It's The Little Things... by Shawn Moreau

Incorporating small personal details into your wedding makes it unique and special to you. Whether it’s jewelry, shoes, cufflinks, a hairpiece, or a letter, each item holds a piece of value. Having those photos really embraces the tone and theme of your wedding day. Some of our couple’s favorite photos are the detail shots that are captured throughout their day. They help tell your story.

Details are one of my favorite things to capture. Sometimes the small stuff is overlooked by the centerpieces and the dresses. But the details are the beautiful accent pieces that bring everything together and make it yours. The lace belt you made from your mother’s wedding gown, the letter your spouse wrote you before you walked down the aisle, or the cuff links that were your grandfathers. - These things touch your heart and make you remember what’s important. These are the moments and details that matter.

- Jenn

8 Reasons to Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer by Shawn Moreau

Let's talk about the importance of hiring a professional wedding photographer for your big day, as opposed to letting a friend with a good camera do it, leaving it to your guests or hiring a photographer that specializes in something other than wedding photography.

We hear all sorts of horror stories from people who chose those avenues and are forever stuck with less than amazing wedding photos.  In today's blog we're going to discuss 8 reasons why you should hire a professional wedding photographer to capture your favorite moments at your wedding.

As wedding photographers, we wanted to point out a few specific reasons to hire a professional photographer, and have no regrets on your wedding day.  

1.) Great photography is about more than a fancy camera. It's about knowing the camera.  It's about knowing which settings will produce the best results in the current environment.  Often times a professional wedding photographer has spent years of schooling, courses, workshops, and experience perfecting their craft to bring you the absolute best results on your wedding day.

2.) The advantage of being a wedding photographer for so many other couples, is that you tend to develop a "sense" of how the wedding day will develop.  Even as things go a little "sideways" a true professional photographer knows how to get things back on track and moving smoothly.  Not only that, but that same sense allows to you accurately predict when things like a stolen kiss, or a hidden glance are going to happen.  

3.) Professional Photographers know how to work in tricky lighting. As we walk into a room, we instantly size everything up and our potential camera settings are racing in our heads... even sometimes when we're not working.  Quick adjustments like that are the difference between beautiful wedding photos, and "well, we remember how beautiful that was..."

4.) There are a RIDICULOUS amount of emotions that come up during your wedding day.  There's been a lot of stress building up to this day, and we recognize that sometimes this manifests itself in unexpected ways.  We know how to deal with moms who are a little overwhelmed, the dad who just realized that later today he'll be giving away his daughter, or the groom who is going absolutely crazy not being able to see his bride yet!  

5.)  A non-professional wedding photographer doesn’t typically carry backup gear with them, a professional will. What does this mean for you? Put simply, it means that if anything goes wrong with one camera then they will always have another one with them. It also means that they will know what to do if a memory card corrupts or if the battery runs out they will always have a spare one.  Because these are not cheap, a non-professional typically has not invested in extras.

6.) Stuff Happens.  What if your friend is ill on your wedding day? Will they have someone they can call in an emergency? A professional will have a network of photographers and 2nd shooters they can call upon in an emergency.

7.) A non-professional photographer won’t have insurance.  What if something goes wrong and they cause an accident?  What if they accidentally back into a candle and burn down your venue?  What if one of your guests breaks their new camera.

8.)  At about 2/3 of the weddings we shoot we have an "Uncle Bob".  Uncle Bob is that well meaning family member who brings their DSLR in hopes of getting a perfect shot of the bride in her wedding dress.  Uncle Bob tends to stand in the middle of the aisle, step directly in front of the photographer and videographer, and raise in camera up out of the crowd perfectly in front of your photographers' shot.  A non-professional photographer, or a photographer that specializes in something other than weddings might be phased.  A well-seasoned professional wedding photographer has likely learned how to tactfully and yet firmly ask Uncle Bob to be aware of their actions.

I recognize that some of these things might seem a little far fetched, but there's a very real story behind each and every one of these points.  Yes, I know that it's sometimes hard to justify the cost of hiring a professional, but looking back on your day trust me - it's worth every penny!  And remember, an hour after your wedding you leave the venue, the food get thrown away, your flowers wilt, and there's one thing left to keep your memories alive and bring happiness to you regularly.... your wedding photos.

