buffalo photographer

Nicole & John: {A Downtown Buffalo Engagement Session}

I only just met Nicole and John and yet I feel like we've been friends for years. They just exude kindness, sincerity, humor and joy. Being made to feel like a friend made our downtown Buffalo engagement session together even more special. 

BuffaloEngagement

When I first chatted with Nicole via Skype last year, I was packing up our house and about to embark on our family's third (and final) move. I poured some wine, er, tea, found a corner of the house that did not have a pile of boxes behind me and had way more fun that I ever expected. Nicole is intelligent, organized and precise but also incredibly funny and "real." When I received a #gentlehonesty e-mail (we have a lot of hashtags for our adventure together) asking me to be their September 2016 wedding photographer, I felt truly lucky. 

For their engagement session, Nicole and John wanted to be surrounded by beautiful scenery and comfy scenes. John used some of his connections to secure us spots at 500 Seneca and 95 Perry in downtown Buffalo after some time meeting their adorable puppy and photographing around their brand new home. 

With sun-drenched atriums, homey front porches and skyline views from rooftop decks, this engagement session was dreamy and full of laughter and lots and lots of love. 

The way Nicole looks at John when he's not looking and the way John pushes back Nicole's hair and squeezes her hand -- well, just moments of magic. 

And Nicole's ring? A family heirloom from John's aunt! It's gorgeous! 

After driving around beautiful Buffalo, five flights up stairs, city views, cheesy jokes and some bloopers, it was sad to see the day come to an end. And yet... just a few months until their beautiful wedding. 

Enjoy a glimpse into their love story and our adventure and stay tuned for more beauty from these lovebirds later this year. 

 

Caroline Logan Workshop Recap -- Headshots & The Future of Wendy Zook Photography

So I've already shared a bit about what I loved most during the Caroline Logan Photography Workshop last month, and now I want to share my beautiful new headshots from Caroline and also what all this learning and daydreaming means for you and for Wendy Zook Photography.

 

There are no gigantic shifts in my business -- I mean, in the last year I've already rebranded and consistently given a fun and personal client experience (not to mention some of my favorite images so far!). Rather, I'll be emphasizing those things that are important to me, thanks to some "aha" moments at the workshop:

 

- Blessing my clients with my business

I don't want to just deliver photos -- I want to deliver an incredible experience from first phone call through consults and e-mails and engagement sessions all the way to their sparkler exit at the end of their special day. I want them to feel that in some way Wendy, and not just WZP, has brought joy and all sorts of good things into their lives.

 

- Consistency, consistency, consistency

I want consistency not just from Corynn and Kevin's wedding in June to Melissa and Patrick's big day in September but from my first wedding in May through my last wedding in 2017. I want consistency in my workflow (I'm slooooooowly moving to all-digital for contracts, invoices and bookkeeping) but also in my editing. I really want to stay true to my style and also make all of my events look like they truly belong to the same person. Will you hold me accountable to this?!
 

- Staying true to me

This is one that I'm getting better at, but, in a field that can be competitive and stressful and overwhelming with talent, I just want to make sure that the reason I take each wedding on is the same as why I chose this path originally -- to observe and capture the greatest moments of unique love stories and to embrace true moments of the day as they happen. I want to always tell romantic stories and fun anecdotes through images that are as natural and authentic as my couples. I want to come home after each long wedding day and say "YES, YES, YES" on repeat. I want to stay friends with my clients and watch their lives explode with beauty and joy and the ups and downs of life. I want to be a capturer of memories.

 

 

It got pretty serious there! Let's take a deep breath and enjoy some pretty photos from someone else, shall we?

Photos are courtesy of Caroline Logan and took place in the beautiful Hingework co-working/studio space in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Camera strap is from Casie Marie Photography's Etsy store.

 


Which headshot is your favorite?

5 Reasons to do a boudoir session

Boudoir sessions are some of my absolute favorites, if for no other reason than the confidence and empowerment I almost always see come through in the ladies in front of my camera.

Boudoir sessions are not just lace and lingerie -- it's a classy, elegant, tasteful way to make you first and foremost fall in love with yourself -- owning every so-called imperfection with pride and realizing the incredible beauty you possess, regardless of your clothing size or curves.

