WEDDINGS

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I'm Elizabeth Gelineau, a photographer, dreamer, and accidental entrepreneur. Based in my hometown of Mobile, Ala., I photograph portraits, weddings and events on both sides of Mobile Bay. Grab a cup of coffee (or other beverage of your choice) and enjoy browsing around. I'm so glad you stopped by!

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Open Post

The Organized Bride Series I begin every wedding day by photographing bridal details. After I arrive and greet everyone, this is the first thing I ask for. The time dedicated to bridal details is my warm up time. It’s when I’m figuring out what the light is like in the getting ready room. It’s when […]

April 17, 2019

The Organized Bride Series

Two wedding bands and diamond engagement ring on wedding invitation.

I begin every wedding day by photographing bridal details. After I arrive and greet everyone, this is the first thing I ask for. The time dedicated to bridal details is my warm up time. It’s when I’m figuring out what the light is like in the getting ready room. It’s when I’m getting a sense for how things are flowing that day. Is everything running on schedule, or do I sense that there is any stress? This “detail” time may seem insignificant, but it is SO valuable to how I approach the whole rest of the day! Beginning the wedding day without photographing the bridal details would feel like starting a tennis match without warming up. Focusing on the inanimate objects helps me to focus on what lies ahead.

But what am I photographing during this time that’s labeled “Bridal Details” on the timeline? I consider “Bridal Details” to be any small element that the bride will either wear, or carry with her as part of her wedding day. This typically includes the wedding gown, veil/hairpiece, shoes, jewelry, garter, wedding bands, engagement ring, and bouquet, as well as the bride’s something borrowed and/or something blue if it’s not covered by one of those other items. Additional items that I love to photograph along with these details are the invitation suite, wedding program, the bride’s perfume bottle, and custom ring boxes! These additional items help to fully capture the feeling of your wedding day. They also help to tell the story of your day in your wedding album!

The Benefit of Adding Extra Elements

I love when my brides bring extra elements for me to incorporate into their bridal detail photos. This helps make the detail shots even more personal and editorial. Vintage trays, ring boxes, and ring dishes are all wonderful additions. I also love when I have a few extra stems of greenery to work with. Some florists will leave these when they deliver the bouquets. Silk ribbons are a fabulous addition to bridal detail photos. They help connect all the smaller elements to the colors of the wedding. One spool is really all you need!

One tip for extra elements is to make sure they’re relatively small. Larger items will pull attention away from your small details, so select items that will compliment, not distract from your bridal details. If you gather a few items, your photographer can select what will work best for styling the detail shots.

Vintage tray filled with a boutonniere, perfume bottle, ring box, rings and handwritten letter.Blue monogrammed Mrs. Box ring box with vintage gold ring.Maison Louis Marie No 04 perfume bottle

Preparing the Bridal Details

Gather your bridal details together before wedding day. Most items besides the wedding gown and veil will fit into a tote bag or small box. Having everything grouped together (with tags removed from jewelry!) will save a lot of time. It takes quite a bit of time to style and photograph the bridal details. If you have to search for the items when the photographer arrives, you’ll eat into the time for photographing those special items.

Wedding invitation with pearl necklace and wedding rings sitting on top of it. Grey and white wedding invitation suite with white boutonniere and gold shoes.Blue suede shoes

Groom Details

Grooms can have special details too! Groom details typically include: the boutonniere, cuff links (if they are personal or custom), the tie, a watch and sometimes the shoes. If the bride and groom are getting ready at the same location, I will photograph all the details at the same time.

