Friday, March 5, 2010

Featured Vendor - Lauren Cohn Frankel

Love, love, love her work!!
  • How many years have you been shooting weddings? 5 years, although Ive been a professional photographer for 10. Before weddings I did a lot of fine art, concert and music photography, and some photojournalism.

  • What’s your educational background? I have a bachelor of fine arts in photography from California College of the Arts in Oakland. Before that I spent 2 years at UC Berkeley, I would have stayed longer but they didn't have much of a photography department so once I was sure that's what I wanted to do for a living I transferred to a better school.
  • Do you work alone or with an assistant? I almost always have an assistant these days to help me with set up and moving gear, and sometimes to shoot some detail shots when I am out with the bride and groom. Many of my weddings also have 2nd shooters, whose job it is to cover the wedding from a different point of view and to capture the other side of events that are going on in 2 places at once (like the groom getting ready when i am with the bride, or the cocktail hour when I am with the couple).
  • Do you shoot film or digital? All digital. I've thought about incorporating film from time to time but it is such a different way of working, I don't know if I could go back without a very good reason.
  • What shot of yours seems to be your favorite for most of your weddings? Hmm...that's a tough one. Probably something from the first dance, I love the combination of intimacy and performance that the first dance represents and the interplay between those watching the couple and the couple themselves, who are often in their own little world. Plus I often cry at first dances.

  • How many southeast asian weddings do you usually shoot per year? Usually around 5.
  • How many shots do you usually take at a wedding? I shoot anywhere between 2-3000 images, but I'm a really safe shooter so there are often lots of duplicate images. After editing those out I usually deliver around 700 (1000+ at southeast asian weddings, which are often longer and have many more things to shoot).
  • Do you offer Engagement pictures? With every package. Its an essential part of getting to know the bride and groom, getting them comfortable with me.

  • How far are you willing to travel for a wedding? Anywhere!
  • Do you see any new trends in wedding photography? Having Green options for couples is becoming popular--one of the album types I offer is printed on recycled paper with a naturally-dyed linen cover, and assembled in a bindery that is partially powered by solar and wind power. 
  • Tell us about the best wedding you ever shot? There are so many I love, but one of my recent faves was a couple named Deborah and Bradley. Their wedding had a lot of personality, a lot of little things to make it unique and special and extra fun for the guests--things like an organic Three Twins ice cream sundae bar, gourmet cookies and cupcakes instead of cake, a sweet, hilarious rabbi who told jokes throughout the ceremony and also happened to be a fabulous dancer, a la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever...Deb and Bradley also had a lot of love and chemistry both within themselves as well as within their family, so everyone there was a breeze to work with and just really fun to be around. They had great taste in food and decor, so everything was beautiful, yet they also knew that in the end the people and the experience are the most important aspects of the wedding, so they were able to be laid back on the day of the event and just have a good time with their loved ones. Perfection. 
  • What is your most effective form of marketing? word of mouth--specifically, doing an amazing job with my clients so that they just have to talk about me, and befriending all the vendors they work with and helping them out with images for their business. 

  • How do brides find you most often? It's about 50/50 personal referrals and the limited advertising I do through places like here comes the guide and wedding photojournalists' association. 

  • What kind of guarantees, if any, do you offer? I use a service to process client's payments that stands behind my work; they guarantee that if the client is unsatisfied with their pictures they will receive a full refund. 
  • Do you work from a shot list? I do ask my couples to give me a list of the family/group portraits they want. Other than that, my focus is on shooting the day as it actually happens, not on creating false moments from a list. 
  • May the bride requests specific shots? Of course, and she can also request things or people she wants me to photograph without making a specific request about how they are shot. If she's the right client for me, her main focus will be on capturing the real moments of the day with all their inherent emotion and beauty, and any staged or posed shot requests will be secondary to that. 

  • How long after the wedding does it take to get proofs? I post a slideshow of the best 100 or so images 2 weeks after the wedding online. After that, the full set of proofs is online in about 6 weeks. 
  • How long after the final order does it take to get the album? Once the final album design is approved, it takes 8 weeks.
  • Advice for brides? Photography is very subjective, and while it's value is often a function of both style and reputation, there are some generalities you can count on. My pricing range is about the cutoff for those photographers who I would consider experienced, excellent quality, 4-5 or more years in business, 100% reliable professionals. These are the people who have seen it all, who can create excellent work in the worst conditions, and who can deliver their style and quality of work consistently no matter what happens. You will of course be able to find photographers who charge less, but generally they represent those who are newer to the industry and therefore might not have the consistency of work or experience to guarantee that what you see in their portfolio, is what you will get at every wedding they shoot.

    Given the cost of doing business in Northern CA, $3500+ is about the minimum a photographer can charge and still make a living at photography as their only source of income (believe it or not). The photographers who charge in this range and above therefore have been doing this long enough to understand the business side of it, to see and acknowledge the worth of their experience and skill, and to know that they deserve to live at least at a middle class level in exchange for putting their heart and soul into every wedding. This is also the price range where traditional paid advertising stops working--so any photographer doing well at this price range is getting most of her work from positive word of mouth, which means that their clients are very happy.

    You may get lucky in the lower price ranges and get someone whose work is worth more than they charge, and they are just too new to know it yet...or someone who has a lot of photography experience in general, but is new to weddings and therefore underestimating what they need to charge to make a decent living. Someone like me in my 2nd year of business, who was creating work that was worth a lot more than I charged and I was just too new to realize that I was undercutting myself. Or maybe you'll be lucky enough to find someone who normally charges (and is worth) more, but their husband lost his job this year and they have lowered their prices out of desperation. But it's a huge gamble, and the photographer who isn't charging enough to make a living in the long term may not be here next year to produce and deliver your album.

    So how do you find a great photographer? Look beyond places like the Knot or the Wedding Channel, which anyone can pay to be a member of. Look at exclusive wedding resources like Here Comes the Guide and WPJA.com, which have strict guidelines as to the quality of photographers they admit. Better yet, ask for recommendations from wedding coordinators, other photographers, maybe a bride or two that you trust--people who have a good understanding of what is out there and know how to tell the difference between bad, good, and great.

    Finally, when you find someone that you love, whose work and personality you truly click with (even if they are somewhat out of your budget); think about a coverage only package. Remember that you can always buy more stuff later, more tangible items, more albums or prints...but making sure you have the right photographer shooting your wedding is the primary concern. So if you can only afford to have them shoot it, and save up to buy albums and prints later, that's ok--it's much better to have one print by an amazing photographer that just blows you away, that encompasses everything you want your wedding to be about, than 1000 prints of mediocre work.

    I guess my point is that you absolutely get what you pay for in the wedding industry, and only you can decide how important photography is to you, and whether you want to take a chance on it.

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