Lake Geneva a wonderful place to live…especially in the summer

June 13th, 2014

The sun has come out and the seasons have finally changed.  Summer is here.  Memorial Day weekend always amazes me.  My 6-mile “commute” over to the studio increases a good 40% in time (not distance) from this holiday until Labor Day.  People start showing up–everywhere.  It all becomes a bit more touristy but it’s summer and I love it.  I, Jake Schnake, was born and raised around the lake and have spent every summer of my life enjoying its beauty.  It amazes me it never gets old.  There are certainly days I would love to move out west to some majestic backdrop for life and photography but there is always the raw beauty found along the shores of Geneva Lake.

This year we have started shooting much more real estate for many of the local realtors.  Having the privilege of photographing some of the homes around and near the lake establishes a deeper sense of appreciation for the history and culture that has been created and why it is such a great place to call home.  I didn’t know how therapeutic capturing real estate would be for me.  Some photographers probably find it boring and monotonous and others probably shudder at the thought of their home ever being photographed or displayed for others to see.  But I see the potential for hospitality, committment to family, celebration of life, cultivation of relationships, and the creativity of the family.

The Lake Geneva area is a wonderful place to call home, to raise a family, to grow as one, build a business, have fun and visit.  Below are some of of our recent photos capturing some of the amazing architecture of our lake community.





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Best of 2013– The Reception

March 27th, 2014

I look over and my assistant is crying during the father/daughter dance. She had never even met this couple and the love dad had for her daughter moved her into tears. And it would be a lie to say I’ve been tear free from every reception.

It is such a wonderful time to share in the ‘once here, quickly gone’ moments. Brief moments. We have the honor of capturing these memories and moments that quickly fade into history without the photographic reminder. We are so thankful for the privilege of preserving such important moments and cannot wait to be a part of many special more this coming season.

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Slo-Mo Video Booth

March 25th, 2014

There are so many important details to your wedding day.  Most couples want to have products and services that are fun and unique.  We are excited to announce the release of a new product that you are going to love.   The Slo-Mo Video Booth.


The last five years photo booths have gained in popularity.  It has been all the rage and almost every wedding has one and we certainly still offer photo booths.  Here is our latest sample from Rebecca & Jed’s wedding.  But we would be surprised to hear if you have ever been to a wedding that had a slo-mo video booth.   It has some of the similar fun that a photo booth has to offer only times two.

Wedding days are primarily remembered in the celebration of the happy newlywed.   Every bride and groom want to look back on photos and videos of their vows, but they also want to remember the dozens or even hundreds of special people that sacrificed to be there that day.  One of the reasons we love photo and video booths is the memory it creates for the bride and groom to carry with them through their life, look back, and laugh together.  Seriously–how funny would it be to watch what your mom and dad looked like in slow-motion 30 years ago?  I’d pay big money for that.  Sure, if you want us to walk around while people are eating and ask them all to awkwardly turn around and smile for the “table shot” we can do that.  But I think we have a better idea…

How is it set up? 

We did a lot of research on the best LED video lights out there.  LED lights really are quite expensive (and bright!) but completely necessary for a successful video booth.  The serve a two-fold function.  One is to create that Hollywood-esk lighting that you would see for news or sports anchors and the other is creating a shutter speed fast enough to capture your video at a fast enough frame rate.  (There are a lot of technical components to that last part I won’t be spending any time on really describing.)  After a lot of research on lumens, watts, brands, and materials, we decided to buy four of the Ikan IFD 1024‘s.  You can save money buying other brands or less lumens, but you’re going to want 4,000+ LED lights for this work well.  In addition to the lights, we obviously need a camera.  There really aren’t many video cameras out there that shoot over 60 frames/second in the “reasonable” price range.  You can easily pick up a stellar video camera that capture 100-200+ frames per second, but you’ll end up spending 4k+.  We decided to go with the GoPro Hero 3+ Black.  This camera can be picked up for $500 and at 720p is able to capture video at 120fps.  Besides that, throw your backdrop up, grab your props and you’re good to go.

What Props Do We Use?

Good slow-motions shots don’t just happen.  If you do all this work and someone just stands in front of the camera, slowing that down won’t really look to entertaining.  But you also have to know the limits of the video camera–it can only shoot at 120fps.

Here are some samples of what we use

  • Paper Confetti
  • Costumes for effect: random hats, glasses, scarves, helmets.
  • Silly String
  • Nerf guns
  • Facial movements
  • People with long hair
  • Balloons
  • Bubble makers
  • Shop Vac (to blow air etc.)
  • Alcohol (to be consumed before entering booth)

How do we Edit the footage?