Brackish bowtie in wood box with gold wedding band on the lidMen's watch with letter addressed to my groom and white and blue thistle boutonniereBrown leather shoes and colorful socks with beer theme and pink bowtie Brown leather shoes with blue tie, silver tie clip and blue vow book in flatlay style

The Bridal Details Checklist

Dress + Veil: Sometimes I photograph the dress first and sometimes I do it last. It depends on the getting ready room and if I need to move things in order to get the dress shot. It usually takes me longer to find a great spot to hang the dress than it does to actually photograph it! Wedding day tip: Steam the dress the night before, but don’t stress about a few wrinkles. They rarely show on camera.
White wedding dress and blue wedding shoes in the bridal suite at The Pillars of MobileWhite wedding dress hanging from an iron chandelier in a white chapelWhite wedding dress hanging on gold mirror at The Battle House Hotel
Shoes: I usually pair these with the dress photo and with your smaller details. I love seeing the different choices of footwear on wedding days. I am a girl who loves shoes!
Blue wedding shoes, white bouquet and lace veil sitting on a vintage blue velvet chairLace Toms wedding shoesWhite Badgley Mischka bridal shoes with blush pink ribbon
All Three Rings: I love to photograph the wedding bands and the engagement ring together. The detail that I am most often missing on wedding day is the bride’s wedding band. Keep all three rings (your wedding band + his wedding band + your engagement ring) in the bridal suite with your other details. Your Maid-of-Honor can always be in charge of getting your wedding band to the Best Man when we arrive at the ceremony location.
Set of gold wedding bands and diamond engagement ringSet of gold wedding bands stacked on top of wedding invitation with blue text
Invitations & Programs: The invitation suite sets the tone for your wedding day and usually incorporates your wedding colors. I love styling a flatlay using several of the smaller details. The invitations are a great base element for those types of photos. I especially love photographing the wedding rings on the invitation!
Ivory and black wedding invitation suite with calligraphy
Vow Books: If you’re writing your own vows, there’s a good chance you’ve purchased vow books for your wedding day. These definitely belong in your bridal details box if you’re using them! The groom’s vow book can be delivered to him along with the bride’s wedding band before the ceremony. Just make sure you’ve written those vows down the night before the wedding!
Florals: The bride’s bouquet is something I always photograph, but having additional florals like the groom’s boutonnière, or a flower crown are a wonderful addition to bridal detail photos. If your boutonnières won’t be at the same location where the bride is getting ready, ask your florist if you can have a few extra loose floral, or greenery stems for detail photos!
Extras: Silk ribbons, ring boxes, antique trays and other special heirlooms can really add another personal element to your detail photos. I sometimes bring neutral ribbons with me to add into shots, but I love, love, love personal elements like a monogrammed ring box or a vintage tray.
This is what it looks like to photograph bridal details! Thank you to my friend and some-time second photographer, Debby, for taking this behind-the-scenes photo!
I love sharing tips for getting organized with all things wedding day! If you’re a bride-to-be and enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments!

 

Category:

Bridal Details Checklist

For Brides

Open Post

The Organized Bride Series You’ve set the date. You booked the church and reception venue. Your besties are all set to be part of your bridal party. You start to think about sending Save the Dates. That’s when you find yourself visiting a stationery shop and looking at wedding invitations. Chances are that if you’ve […]

February 20, 2019

The Organized Bride Series

You’ve set the date. You booked the church and reception venue. Your besties are all set to be part of your bridal party. You start to think about sending Save the Dates. That’s when you find yourself visiting a stationery shop and looking at wedding invitations. Chances are that if you’ve wandered into one of these shops on a whim, you just might get a little overwhelmed. Since I’m not married, I’ve never had the experience of shopping for wedding invitations, but I know just how many options I considered just for my business stationery box! Who knew there were so many decisions one can make within just one purchase?!

Thankfully, my friend and fellow business owner, Lindsey Stiegler, is an expert on all things stationery! She helped guide me to the perfect selection. It felt like Christmas morning the day I received my stationery box. Every time I pull out a card to send a thank you note, or to welcome a new bride to the Elizabeth Gelineau Photography family, I smile at how perfect the stationery I’m writing on matches me and my personality. The same should be true for your wedding invitations because they truly set the tone for your special day.

I’ve recently been spending a lot of time at Lindsey’s cheerful midtown shop, Soiree Signatures, photographing several of her wedding stationery suites for her online shop. Every time I think I’ve picked a favorite, she brings out another that I love even more! During one of our shoots, I asked Lindsey for her best advice on selecting, ordering and sending out those special invitations. I learned so much about paper just from photographing all these beautiful pieces! Check out all the tips I learned from Lindsey in this post!

