Leah & Mark: Photography All Over the US (with Video!)

Last week, I got involved in a bit of a controversy with some Etsy vendors who didn’t know my work. I’d written a post for the (awesome, awesome) Etsy blog team about hacking your wedding (an age old theme on APW). The post was about finding ways to work around high costs on items where you flat-out couldn’t afford to go whole hog. The idea, as always in APW land, is that most of us decide to prioritize spending in a few key areas, try to get the best possible value that we can, and then cut spending like CRAZY everywhere else. Right. So. These random vendors were not thrilled. I was accused of a lot of things that are totally not true, including not wanting vendors and artists to charge what they’re worth (artists charging what they are worth is, of course, a guiding principle of my work). So all this brought me back to thinking quite a bit about what it is I actually care about and promote with our amazing APW Sponsor and Vendor Community. I’ve realized that the core values I belive in are the things that I had a hard time finding in wedding vendor land: value (not cheapness, but real value for what I’m spending), sanity, and genuine customer service. (You know, people that really care about me as ME, not as a walking dollar sign.) In other words, the APW Sanity Pledge in action. So this week, I started chatting with Leah and Mark, our long term sponsor photographers out of Atlanta, who will shoot your wedding anywhere in the US… about what else? Value. And I got to thinking about what an awesome job Leah and Mark do of living up to APW values (and value).

Last year, Julie of Up Up Creative (and now Aper & Pink) wrote an excellent post called Price is Not the Same as Value, and that, I think, is the core of the conversation. When Mark and I were talking about value, we were talking about Leah and Mark‘s skill and experience (honed over the years on you guys… they’d shot exactly two weddings before they started advertising on APW, and now they’ve shot just about a billion of your weddings, all over the country). We were talking about the quality of their photographs, but also all of the things that they include when you hire them to work for you.

I mean, seriously. Let’s break it down (don’t bother trying to figure out how they make a living giving you such awesome rates, because I can tell you how… Mark Never. Stops. Moving.) Their APW Only package is $3,650 for anywhere in the continental United States (and they are not raising their rates for 2013! High Five!) What’s included is this:

  • Travel in the continental US
  • Ten hours of coverage
  • Hi-res .jpg files on dvd with a personal use license
  • A 2-3 minute Wedding Home Movie highlight reel (free for APW couples only)
  • A full Wedding Home Movie for only $950 if you want it
  • Rehearsal Dinner coverage included
  • A second shooter for $450 (yeah, that’s less than their cost) if you want it
  • An Engagement Session (where they FLY TO YOU) for $400 if you want it
  • Photographers you really want at your wedding

I mean. I know, right? That is value right there, and when you add in photographers who treat you right, and you want to hang around with, that’s MAGIC.

So I’m going to let Mark tell you a little bit about why they’ve set up such a crazy (amazing) business, that lets us brag that wherever you are in the United States, we have an APW photographer for you. “We’ve always known that hiring photographers to fly across the country for a wedding is a little ridiculous. There are so many talented photographers out there and we are still grateful for every couple that takes a chance on us. Of course after three years of traveling across the country photographing weddings—we’ve kind of become experts at flying into a new city, meeting clients for the first time on the day before their wedding, and doing an absolutely amazing job—on a consistent basis. It’s all a little bit crazy and so are our clients. We honestly believe that we are the best photographers to be shooting our clients weddings. We’ve been doing this for a while now and we confidently say that we’re experts and we can handle any wedding in any location. We think that our creativity, and experience combined with our improvisation skills enable us to be our best, all the time, for every wedding. We say that in the most confident and humble way possible. When a couple hires us we want them to know that everything photography will be taken care of.”

Last time we talked about Leah and Mark we got to introduce their Wedding Home Movies. They are offering simple and beautiful little movies (shot on the same cameras they’re shooting the wedding). And seriously y’all, these movies are GOOD (just when you thought you couldn’t afford wedding videography). And because things just keep getting better around here, they’re continuing their awesome APW only Wedding Home Movie deals.

Mark says, “It’s been a welcome surprise that so many of our clients are really interested in our Wedding Home Movies. Ever since our last sponsored posts we’ve booked many couples because they wanted video, but it just wasn’t in their budget – and our APW offer of a free 2-3 minute highlight reel was a great bonus. So although we had originally planned to end the free highlight reel promotion at the end of May, but we’re extending it until the end of June. Again—any couple that books us for photography, will also receive a 2-3 minute video highlight reel at no extra charge.” Plus, if you want a full wedding home movie, not just the highlight reel, they are extending this offer as well, “We’re offering our Full Movie package for only $950 for APWers—down from our regular rate of $1,750 (this is an add on to a photography package).”

