Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Shot a Wedding in my Bare Feet! {Destination Wedding Photography}

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I'm a whiner when it comes to shoes. The cute ones kill my feet. I have yet to find the perfect all day wedding shoes that don't look like granny shoes. Is it really that hard to be comfy and cute?
So last weekend was a welcome change for my feet. I was able to photograph the entire affair in my bare feet. Many of the bridal party opted for bare feet as well. I assure you there was nothing unprofessional about my behavior. You see, barefooted is the way to be in the Caribbean. For this grand affair I was flow to a gorgeous seaside resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

I was thrilled to photograph this wedding for this beautiful couple. I met the bride, Lana, when she took my photography class through the New Braunfels ISD community ed program. Photography is very important to her. That's why she opted to not use the generic resort photographer who came with her package. And I was thrilled to help her out! Who wouldn't love a trip to paradise for work?
The Paradisus Resort hosted the beautiful event. The ceremony took place right on the beach with a rain storm headed straight for us. We managed to get all the way through the ceremony and part of the way through the formal photo session before the rain hit. And I've never seen a bride handle rain so well. Lana wasn't the least bit annoyed by it and even agreed to stand out in it for a rain shot for me.

We were all a little disappointed that the reception was moved off of the beach and into one of their ball rooms, but the guests were in great spirits all evening.

I was impressed with how many of the couples friends and family made the trip to the Dominican Republic to celebrate with them. It's great to see so many of their loved ones enjoying a tropical vacation and celebrating their new lives together as husband and wife.

The day after the wedding the whole crew went together on a dune buggy adventure. Many of the guests stayed an extra day or two enjoying the spa, golf courses, and all you cam eat buffets the resort had to offer.

Unfortunately, we had to high tail it home. We had three little children anxiously awaiting our return from paradise with a bag full of cheap t-shirts, magnets, and obnoxious noise makers stamped with "Dominican Republic" only to sport a "made in china" label on the bottom.

But I'm game to go again to the next paradise wedding that should come my way. Anyone up for Jamaica?

Lisa on Location New Braunfels destination wedding photography
Lisa on Location New Braunfels destination wedding photography
Lisa on Location New Braunfels destination wedding photography
Lisa on Location New Braunfels destination wedding photography
Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, August 13, 2012

Photographers Beware of Scams {New Braunfels Wedding Photography}

Nobody is safe from the scammer. Once upon a time a con artist was a smooth talker who played on trusting older ladies. He or she hung out at casinos, gas stations, bus stations. They had a story to tell and needed your help. And they were in your face, looking pitiful and in need of help.

Then along came the internet and the life of the con artist became a whole lot easier. Now the sky is the limit. They can send e-mails out all over and reach thousands of potential marks in one day.

I consider myself pretty savvy at spotting them. I delete e-mails every day from people claiming to represent some millionaire in a foreign country who wants to send me lots of money. A few years ago I took up selling Avon for the fun of it and it wasn't long before I got an e-mail from someone wanting to buy large quantities of products from me and give me a check for the total. The catch was they were in the UK and needed me to send them to an address in California where they would pick them up in the future. I didn't fall for it.

Avon reps aren't safe from con artists. And now it seems photographers aren't safe from con artists either.

I'm going to share with you the exact e-mail exchange I got from a potential con artist in the hopes that others won't fall for this. I didn't pursue this "client" after a Google search turned up the exact same story played on another photographer.

The first e-mail was simple enough:
"Hi, I'm Melissa Brown . Joe & I will be getting married in less than 2 months . We're asking for a package list which includes 6-8 hours of shooting time amongst a few other items . Package to exclude the Wedding engagement/ bridal sessions. Please let us know if you will be available for Saturday, September 15th, 2012 . And get back with your package pricing information. Thank you, Melissa Brown"

It sounds just like any other inquiry I get almost every day. A bride looking to book a photographer for a wedding. So I responded with my usual prompt reply pointing her to my packages and offering to meet with her over coffee to discuss photography.

