Questions & Answers
What do you include in your basic collection?
We have designed a package that will give you the best possible experience and the highest quality photographs. This includes:
Can we customize the collection?
- up to ten hours of wedding day coverage by Melani, with a lighting assistant through the formals
- a second photographer for up to eight hours
- an edited, categorized online image gallery for sharing images with friends and family, live for nine months
- a download link of your collection of unlimited captures
- extensive pre & post work, such as boutique and timeline assistance, location scouting, magazine submissions, continuous communication with your wedding team
- printable resolution jpgs and a second set in web resolution
The collection begins at $6500 and can be customized. Please contact us about discounted prices for weddings that take place February 1 - March 30 and for weddings with fewer than 40 guests. Weddings with 235+ guests require additional assistance and fees. Most clients spend upwards of $11000 for their collections with archival images and heirloom wedding albums. We are happy to provide additional information on rates for our commissions. We understand that you need to invest in that which is most important to you. Just keep in mind that since your photographs and albums are the only things that remain after your wedding day, you will want them to have the power to bring you, and your grandchildren, right back to the moment. There are no do-overs in wedding photography.You want your photos to be moving and extraordinary, for your children and grandchildren as well.
Your package can be customized with add-ons such as albums, bespoke albums, parent albums, rehearsal dinner coverage, an engagement session anywhere in the world, sign in books, save the date & thank you cards, and canvas prints. We have the highest quality post production and have partnered with Leather Craftsmen for albums and iPrintery for cards. We create our prints by hand in the studio on museum quality archival cotton rag papers with archival frames. We believe your prints and albums should not be anything less than perfect and expect that future generations will be reliving your wedding with the heirloom products we create.
Will a second photographer be working with you?
I will be with you to document your day for 10 hours, and sometimes much longer. I will arrive to photograph the bride with my lighting assistant, who will stay with me through the formals. An associate photographer will arrive to document the groom's preparations and then leave after the parent's dances or cake cutting. I love working with my associate photographers, they offer a different perspective that will complete your collection.
When and how do we receive our wedding images?
We always provide a sneak peek of your photos that showcase the highlights of the day within two days of your wedding, within one week if your wedding is in another state or country. It takes an average of 4 - 6 weeks to have all of your wedding photos live on your private link which will also have your download link for immediate delivery of printable resolution jpgs. These are your printable proofs that are for you and no one else. Your albums will arrive within 6 - 8 weeks from the time that you approve the final, retouched draft.
How many images will we receive?
For a 10 hour day, you will receive no less than 1000 images, but it is often in the 1200-1500 range. If there is a first look, we typically have a about 100+ more images.
Do we have the rights to our images? Can we make prints?
Melani Lust Photography will retain the copyright to every image. Your contract licenses you to print the high resolution files for personal use. "License" is different from "Copyright." What is means basically is that, while you have the right to make reproductions for personal use, you do not have the right to sell or transfer the images to a third party.
Will you retouch every image?
All of your images receive personal attention and editing, they are color corrected (converted to black and white in some cases), contrast & tone is perfected, and images are cropped if necessary. All test shots, closed eyes, unflattering shots, shots where someone walked in front of the camera, etc., are discarded. We only retouch the images that are going into your album, and this is included in the album fee. Retouching includes actual pixel manipulation: softening of skin, removal of stray hairs, removal of simple distracting background elements. Additional excessive retouching, such as contouring, adding/removing people, head swaps, adding hair, changing backgrounds, is billed at the rate of $100/hour. You will be notified & invoiced if additional retouching work is required, normally it is not.
Do you photograph NYC Elopements?
Oh yes, I love them! The best time of day to schedule your elopement at the Clerk's office is two hours before sunset. You need to be inside by 3:45 with a ticket number and they will conduct your ceremony that afternoon. You will wait anywhere from 15 minutes - 2 hours. Then we will have the opportunity to capture the most beautiful images in the golden light falling across NYC. The fee for the shoot which is up to 3 hours (it could be 1 - 2 hours depending upon the wait) is a flat $1400, this includes everything- the shoot, all the edited, printable high resolution images, parking fees, etc. Your first family heirloom images will be enjoyed from generation to generation.
What is your style?
I shoot in a classic, fresh, yet glamorous style that will be as relevant today as it will be fifty years from now with the understanding that your wedding photography collection is not just about the bride and groom, but the entire family. I am acclaimed for creating a documentary style that captures those candid moments with gorgeous lighting. My goal for your wedding day is to document the family relationships, expected and unexpected moments, and to make you look better than you have ever looked. I find the honest, unnoticed moments and always step back to document the context of the moments in a wide view. In sum, I shoot for feeling, emotion and history, striving to be as unobtrusive as possible, yet I take a playful leadership role when necessary. I always bring an upbeat atmosphere and a calming presence. Your resulting heirloom images will be natural, full of authentic personality and joy, and will tell your story in both an intimate and grand way. Technically, my photos are vibrant and clean, with an emphasis on emotion and making sure that those skies you love are not "blown out" or white. I have a commitment to excellence, uncompromising quality and to giving you photos that you never could have imagined. My goal is that you view your photos decades from now and remember exactly how you felt each moment of your wedding. Your wedding images will make you feel exactly as if you were there. I create photographs that matter.
