wedding photography

New dates: Off Camera Flash 101 Workshop

When you attend our OCF 101 Workshop, You’ll learn how to use wireless flash to enhance and properly light your subjects and take better pictures no matter the lighting conditions you are dealt. This will be 3.5 hours of a hands on learning experience. You’ll have the knowledge of how to use speedlights and basic off camera flash lighting techniques. Learn to shoot like a pro using our equipment and live models.

Here's the link to register:

Lauren & Tom's Chicago Wedding at South Branch

Check out some of our favorite images from Lauren & Tom's Chicago wedding...with special guest appearance by Nicco (one of the cutest dogs ever!) Even though it rained, we were able to get some artistic & creative photos outside. What a great couple! We wish them nothing but the best!

Video created by Christopher Paul Photography

What questions should you ask a wedding photographer? (part 2)

What questions should you ask a wedding photographer? (part 2)

Continued from previous post:

6. How can I make sure I look good in my photos? -Don't want to hate your wedding photos? Here are a few things you need to know... The truth is, sometimes people do wind up hating their wedding photos. While there's nothing you can do about it after the job is done, during the moment you should RELAX and trust your wedding photographer. Of course you will have some anxiety about the wedding day but, if you're relaxed, it will come through in your photos. Your photographer should also have some tips for you to look your best with easy posing techniques. Leave some breathing room in your schedule so you don't feel rushed. I recommend a minimum 30-60 minutes for family and wedding party photos, and a minimum of an hour for the creative couple portraits. Eat something the morning of the wedding to give you enough energy for the day ahead. Oh, and get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water the night before. Take it easy at the rehearsal dinner. Wedding-day hangovers are not fun or conducive for great photographs of you.

We like to have 2 hours with you and your wedding party for creative photos to create artwork for our clients. Artistic photography does not happen on the run. The entire scene needs to be set up by the photographer to ensure the image looks amazing. We actually scout the exact location for your creative photos so we are not surprised by anything on the big day...and, speeds up the process on the wedding day.

7. Should we do a "first look"? And, um, what exactly is a "first look"? -The first look is a chance for wedding couples to see each other privately before the ceremony. This is usually set up by your photographer and is completely hidden from any attendees. There are two schools of thought about this. 1. This allows the couple to share this private moment and not have to share it with anyone. It also allows the couple to get most of the photography done before the wedding so they can enjoy the cocktail hour and reception with their guests and not with the photographer. 2. The more traditional way is to see each other at the ceremony for the first time. That is fine. However, you may be rushed for time after the ceremony for photography...especially if the wedding and reception are close together in time or at the same venue.

Two-thirds of our clients currently opt to do a first look. It's a great chance for us to create something special for you and, a way to get the wedding jitters out. I find that first look photos tend to be some of my favorites. It's a real moment with real emotions. Honestly, it's also a great way to avoid undo stress on your wedding day. After a first look, 99% of our couples are virtually stress free when the ceremony begins.

The First Look

8. Do I really need a second photographer? -Truthfully, no. However, a second photographer can help provide you with more images and another perspective. Wedding photography should tell a story. The more images/perspectives you have, the easier the story is to tell. As the bride is walking down the aisle, Christopher can capture the emotion on the her face while his associate photographer is capturing her groom smiling ear to ear at the exact same moment. We can’t be in all places at once so a second photographer makes us more saturated at your event. Many of the top photographers only work with assistants who carry gear and help with professional lighting. The best thing is to ask your wedding photographer to see how they prefer to work.

9. How far in advance should I book you...(the wedding photographer)? -If you find someone you love, don't wait! Book them then. Many in-demand wedding photographers book weddings a year to two away. As it gets closer to your wedding date, it will be harder to book your first-choice photographer. If your favorite photographer is unavailable on your date, don't panic. Ask them for recommendations — they may know someone with a similar style and a lighter schedule.

We tend to book most of our wedding well over a year in advance.

