Vendor Spotlight: Van Wyhe Photography

Thursday, August 9, 2012
Vendor Spotlight
About our company:
We are Gabriel and Jaci Van Wyhe  - a husband and wife photography team based in the Seattle/Tacoma area.  Simply, we love to capture the most precious moments of life and love in images that will communicate the unique story of each of our couples.  No two couples and no two wedding day stories are the same, and being able to see and capture the unique details and personalities of our couples is what we do.

We want to be more than  “just the photographer” to our couples - we want to get to know each of them, to help them plan out the schedules and details of their event, and to be a support to them on their wedding day.  We want to celebrate the wedding day with them and to give each of our couples the images that will bring them back to the beauty and passion of their wedding day again and again. We are capturing life and creating art together and there should always be joy in that.

What makes us Unique:
Every photographer has a different and unique “eye” – in that they see every moment and location differently.  It’s always fun to go through the images that my wife and I capture at a wedding and to see how different and complimenting they are.  I tend to capture the general moments and setting of the wedding very well, while my wife captures the small details and intimate moments in amazing ways.  Our couples choose us because our eye in capturing images excites then and resonates with them.  Not every couple is going to love our work, but the couples that do are the ones we want to work with – because we get to share in the excitement of capturing and sharing our art with couples that connect with those images in a powerful way.

In an age of “batch processing” where many photographers are running all the images they shoot through programs that applies a specific look and they never spend the time to fine tune their images - I edit every single image that I give to my couples, one at a time.  I want to be proud of what I give to a couple and I want to spend that time on each image to make sure the images are as beautiful as I can make them.

We help our couples plan their entire wedding day.  This goes way beyond the typical job description for a wedding photographer – but early on in our business we noticed a pattern when shooting weddings.  The same issues, stresses, and complications where happening at every wedding to every couple and no one was there to prepare them or help them plan for those challenges.  These are all the little things that have nothing to do with photography, but we were so tired of seeing our couples struggle with them!  So we now help every one of our couples create a realistic and effective timeline of their wedding day and go over every detail from when to snack on the wedding day to dealing with family members who are stressed out on the wedding day.

As photographers, we share in one of the most special days in many peoples lives, and we decided we wanted to do what we can to see our couples have the best day possible and to have as much joy as possible on their wedding day.  And we discovered along the way that by doing this, we get to photograph couples who are more relaxed and joyful on their wedding days – making for fantastic pictures as well.

Important tips for selecting a wedding photographer:
In many ways, the digital age of photography has made it much more complicated to find the right photographer for your wedding.  In the film days, you simply found a photographer with the “eye” for capturing the types of images you loved.  Now, you really have to be aware of many other details.  Digital SLRs are so cheap now that almost anyone can pick up a camera and say they are a photographer.  On one hand, this has meant a lot of new and amazing talent entering the photography arena – on the other hand, it means a great number of “photographers” who are using cheap cameras and cheap lenses, and who know very little or nothing about how to shoot in different types of light and capture key moments in difficult and fast paced environments.  It also means that many of the pop up photographers are not being held to the standard of creating a business that is insured and built to last – leaving many brides with photographers who disappear with their deposits because their business failed.  Couples really need to ask the hard questions to make sure they are protected and that the photographer they are hiring has the professional equipment and experience to capture their wedding day in a way that will produce the most beautiful results.

The questions I find that most couples are forgetting to ask, but are so very important:
Do you have liability insurance and is your equipment fully insured?
This is probably the most overlooked of the important questions all couples should be asking.   A professional photographer with professional equipment will come to a wedding with anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 in gear.  If something should happen to that gear (theft, fire, damage) the week before your wedding, will the photographer be able to replace it all and be prepared for your big day?  It’s unlikely if they are not insured.

Memory cards do go bad!  Any professional photographer who has been doing this for any amount of time will tell you that they have experienced a memory card failure.  Even with the high end cards (shock, heat, freeze proof and water resistant) card failure happens.  To have the images salvaged off of a failed card can cost up to $7000.  If a couple hires a uninsured photographer, it is likely the photographer will simply refund the couple and count the images as lost.  While an insured photographer will be covered for such a situation.

Many venues require the vendors that a couple brings in for their wedding to have a million dollars or more in liability coverage.  If your venue finds out your photographer does not have insurance, they may bar the photographer from shooting on your wedding day, leaving a couple with no pictures.

These are just a few of the reasons to make sure your photographer is insured – and based on what we are seeing in the photography field, I would estimate that less than half of those claiming to be professional photographers have any type of insurance.

