Why Book Michael Caswell as Your Wedding Photographer?
You love my pictures
At least I assume this is the case, as you’ve probably already looked through my portfolio and are still here! Though many photographers work in a documentary style these days, each will have their own subtle (or not so subtle) differences in how they capture events… lens selection, composition, lighting technique, timing, and editing all play a role. I’m immensely proud of my portfolio, which I believe consists of beautiful images that purely capture the essence and emotion of those moments, in an aesthetically pleasing and artistic (yet not excessively so) manner.
As in many cases when researching a purchase, whether it be a car, a house, or a pair of shoes, as you are looking through your options, certain ones will instantly appeal to you visually more than others. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is that you like about them, but you are somehow undeniably drawn to their aesthetic. When choosing your wedding photographer, this kind of positive first reaction should be near the top of your list of criteria. Here's a pleasant email reply I received from the mother of a bride who had inquired about a date for which I was already booked, which perfectly illustrates this point:
"Michael, thanks for the prompt response. We are disappointed you are already booked, but not surprised. I just want to let you know, that we have exhaustively researched photographers online, and you were #1 on our list! Both my daughter and I came to the same conclusion. There are many talented photographers out there, but your work caught our attention because you capture what we are looking for in wedding photographs. I always like to give people feedback, especially when they make the top of the list of hundreds of photographers to select from."
By nature, I'm a modest and humble person, and I would never go so far as to boldly label myself the best wedding photographer in New Orleans, particularly given the fact that this city has so many amazingly talented photographers to choose from. And as the above comment perfectly demonstrates, "the best" means different things to different people, as individual tastes can vary dramatically... one photographer's style might look delightfully light and airy to one person but be considered washed out by someone who prefers dark and moody imagery, while yet another will think that photographs of that style are drab and dull. And thus, what one person considers to be the best photographer may very well be viewed as mediocre or just average to another.
But given the many complimentary remarks and reviews I continue to receive from my clients, their friends, and their families, along with my own honest assessment of the quality of my work, I am perfectly comfortable saying that I consider myself to be among the best, within the top 10 wedding photographers in New Orleans.
Wedding photography is my full-time occupation, not a side-job
I'm one of a relatively small number of New Orleans wedding photographers who earn a living at this craft full-time. Of course this does encompass much more than merely shooting the actual events on weekends, as during the week my time is spent editing images, designing albums
, shooting engagement
and bridal portrait sessions
, maintaining and preparing camera gear, having consultations with clients, and other aspects of running the business.
But this being my full-time job enables me to structure my workload and time off so that I am fresh and well-rested for that coming weekend’s events, rather than being mentally and physically exhausted from having just come off a grueling 40+ hour work week at a regular day job (in addition to having to find the time to cram in all the above mentioned ongoing tasks associated with the business). It allows me to be completely focused on my clients in a way that would not otherwise be possible.
In short, because photography is my full time job, when the weekend arrives I do not need to put my weekday job out of my mind and "get my head in the game" to be ready to document your day, because I'm already there!
Another benefit is that I am more accessible during the week. If you have a question or concern that you want to discuss over the phone, I'm usually reachable during the day and am free to take the time to talk with you. I've booked many events over the years because of the simple fact that I answered the phone!
It's also worthy to note that although I do other types of photography on occasion (family portraits, commercial work, etc.), I primarily specialize in weddings (by choice, because these wonderful events are what I most enjoy shooting), and the bulk of my work consists of weddings and wedding-related portraits.
I have plenty of experience
I'm entering my 14th year in business, and there isn’t much in the way of weddings that I haven’t seen or encountered during this time. Experience is crucial in this line of work. Anyone with a reasonably good sense of composition, basic knowledge of their equipment, and good ambient light to work with can create nice photographs in a relaxed environment. But weddings often do not take place in perfect light or otherwise under ideal photographic conditions, and are almost always dynamic, fast-paced events that are anything but relaxed (from the photographer’s perspective at least).
While a novice portrait photographer has the luxury of being able to leisurely work through any technical problems or photographic challenges that come up during a session, there’s no pause button at a wedding, and it is essential to have someone who is intimately familiar with the flow of these events and is accustomed to dealing with the unexpected. Likewise, having a friend who enjoys taking pictures and happens to own a good camera document the most meaningful day of your life is almost always not going to end well, and many instances of lingering hard feelings and ruined friendships have resulted from the aftermath of such arrangements.