Then I get this reply and my spidey senses started to tingle:
"Hello Lisa,
I trust you are currently having a great weekend over there. . > However, the Seriously In Love Package with an unlimited wedding day > coverage for- $2,900 works fine with us at this time. I was just going > to be sure you got this right. Ps: Wedding is September 15, 2012...And > in New York, NY. You see, you probably wont understand how hard it is > finding some one locally for the shooting of our wedding . They are > either booked up or not good enough so we decided to check online a > few websites including ppa, photolinks, etc. So we definitely hate for > this to be a waste of time.
> > I will let you know an exact address in the coming week(s) . I will > let you know asap when something has been booked. So the tentative > Wedding address is" The Central Park Boathouse. East 72nd St. New > York, NY 10021. We are expecting about 100-150 guests over . Both in > and outdoor shooting . Meaning we simply want an event coverage of our > preparation, ceremony, and reception.
> > It has been hard finding the perfect photographer for the shooting. > But following your response to my introductory email . I'm optimistic > about this arrangement working. We are currently in Manchester, UK for > an important visit ahead of my seminar. So I hope to work out an > arrangement ahead of my arrival back to the states.
> > You see, I am physically impaired (Hearing). So e-mail works fine > for now . We can work out all of the details ( via email) .A quick > question though, Will you be emailing us something like a standard > contract ( to be signed online ) knowing for sure you will be > available for the 15th?Get back to me soon.

Several things about this letter had me highly suspicious. First, note the really bad English. It's worded like someone doesn't have such a firm grasp of the English language. That's not such a bad thing, really and that by itself wouldn't indicate anything fishy. I've worked with multi-cultural couples in the past and they never gave me this fishy feeling.

Second, the bride conveniently can't talk to me over the phone. She's hearing impaired, or so she says. I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of traveling across the country to a wedding without ever having at least talked to the bride over the phone.

Third, they don't have a venue booked for sure. My first step at confirming if a wedding was to actually take place by these people would be to call the venue for verification but, oops, the venue is not booked yet. Something tells me they would withhold that piece of information off as long as possible.

Fourth, they mention that all the good New York photographers are all booked. I find that a bit hard to believe. New York is the heart of photography. There are so many wonderful photographers in that city that you couldn't throw a flash card without hitting one. Surely, there's someone local who can fill that need.

And finally, the last hint that something was off was the mention that they are not in the country at this time. They are setting it up for a foreign transaction to take place. My assumption is that they are hoping to pay with a foreign check written over the amount of my charges and then ask me to forward the change to them or to another party.

So at this time a part of me is thinking -- cool, a wedding in New York would be lovely. And the other part of me is thinking -- walk away it's a trick.

So I reply once again, just to make sure I'm not turning away a potentially wonderful wedding. I give them my travel fees, ask for information on the hotel they will be staying with and asking which method of payment they would be using. in the meantime I do a quick Google search for "deaf Melissa Brown" and "hearing impaired Melissa Brown" and come up with a few hits for a writer who does book reviews and tends to review books on the topic of hearing impairment. And I'm thinking, if this is her, why is a writer having such a hard time writing the English language. I know that not every person is going to have hits on Google. And if I were to enter just "Melissa Brown" into the search engine I would get many hits because it's such a common name. The con artist is banking on that common name. So I quickly hear back from my sweet con artist.

Here is their response:
"Hello Lisa,
Thank you for your email. Yes, we'll send out the money for your travels along with the deposit check. Everything sounds good to me. I believe we are not too far as it is such a fast approaching wedding. We are currently looking at having something like a phone consultation at the time of our arrival back to the states to be accomplished through a friend, family member, maid of honor, etc. This is because of my disability problems. I hope this is all Ok with you?
I trust the amount you're requesting for your services is in total $2,900.00. That works fine with us as long as you're able to do a neat, creative and a perfect job for us. We're going to be needing this solely for the memory of our children and families. Please reply back with the requested information below . I'm going to have to make an arrangement for at least 50% of your total payment up front ( by check ). And the remaining funds due on the wedding day which ever works best for you . Just let us know ...
We're hoping to find someone that has experience with different nationalities ( skin colors) as we're having about 150 guests coming over for the ceremony...I hope you know where am coming from? Please get back to me with your -;
* Full names to appear on the check payment ;
* Mailing address ;
* Phone number ;
Thank you,
Melissa Brown."

