How To Choose A Wedding Photographer  
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Florida or California – no matter where you go there are good photographers available for your wedding day!  Ultimately, choosing one is all a matter of personal taste and your budget, though this guide is intended to help you find the best qualified match for someone who can shoot your event and create high quality pictures that will stand the test of time.  

Anyone can take photos in this day of cheap automatic digital cameras, but it takes a true artist to create timeless classic images that are enduring and captivating.  Producing these kinds of images isn’t just pressing a button – it is a craft that requires not only technical skills, but is as intricate as any other art form.  The photographic artist puts concepts, materials and development together to create something unique and expressive.  This is the difference between a professional photographer and the inexperienced.

Things to look for
When viewing the photographer’s portfolio in person or online, there are some basic fundamentals to look for in their photography.  So you can be familiar with what to look for, the following are some of the general points to consider.
Composition –  
One of the considerable things that makes the difference in quality is the “photographer’s eye”.  Professionals can see a vision of what to capture, and are able to create what they see – and fit it perfectly within the frame.   The inexperienced will just try to fit everything/everyone all in one shot or do all kinds of random stuff in hope that quantity overshadows quality.  Beware someone who claims they only shoot “photojournalist” style – what it may actually mean is that they don’t know how to compose images and may likely shoot like a machine gun and have all kinds of different odd angles and zoom because they can’t envision how to compose an actual cohesive image!  The photojournalist style is OK in limited quantities – but doesn’t take a lot of talent or creativity.  Also keep in mind this “style” is a passing trend so it will be very dated in just a few years.  A pro photographer can compose an image and frame it perfectly to tell a story.  
Example 1a
A “photojournalist” style at that identical moment in time would not see or capture it the same way at all and might look quite awkward.
Example 1b

Exposure –  
There’s a fine line between getting a good amount of light onto a subject and overexposing or underexposing them.  A white wedding dress that is so overexposed it looks like a blank sheet of white paper (example 1b) is poorly done – this image also fails by underexposing dark areas at the same time where detail is completely lost.  The professionals know how to balance the exposures for both the light and the dark to make them work together harmoniously (example 1a) showing both fine details and subtle undertones.
Color –  
There are many technical tools available to serious professionals to ensure color accuracy for their images both in print and digital form.  I always use a fair amount of resources to keep things “tuned up”, however there are a large number of people who do not even know about it, care, or bother.  Typically online especially, you’ll see pics that are unnatural looking – way over saturated, too red, yellow or other kinds of variations far beyond the human skin tone.  Ultimately, images of people should look natural unless the goal is a special effect (to be used very sparingly).  Hold your hand up next to that over saturated skin tone you’ve spotted online.  Imagine what it would be like if your skin really WAS that color!  Now ask yourself – Is that how I want to look in my wedding album?  Of course the easy fix for bad color by novices, is to make it sepia tone, or black and white – like (example 1b)!  (The average computer at home may not be set up for color accuracy when surfing websites, so keep this in mind as well.)
Focus –  
There are techniques and tools that pros know and use to ensure crisp and clean images for their clients every time, so it won’t be very often that they miss a shot.  The inexperienced aren’t so skilled and can often be the inverse of this – only catching a few shots that are actually in focus.  
Despite the technology of “auto-focus”, it also requires a great amount of skill to be able to frame, focus, and steady a shot, not move, and keep on going quickly to the next.  At weddings the pros will be moving REALLY fast!  To check for focus and clarity online, try to zoom into the faces of people and see if they hold up upon closer examination.  In person, looking at prints, it’s handy to have a “Loupe” so you can see if the details are sharp.

A Loupe

Cheap photo labs can also diminish the clearness of photographs with inferior materials, sloppy work and “mass produced” handling.  

Prints –
One thing inexperienced people do is send prints out to get done by discount merchants or warehouse stores to save time and/or money.  A professional will always be very picky about using a high grade professional lab, as the end result is a reflection on their competency and their business.  The disparity in quality between the two is absolutely astounding.  I like to show my clients one printed image from my preferred lab, and one from Sam’s Club – just to tell the story for itself.  It makes a difference!  Since I live and shoot in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley area, I choose to use an out of state lab to do all my client’s prints – it delivers the quality I expect and ensures they are getting something that’s going to hold up over time.  Make sure you plan your wedding album images with someone who really knows about this stuff.  Getting cheap on the bride and groom’s prints is kind of like putting $49 tires on a Lamborghini.  

