Chicago Wedding Photographer (192)

Elise & Drew - A Chicago Cruise Wedding

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Under Construction

10/24/2021: This page is part of 4 weddings in the process of being uploaded. Thanks for bearing with me! Feel free to check out my other bodies of work here.

The Morning

Bridal prep and first look

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Chicago Engagement Photographer 1

Caitlin & Bobby - Engagement Session

Where you lead, I'll follow

This tale takes place in Teason’s Woods, a Forest Preserve of Cook County in Illinois. Catlin and Bobby showed up just shy of sunset, leaving us time to walk around the forest floor. Before their arrival, I hiked a majority of the trail looking for spots that caught my eye. This walkthrough helped the flow of our photos as we bounced from one spot to the next, finishing this shoot in under two hours!

The gnarly riffs of Chevelle echoed through the forest, a band that I uncovered was a favorite of Bobby’s when the couple filled out my engagement session questionnaire! I kept instruction pretty loose, letting them play in the moment as I framed each scene. The results are beautiful and raw, showcasing the bond these two share for one another. It was the perfect environment for a relaxing and intimate shoot. There’s also a nice level of privacy off the beaten path. No fancy clothes or crazy makeup required, just two humans and their hearts.

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Serbian Chicago Wedding Photographer 1

Jacquelyn & Cole - A Serbian Wedding

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Skup Svatova

Serbian weddings are full day festivities that start with a Skup, which is a pre-ceremony party where food, drink, music, dancing and conversation are shared. It ends with the bridal party departure after a round of dancing and flag waving. Jacquelyn and Cole enjoyed the sounds of a live Serbian music as they snacked and talked to guests, living in the happiness that would surround the entire day.

Before departing, the wedding party dances the Kolo. Kolo is a traditional Serbian folk dance named after the circled formed by the dancers. It is performed at weddings, social, cultural and religious ceremonies. Kolo dance represents a powerful symbol of the Serbian national identity. The ring represents the symbol of perfection and life, a symbol that has remained in Serbia even today.

St George Serbian Church

One by one, guests arrived at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Joliet, IL. The church is covered in gold, showing loyalty to the past in connection with the ancient church. As seats were filled, the bride made her way off the party bus and through the doors. After rings were exchanged, the priest gave the couple lit candles to hold. The burning flames symbolize the couple’s spiritual willingness to receive God’s blessings.

The crowns were then placed on their head,  representing the glory and honor with which God crowns the couple during the sacrament. The couple then drinks from a shared cup taking three sips, symbolizing the couples mutual sharing of joy and sorrow. When the couple walks around the table, it is their first steps as husband and wife.

After the ceremony, the best man (Kum) tosses coins and candy into the air. Kids run around picking up these coins and treats, a ritual believed to promise financial prosperity and a sweet life. This was followed by more happiness and celebration as everyone took part in the Kolo, blessing Jacquelyn and Cole’s sacred unity.

DiNolfo's Banquets

Last stop for the party bus was DiNolfo’s Banquets. Dinolfo’s is an open and inviting space, perfect for a large ring of dancers to celebrate the reinforced bond of Jaquelyn & Cole. Guests found their tables (and donuts) and waited for the wedding party to make their entrance. This was followed by another Kolo before the everyone took their seats for cake cutting and speeches.

First dances were filled with emotion, bringing tears to most in attendance. This was short lived as stomping and circle dancing would dominate the rest of the night. Energy radiated from that room and would soon be a memory, one Jacquelyn and Cole can happily reflect on for the rest of their lives together.

Skup Svatova

Pre-Ceremony celebration

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St. George Serbian Orthodox Church

The Ceremony

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DiNolfo's Banquets

The Reception

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Shay & Grant - Engagement Shoot

Meet me under the big tree

This love story takes place in Aurora, IL (home of Wayne’s World & also my high school, go warriors!). Shay reached out to me about being the photographer for her wedding at the Hotel Arista in Naperville! We somehow managed to skip the small talk and found ourselves in an engaging conversation about love and life. The more I heard about the relationship between Shay & Grant, the more I wanted to capture their story.

I headed to Grant’s childhood home for our engagement session. Shay previously mentioned that Grant was a bit out of his comfort zone and I don’t blame him! It’s not every day we have to model for the camera. I assured them that those who are most nervous always end up doing the best. I instruct with loose poses, which means I’ll tell you to do an action, but allow you to move and get creative within that action. Shay & Grant perfected this immediately!

When they catch each other’s eyes, the warm smile that comes afterward nearly brings me to tears. Having been in so many couple’s most intimate moments, I like to consider myself a subject matter expert. And these two have an undeniable bond that will last as long as these beautiful photographs will – forever.

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Should we do a first look

A First Look - Should we have one?

What is a first look?

The first look is a modern tradition increasing in popularity where the couple see each other for the first time prior to the ceremony. It is a private moment between two lovers away from friends and family, but is also commonly shared between father and bride prior to the groom. I will share my experience from a photography standpoint on whether or not you should do a first look.

first look wedding photography

what to bring wedding details

Wedding Detail Shots - How Should I Prepare & What Should I Bring?

