Behind the Scenes - 2013 Edition

Well, 2013 has come to a close. I spent my New Years at home with sick kids and starting to feel a little sickness coming on myself. I guess I'm getting old... I also have taken the past few days to reflect back on 2013 from a business stand point. As I said in my previous post, professionally, I met all of my goals and then some. I couldn't have asked for more this year without just plain being greedy. I'm so grateful that as I've grown professionally so many of you have stuck with me and continued to trust me over and over again with your memories. I'm repaying that trust by welcoming you to a behind the scenes look at Kelli Brewer Photography, and to share with you some of my experiences over the past year. More specifically, a look at one of the two weddings I shot this year.

As a budding photographer, these kinds of posts were my favorite - seeing a photographer in action and learning from them, whether it was positive or negative. As a client or reader, I hope you find the inside scoop behind what I do at least informative if not fascinating. Every photographer is a bit different, but this is how I run things behind the show.

Before we delve too far into this post, I have to thank Chance Hammock for all the awesome photos of me in action.

As my second shooter, I rely on Chance a lot. He's the "safety net" for me in many ways: If I get ill, or another 'act of God' prevents me from being where I need to be, he provides extra equipment and assistance with my own equipment, he helps me split up shots to cut down on shooting time, we bounce ideas off each other and quite frankly, it just wouldn't be as fun without him. Just imagine being a guest at a wedding where all you know is the bride and groom, and you're in a room full of strangers all night. I can mingle with the best of them, but it's so nice to have a buddy to share the job with.

Chance saved me in more than one regard at Katie and Ryan's wedding. Yes, photographers make mistakes (at least this one does) and gear fails. Just as we were about to get things underway I was double checking my equipment, primarily my flash. Suddenly, it wasn't turning on. I cursed my husband under my breath for probably giving me faulty batteries after a long debate of using rechargeable ones vs. buying tried and true new ones at the store. I tried another set from Chance and still, nothing. We really didn't have a lot of time and I was weighing my options when Chance pulls a second flash out of his bag. I ended up shooting with it all night. He saved my butt big time.

Also - batteries can corrode inside a flash unit, just an FYI.

I was at the front of the chapel capturing the big "Mr. and Mrs. Gorman!" moment when I realized the ceremony was over.

By the time I got to the back of the chapel, this is where the bride and groom were. See Chance? Yeah, he caught that awesome shot on the right. Giving the bride and groom two angles of the same moment.

A lot of bride and grooms don't realize just how special it is to have two photographers at your wedding. I've said it before: I can't be in two places at once. Especially in large locations, I can't literally be running from one end of the chapel to the other (though I have given some mall speed walkers a run for their money). Chance and I seem to just know where to be. We have a "game plan" before we begin, but we seemingly end up at opposite points of the room, capturing the moments from different angles. It's because of this we're able to see things happening the other can't and we don't miss out on so much happening around us. 

I was never here. You saw nothing.
When I'm shooting the ceremony of the wedding, I only get one opportunity to capture it all. It's really hard to know how long the ceremony will be - if it's only 5 minutes and I've taken my time, I might only end up with 10 usable shots. Better to go crazy with the shutter than say "thanks for paying me your life savings, here are your 10 photos"!

Because I'm having to move so fast, I can be all over the place during a ceremony. However, the trick is to be quiet (I wear shoes with rubber soles), get low (my thighs usually hurt come the next day - photography is a great workout) and stay out of the guest's way. I always touch base with the Officiant prior to the wedding to know where I can and cannot go and if they have any requests for behavior on my part. The last thing any photographer wants is for this to happen to them. For example, during Katie and Ryan's Catholic Mass, I could not go down the aisle more than a few feet, I had to stay two rows back on either side, I could not go onto/behind the altar and I could not use my flash. Did you get all that? I'll admit, I was absolutely petrified I was going to make a mistake and some big bodyguards were going to tackle me to the ground.

Following their ceremony however, I spoke with the Officiant as we waited for the family to gather for formal portraits. He thanked me for my services, and told me that he never noticed me throughout the Mass. He told me that was the mark of a good photographer - being unseen. SUCCESS!

For the women reading, let's dive into FASHION!

A lot of new photographers wonder what kind of dress code is required at their shoots. Since we run our own business, a uniform is up to us. For family sessions, I go pretty casual. Jeans and a nice shirt will normally do. I don't usually do sleeveless or low cut items - mainly because I don't when I'm off the clock. In reality, nobody wants to see my pits when I'm raising my arms to shoot or see 'the ladies' when I'm crawling on the ground to get the shot.

Wow, that's a lot of imagery in one sentence.