10. You can Photoshop that, right? -It depends. As a photographer, we want to get everything as perfect as possible in camera. Posing, location scouting, and camera settings can "fix" most things before we even click the shutter. If your uncle photobombs you, I'm going to retake the photo — it's much easier to get the photo right than to fix it with Photoshop. Many people assume every little thing can be removed or added simply by running photos through photoshop. The term "photoshop" has become a generic term for photo editing. There are multiple photo editing programs to choose from. Not every photographer uses photoshop. The truth is, you almost need a masters degree to use photoshop to it's fullest capabilities. Another truth is, photo editing in photoshop is primarily for advanced photographers. Beginners and amateurs are easily scared away from using this program.

We do use photoshop on select images. Anything that goes in your album or prints you buy will be fully edited in photoshop to look amazing!

Signature Edit



11. How many hours of photography do we need? -Tough question to answer. Every wedding is different. Generally speaking, a full days wedding coverage will be about 8 hours. Some really large weddings may need more time and smaller ones might need less. A good photographer will help you decide what is right for you.

We have packages with 8 or 10 hours. We also educate our clients about things like... you don't need a photographer first thing in the morning or until the end of the reception. Typically, we find that within an hour after open dance starts, the photography is done. After that, you will wind up with hundreds of dance photos of the 15-20 people who stay on the dance floor all night. However, if you have something huge planned for the end of the night, you may need us to stay.

12. I have my venue, my dress and now my photographer...Now what? -Now, you need to find the remaining vendors for your big day. There is no rhyme or reason as to what vendors come next. Whether it's flowers or a dj/band are next on your list, ask for recommendations from the vendors you do have.

We keep a list of preferred vendors that we have worked with in the past. These are vendors that we trust to take care of our clients and provide exceptional services. This list is something we are happy to give to all of our clients when they book us. The more continuity between all of you vendors makes for an extremely smooth flow leading up to the wedding and they day of the wedding.

These are some things we thought would be helpful when searching for wedding photography. I hope I cleared up some things for you and will help you make an educated decision. Remember, when all is said and done, photography is the only thing left to remember your amazing day forever.


What questions should you ask a wedding photographer? (part 1)

What questions should you ask a wedding photographer?

Many brides read wedding magazines and search social media to help plan their wedding and choose vendors. Choosing, the venue, dress and photographer are usually the highest priority on the list. Since we are wedding photographers, we wanted to give you a list of questions to ask your potential wedding photographer. You can ask them stuff like: "Can you describe your style?" or, "What equipment do you shoot with?” But let’s be real, do you really care what camera they are using? These questions really don’t help you pick an ideal photographer. Whether a photographer uses Canon, Nikon or Sony models should have no bearing on your decision. The real question is do they know how to use them. The proof is in the pudding...or this case the imagery. We decided to ask some brides and photography-friends for better questions and put together a list of all those questions you really want to ask, and all those things we really want you to know.

12 questions to ask a photographer

Before you can ask the questions, you have to do some homework. How do you pick a good photographer when there are hundreds to be found online? First, look for images and find out who shot them. A forum or blog that appeal to you will be ideal for finding other brides who have had good experiences. Ask family and friends who recently got married about their photographers and how well they like their service. Obviously photographers local to you will be easier to meet with and probably cheaper than hiring some big gun from out of town.

Once you've got a few photographers that peak your interest, start narrowing it down to a handful of favorites and set up a time to meet them. Make sure you're meeting with the person who will be wielding the camera at your wedding, not a sales consultant or studio owner. With Christopher Paul Photography, you meet both Christopher and Marcy. Christopher and his associate photographer are the ones who will be photographing your wedding, while Marcy runs the studio and is the point of contact throughout the planning process. We feel it is important that you meet with both of us to build the rapport with you and your fiance. 

1. What make you different than all the others? -Single hardest question you could ask any photographer that doesn't have a real vision or mission. You could receive a variety of answers to that question. If you get a cookie cutter answer like, ("I just love photography.") Really? Who doesn't? You'll undoubtedly get cookie cutter photos. If you get a overly cocky answer like, "Well, I am the best!", you'll get someone who is hard to work with and doesn't care about your vision.

At Christopher Paul Photography, our answer is simple. Our goal is to create art for your wedding day! We do this through building a relationship with our clients. You should like & trust your photographer. Not only should you like their images but, you should also like them as a person you can have fun with on the biggest day of your life! That way, you can leave the magic of artistic photo making in the photographer's hands. You will be spending many hours with your photographer during your wedding day, having a fun time is a must. Christopher is talented, artistic and sometimes funny (don't tell him I said so). You'll have a blast being entertained by Christopher all day.