 

Here are five reasons to do a boudoir session:

 

 

1. Do it for him.

Several of my brides have opted to do a boudoir session with me before their wedding. Together, we create a series of images that are a story of everything your fiancé loves about you -- and not just physically. We can incorporate his favorite activities, sports teams and props.

Most of my boudoir clients opt for a small album of final images to present to their significant other for Valentines' Day or the morning of their wedding.

 

2. Celebrate your hard work.

Have you recently completed a weight loss journey? Have you been hitting the gym every day? Do you begin your mornings with Pilates or end them with a walk around the neighborhood? Have you changed your diet to healthier options or are you drinking more water? For these and a thousand other possibilities, we can celebrate the new you and put her on display.

 

 

3. It can be anything you want it to be.

I've never done a boudoir session that was ONLY lingerie. Most of my sessions have multiple outfits. It can be whatever makes you happy. Is it a borrowed T-shirt and cotton panties? That's beautiful, too! Sipping a cup of coffee? Reading a book? Anything is possible!

 

 

4. Build up your confidence.

I have a confession.

I did a boudoir session once.

Yep, other side of the camera. In something other than my yoga pants. Well, a lot less than my yoga pants, haha! When you have talented friends who take fantastic photos, are terrific with natural light and make you feel comfortable, it just sort of happens. Well, wine, too. At the end of the day, though, I was pleasantly surprised. I had intended the final photos to be seen and appreciated by my husband. But you know what, I got so much more out of the experience than he could have from those gorgeous images. My worries about my post-babies body and gray strands of hair and all the other silly things seemed unfounded and I walked out of there with a little bit of Beyoncé swagger.

 

5. Do it for you.

You can do it to celebrate the hard work the gym brought, the love you have for your handsome man and as a nod to being a more confident person. But you can also just do it for you -- for no one else's expectations and for no reason other than you know and think and believe you are beautiful and worth a little time in front of the camera to feel sexy and gorgeous. (Plus, I provide champagne!)

 

 

Some things to keep in mind when it comes to boudoir sessions with Wendy Zook Photography:

- These are private! Your only audience will be my Nikon. 

- My goal is to keep you comfortable at all times. I rarely impose a time limit and I leave several of the creative options up to you, including location, outfits and types of final images.

- I never use your boudoir photos on social media or online (unless you've given me permission). They will never be entered in photo contests or pinned on Pinterest.

- I promise that you will leave feeling sexier, more proud, more comfortable, with your head held a little higher and a smile across your face.

Dreams & Realities, Friends & Rockstars -- National Down Syndrome Society New York City Photo Shoot

***This is one in a three-part perspective on the #rockinNDSSstudios experience with the National Down Syndrome Society. To see more of this journey, visit my co-photographers Nicole and Sherri who are also sharing their adventures in blogs today. ***

 

 

Months of planning, new and old friendships and a gathering of wild imaginations and big dreams came together earlier this month in what will most definitely be remembered as one of the absolute highlights of both my professional and personal stories.

A little background and then a lot of fun memories:

In mid-October I shared my friend and newborn photographer Nicole Starr's donation of photography sessions to families affected by Down Syndrome with my never-met-but-feel-like-true-friends friend Sara Weir, President of the National Down Syndrome Society. I thought it was a long shot and I thought I might be bothering with Sara's already busy schedule, but lo and behold, Sara requested a conference call with us. We were excited, but puzzled. Perhaps, we thought, Sara had some connections in Nicole's Boston area for some well-deserving families to receive photos.

But Sara is a dreamer. A big dreamer and a big believer. And that's what makes her and the NDSS so fabulous -- they're almost afraid of the word "no" when it comes to advocacy, human rights and possibilities and futures for those with DS.

She offered up her idea that maybe, just maybe, we could all collaborate for a NYC rock-and-roll-themed photo shoot to use for the NDSS annual fundraising Gala, held in March at BB King Blues Club. The rest of that phone call is a blur because I felt such extreme emotions overtake me.

When Nicole and I hung up with Sara (after agreeing that YES YES YES we were in!), we of course called each other and simply alternated between shocked silence and excited squealing. And we took off running from there. We joined forces soon after with Kandi, Kristie, Maddy, Amy and several others from NDSS. There were conference calls and Pinterest boards and model calls on Facebook and then e-mails, phone calls, Excel spreadsheets and travel plans.