So! If you want to book with Leah and Mark, now is the time to drop them an email. Except for a few dates left open, they are mostly booked for 2012. BUT! For APW couples, they are not going to increase pricing at all for 2013. So get on that, you guys. Enjoy awesome customer service and great value. And have fun.

Staff Picks

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  • I can’t speak for Leah and Mark, but I can speak volumes about your philosophy and how much it helped me. And I definitely spent plenty of money on etsy :-) But I only paid for what I really cared about. I cared a lot more how my hair looked than how my invitations looked, so I bought hair flowers from etsy (and paid a stylist) but designed my own invitations. I wanted original favors, and, boom! thank you, etsy. But I did my own centerpieces with pinecones I collected instead of buying something.

    I actually think your philosophy would be beneficial to etsy vendors. Especially those vendors who sell things that are a little bit less common can benefit from the idea of paying for what you really care about and can’t quite DIY in the way you want.

    • meg

      To be TOTALLY fair and clear, a few of the people who got ugly were Etsy vendors (though we all know the bulk of Etsy vendors are awesome). But tons were just wedding professionals… who turned out to be a little more WIC in values than one might hope ;)

  • The negative feedback that was posted on the Etsy article is obviously from wedding professionals who weren’t familiar with the overall context of APW. As a wedding pro myself, we see so many blog posts about cutting that, doing this yourself, and saving a lot of money along the way – and, taken at face value, your Etsy article can be seen like that, I suppose. But what I love about APW and APW couples is that they do understand the value of having vendors they love. Finding the perfect photographer or the officiant who will create their dream ceremony because those elements are important to them, but saving a little bit by having an iPod for the music or not hiring a videographer. But it’s just as likely that an APW couple will see an awesome DJ or band as their #1 priority, and couldn’t imagine their wedding not being caught on video – but don’t really need or want a full, customized wedding ceremony.

    It’s all about priorities. It’s determining what is important to you and finding the most awesome wedding professionals to pull it all off. It’s DIY-ing what you think is fine, and then finding folks to help you do the rest. It is truly the value and the experience that is brought to the table, and that doesn’t mean it has to be cheap or inexpensive. It just means it has to be awesome.

    • meg

      Well, except that the first point was Shop Etsy! Shop local artists! Spend money on your values!

      It was a pretty classic case of people reading what they wanted to read, not what I said, because even when I clarified they COULD NOT hear me. Alas.

      • Which is kind of funny, because Etsy blog and article comments are usually such a huge and supportive lovefest (I’m not being sarcastic – I feel like that sentence sounds sarcastic).

        • meg

          No. They are. I *love* the Etsy crew. The staff, by the way, was a supportive love fest through all of it.

    • I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt. I would have assumed they misunderstood the article or didn’t understand the core philosophy of APW, except for Meg’s reply. She clarified that people SHOULD spend money on things they value, and reiterated that point one was “shop etsy/local artists!” Even after that post, people were still filled with rage, and they took to writing angry posts on other pages when etsy closed the comments.

      If you’re running a business based on sound values and care for your clients, you don’t need to attack strangers for suggesting people should make considered choices about vendors.

      You also don’t need to make people terrified that everything will go wrong, and everyone will think they’re a couple of jerks if they don’t hire vendors.

      I’m thankful all the time for APW and the vendors in this community (like Leah and Mark!), but I’m especially thankful when I see vitriol/insanity like those comments.

      • Class of 1980

        Yeah, I saw the comments on the article.

        Some of those rabid dog comments were from a combination of poor reading comprehension, innate defensiveness, and being obstinate as a mule – I’m referring to the ring leader who kicked off the controversy and kept it raging.

        For someone to not only take offense, but be unwilling to stop and consider any of Meg’s clarifications, tweet up a storm of insults, and then tweet that they were taking the controversy to a couple of private message boards where they could trash Meg and APW freely … and never even bother to research anything on APW to see Meg’s philosophy firsthand … well …

        That’s just a Grade A Bully.