2. How many photos do I get? -Typically your photographer will deliver 50-100 photos for every hour of coverage they provide. Four hundred photos may seem like a lot, but your photographer is preserving all those little details and the moments you missed while you were mingling. Those details are important. Christopher & his assistant go out of their way to capture each special moment and detail.

On average, our clients receive 1200-1500 images from an 8 hour wedding. Of course, we shoot with every wedding with multiple photographers.

3. I love those photos with the blurry backgrounds. Do you do photos like that? How do you get that look?  -You're talking about shallow depth of field. Photographers get that look by using professional lenses that are able to focus tightly on the subject.

Photographers with an eye for art will often use this technique when appropriate. You wouldn't want your entire day photographed in this manner. Sometimes it just puts the icing on the cake with truly special moments. Christopher will always include some of these with your wedding photography.

4. I found one photographer whose images look soft and pastel, one whose images look clean, and one whose images look like they were shot on old film. What's the deal? What style do you most often use? 

-This is all done after the fact in what we call, post production. Every photographer has a different way of editing their images using computer software (the high-tech version of a Photoshop & Lightroom). Most photographers do some basic lighting and color adjustments, but you can also use editing software to create a unique look. Three popular styles right now are:

Clean: lightly processed to appear natural Matte: a low-contrast look with muted pastel colors, similar to vintage film High Contrast: a vibrant look with rich colors that pop You may see all three styles within our studio.  We also create at least one signature edit with every wedding and/or engagement session. A signature edit is another thing that separates us from the others. One of these can take several hours to complete. This was Christophers vision when setting up the shot that day. Here's an example below.


5. My friend just bought a camera.. I can hire them to photograph my wedding to save money right?

-Wedding photography is easy money.. right? We work for one day and rake in the cash, right? We have heard the friend's camera thing time & time again. Honestly, if my friend has a kitchen, should she be your caterer or cake baker?

Most full-time wedding photographers I know, including us, have a working studio, carry over $20,000 worth of photography gear and often work 60-70 hour weeks. (Remember those 800 or the 1500 images from question #2? It takes several full days just to edit those.)

Photography is the only part of your day that lasts forever. Do you want to really trust that to an amateur just to save money? How long do the flowers last? How many times will you wear that dress or look at you invites? There is money you can budget for a professional photographer if you want the day to be remembered forever. You just have to decide what is really important to you over the long haul.

Here's an example of the above photo without any editing...this was straight out of camera. Anyone could have shot this, that is true. That is not art, that is just a photo. With special editing, this did become a piece of art. So, if you want to hire a friend, prepare to edit your own photos. Editing aside, do you think your friend who owns the camera would have the vision or even tried to direct you into getting this shot?

straight out of camera

follow this link to part 2:

Wedding Photography...should I hire a pro or an amateur?

Recently, we had a bridal booth at a local bridal show. As a bride and her maid of honor walked past the booth, I could overhear their conversation. The bride said "No. We don't need a photographer. My friend has a camera and she can do it." Well, that got me thinking. Would a bride ever have a friend make her dress because said friend has a sewing machine? Or, would they not need a caterer because one of their friends has an oven? I seriously doubt it! Using a professional photographer is not just wasted money on one of the biggest days of our lives? Or is it? Lets explore some differences between a friend/amateur who owns a camera and a professional.

