Gerard Tomko: Fine Art Wedding Photography

I get to experience a lot of wedding photographers, but rarely do I meet one as humble, funny and talented as Jerry Tomko. After 25+ years in this business, very little blows me away anymore. His work does.

To hear Jerry tell it, “I just do what I do.”  Um,did I say humble? Heck, he won’t even post his many award winning images on his website!  Uh, no my friend, what you do is fine art photography meets fashion photography like I haven’t seen before.

Take a look for yourself. All of the images are linked to the original post on Jerry’s blog. Check it out and send him some Dish love.


This is from the wedding that Jerry shot for the VH-1 reality series, “My Big Friggin’ Wedding!”

This is also from Alyssa & Tyler’s VH1 wedding. I love what this image says about the couple.

This is perhaps my favorite wedding image of all time. It just screams, “Anna Karenina”The size limitations of this blog don’t do it justice. Click the image to see it on Jerry’s blog.

Jerry isn’t for the couple that just want a record of their wedding. His is the bride that sees the art in the finest photography and understand that to capture it on this one day, that is all that matters. You can view Jerry’s website at Gerard


Meet the Creatives: The Story Keeper

René Dille is one of those rare photographers whose style is so unique and amazing that hers easily stands out from the crowd. Her images are light and border on ethereal. It doesn’t matter if she is captuing a wedding or yesterday’s lunch, her style is unmistakable.  That talent  is what makes her images more art then mere photographic records. If you are in Orange County, CA, you can’t find a better  person to capture your day and keep your story. {psst…I bet she travels}

Well you know me, I just had to know more. Read below to see what René can tell you about finding and getting your own unique style for your wedding images.

The Story Keeper
Anaheim Hills, CA

Me: Rene, your style is fresh and light.  I read that you make a conscience effort with this.  How would you describe what sets your images apart?

Well, I think it takes a few things working in harmony to create a “look” that the viewer associates with the artist.  It’s how we look at things.  How we see them.  And what we want to communicate to the viewer.  Unlike writers, we have to use a visual cue to tell you what we are seeing; to make you feel it too.  Unlike a videographer, that visual cue must be a single image.  Because of the limitations of our media, that one image has to be powerful.  I think of it a little like haiku.

Since I shoot primarily weddings, my style is light.  I use a light hand when I shoot images, and when I process them.  Weddings are fun.  They are well-rehearsed, yet spontaneous.  The lightness of the day is infectious.  My goal when I process the images is to convey that lightness.

Me: As you view other portfolios do you find it true that the better photographers have developed a style all there own or are you unique in this?

I think the “better photographers” know who they are.  They have healthy egos.  They have figured out how to tell you what they saw in, not only in the way they capture a moment, but prepare that moment for it to be viewed.  Some use bright colors and saturation.  Some use contrast and shadows.  They all tell you a story.  Their work often tells you as much about them as their subjects.
There has been a lot of talk in the photographic industry about the liquidation of style; of photographers copying off each other’s papers.  But I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate; at least not to other artists.  So much of what we put into our work is uniquely our own, that it’s nearly impossible to truly copy.  The really good photographers out there don’t try to make their images look a certain way.  They can’t help but make them look a certain way.  It’s their signature.

Me:Could you give my readers some tips on how to figure out what style appeals most to them and how to convey that to their photographer?

I would tell your readers the same thing I tell brides every day.  I don’t have to tell you what to look for.  You have eyes.  You know what you like.  It doesn’t matter who took it.  It doesn’t matter how well-known the photographer is.  It doesn’t matter whom they’ve photographed.  All that matters is how you feel when you look at their images.

When you look at a single image of theirs, do you understand what the photographer was feeling?  Do you know how the subject was feeling?  Moreover, if you look at an entire album created by that photographer, what do you feel about the wedding?  Are you looking at pretty pictures?  Or do you feel like you were there?  Can you smell the flowers?  Taste the cake?  Feel the sun?  Hear the music?  If you can answer “yes” to just one of these, the artist has done their job.  If you can answer “yes” to all of these, then this is the photographer for you.