- Shawn

Wedding Vendor Spotlight: Borrow Rentals by Shawn Moreau

Every time we shoot someone's wedding or attend a bridal show, we have the privilege of meeting and working with other wedding vendors.  Today we are going to share with you our interview with Ann King - Owner and Director of Borrow Vintage + Eclectic Rentals. 

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Ann King and I own Borrow.  I am a wife, mother and lover of all things designed, locally made, up-cycled, repurposed and vintage.

Borrow Vintage + Eclectic is a styling center and custom Furniture, Prop and Decor house that supplies locally made and vintage items for rental and purchase.  We design, build, up-cycle, re-upholster and purchase items that are unique to our rental and retail market.

What wedding décor trends do you see this year?               

There are two sides of the coin here.  On one side of the coin is Color.  Rich beautiful textures and patterns with bold, vibrant colors are seen in floral, linens and furniture.  

On the other side of the coin is the past few seasons main stay: greenery. However greenery is no longer the muted subtle color tones we’ve seen mixed with pastels.  It is becoming deep colored greenery with contrasted light colors, wood, black and white.  Linen and black as an accent color scheme is coming up quite strong and I have to say I’m so excited about that.  It is so classic.  We’re also seeing a lot of mixed styles going on.  Modern mixed with Vintage, Industrial mixed with Romantic, Bohemian mixed with Classic Americana.  These color schemes and styles are being incorporated in curated statement “zones” as we like to call them at Borrow.  Some examples of some hot zones to highlight: seating vignette, bar, head table and dessert display.

Why is décor so important at your wedding?

Decor is one of the best and most awesome ways to tell your story.  Your decor is a reflection of your personal style as a couple.  And your wedding is one of the first times you get to step out and say: “This is who we are.  Welcome.  Let’s have a blast!”  One of the best reasons for hiring a stylist or designer is for them to help you express that in the best possible way and create an event as unique and beautiful as your relationship.

Why should our clients rent from Borrow Rentals rather than your competitors, what sets you apart?

We are so proud here at Borrow to not just be a rental company.  We do not have sales people at Borrow, we have designers and stylists.  All of our people have art and design backgrounds and all of us come at an event with the attitude of how to make it the best, most unique event possible.  We care about the success of the entire event and not just our part in it.  Many of our orders incorporate sub-rentals from multiple companies to create a truly unique experience.  We know product options all over the country and love bringing together all the pieces for tabletop, tables, chairs, china and furniture.  These orders are curated collections by experienced, extremely talented stylists.   

Our product is completely unique in the Cleveland market for three reasons.  

  • Our upholstery is up-cycled.  The upholstery collection is made up of high end vintage pieces we have re-upholstered with the highest quality, stain resistant fabrics chosen by our stylists and many times by our clients themselves.
  • Our wooden tables and bars are made locally with up-cycled materials.  We put money back into the hands of our local craftsman and CLE designers - therefore supporting a creative community we love.  
  • Our bulk chair options are the only two places in the Midwest where you can find these options.  Borrow’s inventory is always made up of firsts; first farm table in Cleveland, first bentwood chair option, first teak wood folding chair, first local designer inventory line and so on!

We love our mission and absolutely love bringing these options and ideas to our clients.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Ann!  We love Borrow Rentals and are continually impressed while watching the growth of your amazing company!

Laura & Brandon | Maryland Wedding by Shawn Moreau

Where can we begin? We are so happy to have met these two beautiful souls. We were so excited when they contacted us after attending their friend's wedding (Tommy + Maureen) to see if we were available for theirs! 

Laura + Brandon were married at an intimate ceremony in front of close family and friends in Kensington, Maryland at the Garrett Park Town Hall. It really was the perfect day for an outdoor wedding. They had so many personal touches to their wedding, you could just see them reflected in their big day. Brandon wrote Laura a special note on the bottom of her shoe before she walked down the aisle. We love the choice of dress for the bridesmaids, such perfect dresses for a more casual backyard wedding! Laura's Cuban heritage was reflected by her gifts to her bridesmaids and the guys' guayaberas, which are traditional wedding shirts in Cuba.

