A photographer is not only one of the first vendors you’ll hire for your wedding, but it’s also one of the most important. So you really want to get it right! Not only will this be a sizable financial investment, but these images are the ones you’ll have for the rest of your life. No second chances, so the photographer really needs to be experienced and knowledgeable, not only with photography but also about weddings.
Here, we sat down with Daniel Nydick of Daniel Nydick Photography in Scotch Plains to talk all things wedding photography! His insight and expertise will help you on your quest to find your perfect photographer—and he also answers some of the most common questions couples have regarding wedding photography.
Can you give us some insight into your photography style, how you’re different, and how you manage to get such great shots?
Daniel Nydick: Haha…GREAT question! Where to begin? Let’s clear up the biggest misconception out there right out of the gate. There’s more out there than light n’ airy and dark n’ moody. What makes my work unique is that I absolutely embrace both (and everything in between) in my own way to create timeless, impactful imagery. Tying it all together and making a complete wedding gallery of 1,000 images look and feel cohesive, that’s where secret sauce is.
Having a deep understanding of working with both natural light and off-camera lighting (and knowing when to employ which one) makes all the difference. All. Having all the necessary tricks up my sleeve is what let’s me sleep at night. I can shoot comfortably and confidently indoors, outdoors, daytime, nighttime, rain or shine.
Tender moments call for a subtle approach where the moment shines through. Like a delicate consommé or a supple and rich salmon sashimi. Minimalistic yet perfect without any bells and whistles.
Surroundings that pop with color, be it a magnificent sunset, a lush garden, the perfect uplighting in a ballroom, or the stained glass and warm lighting of a church are where I balance “feel” with “drama,” yielding a cinematically impactful image. Sticking with the food analogies (what can I say, I like food!), it’s like your favorite mountain of nachos! Crunchy chips, savory seasoned meat, cool creamy sour cream, gooey melted cheese, the zip of garlicky lime-laden guacamole…all very contrasty sensations that are just magical when put together.
I achieve this by working with off-camera lighting. I dial in the exposure to make the scenery look exactly how it should, which leaves the couple under exposed. Using off-camera flash is what makes them pop and brings it all together. That does not mean that all of my off-camera lit images are super dramatic. I often use it with a delicate approach to just offer that “kiss of light.”
When you look at a full wedding or engagement session of mine, what grabs you are my true-to-life, vibrant and punchy colors. When my couples enjoy their wedding albums years later, the bouquets, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the decor, the uplighting…it’s the colors you remember, and equally important, the colors you paid (a lot) for.
The final accoutrement AND the most important thing is the storytelling. Great colors and all the techniques in the world mean nothing if the candids (and the portraits, too) don’t capture genuine emotion, genuine moments that speak to the viewer like a whole movie in one snapshot. For me, it’s a Venn diagram of sorts. Where everything I mentioned overlaps, that’s where my vision and style lie.
Tell us about what makes working with you—and your work—unique? What makes you a boutique studio?
Daniel Nydick: Dad jokes? Do dad jokes count? Seriously though, for me it’s all about the human connection. From day one, I get to know you and build a relationship with you. You get my personal one-on-one attention throughout the process; from our very first email until after I deliver your visual inheritance albums and heirloom wall art, you’re stuck with me.
I enjoy meeting my couples in person for our first consult. Everyone deserves to get a good feel for one another to make sure our relationship is a perfect fit. Plus, you just may get a photo or two from our get together. Our time together when we meet feels like friends catching up (and I can’t stress this enough), NOT a dry sales meeting.
As the only person who will be by your side through every moment of your day, vibe is everything. This is the one aspect where a boutique studio experience is very different than a high-volume studio that may have five different photographers out at five different weddings on any given day. You deserve a dedicated and trusted friend, hand holder and tour guide. What my brides enjoy most is my personal, attentive service.
My approach is very hands-on. I handle every aspect of my business by myself. Why? I want you to rest your head on your pillow knowing that everything is taken care of.
