Posts in Education
Sarah with The Matthews House | A look into how photographers can help other business owners

Sarah with the Matthews House

A look into a Cary, NC wedding venue and how photography plays a part in their venue

Photo by 627 Photography

N : How long have you been with The Matthews House? Tell me about the history of The Matthews House, how it started in the wedding industry, why did it become a venue?

S : We have owned the property for 2 years since this past December. Our family bought it as a joint venture. It was originally a private home, then it was a dress shop, then it was a florist, then a wedding venue. It is kind of funny that it all comes full circle to the wedding industry. We moved back to the area about 5 years ago and wanted to branch out into the market. My husband, Vincent, does the day to day work at The Matthews House and also does the graphics. I have an event planning background and assist with the events and weddings that take place here.

N : What are some key things about The Matthews House that separates it from the other wedding venues?

S : We have some prime things that separate our venue from the others. For starters, its in downtown Cary. Once youre at The Matthews House you actually feel a bit secluded via the gardens and the brick--it’s almost like a little oasis. We have great parking. We also provide easy options for guests. We have some vendors they could happily choose from, or we can give them the option to customize--it is completely up to the couple.

N : Do you work off a preferred vendor list? If so, why? If not, are there any vendors that are absolutely necessary from a venues standpoint--like catering, etc.?

S : The only preferred vendor we use is Southern Harvest as they are the ones that work out of the kitchen. However, you do not have to use them at all if you do not prefer. The only thing we require of guests to use them for would be for the bar service--which is great because they have all of the necessary permits to serve, etc. We include a day-of coordinator, Jeanette or Heather, but again, if you’d prefer to bring an outside vendor you are more than welcome to. For catering we do ask to approve of them in advance.

N : How often do you receive images from photographers who have photographed weddings at The Matthews House? Which images stand out more from a venues perspective? Which ones are you more likely to share or showcase on your website?

S : We only receive images from weddings about a third of the time. We mostly receive them because we have sent a follow up asking for images. We are always looking for photos that are unique; we want to see great emotion. Detail shots are always a great bonus, but we are more so interested in the full room shot so that our couples could see what they could do to the space. We have a clean slate ballroom, so the sky is the limit when it comes to making the space unique. We would love images that help give our clients ideas on how to make it their own.

N : What are some things that you wish more photographers did on a wedding day shooting wise?

S : I dont really have a suggestion on what to do on wedding day, per se. However, if there was a way to make the sharing of images easier, we would much prefer that. We are more likely to share if there was an easy an approachable way to do so. We would love to spread the word, but in order for us to do that we would need images of events and weddings from the photographer.

N : If you've never worked with a photographer before--do you suggest having them reach out to you? Do you ever suggest them to come by to take a look at the property? What makes for a good vendor relationship?

S : For starters, we are always available to reach out to. If someone has never shot here before, we would be more than happy to show them around the venue. This would help build a great vendor relationship, but also, ensure for a smooth day. It is our top priority to make sure our clients are taken care of, so if this means to have their photographer come by to take a look at lighting, etc., we would definitely accommodate that.

N : What is something that you wish more brides knew before booking certain vendors for their big day?

S : Typically the first thing a couple needs to book is the venue. I would then suggest to sit down and try to figure out the biggest priorities of the day. Is it the best food? Is it the best dance floor? Is it the best wedding photography? Whatever the case is, start looking at those vendors first. These will typically be a good portion of your budget, so I would do those closer to the beginning stages of booking your vendors.

N: Any advice for vendors who are looking to go into the wedding industry?

S : I think one of the best things you can do is network. You learn so much about everyones perspective come the wedding day. Always be open to communication. Communication is key to a solid wedding day.

A Beginners Guide Prepping Your Clients for their Engagement Session

I have to admit, my engagement sessions have to be some of my favorite images I may have ever taken. I love that I have the chance to connect with clients before their wedding day, but I also love that it serves as a bit of education for the client—it preps them for their actual wedding day.