Pro Gear –
You may hear in some places that a “good” photographer can create a fantastic image with even just a disposable camera.  While that may be true to a limited extent, pros don’t carry big heavy expensive cameras and lenses for the extra calisthenics – good gear makes all the difference in the world!  Watch out for “wannabe” photographers that typically have a cheap DSLR from the BigBox store and use the “kit” lens that came with it.  This type of equipment is marginal at best and only exacerbates their lack of skills.  Granted, all the expensive camera equipment in the world can’t make a bad photographer a good one – but in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, high end lenses can skyrocket the quality level from acceptable, to stunning!  Camera resolution matters too – especially if the couple or parents want an oversized enlargement.  

Post Processing –  
In high end digital photography, an expert skill level in the digital darkroom is mandatory to put out a full wedding’s worth of images.  The images from a pro are probably pretty nice to begin with, but the difference between nice and WOW is all done in Post Production.  Here, the artist treats each image by hand individually to bring it the “magic” and add their own style and creativity.  Having done high end beauty retouching, fashion and commercial work I can personally testify that sometimes even just a single image can take days to finish!  Of course if you have a wedding shoot of 1000 or more images to go through, the photographer won’t spend that kind of time – but if they know their stuff they can do brilliant finish work – be patient though – it does take time for greatness!  The other side of the coin on post processing that isn’t so good is – everybody is doing it!  Your Aunt Mildred can do something very fancy to her cell phone pics with any one of 1000 different photo special effects apps too – so why not hire her to shoot your wedding?   Canned effects like the fake sun in (example 1b) or other things to look new, fun, crazy, different, unique etc. – this is what a lot of the “photojournalistic” wedding photographers do – the only thing is – they forgot the photography in there somewhere.   Watch out for it.  If all they can show you are shots with goofy angles and effects – don’t walk – RUN away.

Selling “All Sizzle And No Steak” –  
So – A great image doesn’t need special effects.  But if you are shopping online for a wedding photographer, sometimes you will find you’re not just being sold on heavy handed/tasteless post processing, but also poor composition, bad exposures, unnatural color and marginal focus, cheap prints all put together in some grunge filled, over saturated “eye candy” gallery probably on a website you ran across searching for the perfect photographer for your special day.  A lot of them use cheap “flashy” website templates that are slow and clunky and sometimes even pop up/out to hog your entire screen using “Adobe Flash”, (which can bring your computer to a grinding halt).  Not to say that they are automatically bad photographers, but it’s poor manners and bad business to put your clients through an experience like that.  Its also tasteless and makes one wonder if that’s the kind of photos they would do for the bride and groom too?  If they were considerate, they would value the viewer’s experience more.  It’s just not professional, in this professional’s opinion.  Rather than going all out for every bell and whistle one can dump onto a website, why not present something clean, clear and easily viewed?  

Price Structures – 
There is a real wedding photography school out there, actually being TAUGHT in seminars across the country, that tells photographers to charge MORE and compete LESS.  True!   I just shook my head when I heard about that.  What nonsense.  In my local business around the Kanawha Valley in WV,  I feel like I can provide photography services to just about anyone, and can work within just about any budget if it’s reasonable.  Yes, I can do a full tilt wedding engagement family extravaganza with full bound leather albums for each family ranging from $4000 and up – but we can also work with someone who might only have $500.  They won’t get the same level of time, products and services that the “royal wedding” gets, but they will get the same quality images (in digital with limited prints).  What to be very careful of are the “A La Carte” photographers who have itemized prices for everything under the sun – so you end up paying much more than you were expecting for the so-called “extras”.  What to look for –  a set package of things to be delivered from your wedding photographer.  Prints, albums, and beyond.  Just make sure you can get it clearly in writing before signing any kind of contract.  Final word on prices – just because they charge 3x as much as someone else doesn’t always mean they are 3x better.  Sometimes it’s just smoke and mirrors.  

The one line advice from this all?  Go with someone who can get clean natural looking images and is sincere about doing exceptional work and not just “selling” you something.  You will thank yourself with each and every anniversary you have, while turning the pages of your exquisite, timeless wedding album!

Karen Engel
Owner, Karen Engel Photography

Karen Engel is a professional family and wedding photographer in the Charleston – Huntington WV area, with additional expertise in commercial, fashion and modeling.  


This is some work around code one can use to embed the blog into a Custom Page in Zenfolio. It is an iframe and where it says yourblogURL, please insert your URL.