Guidelines for a smooth start

Your photographer will most likely start their day with wedding detail shots. It allows the creativity to be exercised, gets the wedding party used to someone running around with a camera and creates the perfect transition in wedding albums if you’re including engagement photos. If possible, provide the photographer with at least one hour to work on detail shots. A second photographer is recommended to get the most coverage of the morning.

These details typically include the wedding gown, veil/hairpiece, shoes, jewelry, garter, all 3 rings (wedding bands, engagement), and flower arrangements. Additional items you should include will be listed at the bottom of this page.

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What can I do for the photographer?

I’m so glad you brought this up! I recommend you gather all the items you want to use for photographs and put it in a container for the Maid of Honor or Best Man to be in charge of a few days before the wedding day (checklist below). This way, you can ensure nothing is forgotten and your photographer can have more props at their disposal!

Ensure all clothing is freshly steamed and free of wrinkles the night before. Bring wooden hangers for the suit and dress, as well as extras for the wedding party if you want to capture them lined up in the master suite. If you bring plastic hangers, expect a shameful nod from your photographer at minimumRemember, whatever you bring is what we have to use! I’ll come with some small accessories like antique stamps and keys, but vintage metal trays, porcelain jewelry dishs and extra ribbon or fabric is a welcome addition.

Typically hotel rooms will have a window and a table. Try to keep the area in front of the window clear so the photographer can stage all your items and use the available natural light. Ask the florist to deliver your bouquets, boutonnieres and any other floral arrangements that you need before your photographer arrives. This will ensure that they are at their peak freshness for wedding detail shots. Also ask your florist for a few extra blooms an stems for stylized detail shots. This is a common request so don’t feel awkward asking them! We’re here for YOU!

wedding details checklist

Bridal Checklist

  • Dress and veil
  • Invitation suite (2 copies of full suite if possible)
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Perfume
  • Something old, new, borrowed, blue
  • All 3 rings (your photo team can get them to whoever will be holding them afterward)
  • Ring boxes and jewelry dishes
  • Bouquet and loose florals (ask your florist for the additional greenery for detailed shots and ensure they’ll be ready for the photographer)
  • Vow book
  • Extra ribbon or accents
  • Items of significance
  • Guest welcome bags or favors
  • Gifts or notes from one another

Groom Checklist

  • Suit
  • Tie or bowtie
  • Cuff links
  • Watch
  • Cologne
  • Shoes and socks
  • Handkerchief
  • Belt or suspenders
  • Invitation suite (2 copies of full suite if possible)
  • Boutonniere
  • Vow book
  • Extra ribbon or accents
  • Items of significance
  • Guest welcome bags or favors
  • Gifts or notes from one another

groom wedding details checklist

second shooter chicago wedding

Second Photographer - Should I Hire One For My Wedding?

Note: When planning a wedding, reach out to your professional photographer as soon as possible. Based on the specific details of your big day, they can help shape timelines and provide important information regarding coverage.

Do we need a second photographer?

This may seem obvious, but you can’t add a second photographer after your wedding already happened. Even the most skilled photographer cannot physically be in two locations at once. With that said, I would strongly encourage a second photographer at any size wedding, but especially at large weddings with 150+ guests. If your budget allows, a second photographer is the most effective way to enhance the memory of your special day!

What does a second photographer do for us?

Generally speaking, the second photographer acts as an extension of the photographer. They provide the ability to capture two locations at once, such as the getting ready process for each person. This will allow the photos to be told from both partner’s perspectives. The second shooter can also cover cocktail hour and reception details while the photographer takes couple portraits – increasing total picture output and offering two unique perspectives on the day!

Having two camera operators at once also provides different angles of the same moment, such as saying vows and parent reactions. Family formal sessions are also sped up, reducing the time it takes from ceremony to reception. In certain cases, the second shooter can cover pictures while the main photographer doubles as a videographer. Years of shooting experience allows me to work fluidly without a second shooter, but they enhance the flow of the day and provide nothing but benefits.

You’re still reading? Good for you – knowledge is power! In events of gear failure, a second photographer also provides a second set of backups. My second shooter uses all the same gear so everything remains interchangeable. Ultimately, wedding photography is an investment in memories. These pictures will continue to bring you and the ones you love continued joy throughout life. Paying for a second photographer is a small expense when you factor in how irreplaceable their role can be!

Any parting words of wisdom?

My viewpoint may be somewhat biased, but I also base my opinion on years of firsthand experience as a second shooter. Now that I run my own company as lead photographer, my talented wife shoots beside me as my second photographer.

This brings me to my next point – always ask about the second photographer even if you are not currently interested. This way, you’ll have peace of mind in case you decide on it closer to the date. Some companies hire the first person to respond on Craigslist in order for quick turnaround, so always ask who the second camera operator is. My second shooter knows me on an intimate level, able to sense my direction and flow with the day.