To be able to do this job well, one must have a thorough familiarity with the widely varied aspects of wedding ceremonies and receptions, a keen sense of observation for what needs to be captured, along with the artistic vision and diverse set of technical skills needed to create beautiful images in challenging conditions. Wedding photographers must be well-versed in multiple facets of photography, including photojournalism
, still life, and portraiture
Lastly, it's not all just about the photography. Even a great photographer will not be successful with weddings if they do not also possess good business and organizational skills. Stories appear in the news (nationally, and occasionally locally) about wedding photographers and videographers who disappear, abandoning their clients and leaving them without their priceless pictures or video. I believe in most cases, there is not a premeditated and willful intent to defraud their clients, but rather these incidents are the result of them not managing their time well, perhaps trying to juggle the demands of the business while also working a separate full-time job, and they simply get overwhelmed as the unfinished post-processing tasks build up when they get busy. In other cases, poor data storage practices may have caused them to irretrievably lose their clients images or footage.
Having been in this line of work full time for well over a decade and averaging about 40 weddings a year, I've proven myself competent and capable of handling the pre-wedding planning and organizational tasks, shooting the event itself, and the post-wedding editing and album production work in an orderly, efficient, and timely manner.
All of this knowledge and experience cannot be obtained by just reading a book, attending a seminar, or watching a series of instructional videos on a website, nor can it adequately come from having photographed a few (or even a hundred) weddings, and I am proud of the many years and much effort I have put into learning and perfecting the creative, technical, and production management skills that this craft requires.
I am moderately priced
You should not select your photographer solely based on price. Of course, the undeniable reality is that most couples have a budget range they need to stay in, but your photographs are one of the few elements of your big day that will have a life far beyond the event itself, so this is the one area of your budget that should be granted a certain degree of flexibility. In terms of pricing
among wedding photographers in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf South
region, you’ll find that I am comfortably in the mid-range, not the cheapest, but certainly not the most expensive either.
Though “affordable” is a relative term that means different things to different people, a recurring theme in many of the reviews my brides and grooms have written for me is that they considered me to to be affordably priced, and, perhaps even more importantly, that they felt I represented a very good value for what they paid.
It’s a non-starter if you find a photographer whose images appeal to you but their starting price is so far out of your budget that there is no feasible way you would be able to afford them. However, if you are considering a photographer who would be a little more than what you expected to spend but you absolutely love their images, and another whose price is within your budget but you feel their work is merely “ok”, there's no question that it would be worthwhile to spend just a little more to get pictures you will be happier with.
Remember, this is a long-term investment. When you are looking at your photographs a year or two (or twenty) from now, you will not remember this little bit more that you paid for them. But if you hire an inexpensive photographer based on price alone and receive images of poor quality, the painful sting of regret that you feel will be renewed every time you see these pictures.
I personally photograph every wedding
A somewhat common practice in this industry is for a studio to accept numerous bookings for a given day and time, and then seek out other photographers who they subcontract to actually shoot these events. This is understandable from a purely business-minded point of view, as I know firsthand the feeling of leaving money on the table when I get repeated inquiries for dates for which I am already booked, and I would love to be able to say yes to these couples even though I would have to assign their event to another photographer.
While there is nothing ethically wrong with this (as long as it is fully and openly disclosed to the couple in advance of signing the contract), and would result in significantly more revenue if I were to adopt this business model, it’s simply not a practice that I would feel comfortable engaging in. I take great pride in the images I create and in the high level of personal service I provide to my clients, and would not feel right about making it standard procedure to send other photographers (no matter how good I thought they were) to handle the single-most important aspect of the job. In short, if you book Michael Caswell Photography, I will personally be the one who captures your event, period.
I bring ample backup equipment
This is one area that less experienced photographers often cut corners on. Professional-quality equipment is expensive, and while one camera body and a few lenses might be sufficient for portrait work (where the consequences of equipment failure would amount to a relatively minor inconvenience), for weddings it is absolutely mandatory to have backup gear. For a wedding photographer just starting out as a part-time business on the side, it can be very tempting to try to get by without purchasing professional-level redundant cameras, lenses, and lighting gear (or maybe just having an old or consumer-grade camera on hand as a spare, but one that would not be adequate to shoot professionally with) and they may very well be able to get away with this for a while. But sooner or later, this luck will run out, and you don't want it to be during your event.
I even consider having just one backup camera to be insufficient, so I carry two cameras on me throughout most of the wedding day, with a third fully capable professional-level camera in my bag, along with an assortment of professional quality lenses of overlapping focal lengths, and multiple pieces of lighting gear.
On most jobs I'll also have a completely separate small kit consisting of an additional professional camera body as well as several lenses and flashes, which remains in the trunk of my car as an emergency backup of last resort.
I am obsessively careful about protecting your images
I fully recognize that have in my care what are among the most important and prized photographs my clients will ever have, so the memory cards and other storage devices that contain these images are treated like the priceless and irreplaceable crown jewels that they are.