      • Steph & B

        Also sometimes the things that go wrong are the things that are most memorable. We didn’t do the whole DJ thing… and that did create some backfires. I spaced and didn’t upload the ipod properly, which meant that the playlist had to be played from my laptop, resulting in the best man taking over the computer and only playing half of the songs on the playlist. I was mad at first, but honestly that was the most I saw him laugh and smile all weekend, so it was worth it in the end. It was kind of like having a DJ in the end anyway.

        And I’m sure a wedding coordinator could have made everything more organized. We had a moment where someone had to shout…”okay…wedding starting now!” and my mother in law forgot her poem that she was supposed to read. There were other little slip ups and disorganized moments, but honestly none of them really mattered in the long run.

        It’s the imperfections that make things lovable and memorable. Perfection is creepy and annoying.

        • meg

          Ha. This is true. Every time we’re at a wedding and something goes wrong (which, more often than not has actually BEEN the DJ… we were at a wedding once where the DJ narrated the bride’s every move, “Now the bride is getting a drink of water!” I kid you not). My mom says, “well, there is their wedding story. Trust me, this is going to still be hilarious in 15 years.”

          • Steph & B

            One of my good friends got married a couple of weeks ago and the DJ messed up the song for their first dance and played the song from the Wedding Singer, and there was this really weird singing talking at the end.
            She was upset at first, and now its becoming a running joke between all of us.

      • Wow, especially after Meg clarified, those people are still so angry!

        I get supporting local craftspeople. I had my dress locally made, we used an excellent local photographer and a wonderful local florist, and a friend who is a DJ.

        And with the wedding dresses? Sure, if its coture and hand made, its worth the money. If its mass produced in china and I can get it on lightinthebox for $300, why should I pay $2000 for it in a shop here?

        And ALL my friends who are recently married have seen examples of the word “wedding” increasing the cost substantially. There are venues around that do private functions, in private rooms with no booking fee at $40 a head, yet as soon as you say wedding, its a $1000 booking fee, minimum $60 a head kind of cost. Rediculous!

        • I definitely agree that tacking “wedding” onto a product or service often ups the price by a large percentage – I saw this a ton while shopping around for engagement rings with my fiance. Why exactly is a diamond cocktail ring a quarter the price of a diamond engagement ring? The world may never know…

          The only part I get stuck on is the argument that wedding dresses are overpriced, across the board. I’m a fledgling fashion designer, so this really gets to me sometimes! It is certainly true for some designer dresses, but even mass-produced dresses often use fabrics that are hundreds of dollars per yard. (Also, most companies that manufacture on any sort of larger scale have to outsource manufacturing; they simply cannot afford to pay US workers a living wage and keep their prices reasonable.) Standard retail markup for clothing (wedding dress and t-shirts alike!) is cost x 2 = wholesale and wholesale x 2 = retail, so for example in the NPR story, $2800 is not an unreasonable price for a garment that took $700 worth of materials to make.

          As for the online vs. retail problem… even mass-produced garments require a massive amount of overhead when they’re sold in a retail setting, hence the price difference between retail and online. Materials will definitely cost less when purchased in bulk, but even after the initial investment to build the factories and train the workers to manufacture a product, it takes a decent amount of money to pay employees to work in your brick-and-mortar shop and to keep a dress in stock, where it might get ripped, stolen, or soiled, or turn into deadstock that never sells.

          In contrast, online shops usually have a warehouse, so not much overhead there, and the shipping costs get passed on to the customer. And there are plenty of people who go into a retail location to try on a dress or try a product (and take up an employee’s time), leave without buying, and jump online to buy it for half the price. I’m definitely not a fan of the conventional/WIC wedding dress industry, but I also think the majority of companies are pricing as low as they can while still turning a profit, and online selling really undercuts that.

          Sorry to ramble on – I think about this stuff a lot. It’s really hard to balance quality and price, and for that matter, to become successful without selling out/selling your soul. And although I can understand why it’s a touchy subject, there was definitely some uncalled for snarkiness on the thread.

          Meanwhile, I’m planning to bypass the expensive dress issue altogether by making my own or buying it vintage!

        • My venue did that, and I specifically asked about it. The food wasn’t more expensive, but there was a $500 booking fee she didn’t charge to other groups. There was also a security guard fee. I finally got her to get rid of the security guard because I wasn’t having a dance, our wedding only went to 10.30, and I swore up and down that our friends don’t get that drunk and do take care of each other. Oh, and we’d pay for any damage.

