Masha S » Photography


How long have you been a wedding photographer and what is your education?
I have been shooting weddings professionally for about 5 years. I studied at the Warsaw School of Photography in Poland where I lived before moving to the United States. I have also hired top photographers to train me one on one and in workshops and often work with some of the worlds most highly acclaimed photographers to keep my skills everything they can be. I do this as a full time business and spend 5 or 6 days a week photographing, scouting locations, working with clients, doing styled photo shoots for leading venues and magazines, editing and designing albums and other products as well as promoting my wedding photography business at tradeshows.


What makes you different from other Wedding photographers?
Being from Europe, I have a different style that some say focuses a little more on elegant and feminine compositions with an artistic style. I like to shoot using reflections and through objects like trees flowers or maybe the sides of glass mirrors or crystals for special effects whenever possible.  I excel at photographing women and have a real ability for bringing out feminine features especially using natural light. I have studied posing extensively and understand how the slightest differences in hands, eyes and composition angles can make an image exceptional. Although I understand posing, it is my goal to create images that also look natural. I am good at working with women and they feel comfortable in front of my camera. I also put a lot of work into engagement photography sessions that produce a wide variety of quality images for prints and albums. My Award Winning Photos are usually of engagement sessions.


What kind of packages do you offer for wedding photography?
All of my wedding packages include two photographers with plenty of time on your wedding day. Depending on what you choose, packages may include an engagement session, destination session, print package, at least one of several different kinds of albums and edited digital images on thumb drive.  Products i offer (albums, metal prints, etc) vary in price depending on different promotions my vendors have at a time, thats why I do not print my prices online. I can give you these details when we speak. 


Do you give digital images I can print and use as I wish? How many do I get? Do I have to print only with you?
I do give digital images in Jpeg form that you can use on social media, email, print albums or to make prints up to about 16” x 20”.  Printing very large images require additional editing and larger files that require an extra fee. I do not give RAW images.
The amounts of edited images you get vary from about 500-1000 depending on the size of your wedding and bridal party. These images get “basic edits” which is color correction, cropping, light touch up etc… Additional edits like adding or deleting a person from an image, removing sun glasses, adding objects like an Eifel tower in the background or adjusting body parts requires more time and additional fees.
You can print with anyone and this includes designing your own album. Some couples like to defer this expense for later to help with their budget. 


I have a large wedding of over 250 people, will it cost extra?
Yes, we take a lot more photos and spend at least a few more days editing. Very big receptions may require a third photographer for more complete coverage.  Tell me the details so I can give you a price.


Do you shoot my wedding with an assistant Photographer?
Yes, whenever I do wedding photography I shoot with a second (very good) photographer because there is too much happening to use only one. While shooting engagement photography sessions I always use an assistant so you do not have to wait around while I dig through bags of lenses. My assistant also helps prepare the light properly and often sees great ideas for shots. His other main focus is helping make your day easier by helping carry things, getting water etc…


Have you ever shot at my venue before? I want a photographer who has experience shooting there.
There are about 240,000 marriage licenses issued each year in California with thousands of weddings taking place at thousands of locations. We have photographed in LA, Orange County, San Diego, the Inland Empire, other states and Europe. We may or may not have shot a wedding at your venue but it does not matter.  If you want to truly understand the knowledge and ability of your potential photographer, they need to be familiar with the lighting conditions in the ceremony and reception area at the times you will be there.

Your venue itself is predictable as far as compositions go. I can walk in any area and see in minutes where most of the good locations will be to photograph you. The way the light changes at various times of the day is what needs to be understood to capture great images. So if you tell us you’re ceremony is at 4pm, that is when we go to your venue in advance to do our homework. Of course we also walk around finding the best locations for the variety of other shots we will take. When your day comes, we are totally prepared.

When you look at my albums and the majority of work on my website, you may notice that less than 10% of the photos used are of actual ceremonies. Of course these are some of your most precious moments but for a photographer they can be the most predictable and easiest photos to get, after all, you are standing in one place and are an easy target to shoot at predetermined angles. What you should be paying a photographer for is getting the unscripted and interesting photos of you, your family and guests in an endless variety of candid moments that tell your unique story and this has little to do with the actual venue. This is that elusive “X factor” you need to find in a photographer and something you just know they have when you love their images no matter where they are taken.