If you are a beginner photographer, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the thought of getting all of your systems in place for your business. Trust me, I am still figuring out tweaks to my current systems. The process is never-ending, but needed and appreciated.

In the beginning years of my business, I thought that I didnt need a system for sessions. I mean, I knew I needed a system for contracts and payments, etc. However, I wasnt aware or thought that I needed a system to help prep my clients for their engagement session. I once had an engagement session that literally went so horribly wrong— ie, they wore the exact thing I told them not to (hello 1995 white button up shirt with khaki pants), that I just knew that I had to prep my couples diligently moving forward.

Your clients deserve as much information as possible. However, they dont deserve unnecessary information. The main things that you should set in place are spaces that give them examples of attire (hey Pinterest!), enough pep talking that helps them relax before their session even starts, and opening up the conversation that allows you to get to know them on a personal level. It is our job as a photographer to tell their story. So, why not give them an engagement session that evokes that?

If you want to jumpstart your systems, and prepare for every single engagement session—sign up below! You can download a free PDF that goes over everything from outfits and why I allow atleast two completely different choices, getting to know the couple beforehand and asking the questions that matter, and the process to booking and sending off their contract.

Belhaven Wedding Venue | An Interview with Kate Brown of River Forest Manor

An interview with Kate Brown of River Forest Manor

Photo taken by Sara Coffin Photography

As most of you know, I am from Eastern North Carolina. Now, I know some of you may think that eastern NC is like the rest of the state—but, it is not. There’s a harder southern drawl, things are typically slower, and honestly—the people are more tan. I miss living in this part of the state, there’s some sort of magic to it. That’s why when Kate agreed to chat with me about her venue in Belhaven, I was just so happy!

Kate is a wonderful point of reference for business, but also for brides in general. Kate is one of the owners of River Forest Manor located in Belhaven. Now, if you have never been to River Forest Manor (which just opened up only a few years prior), you should really take a trip to go see her in its glory. Imagine a white house with the tallest of columns belting loud and proud on the patio porch right in front of the water. I mean, it is something spectacular to see even if you are a local. It is such a sight that it will immediately put you at ease—this is a place for celebration in the happiest of ways. I am excited to share with you more from Kate on how River Forest Manor came to be what it is today.

The images that you will see in this blog post are not my images. Please see the verbiage written under each image to see which wonderful photographers shot which image.

Photo taken by Renee Sprink Photography

Photo taken by Renee Sprink Photography

N: Tell me how you came to be part of this wild and wonderful wedding industry. What is the history behind your venue?
: My family is from Belhaven and I grew up on its waters, so the River Forest Manor & Marina has always been in my life.

When I was little, the River Forest Manor operated as a restaurant and hotel with a fully operating marina. It was a true landmark in the community and our town. The River Forest was a place that people gathered for a special meal or came to buy boat gas. Sadly, it fell into disrepair and eventually closed.

Together with a handful of investors all with local ties to Belhaven, I bought the historic mansion a few years ago in 2014. We were not quite sure what to do with the property at that time, but similarly timed marriages among our investment partners and some of our investors’ children led us to realize the grand place was meant to host life’s most important events.

More than a century-old, the River Forest had set the stage for great celebrations, large and small. We knew that its first owner built it for that purpose in mind and we were ready to restore it to do just the same.

 We officially re-opened the doors in 2016 and the River Forest Manor & Marina again has become a place where the local community and people from all over can celebrate. It is again a place that will bring economic opportunities to our charming waterside town.

N: What sort of couples do you typically have at the venue, etc.?
The majority of our couples come to us seeking a memorable destination for their wedding. We’ve proudly hosted local couples as well as welcomed couples from throughout the state and many parts of the country.  

 N: What are some key things about The River Forest Manor that separates it from the other wedding venues? Is your venue considered a destination wedding venue?
We affectionately call the River Forest Manor & Marina our Grand Lady because she is a true historic gem and definitely a destination. When we purchased the property and started to do renovations, we had to search for key contractors who specialized in ornate ceilings and antique woodwork to ensure we restored her properly. Because of this, we now have the most gorgeous renovated details throughout the house and property.

