Bill Butler has collected a lot of stories over his many years as a wedding photographer and his efforts to capture the memories of that special event for the brides and grooms.
One of his favorites is of a wedding on the patio at the Shilo at sunset. The bride didn't want the groom to see her in her wedding gown until the ceremony so she asked Butler to do the photographs afterwards. When told the sky would be black by then, the bride asked him if he could lighten up the night sky.
“I'm not God,” Butler said he told the bride, who finally consented to taking the photographs before the ceremony.
Butler said over the years he's become a de facto quasi-wedding planner, advising wedding couples on the things not to do. One of those rules: “You don't do photos after sunset.”
Another word to the wise Butler offers: “When looking for a wedding photographer, make sure you like their work, and they had better have some to show you.”
He also warns that stinting on the cost of the photographer is not the place to cut wedding costs. People may be tempted to have an uncle or a friend take the photographs, but the results may well be disappointing.
Other words of wisdom: “Make sure you can get along with the photographer,” he said. “You have to get people to do things ... you almost have to trick them in to them, but you can't be pushy.”
One of his favorite tricks, he said, is to bribe the participants. “Ice cream is the gold standard,” and one that can get even little ring bearers and flower girls to cooperate.
One of his main rules, though: “Don't make the bride cry. Don't argue with her about what she wants — unless it's photos after dark.”
Butler said over the years he's photographed weddings at many venues, but he has some favorites.
One is St. Paul's Cultural Center with its stained glass windows. Another is the patio at the Shilo — “It probably looks more like San Diego than any other venue here.”
He's photographed several weddings in the garden at the Sanguinetti House Museum, along the Colorado River and at West Wetlands Park. One of the best sunsets he's seen for a wedding was at the Hilton Garden Inn.
One venue he doesn't suggest is the Sand Dunes.
“It sounds like a great location,” he said. “It's OK for engagement shots, but the logistics are a nightmare for weddings. If everyone gets into a 4-wheel drive or dune buggies, that's a different proposition.”
Marie Nadeau of MLN Photography has her own favorite venues for visually stunning weddings and other special occasions.
At the top of her list is Sonoran Pueblo, the club at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. While on the air station, the venue is available to the public.
“With its arches, woodwork and all black floor that reflects wedding dresses, it's gorgeous,” Nadeau said. “From a photographer's perspective, the bride's reflection with her groom makes beautiful photographs.”
Another favorite is Palms RV Resort — “Everything looks so nice without being too busy a background.” She likes the Quartermaster Depot — “a pretty place” — and West Wetlands — “with the trees and green, green grass, there's lots of opportunities to make photos stand out.”
Nadeau has her own words of wisdom for brides looking for photographs they'll treasure forever: “Make sure to leave plenty of time to get the shots they want. People like sunset shots, but there's only a small window of about 15 minutes for the premium shot. Before that, it's a daylight photo and after it looks flat.”