There are some obvious differences right away. 1. Knowledge: Most amateurs who own a consumer grade camera really don't know how to use the camera to it's full potential. There is a setting on almost every camera that says Auto. This means you can shoot just about anywhere and the camera is making all the decisions for you. That's fine when you are taking photos of your kids, nature or pets. However, if you do not understand how to change the settings for shooting, in a hotel room where the bride is getting ready, the church where the ceremony takes place, the bright sun or, the usually dark environment of most receptions. If you take a bad photo of your dog, you can try it again. There are no do-overs at a wedding. Miss the first kiss and the bride will be very angry! Any professional photographer that uses their camera in the Auto setting, is not a pro at all! One of the biggest tasks for a professional is being able to understand their environment and manipulating the camera to match the environment. 2. Gear: Most amateurs have one camera and a 1 or 2 memory cards. Professionals travel with a minimum of 2 back-up cameras, dozens of memory cards, several lenses, flash units. Most pros have $10,000 in their camera bag and an assistant or two. Just because we have expensive gear, doesn't mean much unless we know how to put it to use. If we didn't, why would we spend big money?  In an average 8 hour wedding, a professional can fill several memory cards taking thousands of pictures....that's not including their assistants images. 3. Lighting: Amateurs use the little pop-up flash attached to the camera. This is great if you want red eye for any shots with people looking directly into the camera. Those look great! The use of professional flash can light up an entire church or reception. The pop-up flash on a camera only works from 1-15 feet. A photographer doesn't always have the luxury of being 1-15 feet from every shot they take. 4. Post Production: Professionals use tools like photoshop & lightroom to color correct the images and enhance your photos. Amateurs don't really know how to do that. Most amateurs shoot images in jpeg format. Professionals shoot in RAW format. What is the difference? Raw photos allow the photographer to do their magic to to the images in post production. Jpeg images only allow a very limited amount of editing. The difference, side by side, is  not even a real comparison. 5. Vision: To be a great professional photographer, you need to see the shot before you take it. Amateurs just take photos without any thought going into it before it happens. A good or great wedding photographer doesn't wait for the shot to present themselves. They anticipate what is about to happen and get in position to get the shot before it ever happens.

These are just some basic things to consider before asking your friend who owns a camera to shoot your wedding. Otherwise, ask your friend who has a sewing machine to make your dress. To many times I've heard brides say, I wish we had hired a pro. We didn't even get our photos. That means nothing to remember, no pretty prints hanging on your walls or a heirloom wedding album. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Should you budget for a wedding photographer? Only you can decide that! Before you spend $3k-10k on a dress, ask yourself if you want cherished photos of you wearing it. Wedding photography...important or not.

Top 5 things to ask wedding photographers at the meeting.

In the previous post we discussed things to help decide who to meet with. So, let’s assume you have determined, they are available for your date, they are within your budget, you like their style, they are professional. Now we will get into what to ask when you actually meet with potential wedding photographers. Take notes as they answer your questions so you can compare their answers to each other and this list.  

  1. What packages do you offer?

Most photographers offer a few different packages designed to save you money by bundle services. That’s how you get the biggest bang for your buck! Pretty good rule of thumb, the more a photographer is able to deliver with their packages, the greater chance they are the real deal. Amateurs & Weekenders are not able to deliver premium services or products.


  1. Do you touch up/edit all my photos?

This should not be taken to mean “photoshop”. That is just one of many photo editing programs. If they can’t answer that question with a yes, you should say thank you and move on. Do you really want to spend money on photos that look like they were taken from a cell phone? At minimum, there should be basic edits done to your photos such as, lighting, color and any other corrections needed.


  1. Have you ever shot at my location or venue before? (if not, will you scout it before my wedding?)

Obviously, professionals have been to many different venues so, there’s a possibility they have been to your location. Great. If they haven’t, you really want them to. This is essential to being truly prepared for your wedding. Every venue has its challenges. Why not be prepared for those? This is something I do for every venue. I even go so far as to take a few photos during my visit so, I have a good working knowledge of the space. I promise most don’t do this. The time it takes is so worth it to ensure a flawless event.


  1. How long after my wedding will my photos be ready?

There are many schools of thought on the answer to this question. My personal opinion is that anything more than 8 weeks is excessive. In today’s fast paced world, isn’t sooner better than later? My goal is to deliver my client’s photos 2 weeks after their wedding. By the time 6-8 weeks roll around, the buzz from your wedding has long been forgotten about by your guests. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see and share your photos right after the honeymoon? That is hard to find. If you get your images in 6-8 weeks, you should be happy. Too many times I’ve heard, “we still don’t have our photos…”. I hear that from couples who have been married 1-20 years.