I don’t outsource anything. I sort through all of the test shots, the blinking-eyed family photos; I hand-edit each and every photo myself to ensure every moment captured feels authentic and represents the style of mine you fell in love with. The editing and the flow of your photos are cohesive because the editor (yours truly) is the same person that was right there experiencing the joy and love that surrounded you. I also meticulously design your visual inheritance album layout in storytelling fashion. Outsourcing the design of your album to someone who wasn’t there on your epic day just wouldn’t yield the same feel.
How do you recommend a couple find their photographer?
Daniel Nydick: I’m going to be blunt. There is a culture of “pay to play” in the industry, and that can be disingenuous. If a photographer (or any vendor) is on your venue’s “preferred vendors” list, there is a 99.999% chance they paid handsomely to be there, and/or pay a percentage to the venue for each wedding they book there. If your venue charges you a fee for using outside vendors, walk away. That venue is looking out for their best interests, not yours.
Now, I’m not saying these are not necessarily good vendors. I’m saying do your research. Social media and Google are your friends. If you find someone on social media or a referral from a friend that has work you that like, do yourself the due diligence and look them up. Do they have great reviews? Do they have a website? Ask about them in private bride groups, too. You’ll get the skinny for sure. Vendors aren’t in these groups, so brides have free reign to speak the truth.
Do not fall for Best of The Knot or Wedding Wire Couples Choice or any other “participation” awards a vendor has because they paid to be on the list or received five reviews on a particular platform. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all about the scandal currently surrounding The Knot.
What should they be looking for?
Daniel Nydick: Couples often ask themselves that very question, and it’s understandable. This is uncharted territory for you, and it can be overwhelming. Personal connection, vibe, great communication, overall professionalism and reputation are big!
Professionalism seems to be something too many brides overlook when planning their photography decisions (and budgets). Think about it this way: When choosing your florist, would you go to a farm/garden that sells beautiful flowers or would you go to a florist that specializes in weddings? Just because someone can show you some nice pictures does not equate to the bigger picture of what it means to be a professional wedding photographer.
What are some red flags? What are some must-haves that ALL photographers should be offering?
Daniel Nydick: Security and redundancy, and a legitimate, registered and insured business are the most important thing. If you were looking for a pre-school for your child or a wellness living facility for your parents, you would leave no stone unturned making sure your loved ones are beyond taken care of. You owe it to yourselves to treat your most epic day with the same diligent care. Brides, get your pencils ready, I’m going to give you the questions you wouldn’t even know to ask. Ready?
Ask your prospective photographers these questions:
- Are you a registered business in the state of New Jersey (or whichever state your photographer is from)? I’m personally an LLC.
- Do you have insurance? What’s your liability coverage? My liability coverage is $2,000,000. Venues at times ask to be added as an additional insured for the day. It costs your photographer nothing to do that. Your venue may also require a higher liability amount, and most insurance companies charge nothing or next to nothing to do that.
- How many cameras do you bring? Two minimum should be their answer. I bring three.
- Do your cameras have multiple card slots? Do you save RAW files to both cards? Multiple card slots ensure that each snap of the shutter is written to and saved on two separate cards; in case one card corrupts, your images are still safe on the second card.
- How do you back up our images? Do they live on your computer (wrong answer) or do you have multiple backups in case one corrupts? Redundant external drives and cloud storage are what make it possible for my Mac to take a leap in the lake without me missing a beat.
- What happens if you get sick or hurt on our big day? This is why I personally work with second shooters who understand the way I approach caring for my couples and the style of work my couples love me for. I’m sure you’d rather still have a photographer than receive a partial refund from your photographer’s insurance company for the portion of the day they missed, right?
- Can you show me complete weddings galleries? Request to see complete galleries, as this will obviously contain images from the second shooter as well. It’s incredibly important to not just focus on the 10 or so images that are being heavily curated and you should be able to see what an entire day looks like.
- Is your photographer proficient in using off-camera flash? This ensures that they can handle any lighting environment. While it does lend itself to a more specific style in some regards, being prepared to shoot and shoot well in the dark is never a bad thing.