Family and friends are extremely important to them (with most friends being viewed as family as well). Their ceremony was officiated by a close friend who was also the caterer, another friend was the wedding planner, and Laura's mother was her Matron of Honor - LOVE! -  

We couldn't get enough of their contagious laughter throughout the day. There were so many touching and emotional moments.  Definitely one of those days where we realize how fortunate we are to be wedding photographers. We had SO much fun at their Maryland wedding - let us know what you guys think in the comments below!

Dress: Galina by David's Bridal | Bridesmaid's Dresses: Nine West at Macy's

Venue: Garrett Park Town Hall | Planner: Wendy Caputo

DJ: Andrew Mele | Makeup Artist: Emma Stout | Flowers: Christopher's Flowers

Styled Shoots: Why We Don't Do Them by Shawn Moreau

Have you ever been flipping through your favorite bridal magazine and it made you stop in your tracks? The wedding pictured is PERFECT. The cake, the dress, the hair, the couple... you get all. the. heart eyes. You obsess over all the little details and you wonder how a wedding could look that perfect...

I was one of those brides. Before I was a wedding photographer I had no idea that these weddings were **fake** … I'm not sure why I whispered that. But seriously! Unless it actually says it's a real wedding in the article, what you are viewing is a huge collaboration of vendors for a staged wedding called a “styled shoot.”

Styled shoots usually revolve around a theme like “Travel Inspired Garden Wedding” or “Bohemian Elopement in the Woods.” They're coordinated by a vendor (usually a planner) that reaches out to other vendors that can contribute their services (ie. bakers, florists, calligraphers). They use their time and resources to make everything look perfect. Some even have models that act as the bride and groom or part of a wedding party.

So why write this blog? And why don't we participate in styled shoots?

This article isn't intended to bash vendors who work on styled shoots. I think styled shoots for other vendors (non-photographers) are kind-of brilliant. Hair and makeup artists, florists, rental companies, calligraphers, graphic designers, bakers and more get to show off their talent and creativity. I am in awe of what some of these vendors come up with.

But as a wedding photographer, it's kinda cheating. Styled shoots are basically fake setups where you can control exactly what's happening. If you've ever been in a wedding party, you know that weddings are notorious for being unpredictable. It's easy to photograph a model couple with the perfect details. But that. isn't. real.

Shawn and I love being wedding photographers because we love capturing raw emotion. We love little details because we love the sentimentality behind those details. Everything at that wedding represents that couple and tells their story. And how can you recreate the tears that come when a groom sees his bride for the first time? Or the laughter when grandpa busts a move on the dance floor? Those are the reasons we're wedding photographers. Those are the reasons that keep us going to wedding after wedding. We feel it's a real honor to be a part of a day so personal.

All of the photos on our website, albums, and welcome magazine are of real couples. Those photos demonstrate our ability to capture a wedding with real people and real emotions. Which is what you want in a photographer, right? You gauge a photographer's ability by his photos of past weddings. After this blog, you'll never have to wonder if our past weddings are real or styled shoots.

- Jenn

Should You Hire a Wedding Planner? by Shawn Moreau

Many couples are unsure of whether or not hiring a wedding planner is necessary for their day. After all, it is an additional expense. But does having peace of mind and less stress in the months leading up to your big day seem important to you? To help you determine whether a wedding planner is right for you, we interviewed Melanie Tindell from Oak & Honey Events :


What are some of the services you offer?

"Oak & Honey Events provides planning and design services for weddings, social and non-profit events. Our packages are structured at three different levels - full planning and design, partial planning and design, and wedding management. Our Wedding Management package is similar to a month-of planning package but we begin approximately 6-8 weeks before your event to handle the logistics and allow you and your family to relax and enjoy every moment of your day.  We’re also experts at helping you find creative ways to reduce your wedding’s impact on the environment, like locating green vendors for your invitations, venue, catering, floral design, photography, and more."