On a side note regarding light, many of my brides select me because they appreciate how I tell a story starting with them getting ready. These moments when friends and family help her with the dress are so personal and exciting for me. I make special arrangements for you in advance to prepare for the lighting in these situations so that these images are exceptional just as I do all your other shots.


Do you do destination weddings?
Yes, we add travel costs depending on the location. We do not charge travel time. Generally you pay flight, hotel, meals and rental car if needed. We do not add travel costs inside southern California.


We’ve never done an engagement photo session, what’s it like, how do we prepare?
It’s fun and easy. All you have to do is be yourselves smile laugh run and play. We take care of the rest. My “Behind the Scenes” video shows what these days are like.
Engagement photography is often an overlooked part of the wedding planning that ends up being far more important and enjoyable than you might think. This is when we tell your story together with photos in a way that suits your particular lifestyle. How and where did you meet? How did he propose? What do you like to do together? These photos remind you of the first time you fell in love and will remind you of the special love only you share whenever you look at them.
We discuss these details to customize an engagement photography session just for you. Many couples use engagement photographs for wedding announcements or to place on an easel at the reception. Metal prints for your home are available as well as albums to share with friends and family.
I really enjoy engagement photography because unlike the frantic pace of your wedding day, this time is less scripted and you get to be yourselves without distractions. We take up a good part of the day with you often doing two or three separate locations. We can do nature outdoors, coffee shops, the beach or opera houses or city halls with their beautiful architecture. We   bring some snacks and drinks taking a few breaks along the way.
The variety of pictures will surprise you and will likely become some of the best photos of your life. To prepare, I check out our predetermined locations first and then give you some wardrobe ideas. You can bring mementos like lockets, a dried flower or maybe a love note, maybe a botlle of wine and a picnic basket. It’s far better for you to bring more outfits and props than not enough, even if we don’t use all of them. We usually get some good portraits you can use for profile shots on Facebook or LinkedIn.
The best engagement sessions are of couples that prepare themselves. Sometimes they have their hair and make up done as well and bring different very nice suits, dresses and accessories. It makes a very big difference.


If I talk to one of your brides, what would she say?
I think you will hear that they are comfortable around me and trust me with their friends and family. I think they will also tell you that I work very hard to get “wow” images. They will say I am pleasant and courteous and always reply to texts, emails and phone calls promptly. Because we have often times already done the engagement photos, there is a natural chemistry between all of us that make the wedding photography easy, natural and fun.
I enjoy this bond and am there with them during the tears, the stress and laughter. I have also been told by my brides and grooms that they prefer a female photographer during the bride’s and bridesmaid’s private moments.


Can I talk to your past brides?
Absolutely. They would be happy to share their experience with you. If there is a particular couple you saw in my work that you would like to talk to, I can ask them and make the arrangement. 


What kind of equipment do you use?
The very best. While shooting wedding photography and engagement sessions, I shoot with a top of the line Canon 1DX and 2 Canon 5D Mark lll camera bodies as back ups. I also carry at least 10 different high quality and prime lenses to frame the composition just right as well as the appropriate lighting equipment.


What’s the best way to make contact with you?
You are welcome to send an email, which will get a quick reply but the best way is to call me on my cell at 714 2 7 2 – 0 9 3 2. I get lots of emails and frankly, I don’t always have the time to reply like I should. I can provide your information much more quickly through a phone call.


If we do meet with you, what will the meeting be like?
It will be more like a social meeting and informational only. We meet you and your fiancé (and sometimes your parents) near your neighborhood to make it easier for you. We like weekdays most and often meet after you get off work. We can meet some weekends.
We are absolutely “no pressure” and are not going to try and talk you into using us as a photographer. We want to know more about you, how you met, what you like and all about your dream wedding. We want to know specifically what you are looking for in a photographer and we listen very carefully. We want to know if we fit together personally and if our services fit your needs. We bring along wedding albums, various prints and other things for you to look at while showing our packages. If you have some images you like for ideas, please bring them. We love seeing your visions and GOOGLING your venue, church and reception areas. Do you instagram or Facebook? I do so we can share ideas this way also. If it’s right for you, you will know. Sometimes we follow up with a phone call but usually let you think about it on your own without calling. 


