Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography: You Get What You Pay For


Matthew and Jazmine Gallegos a couple that was married in Albuquerque, NM, back in September 2016 recently were featured in KRQE News 13 because their wedding photographer never delivered their wedding photos. They paid the photographer, the photographer showed up to their wedding, but when it came time to receive their photos…the day never came.

With tears forming in her eyes, Jazmine expressed “Those are memories that…”, “That we can’t get back” her husband interjected. Shaking her head in disbelief about their situation, she clarifies their loss “The photos that she took, the ones that we wanted to have up in our house to show our kids when we are old to look back on.”

It is this part of the interview that really stood out to me. Clearly, having photographs displayed throughout their house was a priority to this couple. Yet somehow they misplaced their trust in a photographer that didn’t deliver the most important part of the wedding photography process. So how did this happen? Based on the social media outcry in response to the story, everyone seems to know how it could have been prevented.

There is an old saying that sums it up well. “You get what you pay for”. This couple paid for the services of an inexperienced, untrained, out of area, hobbyist photographer, but expected more than they paid for.

There are a few flags that really stand out to me as a wedding photographer that I want to share with you. First, photographers are a dime a dozen. Most professional photographers learned photography shooting film cameras. If you go to a university for fine art, they are still going to make you learn how to develop your own film. It is crucial to understand that relationship between light and camera obscura to train your artistic eye in photography. Unfortunately in an art sense, but fortunately in every other sense, in 2018 everyone is a photographer thanks to our cell phones. And that is awesome and very convenient. But when it comes to art, selfies are not part of the curriculum. Which I believe led to the sad uneducated state we experience today, where the average person cannot tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one. Which also explains why there are so many “professional photographers” that really just picked up photography as a hobby, have little to no artistic training, and yet offer wedding photography as a service to the general public for a price they came up with by looking at what other photographers in their area are charging and undercutting it. This is a big flag: Price.


We all price shop, but there are certain times when I am willing to pay extra to get a better quality product. For example, leather. There was a time in my life when I would buy cheap leather shoes for work (back in my public accounting days). I would spend about $30 for a generic store brand, not like you could see the brand anywhere anyway right? I made sure I would get shoes made from genuine leather because even though I wanted something cheap, I wanted decent quality that would last a while. Despite my attention to that detail, my shoes would fall apart in about a month. I went through this cycle about three times before I got fed up and started looking into spending more for shoes that would last longer. It turns out that as I looked into the features that would help shoes last longer, I learned that genuine leather is not so great. In fact there is only one type of leather worse than genuine leather, and that’s bonded (junk pieces glued together like a plywood of leathers). I was floored. Now I know to get full grain leather, a leather that not only holds together better, but gets more beautiful with age. And guess what? Full grain leather shoes cost about 4 times as much as genuine. I have two pairs of different full grain leather shoes that I have had over 4 years now. One month compared to four years. Even though the price up front was much higher, the cost of the shoes over their lifetime is much cheaper.

I share this personal story with you because this is the case in every industry including photography. Many photographers have strayed from the traditional value of displaying photographs on physical walls and have moved onto the walls of Facebook. The average life of a digital file from the archivists I have spoken with, is about 5 years. Whereas when I visit my parents’ house, I see framed photographs on the wall that have been displayed on a wall my entire life.

This couple expressed their physical loss of the ability to display their wedding photos in their house. They clearly valued that in hindsight, but they didn’t value it enough to spend the kind of money it takes to hire a professional photographer who makes a living from making such images and physical artwork for their clients.

