Photography, Tips

How to choose your photographer


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I will save you some time and tell you this: choose a photographer whose work you absolutely, 110%, no-doubt-about-it LOVE!

With that being said, perhaps you are in a predicament where you love multiple photographers of all different styles. How ever will you choose? Below are my Dos and Don’ts when it comes to choosing your photographer.

DON’T decide based on price

Price should not be your deciding factor. It can be part of your decision but it shouldn’t be the first thing you look for. As the saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’ and that is most definitely true for photographers. Unless the cheapest photographer is the one you “absolutely, 110%, no-doubt-about-it LOVE”, you are risking being disappointed in your photos. If you are disappointed in your photos, no matter how cheap they were, it was a waste of money.

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DO consider their specialty

You may be drawn to a wedding photographer, but actually want product photos taken. While many photographers offer multiple photography services, some choose a specialty for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, trust them with it. Demanding a wedding photographer to take your business headshot (or vice versa) may not be as successful and simple as you would hope.

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DON’T assume it will be simple

This goes along with the last point I made. One of the most common things I hear is how “easy and simple” my job must be since all I do is point a camera and click a button. At the core, that is accurate. I do indeed point my camera and click a button. I am a professional and am capable but it doesn’t mean it will be simple. There are many factors that go into even 1 photograph. From prepping the equipment to final delivery, there are many things that happen in between that complicate the process. At the end of the day, the process remains the same whether it is one quick photo, or one thousand photos.

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DO have a plan for your photos

Are you planning to create large prints for display, or planning to use the photos on your website? This is an important consideration but entirely subjective. What type of photo do you want to fill your wall? A sharp landscape or intimate portrait? Does your website need detail images or documentary action shots?

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DO choose someone you like

This is especially important for wedding and lifestyle photography. Your photographer will be spending a lot of time with you and will share intimate experiences. You should enjoy the company of your photographer and feel comfortable to be yourself with them. The more you can be yourself, the better the photos will be.

What are other things you consider before hiring a photographer?

 

Life, Photography

A Second Chance for Dogs (and Cats)


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I recently visited one of Second Chance Animal Rescue Society’s (SCARS) Intake Facilities in Athabasca, Alberta. I helped photograph some of the dogs, alongside another photographer and longtime SCARS volunteers – John Doyle.

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I adopted my dog (and 2 cats) through another rescue within the last 6 months. Before adoption, I spent months obsessing over every animal rescue website and social media page in and around Edmonton. I was and still am stunned at the amount of animals in need, in Alberta. It is heartbreaking to learn what many animals endure due to irresponsible people.

I am glad there are so many great organizations and volunteers on a mission to help as many animals as they can. I wish there wasn’t such a great need for them – but there is.

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Second Chance Animal Rescue Society does more than their fair share to help – but I know they wish they could do more. Sylvia is one of the main volunteers at this facility and my goodness, she is a wonderful person. She cares so deeply about all of the animals they bring in. The Sanctuary dogs (“permanent wards of SCARS due to medical or behaviour issues not likely to find an adoptive family”) have a strong bond to her. They literally give cats and dogs a second chance at a good life. The organization is completely volunteer run – and it is an amazing amount of work.

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As an animal lover, I want nothing more than to give every dog a home. I’d keep them all if I could! Instead, I help out how I can by volunteering my time and donating money when I am able to.

Check out how you can help by visiting scarscare.ca

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Tips

The harsh truth about working as a creative


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I apologize if I sound like a jerk and this post offends you, but it is the ‘harsh’ truth. Let’s dive in.

Ah, the life of the creative. Whether you are a designer, photographer, animator or comic artist, you are living your dream. While in school, you dreamt of working your own hours, doing what you love and making a living off of it. With bright eyes, you take the first step towards your dream. You take a deep breath and put your work out there. It’s not easy but you know it’s worth it.

Your first client shows up and you are thrilled! You have big ideas and they encourage it. After many hours and revisions, you have the final product ready, and they love it! You feel amazing. You send the invoice. And then, awkward silence. (This is why sending a quote first is always better, but that’s for a later lesson.)

The harsh truth about working as a creative is that it takes a lot of work for people to understand the value in what you do, and for them to accept that it is not free. They assume that because your work is “fun”, that you are okay with not making much. Sure, money isn’t everything. I am with you on that one. BUT. You still need to make a living. We can’t all live as vagabonds.