You can adjust the widths and heights to suit yourself.


iFrame Code for Zenfolio page


What this does, is puts that page, inside of an “iFrame” (has nothing to do with iAnything else) – basically it’s a FRAME – meaning you’re putting an entire external website inside of a smaller area on your own page.  This can lead to some unexpected problems however.  Read on!


Editing the Blogger page to look/fit better

Getting RID of the NavBar –


How to Remove Blogger NAV Bar

To Turn Off the Blogger Navigation BarJust copy the Navbar1 code below and paste it anywhere inside your blog XML file as a CSS code after the /* Variable definitions section. If you’re not sure what this means, follow these steps:

#Navbar1 {

margin: 0;

padding: 0;

display: none;

visibility: hidden;


1. Login to your blog and click the Edit HTML tab inside the Template tab.

2. Inside the file, locate the section body { ..... } and paste the Navbar1 code below this section, after the closing bracket.


4. That’s it. You’re done.

Getting RID of the Header/Title/Logo – 

How to Remove Blogger Header

Howto Remove Blogger Header. Maybe you already removed the navbar and maybe customizing the header by removing the border wasn’t enough, and you just want to remove it completely.

Go to ‘dashboard’ and select ‘layout’ and then ‘edit html’.

Scroll down until you get to the “#header-wrapper” section.


#header-wrapper { width:660px; margin:0 auto 0px; border:0px solid $bordercolor; }to

#header-wrapper { width:660px; margin:0 auto 0px; border:0px solid $bordercolor; display:none; / }

and save.


Small Caveat

I discovered that using the Link List Gadget in Blogger within the iFrame has some bad behaviour on certain browsers for an external links – as it will get stuck inside the iFrame as opposed to opening a new window or completely reloading the current one.

The gadget is at fault due to no functionality to specify at “Target”.  Editing the code on Blogger may fix this.  For now – I just removed all external links.  Built in and Custom ZF pages don’t seem to have the problems.  I can’t tell if the pages are loading in new windows or within the iFrame but they show no artifact of it.

Caveat 2

While testing this out in different browsers I discovered not only that link handling was unstable across different browsers – but the Blogger Gadgets are also unstable – some will work in one browser while sometimes they don’t in another.  Support for Blogger is really poor – and it’s really seemingly depreciated as a blogging tool with almost no updates since 5+ years ago.

Bottom line – if you have to use an iFrame – do not post any links from within your blog.  (That’s pretty limiting except for pure text and images. – Tumblr could work)

No links makes me reconsider the value of even using an iFrame now.  The Blog may absolutely need to be an independent website/external link.  Until Zenfolio provides an internal blog function – that’s probably just the way it will be most functional.

It is a band-aid after all.

One thing the photography business does is force you to stay in touch technology.  Today’s challenge was to replace a 2009 Mac Mini with the 2011 model running the Lion operating system.  This is quite different largely because in Lion they have decided to partition the startup disk into two pieces – One hidden partition for the base operating system – and another partition for all your other stuff (user accounts etc.).

I had the new 2011 Mac Mini sitting in my office for the past month, being too busy to get back to it as I had a few local photo shoots to do in Charleston, Scott Depot and over in Huntington WV.   When I first got it – I ran the Apple Migration Assistant – which imported all the old computer’s accounts, settings and data into the new one.  Problem was, that since then, I kept using the old 2009 Mini – adding more data onto it.  So the new one was no longer a complete copy.  So you guessed it – I had to do it all over again!  But HOW?  Migration Assistant is a one time – one shot deal and you cannot choose individual bits to migrate over – it’s all or nothing!  Plus I could never possibly remember everything I added over the last month anyway – so – I had to reformat the Lion based 2011 Mac Mini and start over from scratch.

Because of the hidden partition containing Lion, this is different than ever before on a Mac.  Seemingly more complex and intimidating, but actually surprisingly simple.

Restart the Mac holding down the R key (Restore)
Choose to restore the Lion OSX only – or in my case…
Go to Utilities/Disk Utility where you can find the two partitions
Erase/Reformat the MAIN partition (not the Lion bit) using Apple HFS Journaled the default)
Exit Disk utility and then proceed with the Lion OSX restore/install
When the computer restarts (or you restart it) after the full install – go under the Apple Menu and check for System Updates.  It will still have some tasks to do, so run it!