What kind of couples usually book you?
Usually couples that put photography close too or at the top of their priority list. I have booked couples who have had wedding budgets over $100,000 and couples where I was half their total budget.  Neither couple wants to take chances with the memories of their day. I also seem to book couples that have been looking a long time and who have checked into dozens of photographers but still have not yet had the “this is our photographer” feeling. Either it was the style of their work, the chemistry or price that held them back.

It worth saying that some think I am “a steal” and others that I am priced high. The couples that compare my work to high-end photographers and who wholeheartedly agree my images are competitive with theirs can’t give a deposit fast enough. They shopped and found my price to be about half. They added up all their extra charges which often include additional time charges at $250-$500 an hour, a second photographer and a more limited quantity of images. Sometimes a wedding planner explains what they get with me and how it compares. 

Some who think I am high but still end up booking me, tell me the “budget” photographers ended up around my price when a second photographer was added as well as the extra hours I include for free. At the end of the day though they knew they would not end up disappointed with my final images and go with me.


How do I book my wedding photography date with you?
Dates can only be booked when you pay 50% deposit of your total package price and sign the contract. The balance is due 30 days before the wedding so we don’t have to ask closer to the big day when you are busy.


How long in advance should I book you?
Yesterday. After our consultation even if the couple is not sure what package they would like to go with, many still lock in their day by contracting a smaller package with a deposit. You can always decide on a final package later and upgrade up to 30 days before the wedding. In any case, you should book as soon as possible. Some of my wedding clients book more than a year in advance. Prime dates in the spring and summer can easily book 8 months ahead and I have had as many as three couples asking for the same day. If you are serious about my services, don’t wait. We tell inquiring couples almost every week their wedding date is already booked. I have many couples who meet with us and contact me several months later only to find someone else gave a deposit and signed the contract for their day. 


What methods of payment do you accept?
We prefer cash or check. We also accept visa or master card but do charge the credit card companies processing fee.


Can I send you a deposit and book our day before we meet?
Unfortunately not, we only take deposits in person after meeting personally and signing a contract. We do however offer SKYPE meetings with clients that are not local. 


Are you an LGBT event photographer?
Absolutely yes!


Any tips for finding the right wedding photographer?
There are several ways to aid in your search. Many times you can find the answer by asking your parents or anyone else that has been married for a long time if they remember their photographer. We are fortunate enough to have early meetings with our brides and grooms that include parents and we always ask them to bring the wedding album to share. Soon we are reminiscing together about that special day, looking at the style back then and the way the photos were captured. It’s amazing how they look at the images with such feeling while they speak as if their wedding happened just yesterday. The interesting thing is they always remember the photographer and many remember their name after all these years. We ask them if they remember the cake maker or florist, the answer is always the same.
It also goes the other way. When we talk to random people for the fist time, the inevitable question comes up, “What do you do?” When we say, “wedding photographer” we are often surprised by their sorrowful reply, “We wish we would have used a good wedding photographer” we are so surprised how many people hired unqualified and unreliable photographers or used a “friend”.  After decades, they too certainly remember their photographer.
When my husband and I married in June 2012, we did cut a few costs but not with our photographer. We flew ours in from Europe; this was a woman who graduated from my same photography school in Warsaw at the top of her class. We searched more than 50 photographers to find one we liked, one that had a similar style to mine. The investment resulted in unforgettable photos taken during our engagement session, California wedding and reception and destination session in Las Vegas. We love to share the 49 photos that make up our album with our brides and grooms. It really is our most prized possession and our experience and memories with her was so much more than a business arrangement.
Before you make a life long commitment and say “I Do” to your photographer, ask your self the following about your candidates.
Do you absolutely love their images and style, would you introduce this person to your family and closest friends? Would you get dressed in front of them? Are they asking you and your fiancé all the personal questions necessary to deliver the best quality and most custom photos on your big day? Are they dependable? Do you feel they understand common courtesy and genuine customer service? Do they answer your calls and return your texts right away? Are they truly committed and caring about your day? Are they organized? Will they visit and research your locations in advance to be 100% ready for you? Do they have a “shot list” and appointed key person to make sure everyone is together at the right time? Are you clear on their style? If their style is not exactly what you want, they will not be able to adjust to accommodate you even if they say they can. Do they have genuine wedding experience and training? What is their training, did they go to school? Do they really know how to get the key shots in a 3 second window? Are they a full time photographer or do they spend most of their time working another job? Do they have the right equipment? Do they understand light and composition and the complex settings on the most modern cameras? Do they shoot with a qualified second photographer covering as much as possible at different angles? Do they put in the contract “when” your images and album(s) will be ready? Do they know how to capture and arrange your photos in a compelling and interesting order and then organize them in the highest quality albums? Do they give you edited images to print and use for your personal use?


