Including Your Dog In Your Wedding Day (and portraiture)

Dog people are my favorite people. Or more accurately, dogs are my favorite people. I've seen an increasing trend of my couples treating their fur babies like incredibly important members of the family (as they are) and including them in their portraiture. This is a trend that I definitely want to see grow and continue because it just makes all of us so happy. 

There are some key things to consider when including your dog(s) in your portraiture. Let's talk about those things and also enjoy some doggo photos together. ;) 

Including your dogs in your engagement, anniversary and family portraiture: 

  • You know your dog best! We want to make decisions that help them be relaxed, comfortable and personable. 
  • Choosing a location that is less stressful for your dog is important. If there's a lot going on, say for example a bustling city location, your dog can feel your stress and no one is going to be relaxed. I recommend wide-open parks and gorgeous spots where your dog won't be too overstimulated. 
  • Bring lots of treats, water and possibly even a toy for a reward! This is going to be one of those times where your dog gets more treats than they probably need but hey... it's a special occasion. 
  • If you have multiple dogs or a dog (like mine) who is a bit uneasy, hyperactive, a handful, etc. - it can be extremely helpful to all of us if you bring along a dog sitter. Someone who can take the dog in and out of different shots and keep an eye on them for us. That way when we're shooting without your doggie, you can just relax and know that they are fine! 

Including your dogs in your wedding: 

  • Again, you know your dog best. Including your fur baby in your wedding day is a decision only you can make but I will offer some advice to help you figure out how to include them in the most stress-free way. 
  • No matter what, you should have someone uninvolved in the wedding day (not a bridesmaid or groomsman, parent, sibling, etc.) who is your dog-person. This person will be responsible for getting your dog to and from their needed locations, making sure they are fed, taking them out to go potty (yeaaaaah.. sorry... I say potty when it comes to doggies) and making them a happy puppy! Your dog should be comfortable with this person. 
  • I recommend first and foremost planning for your dog to come for your portraiture. We need approximately 10-15 minutes of allotted time for photos with the bridal couple and their dog(s). However - a lot of dogs get incredibly excited when they arrive and see their parents. I believe it's important for the dog handler to bring the dog ahead of time and have them spend some time greeting their parents, sniffing around the portraiture spot and just calming down a bit. 
  • If you plan to include your dog in your ceremony, make sure they come to rehearsal just like everyone else. It's also beneficial for them to visit your venue a few different times to become comfortable. 
  • Not many dogs can handle the craziness of a reception. It can be very loud, hectic, overwhelming and uncomfortable for them. If you want your dogs involved in your reception, it's important that they have a safe, quiet space to escape to and someone does need to be attentive to them throughout the entirety of the reception! Remember, it may be fun and cute but anxiety on the part of the dog or the dog parents isn't OK. We want your wedding day to be fun and stress-free for everyone! 

Of course you should also make sure your little floof is dressed in their wedding best. A fresh grooming, floral crown and a special leash can really make them wedding-ready! 

It was something I knew immediately after getting engaged - I wanted our fur baby girl, Butters, included in both our engagement portraiture and our wedding. I want you to include your fluffy babies too and with some careful thought and preparation, that is totally possible! 

For our wedding, we're relying on sweet Ashley of Ashley's Adventures Petsitting Service (based out of Lionville, PA). She has studied both canine behavior and obedience training while working at specialized boarding facilities, doggie daycares and the Philadelphia Zoo! Best of all though, she loves animals - of all kinds. I can't wait to share Butters' wedding-day experience after our wedding on August 19th and I'll definitely be featuring more of what Ashley has helped us with. Please visit her website and Facebook page for more information on her services. She may be able to help you comfortably and safely include your fur babies in your wedding day! 

Questions To Ask Your Wedding Photographer - Answered

Every once in a while I get an inquiry from a wary bride who is excited to work with me but filled with cautious questions. That's perfectly understandable - especially since every wedding blog that exists in the universe has a long list of suggested questions and checklists to go over before booking your wedding vendors. For some, it's completely invaluable and so helpful. Today I want to go through most of those wedding-blog-suggested and frequently asked questions with all of you! 