  1. Do you have back-up equipment?...a back-up plan?

Your photographer should have a minimum of one back-up camera with back-up lenses and flash. Be wary at those who don’t answer that question with an immediate Yes! Part two of that question, a back-up plan… what if for some reason, your wedding photographer has an emergency the day of your wedding? Do they have a back-up plan? Your wedding photography will be ruined if they don’t have a fill in. In my studio, we always shoot with two photographers no matter what. The odds of both of us not making it is enormous. We also have a back-up on call for every wedding. Don’t you deserve that kind of commitment from your photographer?


Now, when you search around google, bing or yahoo, you will no doubt find questions everyone thinks you should ask potential photographers. Some have value and some are worthless!

What kind of equipment do you use?  Worthless! Does it matter? Do you know the difference between camera models and hundreds of lenses? This question always kills me. Do you ask your auto mechanic what kind of wrenches he uses? Do you really have opinions about various brands anyway? Anyone can go and buy the best camera in the world. Do they know how to use it? Leave this question out. Whether or not they have a back-up is far more critical than camera brand or model.

Do you have liability insurance?

This is a good question. If one of your guests were to trip over the photographers gear and they did not have insurance, you could be held liable in court. If your photographer does have insurance, their policy would cover such an incident.

Will you create a detailed shot list?

Also a good question but, I say this should be a given. Before you ever get to this point, this should have been previously discussed. I can’t even imagine a photographer saying no to this. No matter what, each couple at every wedding has at least a few specific photos they really want. This list should be made by you and given to your photographer prior to your wedding. If you or want or Mom wants some “posed/formal” photos and your photographer won’t do them or can’t get them done in a timely manner, they probably are not a good choice.

Are you my actual photographer?

To me this is senseless but, necessary. If you are meeting with a company that has several photographers, you should be meeting with whomever will be there on your day. If not, you’ll have a total stranger on your wedding day trying to capture your most cherished and intimate moments. I prefer to get to know you at the initial meeting and even more so on the day of your engagement session. This helps me know exactly what to do on your wedding day. You will also be at ease on your wedding day knowing what to expect from me.



With these questions, you should be able to sift through your initial list of wedding photographers and narrow them down. My opinion… follow the above blueprint and make sure you put everything in writing. You should have a contract with them just like every other vendor you have. If they meet or exceed that criteria, you are probably making a smart decision.

Wedding Photography Style Examples

In my last post I listed a few different styles of wedding photography that wedding photographers use to capture the story that is a wedding.I decided to show an example of each to further illustrate what you might see with each style.

photo journalisticPhoto-Journalistic Wedding Photography Style



Modern ClassicModern Classic Wedding Photography Style



4-425-3Fine Art Wedding Photography Style



Epic Wedding PhotoEpic Wedding Photography Style

Top 5 things to consider when deciding which wedding photographers to meet with

Based on my experience in the wedding industry, I will discuss how to narrow down choices for hiring a wedding photographer in an order that makes sense. This list takes into consideration that you have found a few potential wedding photographers by, doing some searching online, finding photos online that peak your interest or have a referral or two from friend’s weddings. How do you choose? You need to set up meetings with potential photographers. Here are the next steps to help you find the right photographer to meet with and possibly hire to capture your cherished day.

