*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
If you’ve spent much time in the comments of APW, you probably already know Sarah Hoppes. She’s the bright, funny, supportive lady whose sole mission in life appears to be making you feel awesome about yourself. What you might not know is that Sarah is also an APW sponsor, and one half of the dynamically talented and grounded team of photographers that make up Smitten Chickens Photography in NYC. I’ve always known that Sarah, and subsequently Smitten Chickens, were something special. Their photos are fun and unpretentious, and perfectly capture the essence of whoever they’re working with. But this week I also learned that Sarah and Chris are the kind of people who will go to bat for you, who stand up for the underdogs, and who have zero interest in whether or not they look cool doing it (which they always do, but I digress.)
There’s a lot of judgment in the wedding industry, and the worst part is you never know where it might come from. Your wedding is either too mainstream, or too offbeat, not detail-y enough, not pretty enough, you name it. Some photographers even build their businesses by only shooting weddings that meet a certain aesthetics criteria. But Smitten Chickens are having none of that. Sarah and Chris explained:
The wedding industry is vast, and like anything, there’s good and bad to be had. On the bad side, there’s a lot of judgment happening around weddings, and we think that’s bullsh*t. It’s not okay to differentiate elopements from “real” weddings. When a photographer doesn’t get photos of close friends or family members who are non-verbal, in a wheelchair, or have some other disability, whether it’s from prejudice or lack of experience, it’s inconsiderate. It’s not cool to decide not to shoot a wedding because the location or decor isn’t marketable enough. It’s rude and hurtful to not post photos online because the couple isn’t conventionally attractive (whatever that means). It’s miles and miles away from okay to not shoot a wedding because the couple isn’t straight, or even worse, to shoot it but do it halfheartedly.
We believe in wedding photography without prejudice. Our job is to capture memories you can keep forever—not to judge you, your guests, or your wedding. When you hire us, you get two people in your corner, one hundred percent. However you want to celebrate your love, whether you’re wearing jeans or rocking lace and tulle, reading from First Corinthians or quoting Harry Potter, eloping with one witness or inviting your entire extended family, we dig it.
Smitten Chickens has even based their rates around this philosophy. Their standard package is $3200, which includes two photographers for ten hours within sixty miles of New York. But they also have a pared down version of that for $2400 if your budget just can’t stretch any further. Elopements start at $800, and Sarah and Chris even offer video starting at $1,000 (and the videos are damn good, folks.) Plus Smitten Chickens is also offering the following discounts just for APWers:
- 10% off to APW readers on wedding photography any time for forever
- 20% off wedding photography to the first two couples who book us and mention this ad
- 10% off portraits for APW readers before the end of the year (Their portraits are so good, y’all. Do remember these shots of our Pantene Beautiful Lengths winner? All Smitten Chickens right there.)
Sarah and Chris pour their heart into every single wedding they shoot and respect every couple they work with. And the reason, other than the fact that Sarah and Chris are just good, decent people, is because they understand the real importance of wedding photography, the stuff that’s buried six-layers deep underneath all the lace and whisky and other wedding day hoopla. In fact, they have a whole blog post up about it today that was so heartfelt, and so familiar to my own feelings on the subject, that it left me with chills and tears. You should go read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet of what it’s all about:
I didn’t exist when these people started their lives together, but these photos let me imagine what that might have been like for them. It makes me feel connected to my past, to where I came from, why I’m even here today. Having a photo like that gives me a glimpse into the ground floor of a very long, happy marriage in a way words could never quite accomplish.
Sarah summed up the Smitten Chickens Photography philosophy thusly:
Our reasons for shooting weddings are that life is short, love is powerful, and everyone has an inherent beauty that’s worth showing. If we’ve done our job right, our work will mean more and more to our clients the more time passes, because that’s the power of good photography. We chose to focus on emotion, authentic moments, and classic shooting and editing techniques because that’s what stands the test of time.
Now, what makes Smitten Chickens extra special is that they mix this depth of understanding with a love of all things nerdy. They shared, “We make comic books, running the gamut of horror, sci-fi, action, adventure, and comedy. Chris writes all our books, Sarah does production and graphic design, and we work with different artists to bring the books to life. Since 2011, we’ve put out ten comics, and they are available at Manhattan comic stores and are going live soon on comixology, the leading distributor of digital comics.” It’s a rare thing to find a photographer who shares and respects your interests, yet who doesn’t make that the central focus of who you are, but Smitten Chickens nails it with a kind of graceful precision I can only hope for myself.
As if that weren’t all enough, Sarah and Chris are just plain good people. They told me, “We are really lucky to be where we are, and we want to use our business to make more good in the world. Starting now, we’ll be donating 5% of our fee from every portrait and wedding booking to Best Buddies, a charity supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is an important cause for both of us, and it’s especially personal for Sarah. Her mother is a special education teacher, and Sarah spent four years working at a camp for people with disabilities. Best Buddies is kind of like a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, pairing students and adults with an adult with disabilities to do activities together. They also work to provide job placement and assistance for people to live on their own.”
Smitten Chickens Photography in New York City are the kind of people who make you want to recommend their business to everyone from your cashier at the grocery store to your second cousin twice removed. Not only does hiring them mean awesome photos for you, it also means you get to help a business that is about helping people help other people. And that’s about the best thing you can do with your wedding dollars.