Back in the saddle…

Hey all!

If you follow this blog, you’ll have noticed that it remained rather quiet the last couple of months… some stuff about Santa, and that’s about it.

It was for that ironic reason of simply being too busy.

Being busy. It’s the American way, I suppose. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it feels like our default, small talk response to ‘how are you’ has moved from ‘good!’ to


Like having so much to do that you literally feel insane is some kind of badge of honor that we’re all scrambling to wear…


I wasn’t scrambling to wear it, but wear the badge I did. It’s like that old Joe Walsh song says, ‘I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do…’ Being that insanely busy was good for business sure, and I’m certainly blessed by that business, but it was more than a little exhausting and it admittedly kept me from some things I really value.

Things like, creating personal work, spending more time with family, being healthy, and, of course, updating this blog with what’s going on and what’s ahead.
I just finished out 2 full weeks off- time to recover, rest, come face-to-face with everything that gets pushed down after months of being in “survival mode”, and come out the other side feeling a lot more like myself again.

If you haven’t done that in awhile- take time- you might be straying from your own big picture.  The best part is, the more you feel like you don’t have time to take that break, the more you probably need it.


stop social media
stop being in meetings

stop working
stop wrapping yourself up in the details to the extent you can’t see the big picture
stop running from the things you don’t want to look at it in your own heart

stop obsessing
stop being so busy that you can’t even sit down with a book


if you can’t stop for a bit, your soul goes a little sour. We just aren’t meant to run that much without taking a rest. We lose sight of who we are and what we actually care about, until we reach a point where we don’t care about anything.

I care again. It’s nice.

But that’s enough about that… so…

W’sup, 2016? 

I’m excited about this year. Goal #1 was just to slow down. Listen to see what God is telling me. I’ve done some of that.

So as for what’s next… here’s a quick summary of a couple of things  I can tell you  about for 9art/Mark 9 in 2016.


Yep. For you guys who followed my best friend Lance & I when we made ‘Cold Brewed’… we made another one, produced by the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau. My biggest project to date. More about that tomorrow…


#2: ‘COLD BREWED’ is now FREE

For those who didn’t get a chance to read ‘Cold Brewed’ the first time around, it’s now available for completely 100% FREE on i-tunes. The only catch is that you have to have an apple device (i-pad, macbook, i-phone) to look at it. If you don’t have one, see who can borrow from for an hour or two so you can read through it. 🙂

cold brewed film noir photonovel_0008

#3:  MARK N photography COMING SOON

I’d touched briefly on this last year… I’ve spent some time working on an entirely new business presence that focuses on the commercial/fine art photography portion of my business. The blog you are reading now will, in fact, eventually move over to the new website being created for this. Can’t wait to show it all to you guys.

joplin mo artist portraits by 9art photography10

(this photo, btw, is not me, it’s my fellow photography buddy Brian, and still one of my favorite portraits).


One thing I did make time for late last year was to have a couple of conversations with fellow artists in other mediums, about the possibility of collaborating. So far, I have 2 new projects lined up for this year that I think are going to be incredibly fun and push my artistic limits. I didn’t plan on them happening at all- they just fell into place in that beautifully obvious kind of way.

I’ll keep you posted on these as they unfold.

artists as superheroes concept series from fine art and commercial photographer 9art in joplin mo2


I won’t dwell on this one bc this post isn’t meant to be an ad. But just to let you all know, I am beginning to book sessions again, for 2016- I’ll get back to shooting as usual next week. If you’re interested in setting up a shoot for your family, business, or wedding- or if you’d even just like to sit down soon over coffee to brainstorm about working together in the future- I’d love to talk to you.

thoughts on the trend + my kids

So I’ve been busy for sure, but not the super glamorous/exciting kind of photography that you really put in a blog post. I photographed two factories and, wait for it, a truck stop… yes, when I tweeted the other day that I was literally editing photos of a truck stop bathroom, I wasn’t joking.

Not to complain, in the least. I always enjoy photographing something new, no matter how unexciting it may appear at first. It’s an invigorating challenge to me take a subject like… a truck stop bathroom… and figure out how to make it interesting to look at. How to still make the viewer feel something when they’re seeing that image.

