our pricing. We're sure we'll see you soon when you do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pet Photography

Our newest YouTube video features highlights from some of the pets we've photographed at LaVere Media. Remember: We'll come to your home, or you can bring your pet to our studio. Either way, we love working with our furry friends.