Smitten Chickens Photography In NYC

Photography without prejudice

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

Staff Picks

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  • Kristina Radke

    I worked with Sarah and Chris to help bring one of their graphic novels to life in a day-long photo shoot and have to say that they are AMAZING! I am not terribly experienced in front of a camera, but they made me feel comfortable with the camera… while I was in full-on green body paint, no less. They were professional but also playful, pulling all the best out of us. Not to mention how wonderfully the photos turned out. Highest recommendations from this Smitten Chickens fan!

    • Thanks, Kristina! We loved that shoot so much. (You really rocked it, by the way!) Doing that shoot made us realize how much we love shooting nerdy stuff in a kind of classy way. We’re hoping to do a lot more portraits of cosplayers and the like this year!

  • Thanks, Kristina! We loved that shoot so much. (You really rocked it, by the way!) Doing that shoot made us realize how much we love shooting nerdy stuff in a kind of classy way. We’re hoping to do a lot more portraits of cosplayers and the like this year!

  • Kallie Hinton

    I have known Sarah for almost a decade, and I cannot think of a more genuine, compassionate person. I’ve had the pleasure of briefly meeting Chris a handful of times. He is creative, intelligent and thoughtful. More than anything, Sarah and Chris care. I mean, they really, really care about their clients, their clients needs, and basically all of humanity in general. They put others first, always. They do good work. They are professional, fair, and have a great sense of humor. It has been a pleasure to watch Smitten Chickens grow and evolve!

    • Thank you, Kallie! I hope we get out to your end of the country sometime soon. I’d love to get to see each other outside of the context of a big event, and maybe take some portraits of you and your dog!

  • Ingrid Amorini

    Working with Sarah was simply joy. She was my wedding photographer and I can honestly say that from beginning to end she was honest to her word, easy to communicate with, available whenever I had a question, flexible, fun, and above all caring. I think that if I had to pick a word to reflect what working with her was like, I could say that I feel that Sarah really LOVES what she does. And by loving what she does, she is able to show that bond among the people she portrays. In my wedding pictures, you not only see people saying their vows, but also people exchanging their love for each other. Everyone that has gotten to see my pictures says the same thing: You can tell that you were genuinely happy and genuinely and absolutely in love. This is what her work shows! You can almost relive every moment, and FEEL what the moment was like by looking at the images. To Sarah, this is a life work. I can attest to the fact that she is experienced and respectful of everyone, as the wonderful pictures she took of my brother, who is developmentally disabled, show. She was able to capture the emotion and love that overcame us as I am stepping down the aisle. She was able to portray the incredible bond I have with my daughter, with my mom, with my now husband, with the people I care for. These were not just any pretty pictures. This was a work of LOVE. I wish Sarah and her husband Chris of Smitten Chickens the very best!!

    • “In my wedding pictures, you not only see people saying their vows, but also people exchanging their love for each other.” What a beautiful way to explain it! I’m always hoping that’s what we’re doing, so it’s so nice to hear that. Thank you!

  • Katie & Chris

    Thanks to an earlier APW sponsored post, we were fortunate enough to have Sarah and Chris photograph our wedding a few months ago, and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We are so delighted with the photos they captured, and they were an absolute pleasure to be around on our wedding day. I was anxious about being the center of attention for an entire day, so the fact that they were able to put us at ease and be unobtrusive while still capturing our wedding in such a lovely manner was no small feat. In every sense, Sarah and Chris went above and beyond what we expected. They made the trek all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine as a NYC-based business, made us and our similarly camera-shy guests feel comfortable, addressed complicated family dynamics with grace, and crafted better wedding photos for us than we’d ever imagined possible. And then they put together our highlight video, which I still haven’t been able to get through it without tearing up. In less than four minutes, they captured the essence of our wedding and so many of the moments that made it so meaningful. We’ve shared it with friends and family who were unable to make the trip out to our wedding, and they all tell us it makes them feel like they’d been there with us. All in all, Smitten Chickens did a fantastic job and are genuinely great people, and we would recommend them in a heartbeat.

    • Thank you for your kind words! You’re both so sweet, and we had such a good time with you. I love what you said about video. We’re always trying to explain what we love about those videos, and you just put it so perfectly!

      Also, your wedding made us completely fall in love with Maine. No joke! We’re actually making a side trip on our way back home from New Hampshire to Portland, Maine this Christmas.

  • Monica Roy

    Such strong composition in the photo with the red wall!

    • It’s a sculpture about a block from the Manhattan Marriage Bureau with really great diagonal lines. I love it so much for portraits!

  • Laura

    Plus, she’s the lady who produced a pic of a bridesmaid in pants when I ranted last week. So, that gives her even more awesome points.

    • That google image search . . . what were those outfits? Haute couture meets abominable snow man? How to spend way too much money and still not be quite sure how to pee? How can that possibly the most relevant photo?

      I just tried the search myself and found rhinestone “bridesmaid” yoga pants, pictures of bridesmaids with their dresses tucked in their underoos, and shopping results for panties with butt padding. Whyyyyyyyy?