To better understand more about a creative, it helps to know how they got where they are and a bit of their philosophy.

I’ve been photographing weddings in Anaheim Hills with my husband Jay since 1987.  We started out shooting medium format film cameras.  It was a completely different world then.  Because we were unable to see what we were creating while we were creating it, the learning curve was sharp.  You had to know what light would do, and what film wouldn’t.  You had to know what would add and what would subtract light; and more importantly, why to do it.

It was also very expensive to press the shutter release; at least a couple bucks for each click.  Because of that, photographers had to learn to wait.  We couldn’t just shoot.  We had to wait for the moment to completely unfold.  Too quick and you missed it.  Too late and you missed it.  Sometimes I think it was the very best way to learn photography, and more importantly to learn wedding photography.  Because we learned to shoot “blind,” we aren’t encumbered today by the same rituals that newer photographers deal with………….specifically, the need to flip their camera over to see the exposure they just shot.  So often THE shot is the one right after the one you just took.  Look at the back, and you miss the “real” shot.

We went digital about seven years ago.  It was tough to change tracks, but it opened up a whole new world to me.  It opened up endless possibilities to further perfect the story I wanted to tell.  Post processing gave me that freedom.  No longer shackled to the retouching artists at the lab, I could interpret the images I had captured in the way I meant for them to be seen.

And yes, I went through the same missteps I think most of us did during that transition.  We all felt the need to kick up the contrast to unimaginable levels.  The saturation slider in Photoshop was at once my best friend and worst enemy.  We did some pretty odd blurry things to our pictures in the name of art.  By, like most pros who have been around for a long time, I finally settled into my style about five years ago.

Now I think of post-processing and retouching much like I think of makeup……………if you’re good, you almost can’t see it.  I think a heavy hand is your worst enemy.  I still want it to look like you………just better.  I still want the story told, I just want the viewer to see it a little more clearly.

Pretty Aisle Decor

One of the first things your guests see is the aisle decor. Whether you are saying I Do in a church, a ball room or a garden it is one of the things that set the tone for your entire event. It gives your guests a taste of things to come. It is also an important part of the backdrop for your ceremony pictures.

Aisle decor doesn’t have to be boring, or expensive. I hope these inspire you do something fun with your aisle.

Oh and remember, you can always reuse these as part of your reception decor.aisle decor collage 😉

1. I love these rose petal patterns. {source}

2. While this technically wasn’t used as aisle decor, it certainly could be. This was done by friend of the Dish, Branching Out Event Florist {source}

3. I know I have used this image before but it just makes me smile! {source}

4. This little baby has that shabby chic look. I would be perfect in a slightly wild garden. {source}

5. Easy look for fall. Rent the hurricanes, add a bag of silk fall leaves. Presto! {source}

6. Pretty pomanders. What sets these apart is the attention to the ribbon detail; high quality ribbon and nice bows make them special. {source}

7. Floating candles and orchids are set off by good lighting choices. This would look spectacular at a night wedding. {source}

8. Aisle decor doesn’t have to be floral. I love the creativity of this one. {source}


4 Tips for Keeping Your Wedding Decor Budget Inline

Every bride wants a beautiful backdrop for her big day. When it comes to what you can spend on your floral and decor budget, the sky is the limit.

I was chatting with friend of the Dish, event designer extraordinaire Vicki Sanders yesterday and these tips came up. They are just little things to keep in mind that will trim your decor budget without resorting to the dreaded rose bowl with a single floating candle.

Wedding centerpiece with Stargazer Lilies, coral peonies

1. Limit your seating. Huh? Look at this, unless you are serving a seated plated dinner you do not need seating for every guest. By eliminating 2 or 3 tables you are also eliminating 2 or 3 centerpieces. If you are doing mostly heavy finger foods you could use a bit of lounge furniture and some smallish cocktail tables. Smaller tables, smaller centerpieces.