- What is their contingency plan for emergencies, future acts of God/pandemics, etc.? I’ve heard these horror stories, and I’m sure you have to: “My photographer only had one camera and it broke!” “My photographer’s computer died and lost my photos!” And so many (too many) more. Do not let this happen to you. It will stay with you for the rest of your lives.
What are the benefits of working with a boutique wedding photographer such as yourself?
Daniel Nydick: From day one, I get to know you and build a relationship with you. You get my personal one-on-one attention throughout the process. I build your timeline with and for you, ensuring your day feels like a wedding and not a photo shoot. I edit each and every photo myself to ensure every moment captured feels authentic. With a big-box studio, you don’t get to meet your photographer until your wedding day. The editing of your photos may be incohesive because the editor is not the same person that was right there experiencing the joy and love that surrounded you.
Is it important for a couple to meet their photographer in person before hiring?
Daniel Nydick: Everyone deserves their perfect fit—even if it isn’t me—and the only way to know that is to meet the photographer in person. If they’re spending the entire day with this person by their side, they really want someone that they’re comfortable with and that they vibe with. Because then it feels like there’s a friend there and not just a vendor, and that lets their story be told that much better.
Is a second shooter necessary? What do they do?
Daniel Nydick: To me, it’s a no-brainer. Let’s talk both practicality and big-picture. Immersive storytelling depends on reading a scene and being in the right place at the right time. Hard as I try (haha!) I can only be in one place at any given time.
My second shooter starts the day with the guys. This gives the couple the early-in-the-day memories of the groom with his best buds. Whether it’s taking shots of, um, taking shots or even having pillow fights, guys know how to get the groom pumped! We can then also get those classic shots of the groom’s best man or father helping him get gussied up for what’s to come: marrying the love of his life.
Let’s talk alternate angles…what you see right here says it all. One photographer right up front, one in the back. I see yourself nodding as I ask, you want both of these photos, don’t you? It all comes back to the word I use most when talking about weddings: storytelling.
Now, here’s a little dose of real talk, and I’m human enough to say it because every bride should know this. Ok, worst-case scenario time. What happens if your photographer gets abducted by aliens (or more realistically breaks their knee) at 3 pm on your wedding day? Would you rather have a competent second shooter there by your sides to capture the rest of your epic day or receive a pro-rated refund from your photographer’s insurance company for the portion of the day they missed? Ha! I’m pretty sure I know which option sounds best to you.
Do you have tips for a successful engagement shoot?
Daniel Nydick: I have a whole blog post dedicated to this very topic! Check it out here I always tell my couples they’re going to have the best two-hour date ever, with the photos to show for it.
Discuss with your photographer any locations, themes, favorite hobbies and shared interests, yet don’t overthink any of it. Why? Your photographer knows how to bring out the best in you. They want to document your “real you” just as much as you want it documented, and they’ve got your back. Be prepared to play and love and laugh, and don’t worry about feeling uncomfortable in front of a camera. None of my couples are professional models, and it’s my job to make the jitters evaporate.
I start my sessions as a social get-together. It’s important to me that my couples feel like they’re with a friend, not at a photo shoot. How do I foster the social aspect? I usually offer an adult beverage (my couples LOVE this), while we casually chat. I ask about what makes them tick as a couple. Gushing about each other awakens in my couples the emotions behind the very reason we’re all there. There are no cameras in anyone’s face for at least the first 10 to 15 minutes of our “bonding” time and it makes all the difference.
Now, I do use that time constructively as well. This is where I slowly shift into talking about what the experience will be like. Things like how I set up active candid experiences that I’ll photograph though, posing cues that will display their genuine connection in their photos while being positioned in a way that will yield flattering angles and the perfect light. It’s a fun pre-game that just adds so much to the experience to come.
Where are some of your favorite engagement shoot locations and why?