 We have 13 bedrooms on the property all perfectly suited to host bridal party members and guests. We’ve also created a network with the Bed & Breakfast owners and AirBnBs within the Belhaven community for guests to stay within walking distance of the Manor. We’ve even had guests dock their sailboats at our Marina for accommodations.

 Our events team will also set up fun activities for the bridal party and guests including massages and facials, boat rides off our docks and even hunting excursions.

 Our full-service Marina also makes the River Forest a unique setting that guest really enjoy. We always have boaters on our docks and they especially love to see the wedding festivities on our property. Many boaters will camp out on their vessels to watch the bride and groom depart—some will even sound their horns to send them off. It’s just amazing to hear and see so much celebration right here on the property. The guests love it, too. It truly is special.

Photo taken by Debra Ash Martin

Photo taken by Debra Ash Martin

 N: Do you work off a preferred vendor list? If so, why? If not, are there any vendors that are absolutely necessary from a venues standpoint--like catering, etc.?
We do have a preferred partner list and it includes the companies we have previously partnered with to envision and create spectacular events. We appreciate professional, honest, and fun companies. However, we also appreciate it when a couple has their heart set on a specific vendor or partner—that allows us to broaden our network. We do ask that our caterers be licensed and bonded accordingly, but other than that we welcome all vendors.

 N: How often do you receive images from photographers who have photographed weddings at The River Forest Manor? Which images stand out more from a venues perspective? Which ones are you more likely to share or showcase on your website?
We do receive images from the majority of our wedding photographers. We often receive our couple’s engagement photos, sneak peeks during and after the events and eventually the full wedding gallery. We love to share those photos with our community, on social media and our website. Of course, we always ask permission to share the images and are very courteous to every photographer to ensure credits are included.

 N: What are some things that you wish more photographers did on a wedding day shooting wise? Anything dealing with communication you wish photographers did in advance?
We are firm believers in allowing the photographer to be his or her true artistic self. There is no limit to the images that could be created here, and every eye is different. Our Grand Lady photographs well—ha! Truthfully, we very much appreciate the opportunity to see the special moments each photographer captures.

N: If you've never worked with a photographer before--do you suggest having them reach out to you? Do you ever suggest them to come by to take a look at the property?
We know our brides, grooms and their families want the very best photos to remember their special celebrations and, therefore, I do recommend that photographers visit our venue prior to the events. If a photographer doesn’t have the knowledge of light or hasn’t seen the full property in advance, the photos may not work out as well as they could.

We’ve found that many photographers will scout the property during bridal portrait sessions and speak with the bride about ideas.

N: What makes for a good vendor relationship?
Our job is to make sure the event logistics are seamless. We ask planners to pass along timelines a few weeks before the wedding to notify us when vendors will start delivering materials, like tents and décor, to the venue and offer a schedule for the various activities.

With proper planning and communication between all vendors, we are able to better support our couples and their family to make sure the celebration they’ve dreamed about comes to life.

Photo taken by Dana Jo Photography

Photo taken by Dana Jo Photography

How Can it be Wrong When it Feels so...Copyright? | A Simple Guide to Understanding Copyright

You know, it’s one thing to sort of think you know something on a topic dealing with your profession—it’s another thing to come to the conclusion that you should probably do more research on what seems to be a controversial topic in your area of expertise. The more newer/beginner photographers I meet, the more I realize that the topic of copyright has never been really explained to them. Information can seem to be written in a way that is over our heads.

I wanted to talk with a copyright lawyer to ask the questions that I have been asked (and couldnt answer with certainty) by other photographers. For something as simple as copyright, why is it such a big deal? Furthermore, why is this such a hot topic within the photographer community? Thankfully, a good friend referred me to John Kivus with Morning Star Law Group, and he helped guide me to some wonderful resources and answered some questions in regards to this topic.

