Most brides dream about their wedding day for years, but when it finally arrives, the moment is gone in the blink of an eye.
"The flowers and the food are gone when that day comes to an end," Steamboat Springs photographer Ken Proper said. "The couple will have their own memories from that special day, but the photographs will help reinforce them."
Proper has been photographing weddings in Steamboat for more than 30 years.
During that time he has recorded thousands of images from countless weddings, but he never has forgotten just how important the day is for every bride and groom.
"I take a photojournalistic approach to shooting weddings," Proper said. "Sure, there are times when I will tell people where to stand if I'm doing the formals or I need a specific composition, but what I like about wedding photography is catching those special moments. A mom and her daughter, a father and the groom, or the couple enjoying the day."
Proper also has learned a few things that can make the day a little easier for the couple. First, he tells couples to make a schedule and stick to it throughout the day. This makes the photography easier, the photographs better and also gives the ceremony a certain flow.
He also tells couples to make a list of special photographs they want. He said it's important to know which family members are most important and if the couple plans to do anything special such as ride off on a bicycle made for two or jump into a horse-drawn carriage. It also helps if the photographer knows about special guests or specific family shots the couple might want years from now.
When it comes to selecting a wedding photographer in the Steamboat and Craig areas, couples have plenty of choices. Photographers have their own unique style and personalities. Some are better at formal portraits, some work in studios, and others like to tell the story of the wedding day. No style is better than another, but it's important for the couple to find the style they want to reflect their special day.
"I encourage people to have a meeting with the photographer beforehand," Proper said. "They should make sure they are comfortable with that person and to view the photographer's work."
Jackie Owen has been a wedding photographer in Steamboat for 10 years and brings a touch of Hollywood fashion to her work.
"My work is very sexy and very stylish," Owen said.
She studied for years with Hollywood fashion photographer Joe Buissink, who has photographed the weddings of Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and Hillary Swank. Owen also has worked with several top fashion photographers.
She said those lessons influence her photographic style.
"I try to make my photographs look like they belong in a magazine," Owen said.
To accomplish that, she focuses on the bride and handles the makeup, hair and photography. Owen insists her star treatment isn't just for the rich and famous. Her prices range from $500 for a studio session with the bride to $5,000 for a complete wedding, including makeup, hair, photography, video and a studio session.
She agrees that it's important for couples to meet with photographers and make sure they are getting what they want.
Because Owen often hires a staff of professionals to assist her with photography, video and other duties, her prices depend on the amount of work needed to complete the project. She uses Adobe Photoshop to make sure the bride and groom always look their best, and most of her packages include a disc with all the photographs from the wedding. She also offers wedding books for an additional charge.
"My style isn't for everyone," Owen said. "I focus on the bride, and I want to make sure every wedding is fun. I want my photographs to reflect that joy."
Photographer Sue Rife has recorded hundreds of weddings during the past 12 years, and she insists that each is unique.
"There is something unique about every wedding," Rife said. "The day belongs to the bride and groom, and each wedding has its own personality."
Rife should know.
Together with her husband, Joe, she has captured the moments that make the wedding day. Time and time again, she's photographed that magical moment when the bride and groom kiss for the first time as a married couple or clasp their hands as they enter the reception or embrace on the dance floor.
Still, she insisted that those moments are unique for each couple. It's one of the main reasons she is a wedding photographer.
"We are the memories," Rife said. "The flowers will die, the food will come and go, and the location will be rebooked. But the photographs will last forever."
Rife said picking a wedding photographer almost is as personal as the wedding itself. Couples should spend time getting to know the photographer who will record the big day.
When possible, she suggests meeting the photographer in person. If that's not possible, the couple should spend a few minutes on the phone getting a feel for the type of person that will be taking the photos.
They should ask questions about how the person works, what type of cameras they use and how much the wedding and the photos will cost.
If the couple and the photographer seem to be going in different directions, Rife recommends that the couple continue its search.