The product is far from over once you’ve packed up and gone home.  Until you reinterpret the footage to a slower frame rate, cut out excessive materials, and add some good tunes, you don’t really have much.   It is best to have an editing program like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro to slow down and edit your footage.  You simply import the footage and reinterpret it as 24fps, slowing it down to 20%.  Pick a fun song and start pulling clips in.  I’m not the grand master of video editing but I have found the use of “reverse speed” is a great effect for sl0w-motion videos: hats fly up from out of the frame and then land on the head, confetti moving upwards make people appear to be falling, and hundreds of other realities you don’t even know would be funny until you have the footage at your finger tips.

We had the privilege of working with Kaylee Kolnik and Travis Frederick on their wedding day.  It was a beautiful wedding in their hometown area near Lake Geneva, WI.  Their reception at the Abbey Resort in Fontana allowed us to debut this new product.  The guests weren’t even skeptical of what it was, they just jumped right in.  And, without any practice, we all agree: they were phenomenal!





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“Best Of” 2013 — The Ceremony

February 27th, 2014

It amazes me how few ceremony photos you’ll find when looking through the internet for wedding photos. What would a wedding day be without a…wedding? In the “marketing world” of wedding photography, ceremony photos are usually used the least–and it really is a shame. We love the details, the first look, the romantics, the fun bridal party photos, but there is something so special about the ceremony that captures the raw emotions of the day. Mom and Dad are so proud of their daughter or son. Grandma is cuter and older than ever. The flower girls drops the pedals with such precision (well…sometimes). Dating stories are recalled. Rings are exchanged. Hearts are hopeful. And these moments aren’t incredible opportunities for amazing photographs? We think not.

We are always blessed to take such a key role in this special moment. The tears, laughs, and promises shared in these few minutes are what the bride and groom will have to look back on this day. Thank you to all the individuals who invited us to their ceremony to share in these memories and we hope we can see you again soon with you in the bridal party this time!

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Best of 2013– The First Look

February 25th, 2014

The first time we mention a “first look” to a bride and groom in our planning session they often respond with concern and hesitation. Isn’t this supposed to happen at the ceremony site?

There are a number of reasons why we encourage a “first look” experience prior to the ceremony for the bride and groom, but I’m certain a quick flip through these images will convince you much quicker.

We love capturing those timeless moments in your life that you, your family and friends can forever cherish. And on a wedding day, the first look is a beautiful opportunity for us to do that. Both have been imaging this moment his whole life. All the winding roads have brought them to this moment where they begin walking together through life hand in hand. And we’re there to place you in a quiet, secluded area where you can live out that romantic moment and then re-live it again and again through the photos and videos.

We hope you can share in the joy of these couples and we hope we can share in the joy of capturing the most important moments of your life.

Here’s to love and the joy received through it.

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Best of 2013 — The Bridesmaids

February 20th, 2014

I’m amazed we don’t have more broken ankles on a wedding day. I mean, come on. I’m thinking to myself, “Ok, these ladies just spent four hours getting ready. They’re in heals. They’re wearing a dress. They’re freezing. Nah, they wouldn’t want to risk it all for this crazy shot.” And, to my constant surprise–I’m wrong. These girls will do anything for a fun photo and are always the life of the party.
We love meeting with the bride and groom before the wedding and hearing how fun their bridal party is going to be. And the ladies always prove themselves to be a fun bunch to work with. As photographers, we love nothing more than people who love being in photos and making them fun and memorable (except, perhaps, that occasionaly bridesmaid who maybe wants to be in a few too many photos).
We’re always looking for fun new poses and always know we can count on these ladies to make it happen. If you’re a bridesmaid for 2014, get those ideas cooking so you can be in the best of for this year!

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Best Of 2013: Getting Ready

February 11th, 2014

Thank you for joining us in our “BEST OF 2013″ Series.  From here on, we will progress through a  wedding day in a mostly chronological way.  So this week we start off with the getting ready photos.

Wedding days are full of emotions, personalities, colors, temperatures, decorations, guests, families, and all the other  dynamics that you can imagine.  And it all starts in the morning.  The dress is revealed.  The suit is put on.  Flowers arrive.  Bridesmaids crying.  Mascara running.  Groomsmen drinking.  Mom processing.  Photographer capturing.

We spend a lot of time getting to know the bride and groom through our initial meetings, to the engagement photos, sometimes occasional dinners and drinks, and multiple e-mails and phone calls preparing for one day.  When we arrive to the church, salon, or home, it all comes together.  Friends and family start gathering around the bride and groom giving them their love and support as they prepare for the special moments before them.