What do I get with your "collections" and what does a custom booking proposal mean? 

Great question! You'll see right on my weddings page that each collection always includes a complimentary engagement session and a download of the final high resolution digital files from your wedding. All of my clients also receive a gorgeous custom online viewing gallery, unlimited email access to me during the planning process, vendor recommendation and style guides and so much more. I do custom booking proposals because no two weddings are the same and therefore I find it unfair to price them all at the same level. I take a little bit of information from the inquiring client regarding their special day and I enter it into a formula which then spits out the numbers for your booking proposal! Albums, prints and product are a la carte. 

Who owns the photos after you give them to us? 

Copyright ownership always remains with the artist (me) no matter what in every circumstance. No exceptions. However, all clients receive a print and usage release which means they can print them on their own and use the image files as they wish!

Will you give us the RAW files? 

A direct quote from my contract: Under no circumstances will Savannah Smith Photography sell or deliver RAW files. A raw file is the image as seen by the camera's sensor. It is completely unprocessed and it is not a file extension that most computers would recognize. Savannah Smith Photography works diligently to choose the best images from your session and process those raw files into beautifully edited and retouched high resolution jpeg files.

Can we see the contract before we sign it? How do refunds and cancellations work? 

Absolutely. I'm always happy to send a sample contract for clients to view or draft their contract (that they can always choose to not sign). My services are not booked until the contract is signed and the retainer is paid. Questions regarding cancellation policies, refunds, travel fees, retainers and payment schedules are all answered in great detail in the contract. Honestly, most of the questions you have are answered in great detail in the contract! It serves a wonderful purpose of being a reference guide to my services. 

Do you carry insurance? 

Yes. I have equipment insurance and I carry liability insurance for bodily injury, property damage and personal injury up to $1,000,000 per occurrence with a $2,000,000 aggregate limit. I can provide COI's to venues if requested. 

Can you change your editing style to fit the "look" we like? Ex: We like you but we'd prefer a dark and moody film style of editing. 

No. Editing is half of what defines a photographers particular style (along with their shooting style). It's not interchangeable and in fact you should always be searching for a photographer with consistency and a recognizable style. Asking a photographer to change their editing style for you would be like asking a painter to change their style from cubism to photorealism. I seek clients who choose to want to work with me because they like my art and business as a whole! If you find that my editing style isn't your taste, I would recommend you seek another artist who fits that style. 

How long after the wedding will we have to wait to see our photos? 

My current workflow allows for a next-day sneak peek on social media (Facebook and Instagram) along with a blog post within 72 hours. Contractually, full galleries are delivered within 4 weeks but often times it takes much less! I don't like to make you wait - I know how anxious couples are to see their images! 

How many weddings do you shoot in a weekend? 

Maximum, 2. However, I will never shoot two weddings on the same day and when I do double header weekends (2 weddings in a 3 day span), those two weddings must be within an hour's drive of each other. For example, I would not ever be traveling to Virginia on Friday and Maine on Saturday. 

I have a large shot list that is very important to me. Will you follow it? 

I welcome a short list of special important items that may be missed if I wasn't aware of them (and those get noted to me in your extensive pre-wedding questionnaire) but I shoot so many weddings that it's all second nature. I capture everything. I have a flow for each day and you're hiring a pro. The best thing you can do for me is trust that my eye is keen and I have a great attention to detail. Staring down at a checklist takes immense time away from the job I should be doing! 

Can I share my images on social media? 

Absolutely, I want you to! However, you may not crop, edit, apply filters or otherwise alter them in any way. 

How will you be dressed? 

I usually wear black or a neutral color. You can see lots of shots of me working in my Behind the Scenes album to get an idea! I also pay particular attention to special requests like if my shoulders would need to be covered for a religious ceremony, if you're having a themed wedding or if your event is black tie or white tie. 

How long have you been shooting weddings? 

Part time since 2013 and full time since the fall of 2014. 

Do you shoot film? 

No, I am strictly a digital photographer. 

Do you have backup equipment and an emergency plan?