Which brings me to the next flag, a professional photographer is anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography. Back when I was a public accountant, and Elise was a photographer, we mistakenly referred to her as a professional photographer. More than half of her income, the money we used to support our family, came from my public accounting job, not photography. Why is that distinction or level of detail important? Because people who make their living from photography are more qualified than someone who just purchased a DSLR camera and decided today they are a professional. And sadly, that is how the industry works. There is no accreditation for the photography industry. There are associations, like the Professional Photographers Association, that awards it’s paying members “degrees” for their commitment to their group. But that is neither here nor there since their members don’t have to be professional photographers to join in the first place. Most brides aren’t looking to see formal education listed on the about page of the photographers they are price shopping. A photographer doesn’t need to hold a Bachelor’s of Fine Art degree in order to create a website that states they are a professional photographer. So the overwhelming responsibility depends solely on the client. The client must determine with their artistically trained eye, or lack thereof, to determine for themselves by critiquing each photographer from their area’s individual portfolio to determine the validity of that person’s claim to be a true professional photographer. Which is crazy, especially considering most have never been through or seen a formal critique to begin with let alone the photographer who they are critiquing.  


Next flag, reviews. I read comments saying this couple should have looked at reviews to know whether the photographer they hired was legit or not. The photographer they chose had an A- on the Better Business Bureau’s website, which means they had good reviews. Why are reviews not cueing unprofessional photographers? Because my friends, no news is good news. Reviews are usually received when requested. New photographers tend to offer friends and family free photographs to get their foot in the door of the industry and build a portfolio. Then they turn around and ask those same people for reviews. When is the last time you left a bad review for a service or product you got for free? Ratings are not enough when browsing reviews. It would be foolish not to read several of the reviews to determine what people are actually getting from hiring this photographer. What was their experience? Would they recommend or use this photographer again? And even after looking at reviews with this in mind, understand how limited this source pool is. When is the last time you switched service providers in any industry and found out that the new service provider is so much better? Did you go back and leave a bad review on the previous service provider? Of course not. People have their reasons for switching and often are bad at putting those reasons in words without being a troll. So why bother? And that is the downfall of relying on reviews. Look for a wide range of portfolio images form the photographer. Is their portfolio comprised of several different people or is it the same people over and over again? If you see nothing but photos of their kids, then this is a sign they are new to the industry. Look for these kinds of flags, and gamble with your money not your photographer.

Lastly, beware of new photographers to the industry and your area. There is a reason why people praise experience so highly in any profession. Hire new photographers at your own risk. Ansel Adams said it best “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Ultimately when you hire a professional, you are paying for their capability, consistency, and ability to deliver after the end of the day. All of which comes from experience doing so over and over, time and time again. And going back to professionals making their living from photography not their spouse’s income from their job, beware traveling photographers that move from place to place to wherever their spouse goes for their job. That is a big red flag that this person can disappear with your photos in a heartbeat. The best way to support local businesses is to look for the old salty dogs of the industry. Those who have deep roots in your area and don’t just talk about how much they love the area, but are actually grounded there. They have family here. They went to school here. They contribute to the community here. That is how you build your local community, not by chasing the cheapest, newest options. Those are just gimmicks like genuine leather.

Some simple questions this couple could have asked to prevent this from happening to them would look like this. Do they make a living from photography? Have they been providing photography to my area for several years? Do they have a formally trained artistic eye? Have they ever used a film camera and developed their own film? Do they have a wide variety of portfolio images as well as several different clients in the images?

If you are reading this thinking “Oh they are just saying look for a photographer like them”, you are right. That is exactly what I am saying, because we would never do this to one of our clients.

2018 Southern New Mexico Wedding Expo


We are so excited for this weekend! Come join us for an afternoon full of wedding planning fun. We will have a booth full of our gorgeous canvases, frames, and albums featuring our signature style of wedding photography for you to browse and enjoy. The Southern New Mexico Wedding Expo is this Sunday, February 25th at Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces from 12pm-4pm. This is the perfect event to meet the area's top wedding professionals and get plenty of wedding ideas. Stop by our booth and say hi!! 

Perfect Southwest Weddings

Guess what? Matt and Lorena are on the cover of the 2018 Perfect Southwest Weddings magazine from the Las Cruces Bulletin! 


Throughout the wedding guide our wedding photography is featured alongside articles full of wedding planning advice and ideas. I thought it would be fun to post the photos that are published in the magazine with some behind the scenes details.

