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October 20, 2016

FILED IN: Photography, Tips

harvest-tableI really hate having everyone’s eyes on me. When Kevin and I got married, my two biggest fears were walking down the aisle and eating in front of everyone. I couldn’t get around the aisle walk, but I ditched the head table without question. Our reception venue was set up so that there’s a built in stage where everyone sets a traditional head table; indeed, it was built specifically for wedding head tables. When I said we wouldn’t have a head table, the venue coordinator was confused. “But, what will you put there?” she asked. “I don’t know. I mean, if something has to be up there, then put the cake up there!” I said.

So that’s what happened. The cake sat high above our guests in all of its beautiful, delicious glory while we casually sat around a regular round table with our friends. This was back in the day before Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook was around, but you had to have a college email account in order to be on it. Wedding blogs weren’t a thing and only really fancy, rich people had that first iPhone. I didn’t know we had other options for a head table so I just made it up as we went, knowing only what I didn’t want.

And it turned out to be perfect for us. My one sister (a bridesmaid) had just had a baby + two other young boys so she sat at a table next to us with her husband and my parents so that she could easily attend to my infant nephew, while they all helped with my other nephews. My other sister (also a bridesmaid) sat at our table with her now-husband. Kevin’s two brothers (both groomsmen) sat with us as well as his two ushers and the wife of the one who was married. My personal attendant also joined us, which brought us to exactly 10 people at our table. It was unassuming and relaxing and exactly what we needed.

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Now, I get that not everyone wants that same experience. And that’s okay. But you should at least know there are options.

A traditional head table is what you’ve always seen at weddings. Sometimes it’s on a riser or platform, sometimes it’s not. (If you have a choice on the riser/platform, I highly recommend having your head table on ground level so I don’t have to shoot up at you during toasts!) It’s a long table with the bridal party sitting on the back side facing the guests. The bride and groom sit in the center with the ladies on the bride’s side and the gentlemen on the groom’s.

A sweetheart table is a small table set just for the bride & groom to sit at (thus the name). The bridal party is seated at regular tables with family members and significant others.

A harvest table (also called a king’s table) is the last option and, in my opinion, the best. (I’ll tell you why in a minute!) A harvest table is set up similarly to a head table, but the key change is that the table settings are wrapped all the way around the table so that you are all facing each other.

So you might wonder why the harvest table is my favorite? Aside from the fact that it’s sort of what we did at our wedding (the concept at least), here are 5 reasons that I believe the harvest table is the best way to make the most of your reception dinner.

  1. Eat without an audience. Have you ever watched someone eating? Unless they’re a baby taking their first bites, it’s not something that’s generally cute. You have paid to have a delicious catered meal and you deserve to eat it in peace. Do yourself a favor and enjoy your food without being on display.
  2. Enjoy dinner conversation. If you’re at a head table, you can only converse with two people, one on each side of you. This applies to every person at the table. They’ve got two conversation choices for the entire meal. And it can’t be a true conversation because the person on your left can’t converse with the person on your right so you spend the whole time going back and forth between the two just as they are doing with you and their other side. In making a case for a harvest table, you suddenly shift everyone around and conversation can flow across and back and forth more freely. 
  3. Cease the magnet effect for a bit. As the one wearing a bridal gown, you transform into something you’ve never quite experienced before, at least to this extreme: a magnet. You are a visual magnet, a conversation magnet, a hugging magnet, and a photo magnet. Everyone wants to look at you, talk to you, congratulate you, and take a photo of or with you. And as wonderful as it all is–truly a part of the day that will make you feel so special–it is also a bit exhausting, especially if you are even a little bit introverted. By being on the same level as the guests and facing in towards your friends, you allow yourself some freedom from The Magnet because guests will look (they always do), notice they can’t see you very well for this time, and return to eating their dinner and conversing with those at their own table. 
  4. Choose your company. I’ve seen harvest tables done many ways, but first you should know that you can pick your company! It’s not limited to groomsmen on one side and bridesmaids on the other. You can invite significant others to join (not yours, obviously he’s already there, but your bridal party’s);  your parents & grandparents are welcome; personal attendants, ushers, bring them too! Of course, this will all be limited by the size and how many people you can fit at your table, but think outside of the box and invite the people you want to share this amazing feast with. 
  5. Allow for more interactive photos (specifically during toasts). I had a recent bride who, after seeing her full wedding gallery said to me, “I didn’t expect to be so wowed by the toasts pictures relative to other images, but they are some of my absolute favorites. Love how they show the genuine personalities of our closest family and friends, and love all the laughter. [The image below] makes me sooo happy!” The secret to that was her and her groom had a harvest table. Half of the images I was able to get during their toasts would’ve been impossible to get had they chosen a head table, simply because of how people were arranged and the angles I could shoot from. From a photography standpoint, it makes all the difference.