Sherri, a mom to a daughter with DS and Nebraska-based photographer, volunteered her time and efforts, too.

Before we knew it, a sunny, mild December Monday morning arrived.

I sat on my seat on the plane, smiling out the window as I texted a picture of the plane to my aunt for the kids to see. I half-wanted someone to ask me where this plane was taking me, just so I could answer, "To the most INCREDIBLE opportunity I've ever been given! You would not believe how lucky I am!"

At the NDSS New York offices on the 600-block of Broadway in the heart of the NoHo neighborhood, it went from a big dream to a huge reality. We tested our lighting and camera settings, took a tour and scoped out corners. Poured some coffee, grabbed our lenses and for about the longest five minutes, just stood in our own little quiet worlds. Then the first models arrived, hair and makeup began their work and it began!

We had more than 200 volunteer applicants and wound up with more than 50 models. We represented just about every genre and style of music and every age between infant and 50 years old. Men and women, boys and girls. Quiet and shy and confident and strong.

You know how they say, "It's the little things in life"? It is. Truly.

I felt so many powerful moments.

Many of my 15-minute sessions were outside in a side street off of Broadway, with cobblestone and wrought iron gates, graffiti, cool staircases and a true NYC skyline and vibe.

I remember crossing over the cobblestone with one of my older models holding my hand, tenderly gracing her feet over the bricks as she told me in one breath about her recent ankle surgeries and a trip abroad for advocacy work.

A teenage boy was painfully shy and his parents warned me he may not come out of his shell. But just a couple of minutes later, I saw the most beautiful smile. His mother wrote me that the photo shoot has changed his confidence and self esteem.

My Billy Joel sang "Uptown Girl" while acting smooth on the front steps of a nearby business. My Elvis Costello suggested wonderful poses and locations along the street and nodded, "That looks so good!" when I showed him the back of the camera.

I received hugs and got so many hand squeezes. I took selfies with my new friends and just couldn't stop smiling.

(Photos below are camera phone behind-the-scenes shots:)

 

It wasn't just the rockstars. It was the tough Momma who gracefully balanced her other children with love and attention. The Dad who wasn't afraid to make a fool out of himself to get his son to loosen up in front of the cameras and strangers. Proud aunts and grandparents and friends, too. Big sisters who helped little brothers and all of those behind the scenes, holding fans and lights, grabbing coffees, allowing flexibility and not worrying about who won't wear their wig or whether or not glasses are part of the costume. Some of the best moments were when I wasn't holding my Nikon -- instead I was blasting and dancing (poorly) to some Taylor Swift or asking about hobbies and hometowns and listening, truly listening.

Moms who learned I have a son with Down Syndrome offered resources, phone numbers and the best of bear hugs. The kind that say "I get it" and "Our lives rock!"

There was talk about fighting for the right classroom, open-heart surgeries on sweet babies, scars from tubes and so many battles that are fought on a daily, hourly basis. But there was no complaining. There was no 'why me.' Over the course of two days, we had one common purpose with some sunshine and a lot of love. We created beautiful art with our experience and equipment and all of those big dreams. But our models and their families are the reason for the success of those days. Their patience and open-mindedness and their incredible positivity.

 

I was keeping it together pretty well.

And then, in the most unlikely of moments, it all hit.

Nicole was photographing our little Buddy Holly and he needed a little encouragement from his big sisters and Mom who were watching from the back of the room. They were great -- a little dancing and some laughter and he was ready for his time in the spotlight. But the moment that truly defined his time as a rockstar? Not the solo photo that Nicole nailed in the camera of him with a guitar and a little black suit. It was the instant before when he stood in the center of four of his family members, all of them grooving and giggling. THAT, is what NDSS celebrates and strives for and that is why I think we all wanted to be a part of this. That reminder of hope and beauty. Of a life that is absolutely remarkable. A life lived like a dance party.

But, I couldn't put that in words, and I quietly retreated and broke down in tears in the hallway.

I apologized for being weak and creating a scene, but then Kandi of NDSS, also a mom to a little boy with DS, held my back and said "This is all for Zack."