It has long been a self-imposed and unbreakable requirement of mine that any camera I consider purchasing for photographing weddings must have the ability to capture images to two memory cards simultaneously, so even before I leave a wedding I have a backup of that event's photographs. That largely addresses of one of the most common reasons for lost images, malfunctioned and corrupt memory cards. Before I depart the venue at the conclusion of the event, these cards are physically separated, with one set remaining in my camera bag, and the other set being secured in a pouch which stays on my person until I get home. That mitigates another very common way images are lost, when the cards are simply misplaced, or if the photographer's bag (with the only copy of the images) is stolen out of their car when they stop to grab a bite to eat on the way home... separating the cards drastically reduces the chances of this happening.
That night, no matter how late it is and how badly I want to go to bed, the images get downloaded from the cards onto my computer's storage system, and multiple backups are made. Not the next day, or whenever I end up getting around to it later in the week, but immediately, without fail. An off-site cloud backup is initiated at that time as well, which is typically completed by the following morning. If I happen to leave the house before the cloud backup is finished, I bring a backup with me. Lastly, as an even further precaution, the duplicate memory cards from the cameras are set aside and are not reused for other events until after the images have been edited and delivered.
Is all this overkill? Maybe. But even though it’s impossible to guarantee with absolute certainty that no images will ever be lost, I take great care in doing everything possible to protect my clients’ precious photographs, even if it's far beyond what would be typically expected, and I can proudly say that after shooting well over half a million pictures professionally over the past 13 years, I’ve never had a single instance of lost images. Money is not the main barrier to taking these kinds of precautions, as storage for digital images, while not cheap, is not as prohibitively expensive as it once was. It’s simply a matter of fully recognizing and embracing how important these priceless photographs truly are, being tech-saavy enough to be aware that storage devices are prone to unpredictable and catastrophic failure, and putting thought into predicting and mitigating any other unforeseen ways in which images could be lost. With that mindset, the effort and time that I put into taking care of your pictures to this extent becomes an automatic, reflexive act.
I’m easy to work with
I hear this from my brides and grooms (and their friends and family) all the time, both at the conclusion of the event and in subsequent reviews. I get the job done while not being abrasive, pretentious, bossy, or rude (though I will be assertive when I absolutely have to, such as if we’re up against a tight time restriction to do the formal group shots after the ceremony). I’m flexible and able to adapt when the wedding day starts to stray from the previously planned timeline (is it often does), and when other unforeseen events occur.
I take pride in going above and beyond what is expected of me. One off-the-wall example of this was during a wedding at Latrobe's in New Orleans in 2017 where the groom pulled me aside with a somewhat panicked look on his face during the reception, telling me that his pants had just split badly while he was on the dance floor. "No problem," I told him, and darted out to my car to retrieve the spare pair of black pants that I keep in my trunk. And for a small elopement in 2018, when a distraught out-of-town bride emailed me a few days prior to their date to tell me that their appointment at the Algiers Courthouse had abruptly been canceled, asking for advice on officiants and alternative locations, I was able to make some phone calls and help her get her wedding back on track. Of course, I'm a photographer, so I can't promise you that I'll always be able to provide meaningful assistance in emergency situations such as these, but my point is that if I have the ability to help with things even outside the direct scope of wedding photography, I will give it my best shot, and you'll never hear me say, "sorry, that's not my job."
I love the fact that I very often hear compliments from couples and their guests as the reception is ending, along the lines of "you did such a great job, you were so wonderful to work with". Think about that. This is before they've even seen a single photograph from the wedding, and they are complimenting me on how great of a job I did! I consider that to be an incredibly revealing statement. Their assumption is that the pictures will look good, but just their experience of working with me is enough to yield such a positive reaction, which is akin to someone saying how great a restaurant was before they've even tasted their food. And once my couples have seen their pictures, they often tell me that they are amazed I was able to capture all of those moments, as they don't even remember seeing me very much during the event.
A large portion of my bookings come from referrals... family members and friends of past brides and grooms, as well as event planners and the management of venues that I've worked with repeatedly and who know I do a good job, and that I strive to help make the event go as smoothly as possible.
I have great reviews
More important than any of these things that I say about myself are the wonderful compliments I get from my couples. I've received consistently positive reviews over the years on sites such as The Knot, Yelp, Wedding Wire, and Google, and for the past six years straight I've been voted The Knot's Best of Weddings award thanks to great reviews from real brides and grooms who have gotten married in the New Orleans area over the years.
Common themes of these reviews include beautiful photographs, how enjoyable and cooperative I am to work with, good communication before and after the wedding day, discreteness and unobtrusiveness when I work, an artistic eye without being pretentious, flexibility, a keen sense of observation, fast turnaround on delivering the edited photographs, and the (good to have) problem they have in narrowing their selection of favorite photos down to a suitable number for their album or for printing to display in their home.