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And so, after the quote or invoice is sent, you will find yourself dealing with 1 of 3 clients.

The ‘No Big Deal’ Client

This video sums it up pretty well. This category includes up a couple of different approaches, but basically this is the client that wants you to work for free. They are careful though because they will never say “I want this done for free.” That would just be rude!

What they will say is:

“This is a great opportunity for you.”

“Can you just do this little thing for me? It should be no big deal for you.”

“It will benefit both of us.”

“Lots of people will be reaching out to you after you do this for me.”

This is especially difficult to respond to if it’s a friend or family member. I am 10000% guilty of saying Yes. I am a people pleaser and physically can’t form the word ‘NO’ when someone asks for something. Even if I am screaming ‘No No No Noooooo’ in my head like Micheal Scott, the words that exit my mouth always manage to form ‘Sure, I can do that. No problem! I’d love to.’ Are you freaking kidding me, Kirsten!?!?

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There are certainly times when I really am happy to help out or do something for free. If it’s a fun project that involves a hike or adventure somewhere, than chances are I will say yes without my inside voice saying otherwise.

However. If a stranger asks me to film their kid’s soccer game for free (or little to nothing), then my inside voice will always say No. I’m not trying to be rude but at the end of the day, that will benefit me in all of no ways. If I wanted to get into shooting kids sports games, then I would willingly agree that it would be a good opportunity for me to work for free, or not much – in the beginning.

At the end of the day, this is my job and I do need to support myself.

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Photo courtesy of: Lynette Mason at MasonPhotography.ca

The ‘I’ll pay, but not that much’ Client

This is the client that is up for supporting and paying, but not that much. They usually say something like:

“I’m happy to pay you.”

“I’m sure we can figure something out that is fair for both of us.”

You discuss the details of the project with them. They love your work and seem genuinely excited. Then comes the money talk and you immediately see their guards go up. It doesn’t matter if you quote them $100 or $1000, it is always more than they hoped. I did a workshop for Entrepreneurs and the key lesson I learned was that someone will always complain your prices are too high and nobody will ever complain your prices are too low. In my experience, they might even tell you your prices are low and you can charge more. But when you raise your price, they stop hiring you. *Slap in the face*

I learned a harsh lesson early on to get a quote approved first. I responded to an ad that a new company was looking to hire a videographer for an event. Everything was great until after I delivered the final video, and then sent an Invoice for all of $250. After a few days of silence, I received a reply that said something along the lines of “Everyone else volunteered their time. I didn’t think the video would cost that much.” I immediately melted into a puddle and apologized for MY misunderstanding. I got a “free” sweatshirt out of it. I do still wear the sweatshirt but that’s besides the point.

Pricing is one of the hardest things for a creative person. While there are some general guidelines, there is no standard for the industry. It completely depends on the individual. Personally, I have spent many hours reviewing my prices. I have extensive spreadsheets that breakdown my expenses and time. Trust me when I say, I should probably be charging more but I am not in that position yet. I have been working in my field as a professional for 5 years and am still struggling to break even. This is mostly due to the fact that I have been undercharging for most of those 5 years. My reality is that I will continue to have to do so until I am able to find the next type of client. It’s a bit of a catch 22 where I either charge what I need to charge, and have no clients or I undercharge to ensure I get work, but am then making the bare minimum for 3 times the work. So yeah, it’s the harsh truth.

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The ‘One Who Gets It’ Client (aka the Dream)

Ah, and then there are those rare clients that ‘get it’. These are your dream clients. The one who understand the value of work they are asking for AND are willing and ready to pay. When you find this client, hold on tight and don’t let go. They understand that snapping one quick photo involves much more than just the push of a button to produce a beautiful, fully edited image in all of the formats they require. They even recognize that the equipment you need to do your job costs thousands of dollars. They are beautiful beings that will bring sunshine and rainbows to your life.

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Photo courtesy of: Hannah Hamilton (The Momoirs)

I truly believe nobody ever intends to be rude when it comes to payment. Everyone wants to feel valued and get what they believe they are paying (or not paying) for. In my experience, it simply takes a bit of educating for clients to understand your prices. They may not always be able to pay but at least they will understand that you aren’t simply trying to rip them off.

As a creative, how do you deal with clients not wanting to pay?
As a client, have I offended you?
Tips

What’s in my CAMERA BAG?! (Edmonton Wedding Videographer)


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Years.