Daniel Nydick: The best locations are locations that are meaningful to the couple. Recently, a couple told me they love exploring local breweries. I suggested Burnt Mills Cider in Bedminster. The response I got (copy and pasted from our email) was, “You literally read our minds! Our favorite date days are at Burnt Mills and we actually reached out to them already to see if they would allow engagement photos!”
I’ve shot engagement sessions at my couples’ wedding venues because they wanted to enjoy a relaxed and playful experience without the hustle and bustle (oh the wedding puns; sorry not sorry!) of a wedding day. And going back to where he asked and she said yes is always a stellar idea. I also find that so many couples love Asbury Park, and I don’t blame them!
What are your favorite wedding venues?
- The Park Savoy’s staff offered an experience I’ve never had before. One of their bridal attendants had a microphone and she called off the wedding party and family shot list one by one. Not to mention the garden in the back is beautful!
- HollyHedge Estate in New Hope, PA (mere minutes across the state line) offers a rustic, tucked-away feel for something a little different than the run-of-the-mill ‘white ballroom’.
- Skylands Manor is always a dream. The castle, the gardens, and again, the staff is friendly and detail-oriented.
- The Palace at Somerset Park and their maître d’ David give brides and grooms an unparalleled friendly experience while. The real gem that the couples don’t even know is that the staff works in tandem with me behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly and that the couples get all of the photos they desire. They’ve even moved Christmas trees in the lobby for us. They are THAT accommodating. It’s like having my own concierge, and my couples reap the benefits
- The Venetian has many attributes that any couple would love. the rich colors, the backyard fountain and, the snow-filled first dance is always just so stunning.
Any memorable moments from recent weddings you’ve shot?
Daniel Nydick: There was a trash-the-dress session at a recent wedding at Chelsea Sun Inn in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania, and all the bridesmaids did it too. The big surprise was that the husband wasn’t going to do it—but he did! What’s really fun was that I was able to capture a succession of images that tell the story of them jumping and hitting the water. It was just so cool.
Any behind-the-scenes expert tips you wish all couples knew?
Daniel Nydick: PSA!! Friends don’t let friends hire photographers whose social media is full of only portraits and styled shoots. Photographers: Please make sure to show your leads full wedding galleries. Show them that you can work in all conditions. This will show transparency and a rapport with your potential couples.
Engaged couples: When you reach out to a wedding photographer, ASK to see multiple full wedding galleries, if they don’t take the initiative to them. It’s incredibly important to not just focus on the 10 or so images that are being heavily curated and you should be able to see what an entire day looks like. Check the quality of the entire gallery. What do the ceremony images look like? Are they cohesive with their entire body of work? Are colors cohesive?
If you look at someone’s gallery and there are 17 different shades of green in images taken seconds from one another, that is a massive 🚩 It shows inconsistency in their post processing. As someone that spends an entire day at @wppievents critiquing galleries, that is the biggest piece of feedback I end up giving people.
Another big 🚩is the RECEPTION. What does the reception images look like? Do they share them on social media? A quick peek through someone’s reception images will give you a great idea at how great they are at handling low light situations. Anyone can take a great image in perfect lighting but, are they able to take an image in not so ideal lighting?
TLDR: Don’t hire Instagram/portfolio-driven photographer. Hire a wedding photographer that has the skill set to cover the entire day no matter the lighting/weather/conditions thrown them.
Can you tell us about all of these great awards that you’ve recently received?
Daniel Nydick: An award-winning image is a photograph that has been recognized by a reputable organization or industry expert for its technical excellence, creative merit and overall impact. I consider it a huge honor to be recognized as a leader in the global wedding photography industry.
- 6 “Top 50 in the World” Fearless Awards. Fearless Awards are wedding photographs that are deemed exceptional candid, storytelling moments as well as unique, one-of-a-kind portraiture by a panel of guest curators. Distinguished wedding professionals select 1%-3% of approximately 20,000 images entered to be Fearless Awards.
- 5 “World’s Best Wedding Photos” awards
- 10 “Masters of Wedding Photography” awards
- 2 “Flashmasters” awards