At this point in the exchange I hang up. Or rather stop responding. The English is getting more and more broken and unnatural, they are not answering my questions, and they seem eager to throw money at me without any further photography related discussions.

I do another Google search for "photography scams" and instantly find a forum where photographers are discussing this exact same scam. Sometimes the details are changed. The wedding is to take place in Cancun/California/New York and the bride is currently in the UK or some other foreign country but will be returning for the wedding.

Photographers who have gone through with the scam have received a foreign check for over the amount due to them. Then the "bride" requests that they send the change to the caterer/the DJ/the videographer/etc at a given address. The photographer's bank clears the check temporarily and gives the photographer the face amount. The photographer then sends a money order to the address requested. Seven to 10 days later, the bank returns the check and debits the photographers account for the amount of the check plus fees. Uh-oh, now the photographer is out those fees, plus the amount they just sent on to the "caterer/DJ/videographer" who is actually the con artist himself.

No thank you Ms. Brown, or whoever you are. At this point in time I am no longer available for your wedding in New York. Nice try.

Lisa On Location Photography

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Missing: Fly By Night Photographer Leaves Client Hurt and Hardened {New Braunfels Photography}

I got a heart wrenching call today. And you know how I like to share my heart-wrenching calls from clients with you.

Today's call came from a very sweet lady, in her 50s, who hates having her photograph taken. "I was the one who always ran and hid from the camera as a child," she told me. So it was really hard for her to make this call. She had her portrait taken a few months ago by another local photographer (I'll leave her name off here because I'm not going to go there). The photographer gave her a little sneak peek of one of those images and it turned out beautifully. She couldn't wait to give it to her husband.

Then that photographer went silent. No more e-mails, no more phone calls. She didn't put up a gallery for this lady. Wouldn't return her calls. Silence. For months.

So today she decided to look for another photographer. She'd been burned. She wasn't sure if she wanted to try again. She was out money for the fee she paid the other lady. She was out confidence. She was out time. It had taken her years to work up the confidence to schedule that session in the first place. She was apprehensive to say the least.

So she called me. She loved what she saw on my website and wanted me to assure her that if she went through this again, she wouldn't be burned again. I told her that I've never shot a session for a client and then disappeared. That I'm in this for the long haul. This is my life. This is my career.

By the end of our conversation, this lovely lady decided to send me the one photo she got from the other photographer so I can see the type of image she was looking for. I won't duplicate it. That's not my style. I'll better it, no doubt. This lady deserves to be blown away by her next session. She deserves to be pampered and reassured.

And to the photographer who ditched her and to other photographers who set up shop and then bail on their clients, shame on you. You give us all a bad name. And to anyone who's been burned in the past. I promise you, that's not the norm. I can give you a list of photographers who are dedicated to their clients and to the profession. Who won't leave you when you need them.

It's too easy for anyone to pick up a nice camera and hang out a shingle and declare themselves a photographer. I see it every day, it seems they pop out of the woodwork constantly. Most of them are out of business within a year or two. They realize it's not a get rich quick business and it's not all glamour and baby smiles. It takes more than photography talent to run a photography business. Those of us who stick with it are here for you. Even if you don't decide to hire me, I'd be happy to refer you to others who are serious about photography and won't run and hide when they get bored. Call me.

Lisa On Location Photography

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fabulous Wedding Send-offs {New Braunfels Wedding Photography}

When I was a child the old tradition of sending off a bride and groom at the end of their wedding reception was rice. I remember getting the rice bags and throwing it and having a great time of it. It was supposed to represent a new beginning with a wish for good luck and good crops. Then the rumor about what that rice can do to birds who eat it got out and pretty soon bird seed became the norm for sending off a bride and groom. Although, before writing this blog, I Googled it and it turns out that the whole "rice making birds explode" rumor may be just that -- a rumor. Birds eat wild rice from fields all the time, and there have not been any big bird explosion epidemics that we're aware of. It turns out that, in reality, the trend away from rice throwing is most likely traced to massive lawsuits against venues brought on by guests who slipped on the rice and hurt themselves. In response, venues prohibited the throwing of rice and often, they've prohibited the throwing of birdseed as well. In fact, many of them say, just don't throw anything please.