What tips would you recommend to brides to help them have a more stress-free day?

"Our number one tip for our brides before their wedding is to take every moment in and remember the day is about you and your fiancé. We also recommend putting your trust in your wedding professionals and that they can help make your day run smoothly."


What would you say is the biggest advantage of having a wedding planner?

"The biggest advantage of having a wedding planner is you and your families get to enjoy your wedding day! At a minimum, having a Wedding Management package helps ensure the details will be handled by your planner so you don't have to worry the weeks leading up to the wedding and the day of. Oak & Honey Events number one goal for our clients is to provide a stress-free and fun planning process for our clients." 


Another thing you might not have considered - how having a wedding planner affects your vendors! We asked her specifically about her interactions with wedding photographers, even after the wedding day:


"We look at all wedding professionals as a collaboration team for all weddings. We always match our clients with wedding photographers who we feel match their budget, personality, and style. Before the wedding, we reach out to the photographer to talk through the wedding day timeline and make sure we have the amount of time the photographer would like to capture the day. On the wedding day, we stay in contact with the photographer to make sure everything is running smoothly and sometimes assist with getting family photos done efficiently after the ceremony. After the wedding, we check in with the couple to make sure the day ran smoothly with all vendors. We also work the photographer to determine if it is a wedding to be submitted to publications."


One point we always bring out to our couples is that having a wedding planner allows all the questions of vendors (including wedding photographers) to be directed to the planner. They are our point of contact - so instead of having multiple people going to you for answers or direction, everything is taken care of by your planner! You want to enjoy your day - and you want your family to enjoy your day! Hiring a wedding planner can make a huge difference, a positive one, for one of the most important days of your life.

4 Things to ask YOURSELF before choosing a wedding photographer by Shawn Moreau

Booking a wedding photographer - this is sometimes one of the scariest decisions you'll have to make when planning your wedding.  There's a few reasons why:

  • After your wedding is over, all you'll have left is these photos (kind of a big deal)
  • You're purchasing something that you won't be able to see for weeks after your wedding.
  • Let's not overlook that a wedding photographer is not (or shouldn't be) cheap. Often times your photographer is one of the top three costs of your total wedding budget.
  • You've likely never gone through the process of choosing a photographer and aren't entirely sure what to look for.

In a previously-written blog I covered questions that you'll want to consider asking potential photographers when making your decision (you can find that blog here).  In this blog post, I'm going to cover a big topic: Questions you should ask YOURSELF before you ask a photographer anything.  We're big believers that the you really need to "click" (no pun intended) with your photographer.  After all, you are choosing to hang out with this person the WHOLE TIME on your wedding day.  Knowing what it is that you're looking for will make meeting with potential photographers less awkward, more efficient, and most importantly - will result in a much better choice in the end.  Here's a few questions to get you thinking.

1.  "How important is photography to us?" - Especially when compared to other aspects of your wedding.
 As mentioned above, wedding photography is statistically one of the top three expenses in your budget.  Assigning a sentimental importance and value to your wedding photos will help to assign a monetary budget allotment to them.  Once you understand exactly where you stand with the answer to this question, you'll be able to start narrowing down your photographer choices. 


2.  "Exactly what do we want from a photographer?"
 This is a question that I will usually ask couples when we meet face to face.  Because we place such an importance getting along with your photographer, it's important that we understand exactly what it is that you hope to have gotten from us at the end of the day.  Some couples that we talk to stress that they want a friendly person that will fit in with their bridal party throughout the day.  Others say things like: "Our parents want to make sure that we take a lot of posed, 'traditional" photos (definitely not our style but we're happy to comply).  This question is powerful because when you know the answer it will instantly disqualify some of your potential choices.


3.  "What style of photography are we most drawn to?"
 There is no standard style in photography.  Period.  Take a minute to notice the style (posing, color scheme, lighting, etc.) of photography that you are most drawn to.  Every once in a while you are scrolling through your Instagram feed and you're forced to stop because you've stumbled on a beautiful wedding picture... that's what I'm talking about.  Because styles vary from one photographer to the other, recognizing the style that you like the most will help steer you in the right direction.