Allow Plenty of Time for Printing

I would estimate that the majority of the weddings I photograph have a guest list of roughly 150 to 200 people. If you’re mailing that many invitations, you’re going to need allow for plenty of turnaround time in order to receive your order and mail those invitations to your guests. Lindsey advises ordering your invitations and stationery at least three months ahead of when you want to send them out. Allowing more time is necessary if there will be some assembly required upon arrival. Also, keep in mind that turnaround times can vary depending on which printer your invitations are ordered from. Lindsey says that planning ahead and giving yourself enough lead time on invitations will give you the freedom to order the right invitation stationery and not just the one that will arrive on time.

Save the Dates

Many of my clients choose to use some of their favorite portraits from their engagement session on their Save the Dates, but some prefer a traditional card that will match their wedding stationery. Lindsey recommends sending out Save the Dates so that they will reach your guests six to eight months ahead of wedding day. If you’re planning a local wedding, six months is plenty of time. But for those couples who are having a destination wedding, or a large number of out-of-town guests, you’ll want to lean towards that eight months mark or longer. Ready to order your Save the Dates, but not ready to order your wedding invitations? That’s ok! Lindsey advises selecting a color palette and some basic design elements that can carry across all pieces related to your wedding.

Printing Styles

When you order your wedding invitations, you’ll find yourself choosing a printing style. There are four main styles of printing: Digital, Letterpress, Thermography and Engraving. Before my first shoot at Soiree Signatures, Lindsey taught me about these different styles. Budget is largely a factor in selecting your preferred style and the size of your guest list often determines your budget. Lindsey told me to think of digital printing as flat printing. There are no indentions/raised areas with this type of printing. It is also the most economical option.

Letterpress printing totally has my heart, which is why I ordered letterpress cards in my stationery box. It’s a classic choice and one that is sure to stand the test of time. Letterpress means the words are pressed into the paper, giving a nice texture to the invitation. Letterpress printing also has the additional option of adding gold, silver or rose gold foil.

Engraving also lends texture to the invitation, but it is nearly the reverse of letterpress. With engraving, a custom metal plate is made and the text is pressed into the invitation from the back of the paper, creating a texture that is raised on the front side of the invitation. Engraving is considered the finest of the printing methods. It is also a timeless selection. Fun fact, if you have your invitations engraved, Lindsey lets you keep the plate that was used for printing!

Thermography is similar to engraving and a style of printing that many refer to as “raised” printing. Unlike engraving, thermography does not use a metal plate, meaning it’s more economical if you like the raised look. Thermography does have its limits regarding color and paper types though, so keep this in mind when choosing your printing style.

Letterpress, Thermography and Engraving orders will typically take longer to produce than Digital printing orders. Lindsey recommends keeping this in mind when planning your timeline for ordering and receiving invitations.

What About Calligraphy?

I have always been obsessed with calligraphy! It is one thing I’ve always wanted to learn to do, but I don’t think I have the patience for it. You know those calligraphy videos on Instagram? I could watch those all day long. Why are they so mesmerizing?! When I receive an invitation in the mail that has calligraphy on the envelope, it always feels just a bit extra special. If you’re planning to add calligraphy to your wedding invitation order, you definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute!

The reason calligraphy is so special is because it is handwritten! With traditional pen and ink calligraphy, an actual person is sitting at their desk carefully addressing each and every envelope. Just imagine how much time that takes for an average size wedding with roughly 100 invitations! For this reason, calligraphy services are typically priced per envelope. If you’re looking for the elegance of calligraphy script, but don’t have the budget for traditional calligraphy, ask out options for digital calligraphy.

Calligraphy is not just for invitations! Personalize your wedding with day-of pieces, such as place cards, table numbers and menus. Ask your calligrapher about additional paper details that can add that extra special touch! I personally love a place card! Each time I’m at a wedding that has them, I save mine as a wedding memento.