What is the model of the cameras you shoot with?
Your first thought might be: “I don’t know anything about cameras so why would I ask?”  The type of gear a photographer uses on your wedding day can make all the difference in the quality of your images.  All cameras are NOT created equal!

Sure, a wedding day, outside, at the perfect time of the day to capture the perfect light and a wedding without any surprises or without very many spontaneous moments can be captured by any camera and you may see these weddings on a photographers blog – however, over the years, I have learned that it is a very rare wedding that meets all of those conditions and most weddings will have fast paced moments in changing light conditions with a combination of outdoor and indoor locations in unpredictable weather conditions (especially here in Washington).  So in the cases of the vast majority of weddings, a professional grade camera is really needed to truly capture the event.

A low end digital SLR is actually designed to inhibit professional use.  The access to settings and the speed of changing those settings on a consumer grade SLR can make it nearly impossible to capture many key moments at the average wedding.  Also, the sensor size in a professional SLR is up to twice the size of the sensor consumer SLR (i'm not talking about megapixels which have very little to do with true image quality, but the physical size of the sensor in the camera) – this means the pro camera can capture more detail, have far better images in low light and can use professional lenses designed for large sensors, which will not be fully compatible with consumer grade SLR cameras.  There are many other very important differences between a consumer SLR and a Pro SLR.  The point is, a photographer who got their camera at Costco or Walmart verses one who has invested in a professional grade camera says a lot about the photographer and their capabilities to capture all the moments of your wedding day.

So what do you do?  Simply ask.  Write down the brand and model number of the cameras the photographer uses and then go look them up on  Its that simple!  At this time, both Canon and Nikon (the two camera manufactures leading the market) have set a clear price point between their cheaper consumer grade SLR cameras and the Professional Grade cameras.  If the camera the photographer shoots with cost less than $2500 for just the camera body(no lenses with the camera), then they are almost certainly shooting with a consumer grade camera with a small sensor and limited capabilities.  The professional grade cameras typically cost anywhere from $2800 to $7000.  Again, it really does make a difference.

Do you have a backup camera in case something happens to one of your cameras?
The list of things that can go wrong with and happen to a photographers camera is a very very long one.  Water damage, being dropped, getting stolen at the wedding, electrical or software malfunction, etc.  A professional photographer should always have at least one backup camera in case their main camera has an issue on the wedding day.

How many weddings have you shot?Many couples ask: “how long have your been doing photography?” but the question doesn’t actually give the couple a good idea of the photographers skill level at a wedding. 
Weddings are considered by many photographers one of the most difficult areas of photography.  A hundred different moments the day of the wedding that must be captured with no second chances in changing light that the photographer has no control over – all spread over 8 hours of constant shooting in multiple locations.  A photographer can shoot for years, but if your wedding is the fifth wedding they have ever shot, the odds are they will struggle to keep up with the pace and capture all of the moments you want.

I remember when I shot my 100th wedding looking back at all the weddings before and realizing that there was a significant difference in my skill level for every 10 weddings I had shot.  I was much better at 20 weddings than I was at 10 – and in a totally different place when looking at my 30th wedding compared to my 80th

I know photographers who have been shooting weddings longer than I have, but only shoot a few weddings a year.  How long is not nearly as important as how many in my opinion.

Will my images be fully edited like the ones I see on your blog and web site?
There is a major trend right now where the images a photographer gives to their couples are barely touched up at all – then the photographer chooses their favorite 20 shots, fully edits those and posts them on their site and blog and never even gives those images to the couple.  This means that what you see on the photographer’s site is not even close to an accurate representation of what you will get from the photographer.

At this point, I would guess that well over half of all photographers are doing this and most couples have no idea to even ask.

The new wedding photography trends:
Film, film, and more film.  The digital age of photography has opened up whole new possibilities in photography.  From low light shooting that would have been impossible 10 years ago to the ability to edit and manipulate images in a way never imagined in the age of film.  However, something was lost.  The feel of film images, the dynamic range of light not possible with even the best digital cameras, and that sense of texture and softness to the picture. 

Because of this loss, many photographer are actually going back to shooting film – or, they are finding ways to edit their pictures to replicate as much as possible the feel and look of film with their digital images.

I only shoot film now for personal projects.  However, I have edited entire weddings in a way to draw out the feel and look of film to compliment the images to the type of wedding.  It isn’t right for every wedding in my opinion, but when done well, it can add something to the wedding pictures that beckons back to something very much missed in the overly perfect and HD images produced by a digital camera.
Contact information:                                                                                                                         Van Wyhe Photography     
Gabriel Van Wyhe                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Here are just a few of Van Wyhe's favorite images:

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