4.  "Who is involved in the decision making process?" 
Not only do you have the ideas and opinions of both you and your fiancé(e), you likely also have ideas and opinions coming from well-meaning family members and friends.  Ultimately, though,  we like to emphasize that your wedding day is about you.


Hopefully these questions will take you down a path of wedding photography self discovery.  Having reflected on these things will leave you feeling confident and prepared!  Knowing specifically the type of wedding photographer that you're looking for will greatly increase the odds of finding your PERFECT wedding photographer!

Tommy & Maureen | Washington D.C. | Engagement Session by Shawn Moreau

When we heard Maureen and Tommy lived in the DC area, we jumped on the opportunity to visit them! We started off by meeting up in Georgetown, by the C&O Canal. We loved the historical touches and since we started at sunrise, we managed to avoid the sweltering heat. Who knew DC was so muggy? After Georgetown, we headed over the border to Arlington. where Maureen & Tommy just bought their adorable new home. We thought it was such a great idea to do a sort of lifestyle part to their session. Their pup, Teddy Graham (too cute, right??) , just HAD to be included - he's family! We had such a nice time with these three!  We loved the opportunity to be destination engagement photographers!

Ian & Sarah | Cleveland Engagement Session by Shawn Moreau

Sarah & Ian chose a gorgeous day to take their engagement photos - how beautiful are those leaves? We love when a couple chooses a location that's sentimental to them - Sarah & Ian chose the Towpath in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio - a place that they often ran and hiked at together. Ian was constantly making Sarah laugh and you could see how much they were in love.

Questions You Should Ask Your Wedding Photographer by Shawn Moreau

As you plan your wedding there's very few things that come before deciding who your photographer will be.  You typically choose your venue first.  Once that is ironed out, your caterer tends to be quick to follow, because they're generally tied in with the venue.  From there, most people turn to securing a photographer.

Here's the thing though: YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER CHOICE IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT! In fact, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, your wedding photos are likely the only thing you'll have after your wedding to remember all of the incredible events that happened on what is likely one of your life's most momentous occasions!

As we make our way through what we call "booking season" (because so many people get engaged during the holidays) we meet with a lot of couples who come armed with a list of questions that they found on some random website, and who's answers may or may not actually shed light on the quality and experience of your potential wedding photographer.  So!  I decided to write our own list of questions that our brides and grooms might benefit from asking not only us, but also our competition. Here's the list:


The Essentials

  1. Do you have my date available? Make sure to be specific here - for instance, while Jenn & I might not be available for that date, we have other photographers on our team that might be available for your date.
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. How many weddings have you shot? Have you done many that were similar to mine in size and style?
  4. How far in advance do I need to book with you?
  5. How would you describe your photography style (e.g. traditional, photojournalistic, creative)? Typically you're probably aware of this answer and that's why contact that particular photographer.  However, if you're not, this is a great questions to ask because styles can vary drastically between photographers.
  6. How would you describe your working style? The answer should help you determine whether this is a photographer who blends into the background and shoots what unfolds naturally, or creates a more visible presence by taking charge and choreographing shots. Hint: We love candid, natural photos.  
  7. What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other photographers?
  8. Do you have a portfolio I can review? Are all of the images yours, and is the work recent?
  9. Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like? 
  10. What information do you need from me before the wedding day?
  11. Are you able to suggest specific vendors that you've worked with in the past? Dj, Florist, etc.  Jenn & I keep a list of vendors that we've worked with and been impressed by.  We love to be a source of good info for our couples, especially because we've worked with them in the past. 
  12. May I have a list of references? NOTE: The photographer should not hesitate to provide this.

The Legal Stuff

  1. When will I receive a written contract? TIP: Don't book a photographer—or any vendor—who won't provide a written contract.
  2. How much of a retainer do you require and when is it due? Do you offer a payment plan?
  3. What is your refund/cancellation policy?
  4. Do you have liability insurance?