Fun Extras

There are so many fun things to see inside Lindsey’s shop on Florida Street in Mobile, Alabama. I love popping in when I’m in search of a quick gift (because everyone can use stationery!), or when I find I’ve run low on my thank you note stash.

Once inside Soiree Signatures, you know this is the place to come if you’re planning a party! In addition to all the beautiful papers, they also carry a variety of personalized party items that can be customized to coordinate with any wedding invitation suite. Who doesn’t love a wedding day koozie?! I have collected several from all the weddings I’ve photographed! Other custom items include stickers (for sealing wedding invitations), wax seals and stamps, just to name a few!

Assembly Time & Postage

When my cousin got married a few years ago, a lot of us ladies in the family gathered at her house to assemble her wedding invitations. We had quite an organized team and completed the task in a few hours. In total, it took about eight of us to complete the process in a reasonable time. It was so fun to spend that time together and chat about how excited we were for wedding day. If you have a team that’s organized and can get things done, you’re probably planning to assemble your invitations yourself and that’s awesome!

But, if you’re even just a little pressed for time and don’t have a posse of ladies that can teamwork the whole assembly process, then you may want to consider adding that service to your invitation order. At Soiree Signatures, their White Glove Service gives you the luxury of picking up those invitations and taking them straight to the post office! If you’re a bride who is getting married during a season of life where you’re graduating from college, starting a new job, undertaking a move to another state, or you just have an insanely busy schedule, ask your stationer about assembly services. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you have that extra time!

Don’t Forget Thank You Notes!

You’re receiving gifts at showers. Wedding gifts are arriving on your doorstep daily. You need to write thank you notes before it gets overwhelming. It will get overwhelming if you procrastinate on this all-important task. Get yourself exited about penning those thank you notes, by ordering stationery that coordinates with your wedding invitations. I am personally a fan of a stationery box. In fact, I ordered one for myself! The reason I love the stationery box is because you have the option of customizing four different sets of note cards all within one box.

For brides, this would give you the option to have some cards with your new married name monogram, some with your maiden monogram and some with your future husband’s monogram. If you’re writing thank you notes as you receive gifts, then you may be sending several out before you’re married. A stationery box will give you the flexibility to have some cards to use for pre-wedding and some to use for post wedding. Since your future husband’s name will not change, he will be able to use his set of cards both before and after the wedding.

Writing thank you notes is a task that many brides dread. If you’ve procrastinated on writing those thank you notes, don’t despair. I encourage you to go out and buy yourself some pretty stationery and get writing! Thank you notes are always appreciated by those who receive them and the more personal you can make the note, the better.

Lindsey says that the most important thing to remember when beginning the invitation selection process is that stationers are able to work with all types of budgets. If you know your budget at the outset, that will help your stationer guide you to the right printing style, paper type and design elements.

I love that being in the wedding industry has taught me so much about so many different things. I enjoy being able to pass along that knowledge to all the brides-to-be out there. If you found this post helpful, drop me a note in the comments!

 

Category:

Invitations | Wedding Inspiration

For Brides

Open Post

What You Didn’t See Before Wedding days can fly by in a blur. Sometimes, right after the couple makes their grand exit from the reception, I find myself wondering how the day went by so quickly. I can only imagine how my brides and grooms feel! Thankfully, we have the photos to remind us of […]

December 28, 2018

What You Didn’t See Before

Wedding days can fly by in a blur. Sometimes, right after the couple makes their grand exit from the reception, I find myself wondering how the day went by so quickly. I can only imagine how my brides and grooms feel! Thankfully, we have the photos to remind us of all those fleeting moments and tiny details. When I sort through all the photos taken on a wedding day, I have a folder that I label “Behind the Scenes” for those special shots that won’t make it into my clients’ final galleries, but will make it into this year-end wrap up blog post.