But this is for all of them. The 400,000 people living with DS in America today. The moms and dads who have been through it all and the new parents of the 1 in 691 births with a DS diagnosis every year. This is for my new friends who have college degrees and who dance or sing or act. It is for their past accomplishments and their future successes. They are all rockstars. They are all role models for us all.

 

 

Several families have sent me/us thank-you messages. I am appreciative and yet I shake my head and whisper, "No, thank YOU."

You who rearranged doctor appointments and missed school and work. You who traveled five hours in the morning for one hour in our little makeshift studios just to turn around and drive five hours back home -- because you told us you 'just had to do this.' You who trusted a stranger with a camera. You at the NDSS who travel multiple times a month, endure difficult phone calls and long Senate meetings and House bill lingo. You who march and fundraise and do not sit quietly with the status quo.

 

(Images below are of some of the models I worked most closely with, emulating the following rockstars: Usher / Pink / Elvis Costello / Billy Joel / Elvis / Michael Jackson / Lenny Kravitz / Lady Gaga / Gwen Stefani / Janis Joplin / Pat Benatar.)

 


Images from this photo session will be used in promotion for and on display at the NDSS 30th Annual Gala and Auction. This year's honorees include ABC and actor and advocate Chris Burke. Final posters of our rockstars will be available for purchase. All proceeds from this event will go toward the NDSS.

A little Q-and-A with Wedding Planner Candice Mock of Patchwork Planning

Next up for a Q-and-A is my dear friend and insanely talented event planner Candice Mock of Patchwork Planning. Based out of Northeast PA, Candice has a traveling heart. Her magic touch has been found on weddings and special events across the country and I know she's itching for her first international experience! Here she talks a little about her start, what she loves most and why a wedding planner is SO important. 

Tropical Barn Wedding by Patchwork Planning -- Image Courtesy of Photography by Seneca

Tropical Barn Wedding by Patchwork Planning -- Image Courtesy of Photography by Seneca

 

When and how did PP begin?

I first started giving tips and advice while I was planning my own wedding in 2013. Word was getting out that we were going to have this incredible DIY wedding for $3,500 and people couldn't figure out how. After our wedding went off without a flaw and we had the best day ever, my engaged friends knew I needed to be there for them on their wedding day (and I wanted to!). So, I operated under "Candice Mock Wedding and Events" and did some "partial planning" and "day of coordination packages for some friends. In fact, our first wedding we got to really be a part of was in Georgia, then our second was in Idaho in the Spring of 2014. We were stoked to have one of our first PA weddings at Friedman Farms right here in Dallas (Pa.), which was such a joy to be able to work with actual local vendors. In the Fall of 2014, I knew I wanted to take this on as a serious business and so I rebranded and became officially Patchwork Planning in December of last year. 

Candice & Evan on their wedding day. Photo by Mika McClurkin. 

Candice & Evan on their wedding day. Photo by Mika McClurkin. 

 

Why did you decide to become a planner? 

After seeing how many details were involved, and how costly things can get, I wanted there to be another way: Another way for a single mom who is working to provide for her kids, let alone trying to save for and plan a wedding; Another way for the bride who has planned it all but wants someone there to make sure the days of is as beautiful as it can be. I wanted to recreate the image that wedding planners are only for large weddings that have lots of money. I guest when it comes down to it, I want to help people, couples, families, on one of their most beautiful days of their lives (and what could be one of the most stressful days as well). 

 

Tell me a little bit about what you do for your couples and clients -- what are the different options for your assistance? What's the most popular type of help wedding couples need? 

We start out with three different packages: Full planning, which can start as soon as they get engaged; Partial Planning, which is a customizable package starting a minimum of four months out, and our most popular and most inadequately-named Day-of Package. As mentioned, our Full Planning Package can start right off the bat. It can include anything that it needs to, from recommending and selecting vendors to attending fittings. It includes monthly checklists of things to do (or things couples would like me to do) and a lot more. I call it the "whole enchilada" because that's really what it is. Our Partial Planning Package is for those that might have booked some vendors, but still need help finding some others. It can also include help with RSVP management and other details that come up in the last three months of planning. Our last package, though called Day Of, starts one month out with a meeting with the couple to get caught up on all the planning they've done. After a venue run-through and a vendor list we put together, we put together our most vital part of the wedding day -- the timeline. This ensures everyone will be on the same page, from bridal party to the DJ. It's also called "Month of" Package and "Peach of Mind" Package. Because each wedding day is so different, we want to be as customizable as possible. That way, you are paying for what you need, and not anything extra. Have something crazy we need to do? (Like making sure your dog can be kenneled during your wedding day?) We can add that, and anything else, to the package. 