That’s how long I’ve spent researching and pondering what equipment to buy. I’ve read countless “Best of” articles and blog posts. I watch contradicting YouTube videos, and eventually settle on something. I find it on Amazon and add it to my Shopping Cart before moving on to the next piece of equipment. Finally, I have everything in my cart I want. No… NEED. I review the shopping cart and scroll down to the bottom of the page. This is when it happens. That sinking, hold your breath, eyes widening moment when you see the ‘Total’. We are not talking hundreds of dollars. We are talking multiple thousands! You don’t need to be a mathematician to know that $400 in your bank account will not cover it.

But is it worth it to put it on the credit card? Should I get a business loan or line of credit? You know what! Just click purchase and deal with it later! No, don’t do that. Breathe and think it through.

Eventually you come to the conclusion that you don’t really need this lens or that hard drive. You begin deleting items from your cart until the ‘Total’ is easier to digest. You feel accomplished until you realize that all you have left in your cart is a couple of random cables that are useless without the audio devices you already deleted.

The next phase involves selecting less expensive – nay- cheap versions of what you determined you needed. You move the mouse over the ‘Complete Purchase’ button… but you can’t commit. Is spending money worth it if the equipment is poorly made and ends up unreliable?

In the end, you decide you can make do with what you already have so you click the exit button and move on.

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Well, you move on until a few weeks later when your lens performs poorly at the reception venue and you exclaim ‘enough is enough!’ As soon as you get home, you search ‘Best of’ camera lenses and repeat the entire process.

The reality of technology is that the hunt for something better is never ending! Technology improves and gets released faster than anybody can keep up. Especially if you aren’t swimming in a room full of gold coins like Donald Duck. Quality video and photo equipment is expensive. This is a fact.

People are often shocked at how much a videographer or photographer charges, but the reality is that we have to (unless we’d rather fall behind on bills and have a debt party!). I’ll save that topic for another post.

And so, without further adieu.

Below is a list of what I bring to film a wedding. Items listed but not photographed are things I rent. Yes, there are better options out there (trust me, I know) but this is what I have. At the end of the day, it is not the equipment that makes for a great wedding film. It comes down to the camera operator and editor. It is also important to note that my preference is to travel light and keep things as simple as possible.

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MAIN CAMERA

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BACKUP CAMERA
LENSES

Other lenses I might bring:

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MEMORY CARDS

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AUDIO

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CASES

OTHER

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BEYOND EQUIPMENT

  • Snacks!
  • Water!
  • Change of shoes (super helpful for when you accidentally step in mud up to your knee… true story.)
  • Detailed directions
  • Wedding Day Schedule
  • Wedding Contacts
  • Weather specific items (i.e. Umbrella)

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There you have it! What do you bring to film a wedding?

Photography

A Father and Son, and some Vintage Baseball Apparel


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If you appreciate vintage baseball shirts, then you need to check out ROSS FLATS. I recently met up with the founder, Reed Clark for a lil’ photoshoot at Edmonton’s historic baseball stadium, Edmonton Ballpark. The Edmonton Ballpark was the perfect location since it plays homage to the history of baseball in Edmonton, and the prairies. It was a warm (yes, warm) winter day and perfect t-shirt weather, in the snow. I took some promo photos for his business, but the photoshoot turned out to be much more than that.

Reed’s father, Bill joined as well. While I knew Reed as a coworker, this was the first I met Bill. He arrived with a smile on his face, a spring in his step and a story to share. When I mentioned it would be fun to take photos inside, he did not hesitate to find an open door and make it happen. Between photos, I had a short but great chat with him about sports and yoga. I asked him if he was much of baseball player, and said “Oh no!”

He told me how hockey was always his game and his body reaped the consequences of it. Yet, he wouldn’t change a thing! Despite feeling sore from his days playing the good ol’ hockey game, he spoke of it with a light in his eye. He then shared how he did Hot Yoga and loved it for its benefits! I admitted that I loved yoga but hadn’t been consistent with it. The conversation ended with us agreeing we both needed to do more yoga (despite the age difference), and we continued with the photoshoot.

Sadly, Bill passed away recently. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to meet him and capture a sliver of an afternoon with him and his son.

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Wedding Video

For the Adventure Couples


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As one does with a vision board, I’m going to put this out there.