I am usually horrified by the photos I see of myself in “wedding day mode” because for some reason I often look mad. My cheeks hurt from smiling a lot at the end of every wedding, but that smile never seems to be showing in the behind-the-scenes snaps. I also notice that my camera bag causes me to have terrible posture. Definitely something to work on for next year! Despite my horror at looking at photos of myself, these behind-the-scenes shots remind me of how blessed I am to work with such amazing people on wedding days. They help me do my job well and they also help make the days fun. Enjoy this look at our year from a different perspective than you’ve seen before!

I begin almost every wedding day by photographing details in the bridal suite. This is the portion of the day that takes more time than everyone thinks. Styling details is time consuming and requires concentration. I usually focus on those shots while my second photographer takes candids of the bride finishing up her hair and makeup. The dress is usually the first detail I photograph. Finding a place to hang it can be tricky sometimes!

My assistant (and cousin!), Allyson, mans my phone on wedding days. It helps keep me in touch with the wedding planner and my second photographer if we’re all at different locations.

Sometimes she’s an impromptu babysitter. Her two nephews have given her a lot of practice!

We spend the day taking photos, but we also spend a lot of time helping our brides with their dresses.

I have exactly four dresses that I wear to work a wedding…two for spring/summer and two for fall/winter. So if it weren’t for the brides and grooms looking different, you’d think from these photos that I only worked two weddings this year. Allyson has a much more diverse wedding day wardrobe. Maybe I need to have her be my personal shopper as well…

We do a lot of light testing…because nice even lighting is essential for First Looks and portrait time!

My second photographers and assistants also help me get those romantic veil shots that we all love!

And they help me stay on time and remember any important photo requests!

I love all aspects of a wedding day, but the ceremony is ultimately the reason we are there in the first place. My favorite moments on wedding days usually occur during the ceremony. You just can’t beat the joy of those moments!

Did I mention that we think about cake…all day long?

We’ll even help you cut it if you ask! 😉

Side note, sometimes I look REALLY MAD when I look at the back of my camera. I promise that I’m perfectly happy. I just don’t seem to smile when I’m thinking about my camera settings.

Even when I’m frowning at my camera, I’m still like this on the inside!

When it comes to receptions, we don’t fear the dance floor.

And we LOVE Second Lines and grand exits!

Jacob has worked more weddings with me this year than any other second photographer. After a couple years of working together, he practically reads my mind by this point, which is both scary and amazing! He’s usually the one to take individual bridal party portraits, while I focus on the group shots. He’s also a frequent light tester.

Debby was one of my 2018 brides and one of my second photographers this year! She is also my dear friend. I know she’s been secretly waiting for me to share this photo all year long! 😉

We take our jobs very seriously, but we also like to have fun! One time, Jacob couldn’t find me and Allyson in the bridal suite because we were hidden by a wall of dresses! In addition to Jacob and Debby, I also got to work with two other second photographers this year! Anna Filly and Alyx Gardner helped me out during the spring busy season. It was such a treat to work with new friends!

Jacob’s sweet wife, Aubrey, even joined me for a wedding as an assistant!

It was so fun working with both of the Bennetts!

Jacob and Allyson were by my side for the majority of my wedding days. I am so thankful to work with both of them!!! They both have hearts for service and help me take such good care of my clients. They also understand my addiction to Perrier and peanut butter sandwiches. No bride wants a photographer who is thirsty and hangry.

To all of the lovely people who have been following my work for the last year, or years, thank you! I so appreciate you following along! To all of my sweet clients, thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives in this special way! It is truly an honor and a joy to get to serve you! Thank you for making 2018 the best year yet for my photography business! Happy New Year!

Category:

Behind the Scenes | 2018

2018

Open Post

The Organized Bride Series I have written about my love of the bridal session before. It is one of our great Southern bride traditions that I adore. I remember being a little girl and going with my Aunt Diane to one of her wedding gown fittings. It must have been close to the wedding day […]

September 13, 2018

The Organized Bride Series

I have written about my love of the bridal session before. It is one of our great Southern bride traditions that I adore. I remember being a little girl and going with my Aunt Diane to one of her wedding gown fittings. It must have been close to the wedding day because her dress looked perfect! My grandmother hung that bridal portrait in her living room. It remained in the same spot until my grandparents passed away. That’s because the bridal portrait is a timeless treasure.