          Re: the booking fee, she said it’s because she has found that weddings take a lot more work. For most outside groups, they just let her decorate out of the rooms of random decor stuff she has. Brides are a lot more picky. To be fair, she did spend 5 hours over a few weeks with me refining centerpieces, and she let me borrow tons of things (vases, extra decor, etc) for the tables. I think I saved in the end, and the venue was overall affordable for us.

  • Steph

    Mark and Raven just shot out wedding on Saturday and they are the bomb. We haven’t seen the photos yet but based on the amazing job Mark did with our engagement photos, we know they’ll be great. He is super professional, super nice, and works really efficiently, which is so important at a wedding. I can’t recommend their work enough!

    • Very Soon Steph! Just working on that music video for you guys so I can show it with the wedding preview post!

      And btw. Your wedding was amazing + AMAZING.

      Thanks for bringing us out to Virginia!

      • Steph

        Thank you!! Can’t wait to see the pics and the video!!

    • meg

      Dude. I didn’t even get to talk about Raven in this post. She, and the rest of the Leah & Mark team are AWESOME, and even more affordable (if you want the L&M experience but have less cash).

  • Steph

    Mark and Raven just shot our wedding on Saturday and they are the bomb. We haven’t seen the photos yet but based on the amazing job Mark did with our engagement photos, we know they’ll be great. He is super professional, super nice, and works really efficiently, which is so important at a wedding. I can’t recommend their work enough!

  • Meredith

    Oh I wish I were getting married. I’d hire you in a second.

    That second photo- so lovely. I looked at it three times before I noticed the cast on the little girl’s leg. I love that you didn’t try to hide it or cut it out of the photo or anything.

    I was in a short leg cast (purple!) at my brother’s wedding and all I could think about (and other’s mentioned as well) was what I was going to do about that photos. “Can they see my cast? Can you see my crutches? Can you tell I’m injured?” Ugh. I felt so bad.

    I bet that little girl didn’t think twice about it. She looks lovely and that photo is amazing.

    • One More Sara

      I read your comment and thought to myself “what girl in a cast?” and legit had to scroll up to look at the picture again. It takes talent to make a multicolored (!) cast blend in a wedding photo.

  • Alexandra

    Personally, I already have a photographer planned out, but every time I see advertising for Leah and Mark, I get a little sad that they advertise doing photography all over the US and I’m up in Canada. In fact, APW has a depressing lack of venders in Canada. I’m kind of hoping I stumble across a few awesome ones in my own wedding planning just so I can help recommend them to APW.

    • meg

      We’ve got some great ones! And Canadians, the BEST way to get more is to use the CA vendors that we have. If they’re doing well, they will tell their friends, that’s totally how it works!!

      • Alexandra

        Ah, I see, you do have a Toronto photographer. XD My photographer is actually a friendor, who’s currently in photography school but will be graduating before our wedding, and while you do have a Toronto photographer and band, it’s not much help if I planned on having a DJ. Although I did meet with a wedding planner today who was the first person in Toronto’s wedding industry I thought was actually sane.

  • Steph & B

    I’m sad that I didn’t get to weigh in on that conversation. Especially in response to the one vendor who went on about how difficult and messy it would be to plate a meal and serve it to your guests. We (B, the bridal party and I) did it at our wedding, and we looked damn cute doing it in our TJ Max fancy aprons. And the bonus? I got to talk to everyone one of my guests and make sure that they ate (I wouldn’t recommend this if you had over 60 guests, unless you have a big wedding party or solid group to help out).

    Bottom line, it did come down to values and picking vendors that had our same values. We spent a lot to have our photographers fly from VA with us to Montana, but we’ve been watching their work from the beginning (high school acquaintances of B) and we really truly loved them as people and wanted to spend our wedding weekend with them. Cutting corners on things that didn’t matter to us like a DJ, wedding planner, expensive shoes, or extra wedding invitations inserts that matched (I did half of the wedding invitations by learning how to use adobe illustrator… not necessarily recommended), meant that we could invest money into those things that really did matter to us — like pictures and covering my parents’ traveling expenses.