In this case, ‘Man. I want to use THAT bathroom.’

Since I haven’t posted in awhile and I’m pretty sure no-one is going to be enthralled to view my truck stop photos (even if it IS a very nice truck stop), I’m going to my default… pictures of my children. Because they’re cute, and we all know it. But here’s a little more thought on these photos, first…

I’ve been playing with some new editing techniques. I’m the guy that’s remained stubborn and steered clear of the whole VSCO trend up to this point. If you don’t know what that is… it’s the set of presets that make every photo look like it’s from 1965 even though it’s 2015. It’s the photographic equivalent of replacing all your furniture with mid-century-modern. [I hate to admit it, but I LOVE midcentury modern].

But I’ve been a grumpy old man and wanted to not do what everyone else is doing and said I’d NEVER use one of those damn presets. Until…

I received some advice from a trusted and very talented colleague who’s far and away in the next phase of photographic success. His advice pertained to some of my images appearing ‘too digital’. Very interesting.

After looking back through the particular project I’d showed him, I realized he was absolutely right. I’d worked hard with the lighting and setting to create a mood, but there was still something missing. Too crisp. Too perfect. Too digital.

So… I did some research. I broke down and downloaded some presets. I slapped some of them on photos and yep, sure enough…. they looked beautiful. In a sense.

A very very trendy sort of sense. As in, ‘oh. THESE are the presets that every photographer who has entered the photographerforce in the past 5 years is using.’

Love/hate relationship there. I never want to be stale. I always want to be changing, growing, learning, experimenting. But let that thinking carry too far, and you become one who is simply swept away with every new trend. (selective color, anyone?)

It reminds me of a line from a C.S. Lewis book… ‘the greatest triumph of all [for those who might work to stop us, from doing our best] is to elevate this horror of the same old thing [emphasis mine] into a philosophy.’ In other words, if we’re TOO scared of becoming stagnant in our work, we actually become obsessed with staying ahead of the curve and go from being trendsetters to being trend chasers.

I heard it best in a recent Tim Ferriss podcast: ‘when you try to chase what’s cool, you’re already too late.’

That’s always my question. How do I be ‘modern’ and ‘now’ with my work? How do I do that… but walk away with images that might still be considered timeless and original when I look at them again in 20 years?

I don’t have an easy answer. I think it has something to do with never compromising your original voice. [and if you’re a new artist and haven’t found that voice yet, read THIS BOOK].

So the question shouldn’t be ‘is this effect cool?’ it should be ‘is this effect something that helps my images say what I need them to say?’ Keep the question the same. But yes, playLEARNplay, keep learning new techniques, figure out what others have done well, just so long as you know how to then make it your own.

That’s probably enough philosophizing for now…

So here’s the first batch of experimentation. The one where I’m just using photos of my kids, and yes, these photo edits look film like and dreamy and, probably overdone and SUPER trendy. But I’m working through the experimenting to find a new look that’s all mine again… that’s what it’s all about, right?

Stay tuned.

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this little lady loves getting her hands dirty…

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this is what happens when I try to take a ‘serious’ photo of my son with his soccer medal [because, on principal, I stubbornly refuse to pay for the team photographer’s photos when I do this for a living and can take my own…]

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Evolving a business:: less is more and all that jazz

In 29 days, I’ll no longer have a studio.

Don’t panic. 9art still exists. I still take photos just like before. And this was not an unhappy decision. But some things just have to change. 🙂

When I first really got things rolling, that studio was a dream come true. I still remember the first year of sharing it with my good graphic designer friend Matt Spiel… blaring the ‘Inception’ soundtrack (Matt yelling BUM! BUM! BUM! as it crescendo’d), goofing around with lighting setups to get pictures like this one…


Then, for the past 4 years, it’s just been me up there. Not that Matt & I don’t still hang out. (Would you believe we just hung out an hour ago)?

FIVE YEARS…. can’t believe it’s been that long.

It was a milestone to get that place.

Now, it’s a milestone to let it go.