You are my dream client if you are adventurous. You have a passion for the outdoors and have even considered getting married somewhere that requires a hike in. You crave experiences outdoors and yearn to travel the world. You aren’t afraid to get your feet wet or stand near a mountain’s edge. Whether you hike, bike, climb or simply enjoy sitting in the woods, you connect with an experience beyond four walls.

For the Adventure couples, here is a board I put together especially for you. Not that you need it though, since you have all the inspiration in the world outside your front door.

I can’t wait to capture your adventure session!

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Photography, Tips

Professional Family Photos vs. The Self Timer


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Whether or not you are photogenic or “enjoy” being in front of the camera, everybody wants photos of their family (typically with you in it as well).

Perhaps not today. Today, you don’t really care if you have a photo or not. BUT… 1 year, 10 years, 25 years from now, you want a photo of your family. And so do your children and their children.

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I grew up in a household full of family photos. We had shelves filled with photo albums of every year since I was born. We also had shelves of photos before my time. Photos of my parents and grandparents when they were younger. I would often sit on the floor to find one photo and end up spending hours sifting through as many albums as I could pull out. It’s hard to put into words what it means to have a glimpse into your family members lives before you knew them. It is something that I am beyond grateful to have as I know not everyone has this opportunity.

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I have always said that if I could have a super power, it would be to time travel so I could visit my ancestors. How incredible would it be to observe similarities you share with your family members? I’m not just talking in the physical sense, but in mannerisms and opinions on the world. But alas, my time travelling super power has yet to materialize within me, so instead I have photos (and some video) to spark my imagination.

I am inherently biased towards candid photos. They are the photos I prefer to take because they are the photos I prefer to view. You can learn a lot about someone by a photo taken of them without them noticing.

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OPTION 1: THE SELF-TIMER

My family had our photos done by a professional a couple of times, but for the most part – we were the self-timer family. This was largely due to the fact that my Dad had a knack for photography, and eventually, so did I. As a result, do I feel like my childhood was improperly captured? No – because my parents are excellent at documenting as much as possible. We make a point to take photos. It may be annoying in the moment but you always appreciate it later on!

While camera phones make it easy to take photos at any given moment, not everyone does. Or at least, they don’t take the kind of photos to truly capture you and your family. Or, you are always the one taking the photos and never actually in them.

The Self-Timer is great if you and your family are comfortable in front of the camera and willing to spend a bit longer to get some great, somewhat candid photos. It is not a good option if you are not super comfortable in front of the camera, and hoping for lots of printable options. I would also suggest against this if patience runs thin in your family. Trust me on this one.

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OPTION 2: THE PROFESSIONAL

If you are not so handy with a camera, and don’t have one beyond your phone, then this is kind-of-super-in-a-not-pushy-way really important. You should hire someone. They are a professional and will know how to make everyone (even the most camera shy) comfortable and looking great. It does not need to be every single year as that may be unrealistic, but every couple or every 5 years, you should absolutely make the investment.

Not sure who to hire? Talk to your friends and family for references and always check out their work online to be sure their style is what you want.

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OPTION 3: THE DOCUMENTARY

There is a growing trend in the photography world known as Documentary family photos. This entails a photographer spending half to a full day with your family to capture a day-in-the-life. Personally, this is my favourite and worth every penny. Expensive? Generally. But not when you consider it as a lifetime investment vs. a disposable purchase. (And yes, I do offer this! Get in touch if you are interested.)

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At the end of the day, choosing to hire a professional photographer vs. setting a camera on a tripod with the self timer comes down to the type of photos you want. As a photographer, I am naturally inclined to recommend hiring someone. However, at the end of the day if the memory is there, then it was a good choice.

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Photography, Tips

What to do before your Photoshoot


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I have compiled an extensive list to help prepare and put you in the best position for getting the best possible photos. After all, I am a professional so I know what I am talking about. [insert shoulder brush]

Are you ready for it?

Are you sure?

Okay, here it is.

(Drumroll please.)

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  1. Relax and Be Yourself

Oh.

Okay, so apparently the list is not as extensive as I set it up to be.

Seriously though, it is that simple!

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If you are still at a loss for what to do, here are a few more tips to help!