Brides who choose to embrace the bridal portrait tradition are sure to have a few questions ahead of their session. This is a big moment! They want to get it right. It will likely be the first time they put on their full wedding day ensemble, from the dress and veil, to the shoes and the jewelry. During my time as a wedding photographer there are several questions I get repeatedly. How to prepare for the bridal portrait session is one of those frequently asked questions. I love when my brides ask questions because it allows me an opportunity to help them avoid things that might cause stress. I have developed many tips for a successful bridal session and today I’m sharing those with y’all! Read on for my go-to tips!

 

When to Schedule Your Bridal Session

The scheduling of your bridal portrait session is going to revolve around the final fitting for your wedding dress. We can’t do the session until the dress is ready, so I tell all my brides who are doing bridal sessions to contact me as soon as they get their final fitting date. Once we know when the dress should be ready, we can get a date on my calendar for the bridal session. If we’re doing the session outdoors, scheduling for a month, or two, ahead of wedding day is ideal in case we have to reschedule due to inclement weather. If we are doing the bridal session indoors, weather will not affect our plans, which is a bonus when we’re less than 30 days ahead of wedding day.

How to Pick a Location

There are so many options when it comes to the location for your bridal session. Some brides choose to have their bridal portraits taken at the venue where they will be married, or are having their reception. This will allow their bridal portraits to flow easily into their wedding album, along with the photos from wedding day. Other brides choose to select a location that they love, but aren’t using for their wedding day. Some of my favorites in the Alabama Gulf Coast area include The Pillars, The Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, The History Museum of Mobile, The Mobile Botanical Gardens, Bellingrath Gardens, and The Grand Hotel.

Most locations,  including those mentioned here, will charge a session fee in order to shoot on the property unless you’re also having your wedding at the venue. It is worth it to pay these fees for these great locations because you’re usually given access to a dressing area and the venues are somewhat private, meaning there won’t be a lot of other sessions going on at the same time as yours.

What to Bring

Before your bridal session, think through everything you’ll be wearing on wedding day. The checklist might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget one or two elements if you don’t make a checklist. So take a few minutes to think through the process of getting dressed to ensure you don’t forget something: dress (and any special undergarments), shoes, veil, hair pieces, belt/sash and jewelry. It’s also a good idea to bring a white sheet and some towels in case the ground is moist. We want to protect the dress and shoes from getting dirty! In Mobile we get a lot of rain, so sometimes a white shower curtain is a helpful item to bring along since it will put a waterproof barrier between the dress and the ground. If you’re doing your bridal session outside in a warm month, be sure to bring some bottles of water.

The bridal bouquet is also a great addition to your bridal session! Many florists will have the option to add on a smaller version of your wedding day bouquet for your bridal portraits. Be sure to ask about this option when you’re discussing your bouquet with your florist. I love having the bouquet at the bridal session because it gives you something to do with your hands. It also brings your wedding color palette into your bridal portraits!

Who to Bring

Bridal sessions are always fun when you share the experience with someone who is close to you. Bring your mom, sister or maid-of-honor along to help with moving around in the dress. I always love when the mother of the bride is able to come along. It really makes the experience extra special for the bride and I love having mom’s help for things like veil tosses and fluffing the dress. Be careful of bringing too many people though! One to two helpers is a good number. Inviting your entire bridal party might be a bit overwhelming! Debby really wanted a veil toss picture at her bridal session and Momma Sandy did a great job of helping me out with that shot!

After Your Session

The bridal session is a great trial run! Make note of anything that needs to be different on wedding day. Carefully inspect your dress before you store it away for the next few weeks. If there are bits of grass, pine straw or leaves attached to the hem, make sure to remove them so they won’t stain the dress. If you need to steam out wrinkles do that before wedding week arrives. That is one task that you don’t want to leave to last minute. If you decide you want to wear a different necklace, or make a change with your hair and makeup, you have time to do so! Some brides even choose to do a completely different makeup and hair style for their bridals just for fun. It’s really up to you and how you want to embrace your bridal session!