We are awkward in photos, how can we look like couples in your galleries?
Most of us aren’t models, so it’s no surprise that the vast majority of couples tell me when we first meet that they’re awkward on camera or they never look good in photos. These are the same people that you now see filling the galleries on my website in my favorite images. The piece of feedback I’ve probably received most over the years is that I was able to put everyone at ease and make them feel comfortable. Part of this is through my flexible, no stress and sometimes silly approach to direction, and part of this is through working with couples that I connect with. Yes I absolutely provide direction wherever needed, but that doesn’t mean your photos are going to feel stiff or posed, sometimes giving great direction means letting you know where to go, getting you to do something silly and capturing a REAL moment of laughter between the two of you amidst the pre visualized composition I came up with. One of the most important and underrated aspects of wedding photography is choosing a photographer who you feel personally comfortable with and who has years of experience working with a variety of couples. After 500 weddings, I am comfortable directing and prompting all types of brides and grooms and feel confident I can create a very comfortable environment.
So, is your work candid or traditional? Do we have to pose? Will you tell us what to do?
Video: Candids & Formals
What type of equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment?
In short, my work is 85% candid and 15% posed/traditional. I love capturing the unexpected moments, the glance, the touch and the unexpected juxtaposition, and I position myself strategically to make sure your collection will be full of surprises. I spend the bulk of your wedding day capturing candids and most clients and guests say they never knew I was there; and are surprised to see such a large collection of moments. Every image captured will become a beloved memory. I also make sure to capture your immediate family members and wedding party in a traditional way for your family history. It is important to have a collection of images where you can see everyone's face clearly, with beautiful light. The odds are you will not be standing candidly next to your grandmother and mother at the same time, and we want to make sure that you have the groupings that will be so important to you and your children later on. We will capture plenty of images of your family and guests dancing, laughing and having a great time, but I also feel it is important to really see the details of their faces. For your couples portraits, I will place you in a scenario with great light and then I will prompt you both with some lighthearted direction, so that your movement and emotion is natural and shows your true connection.
I use Canon professional bodies and Canon "L" series and Zeiss lenses. I shoot with two camera bodies, currently the IDX and the 5 D Mark IV. I have two backup cameras: a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 1Ds Mark IV. I will arrive at your wedding with the following lenses (all Canon unless noted): 70-200 mm f/2.8, 85 mm f/1.4, 85 mm Petzval f/2.2, 35 mm f/1.4, 17 mm tilt shift f/4, 14 mm f/2.8, Zeiss 100 mm Macro f/2, 16-35 mm f/2.8, and two 24-70 mm f/2.8, 100 - 400 mm f/4. I also will bring a 1.4 extender, five Canon 600 EX Speedlights, four flash stands, four Stoffen diffusers, one MagMod diffuser. I also bring my Profoto B1 500 AirTTL lights, with a 3' Octabox and a small softbox for formals. An LED light panel, a Frezzolini light and an all purpose flashlight find their way into my second suitcase. As well, I bring two reflectors, one sun swatter, cto gels for each flash, a bridal umbrella and four Burberry umbrellas. To power the flashes during the reception I use a Quantum Turbo SC, a Quantum 3 and about 50 Powerex rechargeable AA batteries too! The most important thing I bring is vision, experience and a genuine excitement to photograph your day, regardless of weather, timeline changes and unexpected events, we have seen it all!
Where do you get your inspiration from and who is your favorite photographer?
Did you train yourself or did you go to school?
There are so many great photographers I don't know where to begin! I love Paolo Roversi, his atmospheric photos are so evocative. Mario Testino always knows how to get to the heart of his subjects and I adore Patrick Demarchelier's light.
I have my BA and MA from NYU in Art History, with a double specialization in 17th Century Dutch & Flemish Painting and Ancient Roman Sculpture Groupings of Mars & Venus. The rigorous Art History program required that all students be proficient in film photography and dark room work, so that we could photograph the works of art we were writing about for our theses. I furthered my photographic studies at Parson's and at the International Center for Photography in Manhattan. Before that I was a professional dancer in New York, specializing in Jazz & Tap, MTV Videos and off Broadway productions. I strive to continually learn about my craft, and each wedding, editorial and commercial assignment puts me in touch with a completely different set of situational circumstances and lighting problems that I must solve.
Will you block my guests' view on the wedding day?