I'm reminded of the wedding I witnessed years ago where the bride and groom thought it would be fun to have Mardi Gras beads tossed at them. They weren't laughing when they slipped on the beads and got themselves on America's Funniest Home Videos. Or maybe they were laughing. They didn't win the big one though.

I've seen a few brides choose flower petals to send off and those seem innocent enough -- although not for the one who has to come through and pick them all up. Venues frown upon you leaving those things behind.

Right now the most popular trend is bubbles. Bridal supply stores are making out like bandits selling little plastic bottles of bubbles.

The bubbles seem safe on the surface. They tend to make the dance floor a bit slippery when little children get ahold of them and blow to their hearts content, often spilling the slippery stuff all over. I have yet to see anyone slip and fall, however. But I have seen jokester groomsmen pour the bottles of the soapy stuff all over the head of the departing groom.

Many brides are opting for send-offs that don't involve throwing anything. Sometimes the guests will receive a noise-maker of some sort -- horns, bells, spinning things -- and send the couple away with enough noise to wake the neighborhood. I've yet to hear of any noise-related injuries from this technique.

Another popular send off technique that I'd like to touch on and preach against at this time is the sparkler. A lot of my brides have chosen this beautiful send off technique. And it is beautiful. And most of the time, the send off goes off without a hitch. But I predict this will soon be a forbidden send off for many venues, soon to go the way of the rice.

I've seen a bride get a hole burned in dress thanks to a sparkler. I've seen children burn their fingers on sparklers -- one of them a quite nasty burn. And now I've seen the gift table caught on fire thanks to sparklers. Fortunately, the fire didn't spread beyond the gift table and only a few gifts were lost, but the potential for disaster was really high.
Sparklers can be lovely, but put together with large groups of people, small children, and often large consumption of alcohol and accidents can happen. An alternative to the sparkler that's just as lovely and not nearly so dangerous is glow sticks.

They come in a variety of colors, they last for hours, children love them, nobody slips on them and they are pretty inexpensive.

Whatever you decide to send you off on your wedding day, make it special and make it safe. And call me to record all the details of it!

Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, August 6, 2012

Peacocks are Hell on Heels {New Braunfels Boudoir Photography}

New Braunfels has a new girl in town in the Perky Peacock, and she's already the most popular store on the block.
I got a call a few months ago from one of the ladies of the Peacock interested in setting up some kind of Pin-up day at the store. So began our discussion of a collaboration between the Perky Peacock and Lisa on Location. I'm a huge fan of boudoir photography and pin-up photography as most of you know, so when they called a couple of weeks ago again asking for some help with their fashion show "Hell on Heels" of course I was happy to step up.

The lovely ladies at the Perky Peacock recruited real life, normal women of all shapes and sizes from their customer base and put on a fun fashion show at the Phoenix Saloon on San Antonio Street in New Braunfels the other night. And I was happy to co-sponsor the event providing images for pre-event publicity as well as photographing the event on the night of.

I was greeted with a room full of nervous yet beautiful women getting dressed in fine new clothes and preparing to step on stage in front of hundreds of people. They were feeling good because they'd just had their hair and makeup done by Lauren Simon of David Troy Salon, Bodacious Hair and Skin Benefit and Nail Solution. But these women were not professional models. They were wives and moms; there was a chef, a couple of students, a stay-at-home mom, an executive, a stylist among others. Most had never done anything like this before, but by the end of the evening, they were feeling like rock stars.

I made some new friends during the course of the evening and I'm looking forward to collaborating again with the Perky Peacock -- we already have a few ideas spinning in our heads. You'll be the first to know when that gets under way!
Lisa on Location New Braunfels boudoir photography
Lisa On Location Photography