Want more tips like these? Subscribe to my newsletter and download my e-book for brides!

Have questions about bridal portrait sessions? Let me know in the comments.

Now booking 2019 Weddings! Spring dates are filling up fast!

Contact me for availability!

 

 

Category:

Preparing For Your Bridal Session

For Brides

Open Post

Tips for Printing Your Favorite Photographs Did you know that printing is an art? Consumer print labs are in such abundance today that it’s easy to forget that printing is an art form. My very first job was at a photography studio. I worked in the office (I had no idea I’d one day be a […]

July 27, 2018

Tips for Printing Your Favorite Photographs

Did you know that printing is an art? Consumer print labs are in such abundance today that it’s easy to forget that printing is an art form. My very first job was at a photography studio. I worked in the office (I had no idea I’d one day be a photographer). I remember hearing the lab technician at the studio talk about printing and the difference between consumer and professional print labs. This was back in the day when film was still the main medium used by professional photographers.

I didn’t understand what she meant by the difference. She would mention things about ink and printer quality, but it all went over my head. One day I decided to have a roll of film developed from a trip I’d taken to France. I wanted to frame some of my favorite shots in a collage. So I took my film into work and had some 4x6s printed. When I got those prints home and compared them to the ones in my photo album that were printed at Walmart, I was AMAZED at the difference. The colors were SO MUCH BETTER in the prints from the pro-lab at the studio where I worked. I went back to work the next day and asked why the pro-lab prints were so much better. That was what opened my eyes to the differences between professional print labs and labs that offer free prints by the hundreds.

Do I print all my personal photos at a professional lab? No. But when it’s something special that I’m going to hang on my wall, or place in a tabletop frame, I definitely think it’s worth it to go the pro-lab route. Digital images are included with all of my packages, so I want my clients to feel free to print photos on their own, but there are definitely some tips for getting good results. Today I’m sharing some of those tips with y’all! I’m calling this post Printing 101!

 

It starts with where you print

Where you print your photos matters. Big box stores offer low prices and if you’ve just gotten back from your honeymoon, or that Disney World vacation and have hundreds of photos to print, that might be the best route to go. Don’t let those photos just live on your phone. However, if you’re gifting some photos from your latest portrait session to grandma and grandpa for Christmas, you probably want to be a bit more selective about where you print.

Mpix.com has long been my favorite online source for consumer prints. This is the best online consumer lab that I’ve been able to find and I personally use them to print all my personal prints that I want to put in photo albums just as documentation. They’re the option in between big box stores and professional labs. Their quality has always been consistent for me and the best results I’ve gotten outside of printing from my pro-lab. Locally, we have Calagaz Photo, which is my favorite place to get my personal photos printed when I need them ASAP. Prints size 8×10 or smaller are usually ready within one hour. Larger sizes may take a few days. If you’re local to Mobile, Alabama and need prints quickly, this is the place to go. You can even order them online so you only have to go to the store for pickup.

 

Why is there a price difference?

It comes down to printer, ink and paper quality. Professional labs are going to have the best. Inks and paper from a pro-lab will retain their quality over a longer period of time. The pro-lab I use for all of my client print orders estimates their prints will still look as good in 100 years as they do today, provided that they are not exposed to excessive sunlight, water damage, etc. I have prints from Shutterfly that are barely 10 years old that have already started to fade quite a bit (and that’s even the ones that have been in acid free photo albums). Big box stores can offer lower prices and lots of free prints because they are printing on lower quality paper with lower quality ink. This is why you’ll often see less vibrance in big box store prints when compared to pro-lab prints.