Madeleine and Colt were married in scenic Ruidoso. They are both from Texas and planned a destination wedding that included their families and closest friends. Their wedding was simple and intimate with touches of elegance like the fur stole Madeleine wore for keep warm. After the church ceremony they held a wedding dinner and reception in a large vacation rental home. Family photos, white rose petals, and string lights were easy and stress free reception decor. 

Celina loves the fall season so we made sure to schedule her engagement portrait session when the pecan tree leaves were changing colors. She included a chalkboard sign with her and Jammal’s wedding date and then used her engagement photos in their Save the Date cards.

Celina’s wedding dress is from David’s Bridal. As a sweet gift to her father, Celina had a heart patch embroidered with a special message which she then attached to her dad’s tie. As a mom of two daughters, these daddy daughter moments at weddings always get me. 

Jammal and Celina were married in the courtyard patio of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum by Pastor Conrad from Living Waters church. It was a perfect sunny afternoon with a gorgeous view of the Organ Mountains. 

I think Celina was ahead of this year’s Pantone color trend. She used shades of purple in her bouquet which was created by Fiesta Flowers. Wedding day coordination and planning was assisted by Elegant Events.

Benny and Melanie were married at Sonoma Ranch Golf Course on a warm summer day in August. I love summer skies. For me, nothing beats a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds. The covered patio at the clubhouse made the perfect dance floor for the rest of the evening. 

Lorena and Matt also used purple as one of their wedding colors. Since they were planning a wedding for October they used oranges and maroons as accent colors. Look at all those deep lovely colors in Lorena’s bouquet from Barb’s Flowerland. Stunning!

Nate and I always highly suggest sunset photos to our clients. If you plan ahead it’s easy to sneak away from the wedding reception for a few moments. The garden patio area of the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces looks incredible at night. If I didn’t know better I could be fooled into thinking we were miles away at an island resort. And look how well those sunset colors complement Lorena and Matt’s wedding colors?!

Garett and Gabrielle were married in one of the region’s most historic churches, the Basilica of San Albino on the Mesilla Plaza. Their getaway car was a vintage Porsche owned by Garett’s dad that was brought out of the garage for just this occasion. Jewel toned floral goodness and shotgun cased boutinerries was created by Calhoun Flower Farms. I have seen bridesmaids have matching hairstyles before but never groomsmen. The beards are a nice touch, well done gentlemen. 

Thankfully Garett and Gabrielle were up for more photos when sunset time rolled around. Big thanks to Garett’s brother and best man for holding my light and assisting me! Garett and Gabrielle held their reception at the Grapevine Plaza. Gabrielle and her bridesmaids had their hair and make up done by The Fixx Salon


Desiree had one of the most unique dresses I saw in 2017. Those flower details are so beautiful and she looked amazing on her wedding day! Before we wrapped up photography for the night, Nate convinced Desiree and Lucio to take one more photo. Nate loves photographing at night and he clearly had a vision in mind when he set up this photo. I think this photo of Desiree and Lucio, at the end of their wedding day, in the empty courtyard where they were married just a few hours prior will always carry a deep level of sentimentally with it. 

Dalina and Tony's summer wedding was very detail oriented. Which makes complete sense when you know Dalina. She's an auditor and is comfortable in the thick of details, details, details. And these details had a purpose and told a story. For instance, the pearls Dalina wore were from Tony's late mother. Tony's boutonniere was adorned with a small photo of his mother, which was a special way to have her close. 

Dalina's hair was done by Meghan Avilucea from Salon de Mesilla and her make up was done by Laura Juarez. After the church ceremony, their wedding reception was held at the picturesque Rio Grande Winery in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Everything at the reception was beautifully and romantically decorated by A Catered Affair. Dalina and Tony's cake was made by Deliciously Creative Cakes. A side note about the cake: During the cocktail hour of the reception Nate and I were photographing all the reception decor and details. Winds were starting to pick up and the sky was deepening to a grayish, thunder-storm-coming color. We hastened our step to get the detail photos we need as quickly as possible. As I was photographing the cake, the storm showed up in full force. You can actually see how the mountains are blocked out by the dust in the picture of the cake.  The winds were so powerful that the whole cake started to move. AH! I grabbed onto the base to stable it and Dalina's uncle ran over and we both hauled that beautiful cake inside. Moments later the freak storm everyone talked about for the rest of the summer (known as a haboob, you learn something new everyday!) rolled through the reception. Luckily, Dalina and Tony were able to stay in good spirits as the venue and catering crew got to work putting things back together. Weddings in New Mexico, man, you never know what is going to happen!