  1. Are they available for my day? Should absolutely be your first question before you meet. If they are not available, don’t waste your time. Before you ask, what are your packages and pricing?, you should be telling them your wedding day. Does pricing matter if they are not available? The first question a photographer will ask is, “what is your wedding date?” So, why not speed up the process by telling them your date first when making inquiries. Why meet and fall in love with a photographers work and them not even be available?
  2. Are they within my budget? Don’t meet with any photographer unless you have a general idea of their pricing. Some photographers list their prices online. Be mindful about hidden costs. On their websites, some photographers say, “Starting at $xxxx. This at least lets you know if they are within your budget for their beginning cost. If that number is higher than you have budgeted for photography, eliminate them from your list.
  1. Do you have more examples of your work? The only acceptable answer to that question is, “Yes!” If not, why would you even consider them? They should indicate you will see more portfolio work and album examples at the meeting. If that’s not the case, they are not really a professional. Don’t worry about them sending you a link to some online album. You should want to see their examples in person.
  2. What is the photographer’s creative style? As you search google for a wedding photographer, you’ll hear terms like photojournalistic, classic, fine art and…a new one, epic. What’s the difference? Why should you want to know? Photojournalistic…candid, documentary, natural light.  This style is not geared towards making an album. This means there are no real posed photos and you get photos showing what happened, as it happened, regardless of background or surroundings. Classic….posed, formal, modern, traditional. This is what you grew up looking at and probably what your parents had. This is what Mom generally sees when envisioning your wedding. This style lends itself well to having albums made from your photos. Fine art…artistic, creative, natural light. This is a very new category that really never existed before digital photography took over. This make this very hard to define but, when you see it, you’ll know! In addition to working well for amazing wedding albums, it is perfect for creating wall art for your home. Epic…artistic, editorial, modern, dramatic. I’m sure you have an idea already what this is. Epic wedding photos are very technically perfect and offer astonishing images completely perfect for large prints hanging on your walls. This tends to be very set up and specific. Locations that have incredible architecture or landscapes, are perfect for epic wedding photos. These photos often take time to set up and need to be staged. Expect that will need enough time built into your day for this.Sometimes, you’ll run into photographer like myself that uses a Hybrid Style. I know another term… no worries. This just means they use a blend of styles to tell your story. I find myself using all the styles regularly for every wedding.
  1. Full time or weekend warrior? Now this is a slippery slope. Most of us photographers start out as a weekend wedding photographer. However, when I did I was not charging what I do today. Weekenders are building their craft and portfolios. There is nothing wrong with that. You have to decide if you want to trust your wedding to someone who has honed their craft enough to be a full time wedding photographer or someone who’s trying to get there. There’s usually a drastic difference in price and what’s offered from a professional or a part-timer. Professionals use professional cameras, tend to offer beautiful albums & professional prints and, bundled wedding packages. In most cases, the weekend warriors use consumer level cameras and offer your photos on a disc with basic edits looking like IPhone photos.

Having the answers to these questions will help you decide who to even meet with. Stay tuned for the next post. I will help you ask the right questions at the meeting.

Top 5 things to consider when planning your wedding...


When planning a wedding, there are literally hundreds of things to consider. Since having been a part of many weddings, I decided to put together a list of things to consider for your big day. Assuming you have already picked a date, this list will help prioritize the most critical things for a successful wedding day.

1. Budget

The average cost of today's weddings is about $28,000. Sounds like a lot but, that goes fast! Don't go buying everything you think is cute for your wedding day. Your budget will evaporate faster than you can say I DO. Instead, make a list of whats most important and spend accordingly. You don't want to wind up using your gifts to pay back your wedding expenses.

2. Photographer

Yes, I put this ahead of the dress! A quality photographer will not only capture the biggest day of your life but, also provide you with your first family album. I am not talking about a photo book that you can make online or at your local drugstore. Instead, a professional wedding photographer can make you a beautiful modern album that will provide you with incredible lasting memories. Wedding photographers are not a cheap expense. However, you are essentially planning a $28,000 one day party. You have to ask yourself, do I want to remember this forever?

3. Wedding Party/Guest List

After you announce your engagement, you can bet your close friends will be wondering who's going to be included. That is the first step in determining your guest list. After you decide who will stand up for you and the family you have to invite, your list will be well on it's way to filling up fast. Based on your budget, you have to keep the guest list to a manageable number. You can expect 10-15% of those invited no to RSVP.

4.  Venue

Deciding where to hold the party of a lifetime is no easy task.  You will have to visit some places that are available for your day. They will wine & dine you trying for your business. The venue should be all about the food and the atmosphere. If you have a guest list of 200 and the venue can only hold 150, trim your guests or don't even waste your time visiting them. Most venues have a preferred vendor list. They can actually help you find other vendors like DJ's and florists.

5. The Dress

If you're a brides who dreams of shopping at Kleinfeld's in New York, the dress may be first on your list. However, today's bride spends her own money on the wedding. This means, your dress is still very important but should not dominate the day as far as cost goes. Every bride has a vision of looking more amazing than any other bride on her wedding day. The reality is, you future husband will be blown away by you no matter if your wearing a couture dress or one right off the rack. Truth is, unless you are marrying David Tutera, the groom will never know who your dress was designed by. Say yes to a budget friendly dress.