My favorite part about taking photos during the getting ready phase of the day is the raw emotion.  There isn’t a lot of posing.  We may put you in a good location for a beautiful backdrop or good lighting, but we let these moments happen. We love seeing mom’s pride in her beautiful daughter, dad’s joy in seeing his boy all grown up, and bridesmaids stunned at the beauty of their best friend.  They are moments that last a few seconds and it brings us joy knowing you have entrusted us to preserve these memories.

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Best of 2013: The Rings

January 30th, 2014

Every year we create a best of series for several categories.  The Girls, The Guys, Wedding Parties, Reception, details, etc.  With all the extreme cold we thought this was the perfect time to share the warmth that we all feel when celebrating a wedding with family or friends.

When looking through thousands (and we mean thousands) of wedding pictures admittedly had its “carpal tunnel” moments but the memories were far too enjoyable to ever call it quits.

It didn’t take us long to decide which series we should start off with.  Because there is one part of the day that the wedding day is ultimately dependent on–the ring.  Well maybe not dependent upon the ring, but its often the symbol that signifies the beginning commitment to the marriage process, the promise to keep it together, and a keepsake for future generations to exhibit the love that existed between two people.

We, as wedding photographers, love the ring.  And not simply because it gives us an exquisite jewelry piece to take photos of but because we love what it represents.  It’s no secret we like to have fun with the bridal party taking pictures, getting to know the family, and throwing it down at the reception, but we are ultimately there to share in and capture the emotions of the vows.  The ceremony is a beautiful time for family and friends to watch on as two people commit their lives to one another,  symbolizing their love is eternal, beautiful, and nearly impossible to destroy.

It is very easy to look through these photos and be amazed at the beauty of it all: the diamonds, the flowers, the details, and the reflections.  But we really hope you see much more than that.  We hope you see the beauty that it stands for and the people they represent.

(By the way, please know that we decided favorites based on criteria that would make the viewing process fun for people and so we didn’t necessarily have a favorite in each category from every wedding. We tried not to repeat poses or photo styles.  But we did very likely have a “Best Of” photo from every wedding in 2013. If you don’t see your wedding in a particular category check back for future categories.)

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Shelly & Brian Brave the Cold

January 27th, 2014

The first time we met Shelly and Brian it was obvious how much fun we were going to have on their wedding day.  And they didn’t disappoint.  They chose Grand Geneva–specifically, the Evergreen ballroom–as their reception venue for a very special reason: it was there at a friend’s wedding  they had met years previous.

The road conditions made for an interesting drive over to Chapel on the Hill for the ceremony in a trolley bus, but thankfully we made it around Lake Geneva safely.  We had taken their engagement photos at the stables of Grand Geneva on a different freezing cold day, so we figured why not this day?

The bridesmaids ran in and out of the bus to keep warm, stealing a groomsman jacket whenever possible.  The falling snow made for the perfect backdrop for all of the photos throughout the day.  While summer is always a fun time of year to be shooting, there is a beauty and purity to winter that surpasses all seasons–but the warmth and love that  Shelly & Brian share couldn’t have been a more perfect couple to put in that backdrop.

Congratulations to Shelly and Brian!  We are so pleased you invited us to share in your special day.















































































To view more photos from their wedding day follow this link.  The floral arrangements were created by Treasure Hut out of Delavan, WI.  The DJ was Tim Synold with ACAentertainment.  Grand Geneva provided the beautiful venue for the reception.  Chapel on the Hill was the ceremony location.  Tuxes were provided by Men’s Wearhouse.

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Rebecca & Jed Tie the Knot

January 17th, 2014

Rebecca and Jed were the perfect couple to help us start off 2014.  We’re off to a great year with weddings.  The day began with the girls getting ready at their family apple orchard just north of Elkhorn, WI.  Having a unique, fun environment to take getting ready photos is always the way to go!  Beautifully arranged photos were made by Crazy for You, and Rebecca wore a dress made by Casablanca and Betsy Johnson shoes.  The ceremony took place at a country church practically across the street called Sugar Creek Lutheran Church.  Everyone had to pack in, but with the cold winter air outside, I don’t think anyone minded at all!

All 400+ guests then traveled down to one of our favorite reception venues–The Starline–in Harvard, IL.  The combination of old industrial and classy country creates a setting like no other to host your guests.  The handmade signs and decorations spread throughout the hall made everyone feel right at home.  It was no easy task keeping such a large group on the dance floor but Joe Bruhn from Personal Touch DJ did an incredible job.

Congratulations to the wonderful new couple Rebecca and Jed.  We were so pleased to be a part of your special day!

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