September 6, 2016

FILED IN: Business, Tips

When my husband got me an Apple Watch for a gift, I started to protest and roll my eyes. I didn’t need a fancy watch. I didn’t want a fancy watch. And mostly, I didn’t like how it looked. I like gold linked watches with clean faces and pave diamonds around the outside. The Apple Watch was unnecessary.

But…I started using it and I loved tracking my workouts with it. I loved being able to put my phone away and still get text messages on it. I loved being able to see my calendar and that led me to, finally, falling it love with it on wedding days.

There are a few ways you can use your Apple Watch on wedding days, but I’m going to simply show you how I use mine, specifically in regards to the photography timeline.

While I typically have the “color” watch face on regular days, on wedding days, I change the face to “modular”. This is very strategic for my wedding timeline. The modular face is laid out like this:

Apple Watch Modular Face

  • Day/date
  • Time
  • Current event or upcoming event
  • Temperature
  • Activity
  • Time of sunset

You can customize all of those, with exception to the time display. Again, this is the layout works for me.

The week of the wedding, I have several tasks for myself, including cleaning my gear, charging my batteries, reformatting all of my memory cards, and making sure everything is in my bag and ready to go. This is when I prep my timeline in my Mac Calendar. (I wait until this close to the wedding day in case there are any last minute changes to the timeline.)

On a computer, I open up my Calendar app and go to “day” view and enter in all of the events of the wedding, including when we need to leave. Each timeline item is a separate “event” and I can customize it to alert me as well. I don’t always use this feature, but it’s particularly nice when I’m photographing the bridal party, for example, to have the alert on my watch that I have 10 minutes to finish up bridal party before moving on to family photos.

Apple Watch Timeline

The time of sunset that shows on my watch face is particularly helpful for those sunset photos in the evening. I list sunset photos in the timeline (ideally 30 minutes prior to sunset), but know that I have very little control over the actual flow of the reception so knowing the exact time of sunset helps me make a quick decision if I see some downtime 45 minutes before sunset, let’s say, and know that I won’t get that downtime again for another 30 minutes. I can make the call to go out a little early rather than miss it completely.

Hope that helps! If you’re on the fence about an Apple Watch, I cannot recommend it enough for wedding days. It has many obvious bonuses the rest of the week, but it really does much more than a traditional watch when it comes to keeping me on time while photographing a long wedding day.

For those wondering, I use this band from Amazon in gold 38mm.

October 28, 2015

FILED IN: Tips

Let’s talk about hem weights. You may have never heard of them or, better yet, only heard of them used for curtains.

Hem weights are a brilliant idea for all bridesmaids gowns, but especially so if they are short. Here’s an example of what weighting a dress does when it’s windy.

There are a few options for hem weights:

  1. Individual weights that are sewn into the hem of the skirt like these.
  2. Weighted cord that’s sewn into the entire hem like this.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bridesmaids struggling holding down their skirt, while also carrying their bouquet and trying to smile and not trip down the aisle during outdoor weddings. Even if your wedding ceremony will be inside, most or all of your photos will be outside and those little weights in the hem will be a brilliant save both for modesty and for the final photos.

Also, Duchess Catherine’s dresses (and the Queen’s) have weights sewn into the hems so you know it’s a good idea, paparazzi or not.

July 29, 2015

FILED IN: Tips

Back when I first start photographing weddings, I was frustrated when I’d arrive on a wedding day and there’d be no paper suite to photograph. I knew each bride was paying a lot of money to have her beautiful invitations, RSVPs, save the dates, and programs designed, compiled, and mailed out, but I wasn’t able to document that piece of her wedding for her. Then I realized that if I wasn’t telling her, it wasn’t her fault she didn’t know to bring along the paper suite to the wedding. Of all the things she was trying to schlep to the church or hotel, an original invitation was the last thing on her mind.