      • Laura

        I knoooow. My eyes were burning. I also saw the underoo pic. Also… a picture of a sad bride sitting next to a construction cone and a “Mother of the Bride” thong. Ew.

        On a more positive note, I have further proof that APW is paving the way: my “bridesmaids in pants” goole image search today, found not one but TWO pics from the recent “Tomboy Brides” post. They were on row 15ish. Considering the number of images… that is amazing. Props to this team!

  • Megan

    I have known and worked with Sarah for more than half-a-decade now. She’s not only an artistic genius but the sweetest soul I’ve ever met. We did a “fashion police” shoot which was seductive and a little tongue-in-cheek. I have to admit, it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but Sarah was exactly the person to lead to me through the experience. She made me feel comfortable, confident, sexy and sassy. Sarah has an innate talent to showcase her clients own, true, unique beauty. She stays true to you/what you want and stays true to the integrity of her work. I have to admit, Sarah and Chris were some of the first people I thought of when I recently got engaged :) Lots of love for Smitten Chickens. xoxo

    • Thank you so much! That shoot was so much fun!

  • Holly & Mark

    We had the wonderful luck of finding Sarah through “google searching” as we were planning our NYC elopement from the Washington, D.C. area. We picked her because, from her very first email back to us, she was so warm and caring – she simply exuded positive vibes. During our first introductory phone call, Sarah made us feel like all of our ideas for where we wanted to take pictures (and believe me, we went all OVER the city!) were absolutely perfect – after that call it wasn’t even a question that we had found the right person to share our wedding day and capture our special moments. The night of our wedding Sarah sent us five “sneak preview” images from the day, and I still remember the goosebumps I got from viewing those images – the emotion that Sarah was able to capture in our faces and our gestures was simply overwhelming. We have never, ever had so many pictures taken of us where we looked as beautiful/handsome. Last week Sarah sent us our full wedding album, and I am still going back to look at it almost daily, in awe, at how perfectly she captured the day. Thank you, thank you, thank you – we could say it a million times over and it still wouldn’t do justice for how grateful we are for finding Smitten Chickens Photography!!

    • It was an absolute blast going all over the city with you both!

  • Jessica Beinecke

    Sarah and Chris are just pure genius. They’re artists. They take your vision and your thoughts and your personality and translate that into gorgeous photography. I’ve known Sarah personally for almost a decade, first as college classmates, and now as female business owners doing our thing in NYC. Sarah worked with me on a shoot for my new website – I needed shots of myself for branding purposes. And I had some weird requests. She worked with me on every single detail from location to timing to props, and the images that came out of her meticulously hands-on approach were magical. She captured it. Whatever the “it” was that had been lingering in my mind as the perfect image for the new website, she made it happen. She worked fast, was very professional and spent MUCH more time than she had originally planned on this shoot. Smitten Chickens is the real deal and I will turn to them for all future photo shoots.

    • Thank you, Jess! We were so happy to be involved! I can’t wait to see where your (totally rad) business goes, because I know it’s going to be AWESOME!

  • Heather

    Sarah and I met because we both went to Ohio University. We were both in the commercial photography program and she asked to use me as a model on some of the assignments. Being a fellow photographer, I was a little reluctant, as I am much more comfortable behind the camera than in front. Which I feel like most brides, and people in general, can relate to that feeling of discomfort in front of cameras. I don’t know many people who are naturally comfortable in front of the camera. It usually takes some getting used to and a huge part of making that comfort happen is having the right photographer. I must say that I felt bad for Sarah having to deal with my awkwardness, but she was wonderful at bringing out the best in me. She gave great direction which led to getting my best angles. She will also gently tell you when something looks awkward, which as a woman, believe me, you want this honesty before it’s too late to go back and retake the picture. (This helps to avoid pictures where you wish you had remembered to suck your gut in.) I also had a lot of issues with really sensitive eyes in the sunlight and she was totally accommodating and didn’t rush me at all. She did everything she could to make me feel comfortable throughout the shoot and the result was some pretty amazing pictures. We can all be our own worst critics, but I must admit that I am proud to show those pictures of me because I truly do feel that I look beautiful in them. That is all thanks to Sarah!

  • Tarra Thomas

    My wife and I were lucky enough to have Sarah to be our elopement photographer last October (we are the two ladies photographed on this article). We live in California and traveled to New York to be married. We found Sarah on craigslist of all places and saw her work and knew we had to work with her. We didn’t get a chance to meet Chris, but we heard all about him because they were getting married a few weeks after us. We had never met her, but we were both almost instantly comfortable with her. She photographed our wedding and then walked around New York City with us all day, capturing all of our precious and silly moments. She never made us feel like we were in a stressful photoshoot and forced any weird poses, although she did have a vision ;). Her work is so beautiful and she really captured the day. We also found out later that Chris and Sarah are strong advocates for LGBT rights and marriage equality and has said that they won’t work with anyone who doesn’t hold those value as well. They stick to their morals, which is sometimes rare, which made us love them so much more (not sure how that would be possible). I am proud to know them and have worked with them. Congratulations and keep up the good work!