Luis and Sabrina live in Germany. Sabrina is originally from the area and when Luis proposed they both knew they wanted to plan a wedding in the desert. Determined to do things their way and with no stress involved, they planned a very small, intimate wedding with just a handful of friends present. They were married by a judge on a small tucked away corner of Cattleman's Ranch in Fabens, Texas. For the traditional wedding toast they brought champagne that was made right in their hometown in Germany. Their wedding was featured on, click on over to read more about it and see more photos, like Sabrina's cacti bouquet!


Jennett and Armando also dealt with a little bit of weather during their summer wedding. Not the freak storm kind, but just enough to make a moody dark sky. Which I don't mind at all! Jennett's hair and make up was done by Brenda Tarango. Gorgeous bouquets were created by Barb's Flowerland. Details and coordinating by Elegant Events

I am so pleased that a few images from the Los Portales styled shoot were featured in the magazine. This was such a fun shoot to collaborate on with a ton of the area's most creative wedding vendors! You can read all about the details, there are a ton, on this blog post. Or see the wedding blogs this shoot has been featured on: The Glittery Bride and The Coordinated Bride

You can find a copy of the Las Cruces Bulletin's 2018 Perfect Southwest Weddings around stores in Las Cruces.

Thanks to all the wonderful wedding vendors who make these special moments even more special and of course thank you to the editorial staff at the Bulletin for featuring our wedding photography!

Las Cruces Bulletin's 2016 Wedding Guide

We are so thrilled to have our work featured in the Las Cruces Bulletin’s 2016/2017 Wedding Guide!

Seeing our couples grace the pages of a magazine is quite the treat.

Throughout the Bulletin’s wedding guide, our photographs not only highlight our beautiful brides and grooms but also the wonderful vendors they have selected to work with. I want to take a moment and give them a shout out because they are such a crucial piece to any beautiful wedding.

Here are the local vendors featured in our photographs that appear in the wedding guide.

Venue: Meson de Mesilla

Flowers and decor: Floriography

Make Up:     Allison Shrum Makeup Artistry

Hair: Brittany Evans, hair stylist at Cheeky Chicks

Dress: BHLDN

Officiant: Rev Emma


Photo location: EPIC Railyard Event Center


Photo location: White Sands National Monument

Make Up: Allison Shrum Makeup Artistry

Hair: The Spa, Alamogordo


Photo location: New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum Courtyard

Cake: Let them Eat Cake


If you are planning a wedding, these are a few of the great vendors Las Cruces has to offer!


The Advice You Will Wish You Heard Before You Chose a Wedding Photographer

Note: We have carried this post forward from our previous blog. Originally published January 15, 2015

After your wedding there are three things you will walk away with; a ring, a spouse, and whatever your photographer provides you with. This being said, don’t skimp on your wedding photography budget and make sure it is a priority. Your wedding planner, the centerpieces, flowers, and food will all only become memories from the biggest party of your life. The photographs created by the photographer you choose will be nothing less than sacred heirlooms. These images are going to be the foundation of your family’s history. These are the photographs you will hang on the walls of your first home, the images your parents will show off of their baby girl, and the photos you will show your children and grandchildren. Here are three things to look for in your quest to find the best wedding photographer for your wedding.

Love their style

Viewing photographer’s wedding portfolios is a lot like trying on wedding dresses. You should be able to envision yourself and your guy in their photographs.
What you see is what you are going to get. When you are looking through a photographer’s portfolio take into consideration that the photographer is showing you these photos on purpose. They are showing you their best work. There are several styles of wedding photography, and every photographer shows more strength in certain styles over others. Know what type of style you prefer. Do you like the more traditional and timeless style that emphasize faces and emotions, or are you really into environmental/landscape pictures that put emphasis on the surroundings? Maybe you favor a more glamorous style with heavy influences from the fashion industry. You can look for strengths in the style you prefer when browsing portfolios and websites and you can discuss your style preferences with the photographer.