 

Color Correction & Your Prints

Many consumer labs apply color correction to photographs when printing. This is because the average person’s photos need a little correction to brightness, contrast and color. When printing professionally edited photographs, applying further color correction when printing will often cause the final print to appear too red, too blue or too green. They can also over saturate, or desaturate, the colors, completely altering the final look of the photo. If you’ve invested in a portrait session with a photographer whose style you love, then you want your prints to come out the way they edited them, not the way the mass-production consumer lab altered them to appear. When ordering from consumer labs, look for an option to “Print Files Without Color Correction” for a more accurate result. Mpix.com has an option in the shopping cart to turn off color correction. When I order from Calagaz, I simply write in the notes section on the order form to “Print Files As Is Without Color Correction.”

 

Prints vs. Photo Books vs. Specialty Products

Many online consumer labs have various tiers of print quality. I’ve noticed that standard 4×6 prints from many online labs are often darker, duller and more green tinted than photos I print from my professional lab. However, I have many clients that use online consumer labs to make photo books and these seem to use higher quality papers and inks. Consider what you’re printing when making a decision about where to print. For photo books, I personally love Blurb and Apple photo books. Both have easy to use design software and the print quality is consistent and very close to my pro-lab product prints.

 

How Ratios Affect Printing

Have you ever ordered that 8×10 photo only to discover that it trimmed off some of the people in the shot? This happens because the 8×10 ratio is a different ratio than the camera’s native ratio. This is why I often shoot group shots with lots of breathing room around the edges. If it’s something I think a client will want at size 8×10, 11×14 or 16×20, I know those ratios are going to cut into my shot quite a bit. Keep ratios in mind when ordering prints and be sure to adjust your “crop” in the shopping cart. By default, online shopping carts will center the trim lines, but this isn’t always the best option depending on the photo. Be sure to double check all the trimming before hitting that “Place Order” button. When my clients order from their online galleries, I always double check the trimming for this very reason.

Below is an example of adjusting the crop in the shopping cart. With this portrait, Katie and Patrick aren’t terribly off center in the frame, so the center crop is still decent. However, if they were further off center in the original composition, the center crop would not work.

For this particular portrait, I prefer the crop adjusted so that Katie and Patrick are centered in the frame.

Don’t forget to hit “Save” after adjusting your crop!

 

Enlargements

Size maters. If printing a professionally taken portrait at a size larger than size 8×10, it’s probably best to order that print directly from your photographer so that they can prepare the file for printing at that specific size. Sometimes little details stand out so much more on an enlargement than they do on sizes 8×10 or smaller. I include a fine tune retouch for all prints that my clients order above size 8×10. You also want those enlargements to have the best possible color quality and sharpness since they’re likely to be on display for many years to come. I love the gallery wall that I have in my office. I am always rotating out some of my favorite prints. These are all size 11×14. This also helps me keep a check on my monitor calibration to make sure I’m seeing accurate color when I edit!

 

Don’t Forget to Print

Yes, our phones make it super easy for us to have quick access to all our photos, but there is something wonderfully nostalgic about printing your photos and framing them, or creating printed photo books. Don’t forget to print those photos that you paid to have taken, or those favorite cell phone shots that you’ve made your profile picture on Facebook. I love to make photo books from vacations, or special milestones. Every year I make calendars for my immediate family that double as an “album of the year” and contain several of my favorite photos. I mix in iPhone shots right along with my professional photos.

If you take a lot of photos on your phone (as most of us do), then check out Chatbooks. It’s a great way to document everyday life. My dear friend Laura has an amazing collection and says that her daughters love nothing more than flipping through them. Check out her display in the photo below! I loved capturing her Chatbooks collection when I did a “Day in the Life” portrait session for her family!

chatbooks stacked on library cabinet

 

That’s it for Printing 101! I hope this post inspires you to print some of your favorite photos.

If you have questions, please drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them! Happy Printing!

 

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Welcome! I'm Elizabeth.

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I'm Elizabeth Gelineau, a photographer, dreamer, and accidental entrepreneur. Based in my hometown of Mobile, Ala., I photograph portraits, weddings and events on both sides of Mobile Bay. Grab a cup of coffee (or other beverage of your choice) and enjoy browsing around. I'm so glad you stopped by!

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