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Saturday, March 29, 2014


Quick Tip: Take a few minutes to have a moment!  Your wedding day goes by fast and there are so many people that want to see you that you might just run out of time to spend with the most important person of all on your wedding day.  This photo from Rachel and Ryan’s wedding is a good example.  We quietly slipped away during the reception when the light was just perfect outside and made a few intimate portraits while the newlyweds had a little fresh air and a private moment to themselves.  Savor those moments!

Click here or click "read more" below to see a few more of my favorite wedding photos of couples taking the time to savor a private moment on their wedding day.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014



Problem:  How to evaluate the price of your wedding photographer?

Solution: Educate yourself about the cost of wedding vendors before making your budget so you don’t end up making the decision based on price.

As a wedding photographer, I am always hearing horror stories about brides who are disappointed with their wedding photos.  For instance, a fellow photographer recently posted this in a facebook group we’re in: “I just had a lady contact me asking if I could salvage her wedding photos that a "family friend photographer" took. She said she HATED her wedding photos and was hoping that I could help her fix them. She even used the phrase "I'm heartbroken." So sad. Just one more reason why hiring an amateur can be more expensive in the long run.”

Now I’m heartbroken!  Because I hear stories like this all too often from brides, wedding vendors, and fellow photographers.  So that is why I have written this 5 part blog series on how to choose your wedding photographer.  Educating yourself is the best defense against being heartbroken by your wedding photos.

Getting back to the idea of price, one thing these horror stories often have in common is that instead of hiring the professional wedding photographer of their dreams, the couple hired a friend or relative with a camera, an amateur wedding photographer, or even a bargain priced professional non-wedding photographer.  In short, the wedding photographer was chosen based on price.  Deciding on price is going to set you down the wrong path right from the start because it is going to rule out most professional wedding specialists, and those are the photographers that have the skills and experience needed to successfully capture your most important day. These points are so important the next two tips are dedicated to them (see tip #2 on the importance of hiring a wedding specialist and tip #3 on skills you need your wedding photographer to have). But in this tip I argue that you have to make two costly sacrifices if you decide on price: the artwork you have your heart set on, and the service that you deserve.

What’s the point of paying more?  First is the artwork.  Your wedding photos are your first family heirloom and they are only going to grow more valuable with time.  You’re going to look at them everyday on your walls, and generations of your family are going to be looking at them, so you should care what they look like!  If you shop around you’ll probably come across someone’s artwork that you absolutely love, but will pass up if you decide on price.  So even if everything works out perfectly with your bargain priced photographer, you’ll always wonder what your dream photographer could have made for you, and if things work out less than perfectly, you’ll always regret deciding on price.  So choose your photographer by deciding on the artwork instead of price and you’ll be sure to enjoy your wedding photos for years to come (see tip #4 about products you need). 

Second is service.  I hear a lot of horror stories about photographers not delivering photos for over 6 months or even a year!  But that’s the kind of service you can expect from a bargain priced photographer who most likely doesn’t have a professional workflow to meet their clients’ needs (see tip 5 for more about the importance of professionalism).  When it comes to amazing service, the key ingredient is passion.  And who is going to be the most passionate about your wedding?  A professional wedding photographer!  We dedicate our lives to weddings and servicing our wedding clients!  On the other hand, who is going to be the least passionate about your wedding?  The bargain priced amateur!  Because you’re not paying them enough to be passionate about servicing your needs!  So after the grueling wedding day, they often run out of steam and fail to follow through on delivering your products.  And even if they do follow through, they won’t put the type of care and dedication into your photos that a professional wedding specialist will (read more about the importance of passion in Tip #2).  Of course, everyone knows that when you hire a professional in any industry you’re going to pay more.  But with a professional you have the peace of mind of knowing you’re going to get the highest quality products and amazing service.

What if I’m on a budget?  Everyone has a budget!  You have to make tough choices about where to invest your money on your wedding day and you need a good idea of what things cost before making your budget.  So you should start considering your wedding photographer (and other key wedding vendors) before you make final budget decisions.  If you make your budget first then you’ll automatically be deciding based on price, and that will put you on the wrong path.  Instead, find a photographer whose artwork you love, and make your budget with them in mind.  Once your budget is made, pick a date for your wedding that will give you enough time to have your finances in order by the time it rolls around.