2. Choose your flowers carefully. I know that you already know that if you choose in season flowers you will save, but there is more to it than that. The minute you get you heart set on a specific flower, you are setting yourself up to spend more than you need to achieve your look. Work with your floral designer to determine which flowers will achieve your look AT THE TIME OF YOUR WEDDING. Short story, a bride simply had to have coral peonies, sadly her wedding was 2 weeks before they became abundant. By using coral roses and white peonies the florist could have saved her a bundle and still gotten her color and the fluff of peonies. If you absolutely have to have a specific flower, limit it to your wedding bouquet and let the florist make suggestions for the rest of your wedding decor.

3. Rent your containers instead of buying them. Even if you are going to DIY your wedding flowers this can save you significantly. You will get higher quality containers, you won’t have to figure out what to do with them after your wedding and you won’t have spent days and days running all over town trying to find them.

4. Think about your labor cost. Your floral design teams time is not free. Every little thing adds time. A bride recently told my friend that she wanted her vases lined with lime slices. Beautiful look. When she was quoted the price to do this she just didn’t get it, so she asked how much if she bought the limes and brought them to the florist. Fail. What was expensive was the time it would take to uniformly slice a case of limes and then double vase to hold them in place in the arrangement.  What you are requesting may seem like a minor detail, but take a minute to think about the labor involved.

These tips and tricks are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the knowledge that true wedding professional bring to the table. DIY or hiring a novice may seem like a great idea at the time, but in the long run, the true pros earn their fees because of what they know.


Putting Together a Shabby Chic Table

I had a great time today. Friend of the Dish, Vicki Sanders of Branching Out Event Florists and I had lunch and a tour with Kristen Fridrich and Mark Ermshar at Classic Party Rentals. Well you know that there is nowhere I like better to find inspiration than a really top notch rental resource. Classic didn’t disappoint.
As we toured the show room I was telling Kristen that shabby chic is a rising trend. Well sure enough, you get that many creative minds together and magic happens. Before you know it we had pulled together a shabby chic place setting and centerpiece out of seemingly thin air.Shabby Chic Table

Let me dissects it for you.

china for shabby chic look

First this beautifully patterned china caught my eye; on the same rack we found the white china with the embossed vines and the scalloped edge. So we mixed and matched. Kristen pointed out the cut glass wine glasses saying it looked like something her grandmother would use. Bingo. We added the blue water goblet for a pop of color. The gold flatware was chosen to pick up the gold rim on the china. Next I ran around the showroom grabbing random bits of silver and hobnail glass and Vicki headed for her car for some flowers left over from Saturday’s wedding. Before you knew it, we had a shabby chic look using all rented objects.
Now wasn’t that easy?

I’ll have more fun tidbits from today to come.

In Defense of the LBD

I ran across a post on Blogger Brides today that I just had to address. A bride was describing her wedding: 7PM Catholic ceremony; Black & white with dark red accents. She said that she had always dreamed of having her house party in short black satin dresses. Problem is that now she is getting all kinds of feedback telling her that her ladies must be in floor length gowns. BAH!

First off, DO NOT let the peanut gallery make your decisions. It’s not their wedding, it’s yours! Period. The end.

Beyond that, who doesn’t love the little black dress? The ladies you have gathered around you for this momentous occasion are going to buy whatever you tell them. With the economy in the state it is, why not pick something that they really will wear again? Who won’t re-wear a LBD that they picked out?
The Little Black Dress from Nathan Taylor for 2Be Social
I have seen so many beautiful weddings that had the maids in LBDs with black hose and matching heels. What a beautiful look. Let each of your ladies pick their own LBD. Do some magic with hem length to add a bit of continuity for the formal pictures if you must. Add a matching accessory such as a feather fascinator or a clutch and you are good to go.

You can even have your ladies pick from a single collection.

Friend of the dish, Terri Hilferty at 2Be Bridal has taken her Nathan Taylor Social Collection, had every one of the dresses in it cut to cocktail length and made up in black. WOW At the collection reveal this summer there were 15 manni’s lined up, all in cocktail length, all black in every cut and fabric you can imagine*. She is selling it to the 2Be Salons as the LBD collection. How cool is that.