It’s funny how your perception of success changes as you go… and how things evolve in unexpected ways. When I started, the studio was a marker of my validity; it meant (or I thought it did) I was a REAL photographer, and having that physical presence was vital in being part of the downtown community. And, I can’t forget, it was the starting spot for the ‘third thursday’ photo booths here in Joplin…



And it was vital, during these past few years, in having a place to work, a place to meet, a place to shoot.

Now I’m at a completely different point. A physical space, at this point in my career, really doesn’t mean much at all. A reputation as a reliable person with a solid body of work means a whole lot more.

So the questions that naturally ensue:

-don’t I need the studio to shoot in?
-don’t I need a place to do my day to day work?
-don’t I need a place to meet with folks?
-don’t I need a physical location for clients to consider me a valid business?
-don’t I need a place to do the monthly third thursday photobooths out of?

Those were hard questions to answer. Those are the kind of decisions you have to face from time to time in running a business- changes can’t be made on a whim for sure, and no change should ever be made that interferes with the core concepts that got you started in your craft to begin with. ‘From Good to Great’ is a fantastic book that taught me a lot about that idea.

No rash moves. But fear of change can also be the most destructive force to a professional… leading to things like an overhead that’s way more than you need it to be and a workflow that ultimately makes you a far less productive person than you should be. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to sit down, at least once a year, and ask yourself the tough question… ‘where can I trim the fat?’

A lot of prayer and awesome happenings and even awesomer people revealed the answer to all those questions and opened the door to make some changes.

So, for those of you who are wondering about those specifics…

SHOOTING: 90% of my work is ‘on location’- when it comes down to it, I generally only use the studio about once a month. I like to shoot in different places, to be in a real environment. But on those occasions when I need an actual studio space to shoot in, I’ve still got it covered, don’t you worry.

MEETING, PHOTOBOOTH, & WORKSPACE: I’ve developed some partnerships that gave me solutions to all of these things.

Firstly with Spiva Arts Center– I love being around the folks in our foremost local gallery here in Joplin, and they have graciously allowed me to host the photobooths in their building each month.

I’m developing another partnership with a local creative group that involves a sweet co-working space…. I can’t go into the details, but it’ll take care of my storage, having a dedicated desk space, and having a conference area for ordering appointments with folks. Plus, being around other creative professionals is always a bonus (honestly, a must) when it comes to keeping yourself inspired.

And I can’t forget the local coffeeshop downtown… Joplin Ave Coffee Co. For the past 3 years, these guys have served me my daily (overabundant) dose of get-it-done serum (aka caffeine) and let me hang out at my ‘usual table’ for much of my work time.

Yeah, I completely realize, it’s weird that I work in a coffeeshop. But I love the environment, and for me it’s an oddly productive place- plugging away with my earbuds, yet surrounded by people to cut out that feeling of isolation that us largely-computer-based creative folks get sometimes.

Amazing interactions, conversations, and networking have happened there. So a good portion of the time, that’s where you’ll find me.


The studio is out of the picture. But other things are stepping in.

This is a big year for more than just the streamlining. I’m also set to launch a new division of my photography business within the next month, dedicated specifically to commercial work.

The design phase is in full force on the joplin photonovel… my biggest project to-date, as a collaboration with Lance Schuabert for the Joplin Convention & Visitors Bureau… more about that very soon.

And all sorts of creative ideas are in the works.

So farewell studio. I’ll miss ya. But I’m excited about what’s next.



Let’s make a cyberdeal… with your local photographer!


So in the midst of all that craziness ‘out there’ (this is assuming you are, as you should be, reading this while shopping online in your cozies w/ a cup of fuzzy cocoa and a warm cat), let’s not forget your oh-so-favorite photographer.

And don’t forget me, either.

For reals… if you ARE interested in the beautiful gift of photography… well, I certainly do have a deal or two for you.

Going to keep it super simple this year. Each of these deals is good as long as you send me an e-mail between friday and tuesday. You can TOTALLY do that! Who needs another X-box, anyway? Will you ever hang that x-box on a wall for your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to see?

Alright, alright, on to the deals.


