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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January 15th, 2014

“Hey, Jon!  How’s it going? What can I do for you?”

“Not much, Jake.  Thanks for answering my call.  I was wondering if you could help me out.  I have always wanted to get more into photography.  I look at your pictures all the time on Facebook and want to take as good of pictures as you do.  So I’ve been saved up $500 so I can buy a big camera like yours so I can take great photographs too.”

“…..”  (Silence and frustration, I have heard this before)

This conversation just happened to me just a few weeks back.  The Jake up there in the conversation is me–Jake Schnake.  I just joined Matt Mason Photography this year.  And in the next couple of blogs I’ll be sharing more about myself.  For now, you’ll just have to get to know me through this blog.

It’s not easy starting to plan for your wedding.  The holidays are over and your wedding may just be 6-8 months away–or maybe you’re ahead of the game booking for 2015.  You’re trying to wrap up all your remaining loose ends.  The venue, the flowers, tuxes, transportation, favors, gifts, and–most importantly–your photographer.  And then, aha!!!,  you realized your best friend’s-cousin’s-in law’s-brother had just bought a big camera.  That’s it!  He’ll do it for cheap!  I mean, if they own fancy photography equipment they must know what they’re doing with a camera!

I love being a professional photographer.  And it seems everyone else in the world loves being a “professional” photographer too.  And, why not?  Think of the technology we all carry in our hands–cell phones with cameras.  We have instagram and other amazing apps that crop, edit, and can even add instant effects.  And most people don’t stop there.  They invest in a “good” camera so that they can be  ”good” photographer.  That’s the way it works, right?  If I just buy a fancy camera, it will automatically make me a professional photographer.  Not quite.  Its like asking your baker what oven he uses so you can make cakes like she does.  Or next time you have a great meal at a restaurant ask the chef what kind of pots and pans they use so you can make a meal just as tasty.

I have a friend who owns a wood flooring business.  Once in a while if he is really busy, I will help him out for a few hours.  He has been working with wood for years and that experience has paid off.  We both have the same hammer, tape measure, cats paw, utility knife, knee pads, saws, and fingers.  But why is he so much better at it than I am?  Why is he so much faster?  Why doesn’t my gear (and fancy tool belt) make me an artist with wood?  Because it is an art: making sure all the wood fits tight together and is square, taking worn out wood and sanding it down to its natural beauty, and working out the bumps to make the wood feel like glass.  No one could immediately do an amazing job, even if they had 40k in flooring gear.  It takes time, experience, mistakes, and commitment  in addition to your equipment to be a tailored professional.

It’s probably true in your profession and it is the same reality with photography.  Everyone really isn’t a professional photographer just because of their equipment  and only spending $500 isn’t going to make you one either.  And do you really want your  best friend’s-cousin’s-in law’s-brother  taking your photos on your wedding day (unless that happens to be one of us, of course).  There is a lot more involved in wedding photography that just pictures and fancy cameras.  You have to work well with people.  You need to keep those people on line, troubleshoot problems that arise, work with the family to organize them for family photos, coax inebriated groomsmen into cooperating for just a few more minutes, be prepared to capture moments that can be gone in an instant, plan out scenic backdrops during the right time of day, show a day of slideshow without any glitches, work around inclement weather, and I could go on and on.

My point is to show you that wedding photography is not an easy career.  There is a lot of pressure and it takes a certain personality and professionalism to get you through it.  And that is who you want to hire.  Matt, Kerry, and I have all been in the wedding industry for about eight years and we have been a part of a lot of weddings (close to 500 combined).  That is a lot experience.  And that is the professionalism and ability you want on your wedding day.


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