Are there any tips you have to help me make my wedding images the best they can be?
Where you get ready is important for me as I am favored by brides for my storytelling preparation shots. I can work in any area but if you are not staying at a venue, get a nice room on the side of the hotel where the sun will be when you get ready.  A beautiful room really helps and if it is closer to the venue, that will save some time and free you up for more images. Also, good hotels have a nice lobby and exterior grounds which are great for portraits and sometimes make a good place for the “first look” if you choose to do one. If the hotel is near a beach or other pretty area, we can sometimes go there for some shots. My husband and I got a room at the Ritz Carlton the night of our wedding even though we had a small back-yard wedding about 50 miles away. Our images in our album were amazing.
Also, it’s totally up to you but if you do a “first look” you will have more time later for other wedding activities including portraits and family photos. Of course if seeing each other for the first time when you walk down the isle is important for you than don’t do a first look. 


What is a typical day like when you photograph a wedding?
We have a shot list and schedule for the day we have arranged in advance with you and a planner if you have one. No two wedding days are exactly the same but it usually goes something like this. We arrive about the time you are half way through your hair and make-up and start by shooting the dress, shoes, rings, invitations and other details. Then we start shooting you, your bridesmaids and family getting ready and having fun. My assistant is helping with hanging the dress, moving furniture, removing things like water bottles and bags from the shots. The groom and groomsman usually run a little later and if they are close by you, I run over for some “getting ready” shots with them or my second shooter will cover them.  Then if planned, we do a “First Look, followed by some portraits or family shots.
Then we move on to the ceremony where I am generally shooting up close to you and your soon to be spouse while my second shooter gets the wider shots from the back and sides. After the ring exchange and kiss, we usually get both angles as you do your victory march from the Gazebo or alter. Then it’s group and family shots, followed by our rush to set up lighting at the reception for the grand entrance. Our first break to speak of is when you get your food. We ask that we are also fed at this time so that we are available for the toasts and other activities that follow. We make sure all parts of the reception are covered and usually at the end do a large group shot with the help of the DJ. 


Can you recommend any people for us?
After years of doing weddings and working with hundreds of vendors I only recommend a very limited amount of people because of their consistent track record of quality and service we feel is up to par with ours. We make each other’s jobs much easier during frantic wedding day schedules and LOVE working together. One is a top rated DJ with almost 300 wedding wire reviews. We also like to use certain make-up artists who know just the right make-up for our images and who don’t mind helping with how we place you in the room for the preparation. Check out our preferred vendors link 


What should we budget for our photographer when planning our wedding?
It depends on what level of photographer you are looking for. Sometimes, when a couple does their financial planning for their wedding, they consider the photographers fee to be more than they expected. This would be a reasonable assumption if in fact the photographer’s only work took a day to do when you were with them at your wedding. The reality however is quite different. All told, after all the meetings and planning, engagement shoots and wedding day ceremony photos, editing and album design work, there is almost always more than 8 days of full time work involved in your wedding when we do our work.
I can say this to any couple with 100% certainty, a competent and able photographer who does a wedding for less will cut the amount of work time and the quality of the end result. We have never done a wedding where we did not do everything within our ability to deliver 100% to our couple. This is one of the reasons we do not create stress for you by limiting your time with us or requiring extra fees on your wedding day. A few extra hours with you is the least we can do to make your big day even better when we are about to spend 40 more hours editing and preparing albums to finish your job properly.
Creating high quality images takes a lot of time both before and after the shutter button is pressed. Have you ever watched the credits roll by at the end of a movie? Hundreds of people, thousands of hours and millions of dollars went into producing the compositions and imagery to tell that 1 ½ hour story in just the right way. One of the people credited is the “director of photography”. This person, one trained extensively in photography, is solely in charge of the compositions or “look” that tell the story of each scene in the most convincing and visually
compelling way.  A good photographer uses much of the same artistic process to tell your story except with your wedding; there are no second takes.
If pictures are particularly important to you, feel free to contact us. We would love to meet with you and learn more about you and your big day.