I talked to John for 45 minutes on these topics, and have summarized his answers below. Though I had him check certain points for technical accuracy, the write-up is my summary of his conversation, not exact quotes. As you would probably assume from that description, this write-up shouldn’t be considered legal advice. If you have a copyright issue, you should contact a copyright attorney that you trust.

N: What is the textbook definition of Copyright and how does this effect photographers?

J: An original work, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Basically, this means there has to be some level of “creativity” involved. For example, a table of data might not be considered creative. Furthermore, You can not copyright an idea. An example that I like to use is that there is a musician in a bar and the musician has freestyled some music. If no one records said music, there’s nothing created that can be copywrited. However, if it was recorded, then the artist  can copyright it. As a photographer, you satisfy the fixation requirement by simply capturing it in camera.

N: Does this effect every sort of photographer? Meaning, can anyone with a camera benefit from copyright laws?

J: Yes. This could mean your mom taking a photo with her ipad. She would own it the second she takes the photo.

N: What are the necessary arrangements that need to be made to make sure a professional photographers images are correctly copyrighted?

J: Copyright is a federal statute and you have to bring any formal enforcement of your copyrights in federal courts. You cannot bring to NC Small Claims Court. A pre-requisite to bringing a copyright enforcement action is registration of your copyright. You do this through the copyright office at the Library of Congress. You can submit multiple works in one registration, but there’s a size limit to submit via a zip file. Also the max size of a submission is 750 thumbnails. Registration also gives you access to certain other remedies (such as statutory damages) that may increase the likelihood that you receive a settlement if someone uses your work without permission.

N: When sharing to social media, lets say--Instagram-- would a platform like this revoke our copyright to said image? If yes, is there a way around this?

J: Posting to social media doesn’t mean that you abandon your copyright. If you’re looking for an example of how one might “abandon” his or her copyright, you could probably do this by a very broad Creative Commons license (American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.)

Instagram -- when you post to instagram you are giving instagram the license to do what they need to do to reshow your image. There are questions in the grey area that may allow for them to sell your image to third parties. This is more likely to happen rather than losing your copyright. Instagram has muddy language about what it can and will do with your images. Instagram does have a way of submitting take down notices if someone says an image is theirs or if its not. This bigger risk is widely seen than abandoning copyright.

N: Obviously, in a wedding photographers line of work it is common these days for photographers to share images with all of the other vendors who participated in said wedding together. What is the lawful way of sharing images with these vendors? Is it requiring every vendor to sign a contract?

J: This is a complicated issue. It involves the industry as a whole. I will say that a good place to inquire about what is going on within the Triangle photographers would be the WPS.

If you’re a copyright holder, you have a bundle of rights. Some of these rights include reproduction, publicly performing, and printing rights. These rights are things you can give as a bundle or give away like certain sticks. You can be very specific when giving these rights to someone--you can say things like “you may display these images via social media as long as you always tag us.” The great thing is that you can be specific. The best way to do this license is to show that is written, signed or acknowledged.

N: What are the different types of rights that we as a business can grant to others to use our images? For instance, can a photographer grant printing rights up to a certain size? What does it mean for a photographer to grant FULL rights to any images?

J: In commercial work, a photographer may grant rights to use images for a certain amount of time. This is the discussion by many wedding photographers-- are photographers comfortable in giving these rights away.

N: Does copyright ever expire? When would something be placed in the public domain category?

J: The life of the author plus 70 years is the life of the copyright. There are some specific other situations where things might be a little different, but that’s the most common.

N: What can a photographer do if someone has used their image without permission?

J: You can file a lawsuit, you can send a Cease and Desist letter, you can also send a take down notice to the web host of the person who is using the image wrongly. I would suggest to follow up with DMCA news to stay up to date with the current status of this very thing. The intent behind DMCA was to create an updated version of copyright laws to deal with the special challenges of regulating digital material.       

N: What is the biggest misconception about copyright law?

J: The biggest misconception that I correct the most on is “can I have the copyright to the photos that you took at my wedding?” This is considered a license and not a copyright.