    I wish I had come to this realization earlier in my planning process before I purchased a dress that I pretty much hated from a business that I dislike even more (terrible terrible business ethics). Finding APW in the middle of my planning process was like finding long lost sisters who cared more about me and my sanity. And it was so wonderfully uplifting to learn that I could choose where to invest my money and that there are actually Wedding related businesses and vendors out there that DO have values and DO genuinely care about me and my husband, which is something that APW has been saying from the very beginning. Not that all wedding vendors are evil and should be avoided, but that we have a right to choose with whom and where we invest our money. Martha Stewart left that part out somewhere.

    • Steph & B

      By the way…. if we had seen Mark and Leah’s stuff before our wedding photogs (or seen the work of any of the wonderful photographers featured here on APW), we may have actually shopped around. I mean these pictures are AHMAZING, and I’ve always loved their values. Like Meredith, I wish I were getting married so they could take our pictures. Mostly I just want to be BFFs.

      I feel like I should add, that while we both do love our photographers, they are still a little WIC-y and I definitely had a lot of panic attacks trying to make my wedding feel pretty enough or worthy enough for their work. I still feel like we didn’t live up to their standards or weren’t pretty enough for them and feel a little like a second-rate client when I look at their blog and their descriptions and shout-outs to some of their other clients.

      B keeps telling me it was because we were their easiest clients and didn’t need any reassurance or “butt kissing.” But still…. This is why I tell every newly engaged friend or acquaintance that they must come here first (and now I give them a copy of Meg’s book).

  • Molly

    The vendors commenting on that article had some pretty WIC-y things to say, mostly reflecting on the impossibility of a couple being able to provide “classy” services to their guests. It’s too bad that, even among the indie wedding vendors, there is that unshakeable view of what is supposedly mandatory for weddings these days: beauty pageant, massive banquet, party in the club. And if it seems at all homemade or family-done, you have failed your guests and embarrassed yourself.

    My fiance and I are counting on our theory that a wedding needs only two things to be successful: a couple in love and a well-organized binder!

  • Sus

    I agree that you hit a nerve with that etsy piece! But – and please don’t hate me for saying this – there are lessons to be learned here, no? After all, the etsy readers are clearly not your normal readership so it’s not actually their fault that they don’t know your mission statement – and I’m not convinced it came across in the article. Part of the problem is surely the term ‘wedding hack’ – it’s a horrible-sounding phrase (sorry again! please don’t hate me if you’re invested in it! but even saying it out loud sounds combatative) and it also makes it appear as if you’re suggesting people should half-arse parts of their wedding to do one over on the professionals. To clarify: I certainly don’t think that is what you were suggesting, or ever would suggest. But I do think it could easily be read that way.

    • meg

      Oh, I LOVE the term wedding hack, always have. A hack, of course, is not a copy, but taking what exists and creatively re-working it to make it work for you (usually more affordably). I’m a fan. I’m also a fan of half-arsing parts of your wedding that you don’t care about, to be perfectly frank.

      And, yes, in general, when writing for a new crowd you’ve got to be clear (I just did a book, so I know). But I do clarify exactly my mission in point one: “SHOP ETSY” where I talk about supporting local crafts people, and putting your money where your values are. The thing is, you can be clear as day, but if people don’t want to read what you wrote, they instead want to read what they ASSUME you wrote, there is nothing that can be done. No skin off my nose, however. The actual Etsy readership is AWESOME. This random group of vendors who commented isn’t. Oh well!

      • Class of 1980

        The main poster who instigated the negative comments and would not let up, is a dressmaker. She has a blog and has written about having a client bring a cheap wedding dress to her to deconstruct and make into something better. She wrote that she enjoys that sort of project.

        Hmmm. Sounds like a wedding hack to me!

      • Sus

        Do you think the phrase ‘wedding hack’ (totally typed ‘weeding hack’ just now) might sound different to me because I’m in the UK? Maybe it means something different here, something more negative… Maybe there’s a difference between hacking the bits you don’t care so much about and investing your own time and care in the bits you do care about? And so there are two different ways of choosing to bypass vendors, or of choosing which type of vendor works for what you want? Cos the bits we did ourselves (invites!) or the vendors we avoided (wedding dress shops! ew!) just didn’t feel like ‘hacks’. But in my (academic paper giving) experience, when my audience misses my point (and god knows, it happens more than I would like to admit) it hurts at first but over time I realise I could just rejig it to avoid the problem – and then I wind up with a better piece at the end as a result. Sigh. That’s a long-winded way of saying you can’t please everyone, but you can learn how to trick them into liking what you say, I suppose.