Check out the details on our downtown series here, and just take 20% off all pricing you see on that page. These images come in everything from small postcards to large canvases; they make pretty sweet gifts (and nice decor for your walls).

squares layout for downtown joplin series
#2: 15% off commercial rates (for the first session) for any business, publication, or marketing firm that has not previously worked with us.

#3:for every $1 you spend toward a gift certificate, we’ll add .50. ($100 spent = $150 credit).

only stipulation is that you can’t use it on yourself. 🙂 And think on this… fantastic gift, ya know?

joplin missouri springfield mo family photographer 9art photography- back to school mini sessions_0002b

#4: wall portraits (16 x 24 or larger) & high res disks at 50% off. (for PRE-orders from sessions that have not yet taken place; and for ‘catch up’ orders on sessions that took place before September, 2014. Not applicable to sessions that took place after August & before December).


#5: ALL third thursday photobooth prints, 50% off! ($20 order minimum).

9art photobooth for 'third thursday' in joplin, mo- gatsby 1920s themed photo booth_0005b

That’s all folks. Don’t forget to spend some family time and all that jazz. Hope you all had an awesome thanksgiving… talk to you soon.


The latest scoop

AAHHHHHH! There is so much going on I can hardly contain myself. I am so, so excited- and, yes, a little overwhelmed- but after spending much of the summer worrying about not being busy ENOUGH, this is what I get, right? 😉

So I have two crazy images to share today- yes, just two, from two different projects- and they have only one thing in common. I’m not going to tell you what it is until the end, though.

We start with a teaser image for an upcoming project that… well… I can’t really talk about much yet. (Those are kinda my favorite sort of projects).

This is one of my first experiments with night photography…. painted this scene entirely with LED lights (and with the aid of an i-phone stuck down inside ‘Mother Nature’s crack’). It was 1AM, we were cranking some ‘Daft punk’ in the middle of nature via portable speakers, we were exhausted, and it was a blast.


Now here’s what I can tell you about the project:

-shooting begins early 2015
-I get to collaborate once again with the one and only Lance Schaubert
-it will be another ‘photo novel’ format, like what we did with ‘Cold Brewed’
-this project has a real budget and an art director/producer, with an online serial release and an end goal of printed copies.

ohhhh the suspense!

Now for project 2…. an image made to visually accompany the brand new single form local ‘powerpop’ band, Of Course Not. I plan to dedicate a post to this shoot later, because there’s plenty more fun shots of the band, but this specific concept shot is one of my favorite images from this year.

Want to know how we did it? Well you’ll have to stay tuned for the full post to find out.

Ohhhhh the suspense (x2)….

Now, how are these shots tied together? Family.

Oh, not mine… as in, family to each-other. Caleb (shot #1) and Jordan (shot #2) are siblings, artists, and both friends of mine, and I got to use each of them as models. They can model like no-one’s business. Let’s give it up for those Murdocks!

Til next time….


Rockwell Comes to Life in Joplin: a chance to make art as a community

pairing #1- original norman rockwell cover


I’m doing a project with local art gallery Spiva. Community teams (which can be any family, business, group of friends, or individual) will have a chance to take part by creating their own ‘Norman Rockwell’ scene based off of a Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. The scene can be interpreted any way the team likes- and that can be as outlandish as you want. 🙂 It will be entered in a contest for best scene, and I will photograph each of the ‘scenes’ the evening of October 21st. All teams will receive a photo of their Post cover interpretation.

My own example scene is pictured below, next to the original. If you live in the Joplin MO area and would like to do this, please register ASAP with Spiva (e-mail me for info or Spiva at sconroy [at] spivaarts [dot] org)…the deadline to register is October 14. Go forth! Do it!


I recently talked about a new project in collaboration with Spiva Center For the Arts here in Joplin, MO: an idea that I think could spark a very fun new movement. THESE are the kind of ideas I get excited about. 🙂 And I think this one is important… because our  art culture here is poised to explode, but only if people join the collaborations and set an example for future projects.

So here’s the synopsis of the project, once more, from Spiva: ‘Teams select a Rockwell illustration to interpret, provide their own costumes and props and pose for a photo October 26. Mark Neuenschwander, 9art Photography, will photograph the reenactments and display them in Spiva’s 3rd Street window gallery. Winning image will be selected by popular vote and will receive a Norman Rockwell prize package. All teams receive one complimentary copy of their photograph.’  [there will be a $25 fee for each ‘team’].