I personally would not hire a wedding photographer without a second shooter and they must have a history of working together. Cosmopolitan Events has a great article on second shooters and they say “Many couples admit that not spending more money on photography is one of their biggest wedding day regrets – and we tend to agree. In most cases, you’ll want a second shooter.”

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Chicago Unplugged Wedding Photographer

An Unplugged Wedding - No Distractions, Full Reactions

What is an Unplugged Wedding?

An unplugged wedding is when the wedding couple requests that their guests put away cell phones, cameras and any other devices for the ceremony or the entirety of the wedding day.

Are you going to try and convince us to have one?

I would never and I’m shocked that you’d assume so (why yes, yes I am). At the least, you should give heavy consideration to compromising and having an unplugged ceremony but opt for a plugged-in reception. It’s the best of both worlds, really.

You’re paying your photographer a lot of money to preserve the day, and that photographer has gear and years of experience behind the lens. Those phones will only create a barrier between the photographer and the authentic emotion displayed from your guests. Instead of capturing a genuine reaction from your loved ones, the photographer is forced to capture the back of their new iPhone and half their face lit up white.

Your guests will pay more attention to their phone than the actual moment that’s happening. Obviously this is dramatic and I would just shoot a different subject, but what if all the guests are staring into their phone screens? Is that how you want them to remember your special day, or worse – is that what you want to see when you revisit your professional pictures?

As for ‘guest photographers‘, Aunt Karen may take great pics of her garden with that new DSLR – but that won’t exactly translate to great wedding pictures. Her flash could get in the way and ruin your photographer’s shot, or she might even feel brave enough to squat in the middle of the isle when the photographer is trying to get that once in a lifetime moment. Unfortunately, I speak from a place of sadness and experience on that last one.  Photographers are very restricted in the wedding space when it comes to movement (especially in churches) and electronic devices further limit the creative reign you’ve entrusted them with.

chicago unplugged wedding

Is it the end of the world if we keep it plugged-in?

This will always be dependent upon the photographer and their skill level, but people have been successfully running plugged-in weddings for years now. While I have never had a couple regret their decision for an unplugged wedding, I respect the wishes of my clients and will operate smoothly regardless of scenario.

How do we inform our guests?

An early way to let guests know about an unplugged wedding would be the invite. Add a line to the invite or website saying ‘This is an unplugged wedding. Please no photos during the ceremony.‘ Having signs upon the ceremony entrance is a friendly way to remind guests to keep their devices away as well. If you have an order of service, add a line to the front to again remind your guests. If you decide to have an unplugged reception as well, the guest speaker can make a brief announcement asking all guests to put away their phones and cameras.


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Maryann & Joe - A Socially Distant Wedding

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A Fall Affair

Much like my wife and I, Maryann and Joe held a small wedding outdoors amidst the lockdowns and quarantines. Social distancing was kept in check, masks were dawned and love was ready to be celebrated!

The bride started her morning with hair and makeup at Hotel Indigo in Naperville. My wife was hard at work wrapping up the flower arrangements she was commissioned for. I, well I was putting myself in a deep state of relaxation. We’ll call it part of the creative process. Once I got the call, we headed over to Hotel Indigo to help the bride and sneak in a few shots. Baby Stevie was with the grandparents and would join us later.

One thing I’ve come to learn is that weddings move fast regardless of size. One second I’m taking a picture of the shoes, and the next second they’re on the bride and she’s out the door. First looks were given, everyone took their place and the ceremony begun. It was small, short and intimate – a perfect slice of time to lock into photographs that will live forever.

Maryann

The Bride

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First Looks

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The Ceremony

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Gabrielle - Portrait Sessions

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A moment of impact

One night, I was invited to the local bar & grill by a friend. While I was at home deciding whether to attend or not, my future soulmate would be sitting there waiting patiently! This portrait photographer from Chicago was staring at a stack of edits but was also making good time, so I grabbed my keys and made my way.

I chose a seat just two spots away from her, where the both of us would be locked in a moment of impact that felt eternal. It was love at first sight; not in a fairy tale sense, but in raw human emotion that was interconnected in ways I never knew existed. Fast forward over six wonderful years and here I am, sharing our story with you today!

'Til death do we art

Gabi and I had a connection much stronger than the norm. It only took 11 days for us to mutter those three infamous words; I love you (yes, I said it first).  We were fueled by art and a sense of purpose to create – taking us on one adventure after another from Chicago to the Great Smoky Mountains.

She had done some modeling in her teen years, but found a passion in writing that resonated deep within her soul. Her poetry has the ability to inflict emotion at a moment’s notice, taking the reader through the lightest and darkest corners of her mind (ig: @gabiwantswine). She rediscovered her love for modeling when we met and it became a form of communication between us. The more we shot together, the more she became interested in photography as well. After years of apprenticeship behind the camera, she is now my second photographer! My life is picture-perfect and I have these photographs for proof.

My muse, my heart, my life, my wife.

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