Never. I am constantly moving and hunting for the best moments, most guests won't know I'm there and I'm known for being invisible and completely unobtrusive. The only time I am not ninja like is when I have to work with a videographer that doesn't have years of wedding experience. These videographers often stand in front of the couple during the bride prep, vows, first kiss, first dance and more, and the only way to get a clean shot without the videographer blocking the view is to stand next to them.
Are you LGBT friendly?
Nothing makes me happier than having the opportunity to document love, whatever your pronoun, and whomever you love. I am grateful to live in this time period where gay marriage is legal.
Do you photograph the rehearsal dinner and other wedding events?
I love photographing other wedding events, they get me acquainted with all of the family members before the big day and often have beautiful, intimate moments. Any wedding event such as: rehearsal dinner, bridal portrait, bridal shower, day-after creative shoot, morning brunch, international engagement session, is available at a special hourly fee with a your wedding package. The special fee with a wedding collection includes one photographer and your images via a download link (not included without a wedding collection). There is a minimum of 3 hours for a second day of shooting.
We are not sure we want an engagement session, is it necessary?
I kind of hate the term “engagement session”, but “lifestyle couples session” doesn’t always make sense to everyone the first time they hear it. Engagement sessions were originally a way of getting your photo together to announce your engagement in the local paper. While we still love a great photo to announce a milestone on social media, and your parents will often want this, but engagement sessions are much more than that. There is literally no better way for us to get to know each other and for you to feel confident and comfortable with your photographer than through an engagement session. I can’t count the number of couples who have told me they were so nervous about getting their wedding photos taken, but once they went through the experience of an engagement session and got their photos back, they were totally at ease for their wedding day. It gives you a chance to experience how I work and direct, it gives us a chance to talk and get to know each other, and it’s also a great opportunity to create whatever kind of images we want without the timing and location constraints of a wedding day. We don’t always have the time on a wedding day to drive to a remote beach on the coast, at sunset and hike for 20 minutes to the incredible location that you had your first date, but that’s no trouble at all with an engagement. Further, I want these images to reflect this point in your lives and have an authenticity to them that will make them worth far more than a thousand words when your grandkids are looking at them in 30 years. I know it sounds cheesy, but I want to include these little pieces of your lives so that the photos have more to them than a pretty background ( you can have that too! ). For some couples it means going to the place they always walk their dog, or where they love to run together, or cooking dinner together at their home with their cat on the counter, or hiking on their favorite backcountry trail, or an evening at the family's country home. The only limitation is your imagination, and even there you can be sure that I’m around to help out and give recommendations. I never force anyone to get an engagement session who doesn’t want to, but I 100% wholeheartedly believe it will make your wedding photos better, and that you will be thankful you did one with me.
Do you do destination weddings? Do you photograph in other states and countries?
We love destination weddings! We have covered events in India, Cuba, Jamaica, California, Washington DC, and Florida, to name a few. We have current passports and Melani is proficient in Spanish and French. We require that all travel, modest accommodations (for two nights) and per diem are paid for, and we offer 10% off our list price for destination weddings. For weddings in the region we offer up to one hour travel time each way and bill at the IRS mileage rate plus $50/hour travel time over that. For weddings more than two hours from Westport, CT, we require overnight accommodation (in a modest room, which I share with my associate). For Manhattan weddings, there is no travel or overnight fee, however, we require parking garage fees near the ceremony and venue locations.
Do you allow guests to take pictures too?
While MLP must be the exclusive photographer for your event, I am happy to have your guests take photos. I ask that they do not photograph at the same time I am photographing the formals, as the eyes of those being photographed will be looking at various cameras in different directions which will result in awkward looking and potentially unattractive portraits. After I photograph each group, I will step aside to allow the guests to capture their shots. I also request that the guests not come along to the creative portrait coverage as this can be quite distracting to the couple. And, please, we request that guests be respectful by not pushing us out of the way or standing in front of us while we are trying to capture the important moments. We always love an unplugged ceremony, however, as many iPads, selfie sticks, iPhones, cameras, shoulders, extended arms and hips leaning into the aisle block our view of you coming up and down the aisle and can ruin many incredibly emotional moments.
My DJ offered us a free photographer, is that ok with you?
Please be careful of other vendors (djs, venues, etc.) that suggest they send their photographer for free. These photographers are working for their companies and not for you, their priority is to capture shots to showcase their companies and they often get in the way, and in front of us. They confuse guests by snapping their photos and when we attempt to capture a specific guest's photo, the guest will tell us they already had their photo taken. These photographers will often stand directly in front of you at the important moments and they will not be unobtrusive. Please be assured that we will capture all the important events and details and I work very well with my associates to make sure you have different perspectives.
Do you do video too?