The Big Day

  1. Are you the photographer who will shoot my wedding? If so, will you have any assistants with you on that day? If not, who will be taking the pictures and can I meet them before my wedding? Jenn and I always require 2 photographers to cover your wedding.  Period.  If you're working with us, it'll always be Jenn & I.  If you're working with one of our photographers, they will have a second shooter as well.
  2. Do you have backup equipment?
  3. What about a backup plan if you (or my scheduled photographer) are unable to shoot my wedding for some reason?
  4. If my wedding site is out of your area, do you charge a travel fee and what does that cover?
  5. How will you (and your assistants) be dressed? We always dress up. Even if your wedding is slightly more casual.
  6. Is it okay if other people take photos while you're taking photos?
  7. Have you ever worked at my wedding site before?
  8. If not, do you plan to check it out in advance? 
  9. What time will you arrive at the site and for how long will you shoot?
  10. Will you help us build a timeline/ or work with our wedding planner to do so?
  11. If my event lasts longer than expected, will you stay? Is there an additional charge?

 The Details

  1. Do you include engagement photos in your packages?
  2. What type of album designs do you offer? Do you provide any assistance in creating an album?  Perhaps online proofing?
  3. Do you provide retouching, color adjustment or other corrective services?
  4. How long after the wedding will I get the proofs? Will I receive an online gallery?
  5. What is the ordering process?
  6. How long after I order my photos/album will I get them?
  7. Will you give me the negatives or the digital images, and is there a fee for that?


After the meeting, think about:

  1. Do I feel a connection with this photographer as well as his/her photos?
  2. Are our personalities a good fit?
  3. Am I comfortable with this person's work?
  4. Has the Photographer listened well and addressed all my concerns?

What to wear to an engagement session by Shawn Moreau

Now that engagement season is underway, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a question most brides ask.  What do I wear to my engagement session?  Ladies, let’s face it.. usually this is something that your man will not think about.  But you want your pictures to look like they're straight off Pinterest right?  Here’s a few tips:

  • Be yourself.  If you’re a flats more than a heels kinda gal, go with it!  Your photos are about your love and your flair.  Plus when you feel good about yourself, that confidence shows in your photos!  But just remember, better to be overdressed than underdressed.  After all, you and your family will have these photos for generations. (tennis shoes are a no-no)
  • Be comfortable.  While engagement sessions with Belle Moreau Photo typically last about forty-five minutes, we may be walking a bit, standing, and sitting in places you usually don’t. 
  • Be complimentary.  You and your guy don’t need to perfectly match.  But your level of style does.  If you’re dressy, he needs to be too.  If you're more casual, you get the point.  A great rule of thumb is to have complimentary colors.  Remember the color wheel from art class?  Colors that are across from each other are complimentary.  If you’d like to add a third color into your outfits make a triangle across the wheel.  (yellow, blue, red)  Another way to be complimentary is with your skin tone!  If you have lighter skin, light colors can wash you out.
  • Be simple.  Mixing patterns can be tricky, and they can distract the viewer to your outfits more than you.  If you’re wearing a pattern, have your guy in a solid color, or vise versa.
  • Be aware.  Where will your photos be taken?  If they’re more in a natural locations (think garden, park, etc.) a neutral color palette will be perfect.  If you’re going for a more urban vibe, a pop of color would be more fun! Another tip:  dress for the season!  We will be outside and while cute is important, being warm is more important.

Now that you’ve got that down, don’t forget these tips of what NOT to wear:

  • Tennis shoes & t-shirts.  Sorry guys, but these are just too casual.
  • Baggy clothing.  Make sure your clothing fits well, and is tucked in with a belt if it is on the loose side.  You want to avoid looking lost in your clothing.
  • Bright colors.  If you want to incorporate a pop of bright color, do it sparingly.  Usually fluorescent colors reflect on your skin and can look weird.
  • Crazy hair and makeup.  Make sure you are still you!  Getting your hair and makeup done can make your photos look beautiful, but make sure they reflect your style.  Need a recommendation?  Just ask!  I have connections with hair and makeup artists who would love to make you look beautiful for your session.