  1. Chat with your Photographer (Make sure you are on the same page for what you are looking for.)
  2. Wear something you love (Pick something that you feel amazing in.)
  3. Choose a location you love (Pick somewhere that means something to you – even if this is your own backyard.)
  4. Rest up (A good night sleep the night before will do you wonders!)
  5. Fuel up (Water and food before to keep the hanger at bay! This tip might be directed towards me…)
  6. Have fun! (The more relaxed you can be, the better the photos will be. Guaranteed.)
Photography, Tips

Pets: To include or not to include in your photo shoot.


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Disclaimer: I am a pet lover so this will be weighed heavily to one side.

Our pets are members of our family. Folks who don’t have pets (or never did) can struggle with this fact. (It is a fact.) They believe pet owners are a bit cuckoo about how we spoil our furry friends. It doesn’t matter if you own a dog, cat, bird or an iguana, you love them and can’t imagine your life without them. You post a crazy amount of photos of them (and have a ridiculous amount you don’t post), and you have a hard time not bringing them up in every conversation you have.

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When it comes to your photoshoot, should you include your pets (particularly dogs) in your photoshoot? I will save you time and let you know that my answer is:
Yes, you should.

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BUT…. There are still exceptions and things to consider before you do.

PROS
  1. Comfort. Pets provide a level of comfort to every situation. It is easier to forget about your own insecurities and focus on your pet.
  2. Natural. Pets are automatic entertainment. Your smiles will be natural and genuine, which makes for the best photos!
  3. Alleviate awkwardness. They are a great ice breaker for when your start the photoshoot so you can quickly move past any awkwardness of being in front of a camera!
  4. The whole family. You are there for a family photoshoot, so why wouldn’t you want every member in the photo?

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CONS
  1. Distracting. Pets don’t exactly understand what a photoshoot means. Even if they are “used” to having their photos taken, they aren’t going to stop and sit pretty while you are busy with photos.
  2. Stealing the Spotlight. Pets are cute. They are fun to photograph. It is possible they outshine you in the photos. (Sorry, if that offends you!)
  3. Responsibility. They are going to sniff, explore and relieve themselves. You still have to be responsible for them, even while you are having your photo taken.

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Ultimately, it is up to you! Is the extra responsibility and a bit of hassle worth having your furry family members included in your professional photos? I’ll let you answer it this time.

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Wedding Video

YEG Videographers that inspire me.


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This past weekend, I participated in the Bridal Fantasy show, in Edmonton, as a vendor.

I had great plans to move about and chat with other wedding professionals, share laughter over common wedding industry jokes and become best friends forever. (Okay… maybe not so much the last 2 points but you get me.)

The reality of the day was that I was glued to my booth. Even during down times when I may have had time, I didn’t want to leave my booth and miss an opportunity to speak with an awesome bride and/or groom. Instead, I admired from a far.

Today, I thought I would compile a little list of other Edmonton wedding videographers that inspire me to be my best, in this city. There are oh-so-many talented folks, and many I have yet to come across. The list below in no way criticizes those who I didn’t include! It simply points to a few that I find myself drawn to on repeated occasions. Take a look below and go check out the truly awesome people doing their thing in YEG.

Arrow Film + Photo

When I first came across the work by the team at Arrow, I was in love. They capture “life as it really is”. What makes them even more unique, is they offer both digital and super 8mm films!

 

Merkland Wedding from Arrow Films on Vimeo.


A Love Story

The team at A Love Story “captures the essence and emotion” of each wedding day to ensure you remember your special day for years to come.

A Love Story {Jordan + Luke} from A Love Story on Vimeo.


Zokah

I dare you to watch a wedding film by Zac and Monikah (aka Zokah) and not smile. Seriously, try it.

Jenna and Mike – Edmonton Wedding Video – Zokah Photography and Video from Zokah on Vimeo.


Iconium Media

The filmmakers at Iconium Media ‘preserve’ your wedding day ‘forever’ with their beautiful wedding films. Also, check out their vimeo page to see the wickedly fun video booth they set up at the Bridal Fantasy show!

Rachel + Eric Fawcett from Iconium on Vimeo.


It is easy to have a mindset that everyone else is your competition, and to keep your defences up. But, that’s not how it is [for the most part]. As Raj from A Love Story pointed out to me; there are roughly thirty (30. Three-Zero.) weddings that happen in and around this city every Saturday. If you were the only videographer, you would NEVER be able to come close to capturing all of them. Having friends in your shared industry is one of the best things for your business. At the end of the day, a person will trust word of mouth (good or bad) over Google search results.

Who is your favourite wedding videographer in Edmonton? Share in the comments below!