What’s more, since these are all a part of the same collection, she also had shrugs cut in all the fabrics. Same shrugs, different fabrics to match the fabrics in the collection.  There is your accessory and cover up for church. I am in love!

*Like I said, Terri is a friend of the Dish, so I showed up early and help stage the reveal. As I popped these beauties on the manni’s I was head over heels at how well made these dresses were. Terri has an amaing attention to detail.The Little Black Dress from Nathan Taylor for 2Be Social

Yep, lousy photo, but you get the idea.

Now we know why Christine IS NOT a professional photographer.

Wedding Planning Secrets

If you are planning a wedding chances are that you started the process without having a clue.

Ya, ya there is ton of information on the web and a bazillion books to choose from, but just how good is most of that information? Not very, at least in my opinion. Besides, who has time to sift through all of it? I have been sifting through it for years and most of it makes me laugh and some of it is downright scary. I have finally found someone that tells it like it is in a simple easy to understand way: Susan Southerland.

Don’t even think about planning your wedding without watching her new video, Wedding Planning Secrets. Susan takes a no fluff, no bull, just the straight story look at what you need to know to plan an event this big. She talks honestly about budgets and setting priorities. There are great organizational tips and the tools to make them happen for you.

She explains just what an event designer is and why they may be one of the most valuable members of your team. The section on cakes and catering gives you the low down on what you need to know to contract these services and what to look for as you interview them.

This isn’t one of those books that encourages you to spend, spend spend; nor does it tell you can have a celebrity wedding on $5000 if you “just follow these 5 tips.” This is the closest thing to the real knowledge and tools you need that I have ever seen. Her tips and explanations are valid regardless of the size of your wedding or the size of your budget.

Whether you are a DIY bride having a tiny wedding at home or a diva bride getting married in a Manhattan Hotel with a top notch planner by your side, you need the information that Susan is dispensing to navigate your way through.

Now, my friends, you know me well enough by now to know that I don’t blow smoke and I know that this post is pretty high praise. Yep, I really do think this dvd is that important.

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Blog Warming Party with Swag!

I have so much to celebrate here at the Dish! As you can see I have a shiny new home on the web. That’s only fitting since my subscriber base has broken 100 and kept on going. My readers are the best! Thank you all. Swag alert! Keep reading.

I hope you like the new digs. It’s a lot like the old home but just so much better. It’s easier for you to navigate and read and tons more functional on my end. Thanks to my partner Marc over at The Agency @ Think for all his hard work.

That’s one more thing I am thankful for. Launched in January, The Agency @ Think is the marketing arm of Think Like A Bride. In only seven months we have a nice little roster of clients developing and it’s keeping us all busy. So for all you industry professional types that are regular followers of the Dish be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

Enough about me, back to my fabulous subscribers. By now you know me well enough to know I just couldn’t have a party with out swag! It is one of my favorite things after all. Double score when said swag is shiny and pretty and from one of my favorite jewelry designers.Tigerlilly Swag

I called dear friend of the Dish, Mandy Greenan, at Tigerlilly to invite her to the blog warming and she most certainly accepted! So to celebrate and thank my readers, one lucky follower will take home this fabulous piece from Mandy! This beautiful 20 strand silver tiara/necklace with pearls and Swarovski crystal can be yours. All you have to do is leave a comment and include a working email and Mandy and I will pick the winner next Thursday, August 14, 2008. Tell me what you like about the Dish in your comment. The winner will of course have to be willing to provide their snail mail so we can ship you your swag. Click here for the full description. (Yes you are reading that description right. We are giving away a $400 tiara because you really do mean that much to us)

Be sure and drop by Tigerlilly and check out all her fab things. Rumor has it that she is having a sale right now anyway. Shhhhhh, that’s just between friends. Oh and if the swag looks familiar that’s because it is. It’s the silver version of one of her pieces I bought myself. I hope the lucky winner loves hers as much as I do mine!

Thanks everyone for reading. I’ll see you tomorrow for Flower Friday.

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