Be wary of any photographer trying to sell you on their expertise from a resume level. There is no nationally regulated or standardized professional accreditation for photographers. A photographer can go to school to train their eye for art, but photojournalism is journalism (storytelling), and the most valid way to judge a photographer’s expertise is by looking at their photographs. Review their portfolio and also ask to view a sample of what a full wedding looks like.

At the end of the day you need to follow your gut. If you know you like a photographer’s work and you keep going back to one photographer’s website every time you are in the middle of browsing photography websites, then hire that photographer. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, or you will regret it every time you look at photographs from your wedding.

Love their products

By now in your search you have heard and read from several different sources that you want digital negatives from your wedding day. I am going to call BS on this one. When you show your children pictures from your wedding day, do you honestly think you will be able to hand them over a CD when they are 18? How about 5? “If I gave you a LaserDisc today and told you there was a lot of cool stuff on it, what would you do?” This quote comes from Ethan Miller, the Symantec presidential chair in storage and security at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ethan has several great quotes form a recent article titled “Why your digital photos might die before your grandkids see them”. Ethan gave sound advice that all brides should heed: “Digitally storing photos is no guarantee that your grandchildren or even your children will be able to look at them. It sounds really weird as a computer scientist saying this, but if there are photos you really, really want your grandchildren to see, print them out.” Experienced photographers know this as they have faced struggles with the issue of storing digital negatives personally. The type of photographers that emphasize digital negatives are hobbyists that are more interested in expanding their portfolio than spending the time it takes to create true photographic art for their clients and providing a complete service. Be certain that the photographer you choose stresses the importance of getting products through them because they are offering you museum quality photographic products that will last at least one hundred years.

Get to know the products the photographer provides. If you are looking at purchasing a wedding package with an album, then you need to see that exact album. If a photographer is selling albums they will have a studio sample that you can look through. Touch it, feel it, love it. Know your options and don’t believe that less is more. Follow this same thinking with wall prints. You need to see what you are getting before you can commit. Is it something that can go on your wall or are you going to have to get it framed yourself? Make sure that if you are just getting prints in your package that you are comfortable paying extra to get it framed/wall ready and that you know where and how to put it on your wall.

Resist the urge to print your pictures at a convenience store where the person in charge of calibrating the large format printer (if they even decide to calibrate it) is paid minimum wage and could care less what the color looks like. Your wedding photos deserve better than that. Choose a photographer who has access to print labs with full time professionals that make a living from printing museum grade photographic prints, which you as a consumer do not have access to.

Love their personality

If you want a bubbly go lucky photographer at your wedding, then hire one. Nobody is judging you. Just be sure to hire the personality that you are comfortable sharing the most memorable day of your life with, because they will be there with you all day. Don’t forget the phone calls, emails, engagement session, bridal session, image reveal sessions, and other interactions you will be having with them. This is a person you are going to be spending a lot of time with, you should enjoy having them around. If you overlook or ignore any personality red flags, this will be a painful process. Instead of loving the photographs from your wedding you will be reminded of the horrible photographer you were more than happy to leave in the past. A better practice is to think more long term. When you meet a photographer, instead of considering this person for just this one event in your life, ask yourself if you could see this person being your family’s photographer. First comes your wedding, then comes your first baby’s newborn pictures, yearly family pictures, and eventually senior pictures. Is this photographer a person you can see yourself building a lifetime relationship with? And does the photographer seek out such relationships? You can tell a photographer is interested in creating these relationships when they invest time and energy into you. Beware of the photographer that doesn’t have time to talk to you over the phone for an hour, has no advice for you as a close friend would over your wedding arrangements, and sets no plans for meeting with you after the wedding to go over the photographs they have created. Most importantly, make sure the photographer’s personality will not distract you from living this important moment in your life to its absolute fullest or it will show in your photographs.