First things first… I actually made a mistake the last time I posted this. the registration date is OCTOBER 14th:: that’s… yep… 5 days away. But all you have to do in that amount of time is decide if you are doing this and e-mail Spiva or me to register.

The next step is to brainstorm on an idea, and collect the ‘props’ for it… and you can totally do that!! Then set aside the 21st as the actual shoot date… images will be taken that evening AT spiva, of the different ‘scenes’ that participants have created. Remember, these scenes do NOT have to be exact replications of the originals. The project has more to do with interpreting that original image in whatever way you like. And if you are indeed doing this with human models and don’t know yet who your ‘models’ are (assuming they are not your own team members), remember that many of the covers are centered around just one person.

Steampunk? Wild West? Modern times? Sci fi? original time period? Whatever you want to do. 🙂 Just drop by Spiva to get ideas by perusing their current Rockwell exhibit, or do an image search for ‘Norman Rockwell Saturday evening post covers’ right now. I promise something will spring to mind once you start scanning through these fun images.

And, as a final thought for participants, this could end up being a very fun ‘art piece’ for your own home or office, if you do this as a business, a family, or even an individual; you’ll receive a print of your scene (and can purchase additional if you’d like), and you can pair it, as I’ve done below, with a print of the original piece.  Post prints can be obtained directly through Spiva, or through the Norman Rockwell museum website.

My image:  So, to properly illustrate the concept, I needed to do my OWN shot so you could see what we’re talking about. The image here is hopefully the first of a series that will (humorously) explore these classic scenes from old Saturday Evening Post covers, and how those scenes might be re-interpreted in our time with the introduction of invasive technology. Here it is, image #1 in the series, together with the original cover on which it is based.

Its a very simple image…. but so is the original. And the purpose wasn’t just for myself with this one,


norman rockwell 9art photography technology series, image #1- age of romance


but also to demonstrate to possible participants how easy it can be to come up with an idea and props for this little series.

Notes on the image:

Firstly, thanks so much to my ‘model’ Josh and his mom Jessica for agreeing to let me use him as the subject here. I think he was just perfect for this.

As for exploring the concept, I deliberated for a bit on whether to project a graphic behind the subject, depicting a ‘video game’ scene to replace the original adventure image. I asked Shaun from Spiva his opinion, and his thought was clever: ‘Books fire the imagination and that is what Rockwell was saying. Video games…nothing.’ And that’s exactly what I wanted to say about technology in our time. So by intentionally leaving out the graphic, I think it says more in the end.

I’d love to hear what you have to say… whether thoughts on this image, or questions or ideas about participating. You can e-mail me at markn [at] 9artphoto [dot] com, or leave a comment. And you can register right now for this project by e-mailing Shaun at spiva… sconroy [at] spivaarts [dot] org.

Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!



new JoMo Print series for the Downtown Joplin Alliance!

downtown joplin series, main street joplin sample for 16 x 24 canvas

Exciting announcement to make, in collaboration with the Downtown Joplin Alliance! These are the guys in Joplin that make third thursday happen, that help fund projects to make downtown a better place, and who spend time brainstorming on how to make our downtown generally awesome. They’ve had their work cut out for them, but they’re making it happen and I’m proud to know them.

So here’s the deal… a way to support your favorite local photographer (if that’s not me, I’ll forgive you), support downtown Joplin, and get something awesome out of it.

For a good long time I’ve been thinking about offering a series of prints of some of my work that isn’t centered around people.

I’m not a landscape photographer by trade- my motto has typically been, if there’s not people in the shot, I’m bored- but over the past couple of years I’ve snagged some really fun shots around town that I believe show off the beauty of our fair city. I’m proud of the set I have.

I’m going to release the shots in increments, starting with a specific set of downtown prints that I believe to be living-room-wall worthy. So excited to start the set off with a partnership with the DJA, as 20% of the profits will go straight to them (and therefore, straight to downtown).