A Big Caveat – 2011 Macs come with 3 extra programs installed (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand) – but they are not included in the base system install – so when you reformat your system – you’ve wiped them out!  Apple’s answer to this is a free download and install of the missing programs via the App Store.  If you don’t have an account – sign up – it’s free though may require a credit card verification.

With that out of the way – the fastest way to get the old data from the legacy Mac to the new one is Firewire Target Disk Mode.  (Assuming your Mac would have a firewire port)

Connect the two Macs directly via Firewire 1394A/B  – Firewire 800 is the current port on newer Macs.
Start up the source Mac whilst holding down the “T” key (Target Disk Mode)
It will enter into a mode where you see nothing on the screen but a giant Firewire Icon – you’re ready!
On the NEW Mac – go to Utilities/MigrationAssistant and run it using the TimeMachine/OtherDisk option.

Over Firewire 800, this took 2-3 hours for a nearly full 320GB Mac Mini transfer onto the new one.
Your old user accounts will all come over – so you may need to switch user accounts from the new one you have on the new Mac – to the legacy account by using “switch users” or the Login Menu.

Some things will need updating – possibly updating or entering license numbers/key codes for software – or in some cases if the software license is machine based, you will have to contact the developer to transfer your authorization.

For further info – the Apple Lion Recovery documentation is located HERE

Netflix has just released a “statement” about further dividing/separating their mail DVD business from the online streaming.
Having used both DVDs+Streaming for many years, I was one of the ones that was OK with the 50% price increase they recently implemented (considering the price of postage and amount of use one can access) – although they did have a massive amount of negative feedback and mass exit from their membership/user base.
This “announcement” is simply a thinly veiled attempt at justifying the price increase, and a horribly poor attempt to edify the alienated or disenfranchised who are still complaining – or have left.  The problem is – spilt milk.  The hopelessly lost won’t be coming back.  This is foolish corporate backpedalling and trying to create a revisionist history with the way it “could have been” – a more politically correct scheme to jack prices on everyone!
In the same grand broad brush stroke, they are trashing a solid brand name by watering it down into two entities.  They will only make life much worse for their DVDs+Streaming customers if they try to further separate the two via two different websites, two different accounts/logins, and two different queues.  
I’m amazed at the stupidity.  This “Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO” has absolutely no common sense, but certainly earns himself 7 figures plus because he is “the boss” and the boss is always right?  This is just about as intelligent as HP buying Palm for $1.2 Billion dollars, then shutting it down a year later.
What this statement really ends up saying is – Netflix is in deep trouble.  The letter mentions AOL dialup and Borders.  Can Netflix be far behind now?  
We’ll have to sit back now and watch to see if Netflix/Whatever implodes.

Some of the greens were under repair today at Berry Hills Country Club in South Charleston today.  Just in front of the ones getting worked on – they had these “temporary” greens areas with giant holes.  It was hysterical 🙂

When I’m not shooting weddings or engagement and family photos on the weekend – of course I’m out golfing and shooting low scores (hopefully).  It’s a great way to meet a lot of great new ladies, have a lot of fun and enjoy the many events we get to attend throughout the year.  Berry Hills also has a reciprocal arrangement with Edgewood Country Club for play and use of each other’s facilities – so it’s double the fun!  It’s not unusual to see a wedding or party at one of these fantastic, popular venues!

In just a matter of a few months here in WV, I’ve met over 100 women through my involvement in the golf community from places all over West Virginia – locally where we live in Teays Valley – (right in between Charleston and Huntington) – to Parkersburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Weirton, Beckley, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Clarksburg, Vienna, Bluefield and beyond!

So many places to shoot – golf – weddings – events – and portraits!

Welcome back Blog Readers!

Having moved to Charleston – Huntington WV earlier this year sure was a lot of work and a distraction from wedding and portrait photography to be sure! We did get some last photo shoots in before leaving to West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley area… it’s really the entire Ohio Valley as we are also very near Eastern Kentucky and the Ohio borders too!

While we are still looking for a place to set up the studio, new efforts have begun to relaunch the weddings and portraits this fall and into next year.  High school seniors will be wanting those unique portraiture sessions again too!

As part of this we’ve just completed a major streamlining/overhaul of our main website (including new music) – gearing up for a busy 2012 of photography for weddings, portraits, events and also some original creative and artistic projects as well!

Hard to believe there were over 14,000 images to navigate through on the old version – This undertaking was the photographers equivalent of cleaning out your garage, closets, basement and attic – all at the same time!

In the end though – less chaos = a more focused impact.  Let us know what you think of our redesign!