 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in planning?

As movies have pointed out, there is always the chance we will have a "bridezilla" on our hands -- the most pleasant bride ever, until one small detail can set them off. I think the challenge is, especially because people are so different, is finding what can not just calm them down but bring everything back into perspective. We've dealt with screaming mothers, drunk grooms, late caterers and the list goes on. But at the end of the day, it's reminding the couple that they will be married. And no matter if it was the perfect day they imagined or due to things beyond our control it wasn't the ideal day, they will still be married. 

 

What three words would best describe you/your style/your business?

Organized

Thrifty

Friendly

 

What's been the best compliment you've received?

We've worked with a lot of incredible people, from couples that we've planned every detail with to couples we've met one month prior -- and not to mention some awesome bridal parties that we might only have known for two days but still talk about. One of my favorite compliments was for a couple that I planned almost every detail for while they lived in an entirely different country. Though there's more to it than I can say, after the ceremony, the father came up to me and said, "I can't thank you enough, you've truly brought our entire family closer together." I was flabbergasted and may have shed a tear. What can I say to something like that? It is an honor, an absolute honor, to work with couples on such an important day of their lives. 

 

What is this 100-plus item emergency kit? What are some of the strangest things you've had to find/use?

A fellow wedding planner was gracious enough to send me her emergency kit list. As I bought the different items, (everything from aspirin to fake rings), I realized I was going to need a suitcase. Now, when I head to different venues, I call it my "Mary Poppins bag" and everyone is always surprised when they need something and I say, "Oh, I think I have that." One of the first weekends I had the bag with me, I used almost half a bottle of aspirin, medical tape and an ace bandage. Strange because it was a wedding drinking festival and if I didn't have those items, I don't know what I would have done. I truly feel prepared for almost everything.

 

What about your job brings you the greatest joy?

At the end of the night, hearing the "We couldn't have imagined the day without you" is something that always resonates with me. We hear it at every single wedding we have done, and sometimes multiple people at the event repeat it. It's such an honor to be a part of someone's most special day. Sometimes you might not have known you needed a planner, or maybe you are a bride-to-be and don't think you need an extra hand. You will never know how much easier, smoother, peaceful, etc, your day could be with one. 

 

What does your Instagram feed look like? (www.instagram.com/thepwplanner)

My Instagram is a mix of curated posts of inspiration from others in the wedding industry, our own weddings and shoots, our English Bulldog, Stacy, and adventures with my husband. Every day is different!

 

Why is photography so important on a couple's wedding day? What questions should people ask of a potential photographer?

Professional photos (keyword: professional) are unforgettable. So what if you don't think you're the photo type, or perhaps don't necessarily see the need right now. There may come a time that you wish you could see those photos, or that portrait of your grandma that passed away recently. You're on a tight budget? Generally, photographers will be willing to work with you to capture exactly what you want for a price you can afford. 

Definitely ask first and foremost what their style is. So you like alight and airy photos? When you see heavily-edited, saturated photos, you know they are not a good fit. Ask about a payment plan! Ask how long they are there for your wedding day. She if they've been to the venue beforehand. Discuss having a second shooter. The more you know, the more you'll feel comfortable with trusting them to capture your special day. 

 

What's your favorite part of a wedding day and why?

The end. Ha! That's kind of true (because that means everything went well and now the couple gets to focus on their marriage and not just their wedding day). But really, I would have to say the First Look or the recessional. That moment where the bride and groom see each other for the first time makes me forget the frustrated mother-of-the-bride, the jealous bridesmaid, etc. It puts everything into perspective for those few moments that really at the end of the day, no matter if the caterer is late, the flowers don't arrive or there's a hurricane outside, they are married and get to spend the rest of they lives loving each other. The recessional gives me a similar feeling, exuding so much joy surrounded by the people that love you the most. 