We are exclusively a photo studio and are happy to recommend videographers to you. When you do hire a videographer, make sure that they also take an unobtrusive approach to your day. If your videographer is right in front of you during the ceremony and first dance, etc., then we will have to adjust our shooting style, instead of shooting invisibly from the back of the church, or corner of the room with our 200 mm lens, we will have to stand next to the videographer, so that we are able to get a clean shot, without the videographer and his equipment in the way. This forces us to use shorter, more unflattering lenses, and to be visible to your guests during your important moments, possibly interrupting their view as well.
Do you back up the images?
Once I get back to my home office after a wedding I am typically up until 5 am uploading and backing up your images. At this point, the images are uploaded and I am completely exhausted, so I finish backing them up the following day. Once your images are completely processed (4-6 weeks), they are also backed up in Georgia with Shootproof, so if Irene ever comes to town and destroys my hard drives, please be assured your images will be safe. We do request that you also make backups once you download your images, as you will be responsible for your images once you receive the link is live.
How much are your engagement shoots?
An engagement shoot within a 10 mile radius of Westport is $725 and averages 90 minutes. A NYC engagement shoot is 2.5 -3 .5 hours and is $1400 (this includes two NYC locations, round trip driving time of 3+ hours, our NY lighting assistant, parking and tolls). All engagement shoots include the jpgs and time consulting outfits and locations. Engagement shoots with styled themes, travel, rental of luxury cars, planes, and public indoor locations which require special coordination and permits are priced based upon rental and permit fees, and administrative time. Engagement shoots are scheduled only Monday - Thursday and are scheduled two hours before sunset. (Our weekends are reserved for weddings). Engagement shoots are available only to our wedding clients.
Do you work with videographers?
Yes and I would love to provide you with some recommendations! I’ve worked with video teams of all varieties and always communicate clearly and positively to ensure we can both capture the imagery that we have promised for you with the same vision. Sometimes having a video team there will mean they show up in some of your images, that’s unavoidable, but the best videographers know how to work together with photographers as a team to ensure the client receives the best possible experience, images and video.
What is your backup policy for photos?
I only shoot with cameras that have dual memory card slots, so the moment I take a photo it is instantly written to 2 memory cards. In the event of a memory card failure, I have a full backup so no images are lost. On the night of the wedding I work straight through to the morning the day after, backing up your images to three locations, I cannot sleep soundly until this is done!
Can you shoot in rain or bad weather?
With over 400 weddings under my belt, you can bet I have worked in everything: multi hour Indian ceremonies outdoors in 110 degrees, rainstorm ceremonies in the middle of the pouring rain in Central Park, pre tornado winds that blew the tent over during cocktail hour and more. My equipment is weather sealed and my rain jackets are ready. Documenting your story in any weather brings me great joy!
You are not in our budget, but we really connect with your style, what should we do?
I have created a wedding collection to give you the best experience and highest quality photographs, with wedding collections that begin at $7500. I offer a 15% discount off of our basic wedding collections for weddings that take place February 1 through March 30 (this discount does not apply to wedding albums, only to the photographic coverage). I also offer special custom collections for weddings with less than forty guests, elopements and town hall coverage. This leads us to the next question concerning our Registry. Let your family and friends buy you something that you really want!
Do you have a Registry?
Yes, your friends and family can give you something you will treasure forever, the wedding of your dreams! Gifts range from $100 to $2500 and you may include your wedding collection and any wedding add-on, such as an engagement session, canvas or plexiglass wall display, or heirloom album. The Registry is available for gifts after the wedding too.
Are you insured?
Yes, we have full liability insurance and are happy to provide your venues with certificates of insurance. If your venue needs insurance, we require that you notify us three months before your event date because Dominick at Allstate needs time to write your venue into our rider.
We need to cancel our wedding, can we have our retainers back?
All monies paid are non-refundable. Once we have reserved the date for you we turn down every commission for that date.
Can we pay you after the wedding?
We require full payment before the wedding.
How do we hire you?
We require a signed agreement and a non refundable retainer of $2000. We book on a first come first serve basis and once we reserve your date, we turn down all other inquiries for that date. We cannot hold a date without a signed contract and retainer. Prime dates (June & September Saturdays) can book two years in advance, so don't wait, we'd love to hear about your wedding and how we can preserve it for you!
What should we do after we hire you?
Relax. We will work together on your timeline, confirmations and details in the months before your wedding to ensure proper coverage and the best photography possible. Then, be present at your wedding, have fun and we will document it all.
Where are you located?
I reside in Westport, CT, one hour north of NYC and my family maintains an apartment for us to use on Madison and 96th St. in Manhattan. I photograph mostly in NYC, Fairfield County, CT, Westchester and Hudson Valley, NY. I have been commissioned to photograph weddings all over the world, from Gwalior, India, to San Diego, CA. I've been to over 40 countries and I love destination weddings. I am proficient in French and Spanish, with associates fluent in Spanish, Polish and Bulgarian.