I also have a 2nd project lined up with the DJA for closer to Christmas. I can’t tell you what it is, but ho-ho-hopefully it’s going to be an awesome time. 😉


Our LAUNCH for this series is this thursday, during the third thursday art walk– with some of the physical images on display in two different locations:

#1: the 9art Photo Booth in Spiva (third and wall), upstairs

#2: ON main street  (in front of Blue Moon Market, 6th & main)- look for the DJA booth

There will also be order forms in both locations… you can order on-site and get your print(s) back in a couple of weeks.

IF YOU ORDER THAT NIGHT…. you’ll get 10% off on these. You are still more than welcome to order after that by contacting either myself or the DJA directly. Here’s a listing of the possibilities:

•postcards-  $5 / ($15 for set of 4)

•matted 8 x 10s-   $25

•small canvas- 9 x 9-    $30 / ($100 for set of 4)

•medium canvas- 10 x 20-   $75 

•large canvas- 16 x 24-   $100 

Here’s a sample of the images & crops for 2 of the 10 x 20″ canvases (which would look SUPER fun bought together… looking down main street, day and night!)
downtown joplin series, main street joplin sample for 10 x 20 canvas

downtown joplin main street view from DJA series by 9art photography2

Here’s 4 of our 9 x 9″ canvas samples & what they’d look like together…
downtown joplin series, samples for 8 x 8 canvas

So a nice variety of options- from a little memento of the town you can send to a friend, to a full sized wall-art installment- and all offered at a very nice rate.

After our physical third thursday launch, I plan to set up a little sub-gallery on the main 9art website with full options for sizes/images.

That’s the scoop! If you have any questions about these, you can feel free to get ahold of me by e-mailing


Bergan pet products

So I’m super well versed in how to take pictures of moving children… but then this question… how about moving ANIMALS?

joplin mo commercial photographer, 9art photography- lifestyle shoot for bergan pet products_0024b
You know, it’s almost the same thing. 🙂

the challenge was for Bergan pet products, a national pet product company  with an office here in Joplin. I found that I really like Bergan… a company ‘built on the bold idea that people are inspired by a clear sense of direction not a prescribed list of actions or tasks.’ A non-traditional company, wanting fresh images for their active lifestyle products…. perfect!

I quickly adapted to working with dogs- lots of dogs- and had so much fun, enjoying the challenge of scheduling models, lining up locations, and making sure we were nailing the images we were there to get (‘we’ being Dana Williams, marketing director, &  I). We had a dual focus…. the first was to capture general lifestyle images of folks and their dogs. Sort of like building a private stock photo library for the company.

The second goal, was to walk away with images that specifically showed off the leashes and carriers that Bergan is currently promoting.

As a side note- if you’re a pet owner- I saw these products in heavy use for hours during the shoot, and they’re top notch.

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This is Ava, the beautiful daughter of 9art’s own Michelle. She knew the dog that Jon & Jordan from the previous shots brought- his name is ‘Booty’ and together, he & Ava made the world’s most adorable pair. Also had to snag a couple of shots of Ava hamming it up on her own…


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Thanks so much to Dana for helping me run the shoot (oh, and for hiring me), and to all our models & dog owners for being awesome.

It’s wedding week!

We have a lot of wedding images passing through the halls of 9art this week. (what I mean is going back and forth across hard-drives, but ‘halls’ are much more epic sounding).

So on that note, we decided, it’s WEDDING WEEK for 9art.

9art photography, joplin missouri wedding photographer- camille & Luke's wedding, featuring bride & bridesmaids

What does that mean? Our blog, facebook, and twitter will be devoted to the awesomeness of weddings this week… AND we’ll be posting a special for new brides (those who haven’t booked with us) in the next few days.

PLUS part two of our ‘how to shoot weddings’ blog post. (for photographers)!

I’m going to start this off with a beautiful review that was written by a freshly married couple I had the pleasure of working with a few weeks back.

It started off very sweet. Then it just got better and better… I guess you’ll probably be able to tell which half the groom wrote.