Key Tip:  Build your budget around your dream photographer instead of trying to find a photographer that fits your budget.  Decide on artwork and service, not on price.

Next: Tip #2 click here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Thank you Montana Bride for featuring Rachel and Austin's Beartooth engagement session on your blog!  Montana Bride is an award winning wedding and lifestyle magazine that sets the bar for style in Montana and the greater West.  Check them out the web and on Facebook, they produce quality content everyday.  You can view Rachel and Austin's featured montana engagement session here.

Paul Bellinger Billings Montana wedding photographer.  Dramatic, fine art, wedding photography.  Available for any wedding destination.  www.paulbellinger.com

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I had a fun day with model Katie Schroeder in the studio yesterday.  It’s always inspiring to be around Katie because she is working so hard to make her dreams come true.  I like people who bet on themselves and that’s what Katie is doing.  Thank you Katie!  Also, shout out to Tayler Cummings for assisting with this shoot!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


A few of my instagram highlights from this winter so far.  You can follow me on instagram @PJBellinger.  You can view my previous instagram alert here.  I am a wedding photographer, but I love all types of photography and never leave home without my camera.  Like one of my mentors, Chase Jarvis, I think the best camera is the one that’s with you, and more often than not, that’s my iphone.  Instagram is my primary outlet for iphonography and it pushes updates to Twitter (@paulbellinger) and facebook (@pjbellinger).  So find me on one of those places and enjoy!

All of these photos were taken in my awesome new home state of Montana.  In the top row from left to right: a view of Skypoint in downtown Billings from my studio; the wine bar at Bin 119 in downtown Billings; the Montana Power Building (where my studio is) on a snowy night in downtown Billings.  The middle row from left to right: A tree on Broadway on a snowy night in downtown Billings; The Montana Power Building and my truck; the Crazy Mountains near Livingston Montana.  The bottom row from left to right: A moonlit tree at the Jarecke estate near Joliet Montana; wineglass light at the Brew Pub in downtown Billings; a snowmelt puddle on first street in downtown Billings.

Paul Bellinger, Billings Montana wedding photographer.  Specializing in dramatic fine art wedding photography as unique as your love story.  How do you dream of being photographed?  Contact Billings Montana wedding photographer Paul Bellinger for any wedding destination.  www.paulbellinger.com

Monday, March 10, 2014


If you’ve been following the blog you know I love handmade wedding products.  It takes a lot of talent and dedication to make something by hand and the result is truly unique.  Rachel and Austin’s handwritten invitation envelopes from Inked N Calligraphy turned out gorgeous and added a unique touch that you just don’t see very often anymore.

Paul Bellinger Billings Montana wedding photographer An artistic vision for dramatic fine art wedding photography as unique as your love story.  How do you dream of being photographed?  Contact Montana wedding photographer Paul Bellinger for any wedding destination.  www.paulbellinger.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


2. Hire a wedding specialist

Problem: How do you know if a photographer is a wedding specialist?

Solution: Ask potential photographers if they specialize in wedding photography or some other genre.

This is a very simple tip but it’s probably the most important and applies to all of your wedding vendors.  Is your potential vendor a wedding specialist?  When it comes to photography, is your wedding photographer really a wedding photographer?  Or are they some other kind of photographer that shoots an occasional wedding?  This is a crucial question because wedding photography is very difficult!  Everyone’s heard of the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  Well if there is ever a day you want masters and not Jacks, it’s your wedding day!  As I outline in Tip #3, wedding photography requires a difficult combination of skills that many photographers do not have.  On the other hand, a wedding specialist will be able to gracefully handle any challenges that arise on your wedding day, because that’s what they do and what they’re passionate about!  They’ve seen it all, and they’re up on their wedding game, so they’re ready to make your day perfect.  A wedding specialist won’t be shaking off rust on your wedding day, and they won’t get tired after 10 hours on their feet because they’re always in “wedding shape.”  All of these points are laid out in more detail in Tip #3, but I want to make a different point here, which is this: you should still hire a wedding specialist, even if you find the rare non-wedding specialist with the right skill set.  I have two reasons detailed below, along with some concrete advice on how to find out if a potential photographer is a wedding specialist.