 

What's the future looking like for PP? Any changes coming to your services?

Well! We have been booking 2016 for a while now and even have a few weddings in 2017. We are working on a few "full planning" engagements, which is really like planning an entire wedding. In the midst of weddings, traveling and more weddings, we are also teaming up with some of our favorite vendors (Forget Me Not Vintage Rentals and Photography by Seneca) to do at least one styled shoot a month until November. 

There's a good chance we might need to hire an intern for next year's wedding season, which is exciting. We want to rewire the idea that wedding planners are only for the wealthy bride and will continue to work with brides according to their budgets and needs. 

 

Clockwise from Top Left: Mel and Jesse from Alexander x Pat Furey Photography (http://www.longbrookphotography.com and http://www.patfureyphoto.com) / Kaiti and Jon from Mika McClurkin / Sweetheart Table from a Tribal Wedding, photo courtesy Photography by Seneca / Nell and Chandler table set-up courtesy of Forget Me Not Rentals and Kelley Spurlock Photography. 


Be sure to visit Candice and Patchwork Planning at:

www.patchworkplanning.com

www.facebook.com/patchworkplanning

www.pinterest.com/patchworkplanning

www.instagram.com/patchworkplanning

E:mail: patchworkplanning@gmail.com 





Yellow and gray and a beautiful wedding day {A New Jersey Wedding for a Texas Couple}

After getting to know my couples for sometimes two years before their big day, I always experience a moment or two that's most like a Proud Big Sister when it's time to capture their wedding day. 

For Mallorie and Eric, that was even more so the case. Mallorie's older sister and Matron of Honor Allison is one of my dearest friends from childhood. I didn't know Mallorie as well as I wish I had but I've been lucky enough to watch her journey from afar over the years. 

And with a backdrop of weeping willows and lakefront rows of white chairs on a sunny September afternoon, I watched Mallorie's parents walk her down the aisle as her REAL big sister proudly watched. 

I'll come back to Eric in a minute, but let's talk first about the INCREDIBLE Mallorie. She chose a lace-sleeved, tea-length dress with insane Betsey Johnson heels. Mallorie rocked some gorgeous long, sideswept curls and some Old-Hollywood red lips and she looked so fun and elegant, twirling, hands in her dress pockets (um, yep!). 

And Eric was handsome and happy, smiling every minute of their day. The way he looks at Mallorie is so, so beautiful. He just worships her and respects her and it's obvious with every glance. 

Mallorie and Eric chose to do a First Look (peeking at each other prior to the ceremony) and we set Eric up at the bottom and Mallorie at the top of a tall wooden staircase at the historic inn where their reception was held. After some quiet moments alone, they and their bridal party did some photos there and at the ceremony site, a beautiful former convent on a huge plot of land with the aforementioned trees and water. 

I promised Mallorie that some gorgeous images could be captured if we trudged down a hill of tall grass to the water's edge and there, with gorgeous light shimmering through the leaves and the love and comfort of those two, we froze in time some of my favorite wedding photography moments so far. 

A sweet ceremony (complete with their pup!) led to a delicious cocktail hour and hours of impressive dance moves back at the inn. 

They grabbed the mic with five minutes to go, thanked all of their loved ones and danced together, swaying in each other's arms as 100 friends and family circled them, applauding and cheering and dancing. Eric picked Mallorie up in his arms and twirled her once, twice and I couldn't help but feel those Proud Big Sister vibes I always feel during my weddings. All of their planning and preparing and thoughtful gestures for their loved ones created this beautiful day, this beautiful moment. 

 

Congratulations! Here are some of my favorite images!

 

Be sure to visit some of these amazing vendors, too:

Ceremony Venue: Rutherfurd Hall, Allamuchy, New Jersey

Reception Venue: David's Country Inn, Hackettstown, New Jersey

Florist: Calico Flowers, Hackettstown, New Jersey

Cake: Palermo's Bakery, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey

DJ/MC: This is It! Entertainment, Red Bank, New Jersey

Videographer: Noah Rosenblatt, Red Bank, New Jersey