Mark just photographed our wedding this past June, and did a fantastical job.  Aside from generally being a good time, Mark was very professional, and took amazing photographs in a very organic and unscripted manner.  We would certainly recommend 9Art Photography to anyone for any occasion, including tasteful nudes.   Like a man from a distant (read: better) epoch, Mark smokes a pipe, and is more than likely wearing tweed in some way, shape or form.   Mark beckons to shadows, and dances in the light, shaping the environment around him to form fanciful, but practical art.  In short, invite this man into your life, and set him free.  You can thank him later.

Thanks, Kaitlyn & Dak, for giving my week the start it needed. 🙂

9art photography, wedding image from Joplin missouri wedding at springhouse gardens

For photographers:: how to shoot a wedding, part 1 (BEFORE the day)

THIS POST IS WRITTEN FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS.  That being said, if you’re a future bride stumbling across this, this may help you out too when it comes to choosing your photographer and planning your day! So read on. I promise we won’t say bad stuff about you.   😉

9art photography, joplin mo wedding photographer :: hannah & carl at springhouse gardens


I recently had someone let me know that they’d been asked to shoot their first wedding.

Firstly. WHEW! There’s nothing like being the one chosen to capture life-altering moments that can never be repeated again. That’s awesome and amazing. On the other, more stressful side…

You’re the one being chosen to capture life-altering moments that can never be repeated again.

That’s a lot of stress. And that’s why I know amazing, professional, experienced photographers that will never TOUCH a wedding.

But every photographer is different.  Some absolutely live to photograph weddings, and chances are, whether you plan to make weddings your specialty or not, you’re going to be asked to shoot a few.

So whether this is your first wedding or you’ve been at it for a little bit already, here are some tips on how to go about this thing… including several lessons I learned the hard way and would like you to not have to. (so listen to uncle Mark, kiddies).

#1: when you meet up with the bride to talk about her day, listen. very. closely.  

Yes, you have YOUR style, YOUR approach, YOUR equipment, YOUR favorite shots to take… those are important, and these things probably play a good role in why you’ve been hired.  So there’s that… but one thing to never, ever forget is that this is the BRIDE’S day, not yours. If she’s seen your work and hired you, she already trusts your style.  Now it’s time to ask her what she wants from her wedding pictures, and to listen.

Ask her about her wedding day. How she met her fiancee, what her family is like, her sense of humor, how she’s decorating the reception, what’s unique about her big day, what things she’s seen wedding photogs do that she HATES… watch her get excited. Take notes.  Get excited with her! Get as solid a feel as you can for what is important to her. Showing that you care and are listening will help her trust you more later, and knowing what’s important to her is  what you’ll want to remember on the day of.

9art photography, joplin mo wedding photographer :: epic high five wedding party

#2: Make a contract.

Don’t know legal jargon? That’s ok. Chances are,  the bride you’re working with won’t know it either. There are several ways you can go about this… including checking out sites like legalzoom to see wedding contracts that other photographers and lawyers have already written up. You can use one of these for now, altering it how you want, or you can use a couple of these to help give you an idea of how you want yours set up. There’s some big reasons for having a contract. No-one wants to think about them, but they CAN happen.

  • the bride needs to know EXACTLY what she is paying for. Don’t assume. Don’t let her assume. Spell it all out. Explain it in person. Write it down. If prints or a disk or a book are add ons and not included in the fee you’re getting paid, make sure it’s typed up somewhere.  If you’re only planning to be there X amount of hours, clear that up before the day. Then no-one can misunderstand later, and you’ve got the agreement in writing if she wants to say later that you didn’t provide what you promised.
  • The bride can use all the peace of mind she can get.  That contract isn’t just for you, it’s for her too…  you signing off on statements like ‘I’ll be there at the time we agree on and won’t leave before that’ will help set her at ease.
  • If something goes wrong outside of your control- a zombie army hijacks your camera bag and you never see the big-day-memory-card again- you need a contract in place that basically says you can’t be sued. I know you’ll wrestle zombies to the ground to save those wedding images if you have to, but they can be overpowering. And people can still try to sue you in the midst of an apocalypse.

#3:    Set a timeline meeting before the day.

Shooting a wedding isn’t just shooting a wedding. It’s helping plan one. More important than location scouting, knowing about the color schemes, or what cute props to bring… is sitting down with the bride to hash out EXACTLY how the day is going to roll.