First, a wedding specialist is likely to deliver a better product than a non-wedding specialist, even if they have similar gear and skills because the wedding specialist is more passionate about weddings.  Passion is a crucial ingredient in success.  A lot of photographers are great at using cameras but are not passionate about weddings.  A little passion goes a long way in my book, because everyone performs better when they’re passionate, and conversely, it’s rare to get an impassionate person’s best effort.  You are putting your whole heart into your wedding day, and your wedding photographer (and all of your vendors) should too.  In fact, they should be putting their whole heart into your wedding long before your wedding day!  Wedding photographers like myself, spend our down time practicing and studying to make every wedding better.  We look back at old timelines and consult with other wedding vendors to see what works and what doesn’t.  We test shoot to learn new techniques and try out new gear.  We scout locations for engagement sessions and look for new ways to shoot each venue.  We try new wedding products so we can always deliver the absolute best heirloom quality products for our wedding clients (see Tip #4).  In short, passion breeds preparation, and preparation breeds success.  What separates a wedding specialist from a non-specialist is the desire to make every wedding better than the last, and putting in effort every day to make that goal a reality.  I wake up every day with weddings on my mind and I bring that passion to every wedding.  So while it’s not guaranteed you’ll get terrible photos if you hire a non-wedding specialist, the odds are better that you’ll get photos worthy of your wedding day if you do hire a wedding specialist.

Second, it’s not just your photos that will be better if you hire a wedding photographer, it’s the entire flow of your wedding day and your ability to relax and enjoy it.  Even if a non-wedding specialist could deliver the exact same artwork for you (and that’s a big if), there is still an added benefit to hiring a wedding specialist because it will give you peace of mind and let you enjoy your day knowing you have a wedding specialist in your corner that can handle anything your day throws at them (see Tip #3 and Tip #5 for more).  Let me give you an example.  Imagine you hired a Mexican restaurant to cater your Italian wedding dinner.  Why would you do that?  Well maybe for the same reason you’d hire a senior portrait photographer, maternity photographer, or some other non-wedding photographer to shoot your wedding.  You know them, you like them, they have all of the gear required (fancy stoves and ovens to cook with), and they tell you they can do the job just as good as the Italian restaurant.  And maybe they can.  But a maybe is not a guarantee, and that doubt is going to creep into your mind on a day when you should not be focused on anything other than celebrating your love!  You shouldn’t be worried about a vendor not being able to pull their weight on your wedding day and if you surround yourself with professional wedding specialists, you can rest assured that you’ve done everything in your power to make your day a success and be able to sit back and enjoy it! 

So how do you know if a potential photographer is a wedding specialist or not? 

1.  Look a their website.  Are the first photos you see wedding photos?  Are wedding photos more prominent than any other type of photos (such as family, maternity, newborns, seniors, fashion, boudoir, landscapes, travel, etc)?  I would expect to see 80-100% wedding photos on a wedding specialist’s website, and the first photos you see should be wedding photos.

2.  Check their social media.  You can really tell where a person’s passions lie on facebook, twitter and blogs.  First, see what they’ve been up to lately.  Don’t be alarmed to see a few non-wedding posts, especially during the off-season (during winter for most wedding photographers), as many of us do test shoots and studio work to stay on our game.  But if you have to scroll for a long time to find a wedding then you’re probably not dealing with a wedding specialist.  Second, read some of their posts and try to gauge how passionate they are about weddings compared to other types of photography.  If they post a fashion photo and are like “Oh my god this was so much fun I can’t wait to do it again,” while the caption for uploading a gallery of wedding photos is “More from the Johnson wedding…” then you might assume they are more passionate about fashion photography than wedding photography. 

3.  Ask them!  If you’re considering hiring someone as your wedding photographer then you need to speak with them in person!  I mention this over and over again throughout these 5 tips.  Take the opportunity to flat out ask them:  Are you primarily a wedding photographer or do you specialize in some other type of photography?  What other genres of photography do you specialize in?

Key tip:  Hire passionate wedding specialists and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your wedding day like you deserve to!

Next: Tip #3