With weddings, my dress code is usually the same - dark dress pants and a semi-dressy top. Whatever I do wear, I make sure that it's long so that it covers me when I'm squatting and that it's comfortable in the arms. I can't have something too tight that doesn't allow me to move. Nobody should be looking at me, so it's about comfort, not fashion. Would I ever wear jeans to a wedding? No. Not even a hoe-down. Would I ever wear shorts? Nope. I just don't think it's professional. This is purely my opinion. Even in the hot June heat, I opt for dress slacks. That, and I really don't have nice legs. They're blindingly white, and I don't want to draw attention away from the bride.

Have you ever found yourself browsing a photography blog and read or seen the term "Uncle Bob"? Or what about a wedding planning blog suggesting you ask guests to "unplug"? There's a big burst right now in digital camera sales and improvements in cell phone cameras. Everyone is taking pictures - and that's a great thing. At a wedding, it can be a bit more complicated.

You see, photographers (long before my time) coined the term "Uncle Bob" to refer to a wedding guest who does one or many of these things: brings their camera to an event and gets in the way by hovering over a photographer, directing guests to look at them instead of the hired professional, attempt to "talk shop" with the hired photographer, photo bombs images, ruins images by firing their flash at inopportune times, etc.

See the photo above? There are 5 other cameras going during formals. 5 that you can SEE. Now, when you hire me as your photographer, you hire someone flexible. As long as "Uncle Bob" doesn't prevent me from doing my job, I'm all for allowing guests to take images. Occasionally I did have to ask the guests to step back, but I'm not afraid to ask - and ask politely. I've never run into a guest who didn't oblige my request. In fact, when I've gotten the shots I need, more often than not I step aside and allow "Bob" to get his shots as well. We can all work together!

Bridal Party shots can be intimidating when you're working with large groups and a lot of personalities. More than family members at a wedding, I find bridal parties to be the most anxious to get to the cocktail hour and be done with photos. I have to move fast and I have to keep the atmosphere light.

I'm doing my best to describe what I'm looking for, and trying to be sarcastic and funny about it to get some genuine smiles outta these handsome guys.

It must have worked, because pretty soon these guys had all of us laughing!
It can be hard to keep bridal party formals fresh and new. The poses I can create depend largely on the personalities of the bridal party. For this particular wedding, I could have asked them to create a circus routine and they would have done it gladly - and spectacularly.
Finished image. These guys were amazing!

I try my best to think on my feet. A lot of photographers keep inspiration boards on Pinterest or even on their phones of poses they want to try or photos that inspire them. I do this too.

The problem?

I often completely blank at a session. Maybe not... totally blank. Out of ten poses I told myself YES I'M GOING TO DO THIS!! I remember two. I often fall into the same habits and same poses because I blank. That and I don't want to disengage with my client because I'm scanning my mental pin board. This is probably for the best. Creatively I can't rely on work someone else has done. While I can be inspired by others work, blanking helps me make my sessions and weddings my own. It's something I'm always working on and looking to improve.

Deciding... Deciding... "Okay guys, this is what we're gonna do!"
I love the formals that follow a ceremony because it's a nice bit of quiet, one-on-one time with my bride and groom. Being able to spend the first few moments with people after they've become husband and wife is a great honor. Everyone is going to want to attack these two for the rest of the reception, and I get to whisk them away and have them all to myself! There's been so much leading up to this moment and it's over in minutes. The ease and generally feeling of "we did it!" is infectious.

Behind the scenes fact: I am absolutely terrified of detailed ring shots.

I can take images of rings on the bride and groom's hands until the cows come home. But when they place their rings into my hand and let me scurry off with them... that terrifies me. You see, I'm convinced that I'm going to lose them, drop them into any number of crevasses, return them with a missing stone, or heck, maybe I'll even swallow one somehow. There is no greater relief than doing my duty and returning those rings to their rightful owners, safe and sound.

A couple weeks ago I was in the midst of some email exchanges with a potential bride, that I'm so excited to be working with in May. She sent me a series of questions to answer, one of which was "You have attended countless weddings. What is your favorite part?" I replied: I like the reception. It's not formal like the ceremony. The "hard part" for me is over - I just get to capture candids and people having fun. I love the food, the toasts - you really learn more about a couple when you hear from their friends and can feel the love in the room. Who doesn't love a good party?

It was a very honest answer. After the ceremony I can breathe a sigh of relief. The most crucial part of my coverage is over. I get to let down my guard a bit and breathe a sigh of relief with the bride and groom, as well and share in their joy. I get to spend the rest of the night capturing moments of joy and love, eat amazing food and eat some great cake. And in some cases, great cinnabuns.

Next year, I hope to invite you behind the scenes into a wider variety of sessions - families, newborns, seniors, you name it. We're only a week into 2014 and I'm already blown away by the opportunities it has brought me. I could have never imagined the girl who was paid $40 to shoot a few wedding shots after a ceremony in high school would be running the business she is today.

Who knew, right?


  1. Hard to believe we only worked together once this year - here's to more in 2014!

  2. I loved this post, Kelli. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Reading this post I am beginning to think my husband took more pictures of you last year than he did of me! :)