What was the biggest news flash for me as a newbie photographer? The fact that bride and the wedding planner are not the only ones in charge of the flow of the day; so am I. It’s not an egotistical statement- just a realization that pictures take up a fair amount of the day, and no-one is better qualified to plan that, than the one taking them.

This is something that will be trickier when you’re starting out… if you haven’t done it yet, you don’t know as well how long to allow for the bridal portraits and other segments of the day. But chances are, you still have a better idea of how long things will take than the bride will .

There’s nothing worse than running out of time to get pictures, because no-one thought to allow time for them. The closest second to that horrible feeling is the one you get when everyone looks at you to let them know what to do next (bc they all know we’ve got to cram the pictures in somewhere) and you have no idea because you never got to talk it over with the bride BEFORE the day. And the bride is no help on the day itself. She’s got so many things, people, and dress alterations stressing her out that she doesn’t have brain space left (if you’ve gotten married, then you’ll know what I’m talking about)!

This is a HUGE part of what I do when I’m working with the couple. When the time comes around to start setting hair appointments and to tell the family what time of day they’re showing up for the formals, I tell the bride to call me, and we set up that meeting to plan out the whole day. Working both backwards & forward from the ceremony (the only locked in time of the day) we decide how long each segment of the day will take and in what order those segments will go. This discussion will vary a lot depending on if you charge hourly, which I do, so time is a very conscious decision on several levels.

We address things like:

  • are the couple open to the groom seeing the bride before the ceremony? (for everything that’s holy, talk the bride into saying YES to this).
  • are we traveling to any spots AWAY from the ceremony location to take portraits? (that’s up to you to suggest, if you have spots in mind)
  • how much of the reception is it important to have coverage of? Some brides are ok with you taking off as soon as the cake is cut… others would like you there for a couple hours of dancing.

The less questions you have to ask the bride the day OF, the better. The timeline meeting sets it up where the bride still has total control and input, but doesn’t have to think about it the day of. That’s good for both of you.

Once we go over all the hairy details, I e-mail that timeline to the bride so she can use it in her itinerary, or, at the very least, pass it on to her wedding party.

Here’s an example from the last wedding I shot…

2:30- photographer arrives. ‘Getting ready pictures’ begin (everything should be ready for the most part except the actual putting on of the dress)
3pm- ‘first sight’
3:30pm- couple portraits / wedding party portraits
5pm- family pictures
5:30pm- chill time (everyone gets in place)
6:30pm- reception begins (eating, visiting, photog gets detail shots)
7:15- reception ‘events’- cake cutting/toasts/bouquet toss/ 1st dances
8:30- photographer exits

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#4: ask for a ‘family formal’ shot list.

I don’t typically ask the bride for a full shot list; it’s common sense to shoot most of the things that are important to her…. the bouquet, her walking down the aisle, cutting the cake, etc etc. If it’s important to the day, it’s automatically important to your camera. (DO ask if there’s anything unusual or special about the day that she wants captured though, and take notes!)
That being said, there’s one part in particular that I may not be able to predict myself… and that’s which family members she wants in pictures, and what combinations thereof.  It’s obvious that mom, dad, groom, & grandparents are in there… but what about cousins, uncles, great aunts, or, in more complicated situations, dad’s new fiancee if the parents are split up? You don’t want the bride to have to make those decisions on the spot during the day, and you won’t be close enough to the family to necessarily make those decisions yourself either.
That’s why I ask the bride to create a list of the exact family pictures she wants, complete with names. After that, I ask her to choose someone (a sister, a friend) who knows a good portion of the family, and isn’t afraid to grab that list and help yell out names and usher people toward the stage so that this brief segment of the day can go smoothly.  I ask the bride to give that entrusted individual the list and inform (well, ask) them of their job.  Then for good measure, it’s also a great idea to print that list out yourself so that you have it if it’s forgotten.
That’s all for part 1. Next week we’ll go into actually SHOOTING the wedding… which is it’s own animal. Happy planning!
9art photography, wedding photographer, joplin missouri :: bridal party fun