Yes and yes! Both are so important. I'm always prepared. 

I have a friend who wants to gift us some photography too. She'll will be shooting the ceremony and reception. This is OK right? 

Actually, no. Bluntly, it is not OK. Not only can various flashes going off, people stepping in front of my shots, shouts of "look here, look here" and competing directions for posing horribly interfere with my final product (which I want to be absolutely perfect for you), other people taking photos is incredibly distracting for both myself and you. Multiple professionals doing the same job on a wedding day can quickly turn into a messy situation - this obviously does not apply to videographers! I reserve the right to limit access to other photographers (professional and amateur using phones, tablets and cameras) at any time throughout the day. My goal is to always produce the absolute best possible product for my clients and being the exclusive photographer is required to make that possible! 

How far in advance do you book? 

Typically couples reach out to me 12-16 months in advance of their wedding day to secure their date on my calendar. It's not uncommon to work with couples who book 6-11 months in advance either - it just depends if I have their date open! Couples who reach out with less than 6 months until their wedding date rarely have luck with their date being open so it's still worth it to try, it's just extremely uncommon. 

If we want you to stay longer at our wedding than we initially agreed upon, is there an extra charge? 

I work with my couples so closely during their timeline planning process that this is rare just due to my attention to detail. I'm always happy to stay a few extra minutes to capture something special but if the couple asks me to stay longer than a grace period of 10-15 minutes, yes there is an additional hourly fee (which is detailed in the contract). I invoice the client following the wedding and the images are not released until that invoice has been paid. 

Do you offer albums, prints and other art? 

Absolutely. All of my products are created by top industry professional companies that will exceed your expectations! All of the ordering is done online and it's incredibly easy. 

Do you have galleries of recent full weddings you've shot that I can browse?

Sure thing! I'm always happy to send over a few recent galleries for clients to view. 

Can we waive the complimentary engagement session and receive a discount instead? 

The complimentary engagement session is imperative for learning how to best work together! Even if we are the best of friends, when someone gets in front of the camera it can take a few minutes to warm up, relax and understand what the photographer is asking of them. On the flip side, I love engagement sessions because I get to see first hand how you interact with your partner! I learn what poses look the most flattering for you, what makes you giggle, what makes you a little wary, what you're self conscious of and so much more. The last thing we want is to be figuring that out on your wedding day! So, the complimentary engagement session is "use it or lose it". I always highly recommend that my couples take advantage of it because it's so valuable! However, if they cannot or choose not to, there is no discount on the total wedding collection price. 

Do you offer payment plans?

I do offer payment plans! I know it's unreasonable to ask most couples to pay entirely upfront. I offer flexible payment plans and I accept cash, checks and credit cards. 

What time will you arrive to the venue on my wedding day? 

Woah, sister. Don't you worry! You'll not only know when I'm arriving but you'll know what I'm doing at each exact second on your wedding day. Did I mention I'm hugely involved in timeline planning? Much much much closer to your wedding day, we'll sit down together to decide what the best flow for your day is and how to maximize the time that I'm with you. 

Do you travel? Is travel included in the booking proposal?

You betcha! I love to travel near and far. I'm passport ready for destination weddings and elopements. Travel fees are always included in the booking proposal so you'll never pay extra for my hotel room (if needed), mileage, plane tickets, etc. 

How do I book you? 

All inquiries receive a digital magazine with lots of information on my business, my style and my base pricing. Clients can reply to that inquiry email with a few answers to some questions (wedding date, venue, etc.) to receive their custom booking proposal. Once you express your intent to book me for your wedding day, I'll collect some basic information from you like your mailing address, cell phone number and your desired length of coverage. I will draw up a contract specifically for you + an online invoice for your retainer. Once the contract is signed and the retainer is paid, your date is officially taken off of my availability calendar and it belongs to you! Welcome to the family! The fun starts after all that nitty gritty stuff is completed. You'll receive access to a private bride's Facebook group, lots of guides and vendor information and so many other fun tools to help you plan your wedding, prepare for your engagement session and truly enjoy this process!