Now, a couple of months before every wedding, I send my brides a package in the mail with some gifts as well as a card that includes some final tips. One of those tips includes reminding her to bring a complete invitation set along so I can photograph it.

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July 14, 2015

FILED IN: Business

Mompreneurship, part 3: Email Folder Organization (or: Keeping your communication sane.)

Previously on mompreneurship:

As a small business owner with nearly all of my client communication happening via email, all the way from the first inquiry to the final instructions on how to finalize and approve the wedding album, it’s vital to my business and also my sanity to keep a hyper-organized email inbox.

Lucky for me, I love to organize. Give me a pantry with cans of food. Give me a dresser drawer with socks and underwear. Give me an inbox with a lot of correspondence. This is my happy place. Sometimes I like to disorganize things just so that I can reorganize them. That’s my level of organizational insanity.

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June 3, 2015

FILED IN: Tips

A lot of my wedding couples want to use a photo (or two) for their save the date cards. Typically, the actual invitation is more formal, but the save the date is a really fun way to put your best face forward (pun fully intended). I’m going to break down my tips into two categories: one for photographers and one for the couple.

First off, photographers…

PHOTOGRAPHERS

1) Shoot off-centered. For photographers, this is known as the rule of thirds. By placing the couple to the right or left of the frame, you are giving room for text on the other side. By all means, don’t shoot all of the photos this way, but I know from working with many designers how happy they are to have room to place a text overlay. (This works especially great for horizontal save the dates.)

2) Shoot horizontal and vertical. This gives your clients plenty of options to choose from when they are decided their card design.
3) Shoot a mixture of angles and compositions. This includes a wide shot (again, giving room on the photo for text) and a really tight shot, like of the hands or arms intertwined. The tight shots are very great for “background” photos if the couple wants to overlay text directly in the center.

4) Sometimes the photo the couple ends up picking is not one that you’d initially think would easily fits into a design space. Don’t worry. There are so many beautiful templates available that nearly any photo can work depending on the design. If the couple is working with a design company, the professionals can advise them on what looks best or make a photo work into the space. By giving a variety to choose from though, you’ve covered all the bases and that means they can easily pick a photo that means the most to them based on their interaction, body language, smiles, etc. And that’s really the most important thing.

COUPLES

1) If you know in advance that you’ll be using a photo for your invitation or save the date, try to coordinate your clothing choices with your wedding. Your entire paper suite will be based on the colors and/or theme you have chosen for your wedding so the photo (and you guys in said photo) should also coordinate with that. This couple was having a Gatsby-themed wedding so they incorporated that style directly into their engagement session. And their final save the date looked awesome because of it. (If you’re looking for some cool save-the-date styles, check out Paperless Post!)

2) Regarding tip 1, know that if all else fails, you can use a black & white image. Black and white images look especially great with gold foil lettering or if you want to make a pop with the text.

3) Go into your engagement shoot with an open mind. It’s difficult as an artist to have a couple say, “we’ve already picked out our save the date so can you take a photo that fits into this template?” While it’s doable, the Murphy’s law chances are really high that you’ll end up loving a different photo even better and then you’ll be in a pickle. Choose the one that fit your pre-determined template or choose the one that you absolutely adore? I’d definitely rather pick one that showcases love the best and then pick the design around that.

4) Make sure that you’re on the same page as your photographer. I always tell my couples that I want to capture their true selves. If they are a silly couple who always laughs, they’re probably not going to love photos of them being really serious. Why? Because that’s not how they see themselves in their daily lives. Your photos (both engagement and wedding!) should reflect who you are as individuals and a couple.

5) Relax. Your engagement shoot is about so much more than getting an image for a card. Your engagement session is a time to practice with your photographer and to breathe in the excitement of your wedding day coming up. By the time you’re done with your engagement session, you’ll be pros and that will leave you so much more comfortable for wedding day photos. Think of the engagement session as a trial run. You can’t mess up.

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