Wedding Photography Chat with Michael Bennett Kress, Thursday, December 4 at 11 AM

Planning a wedding? Want expert advice? Thursday, December 4 at 11 AM, we'll be hosting a live online chat with photographer Michael Bennett Kress. Submit your questions now.

Michael Bennett Kress’s first camera came as a bar mitzvah gift from his father. He started taking pictures immediately—and got hooked on the gym floor at school. “My first memorable experience came in junior high when I realized I could get out of class and be closer to a cute girl I liked if I was taking photos of the gymnastics team,” he says. More than 30 years later, he’s still shooting away.

With a degree in photographic sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Kress started his career as a commercial and advertising photographer before switching to social events. He and his team at Michael Bennett Kress & Associates (4710 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-0909) are life-cycle photographers, covering everything from bar and bat mitzvahs for children of past wedding clients to weddings of previous bar and bat mitzvah clients.

Kress, a native Washingtonian, has photographed weddings at venues all around Washington and all the way to the Four Seasons in Nevis. Just as important as loving a photographer’s portfolio, he says, is clicking with the photographer. “We’re very intimately involved with the family on a very emotional day, so it’s crucial to have a good rapport,” Kress says. “You want someone who is good at what they do but also someone with a good bedside manner who communicates well and makes you feel comfortable.”

Kress is bringing his many years of expertise to The Washingtonian for a live chat on Thursday. Submit your questions below, and he'll answer them live at 11 AM.

Alexandria, VA
What are your thoughts on hiring a makeup artist for the big day and what kind of price range should one expect? Also, do you like to work with the makeup artist or does the bride work with each person independently?

The makeup artist plays a very important part of the day. They can make or break the schedule that you may have needed to stick to. Usually I recommend doing a trial run with that person so that you have a specific plan and then the timing of the day has less chance of being screwed up.  As to the cost they range in fees and I'm not sure of them because usually they are doing more than one person. But, I will say having someone on site is the best way to go because once the logistics kick in for travel back and forth it always requires extra time not planned for. I will recommend makeup artists if asked but, usually the bride has someone she already works with. 

Bethesda, Md.
How common is it for a photographer to give you all the digital images from your wedding? Is that usually part of a package you can buy? I'd like to have the files so that I could print them out for years to come. Thanks!

With this digital generation photographers have gone through the transition and understand the clients needs. 

It is pretty standard for a client to request the digital files. We as a standard policy give all high-res files with all packages that include albums. Having the files for safe keeping makes more sense than trying to find the photographer and the negatives and where they were stored… I just want to stress that a photographer of any worth is going to give you better images than the ones you make yourself. 

Washington, DC
With so many families now being made up of step parents, etc., how do you deal with the family photos? Is there a less awkward way than having divorced parents in the same photo?

Well great question. First thing I want to say is that is one of the main reasons why you want a professional photographer vs. a friend. Being diplomatic and understanding is a necessary trait that is needed to handle stressful family moments and keep moving. Because there are always lots of things that need to get done. The tension and drama of hurting a family members feelings could throw off the balance of the bride and groom having a great wedding day. I always believe that everyone should put their own personal feelings on a shelf that day and be present and respectful to others for the bride and groom. 

Arlington, VA
Hi Michael, What are some things that a bride/groom can do in advance of the wedding to help you plan the day more efficiently? Should they provide a timeline of events for you?

Actually I believe they should help you create a timeline. Because having an understanding of how long you're going to need to get through certain parts of your day comes from experience and you should be helped by that experience. Also, the more info they understand about your event, the smoother it will go.


Alexandria, VA
I have a friend who is planning a fall wedding. By the time her ceremony is over, the sun will almost be set. She'd like to have pictures taken with the groom at a DC monument, but will not have enough daylight. Is it becoming a common practice that brides and grooms take photos together BEFORE the wedding to avoid the daylight issue? I know that's a very taboo thing to do!

I never consider that taboo. It all comes down to how important great pictures are to the bride and groom. Clients choose us because they know and want those great bride and groom moments. And if you can't budget time for it we are limited. We understand those issues and make the best of what we are given. That is another reason why you want the photographer to be prepared for how your day is going to go. Maybe because of the timing, that can't be modified—there are some wonderful sunset shots instead.


Washington, DC
I hate big bridal party group shots! Any suggestions to break up the monotony?

If you already know that, discuss it with your photographer and work out using the environment for a group shot that isn't just a row of people. Unfortunately, if you don't space people out in some way you may not see their faces. But you can do a fun series of images that says more about the relationships you have than just an a typical line of your favorite peeps.

Washington, DC
I'm getting married, and I have a brother-in-law who never smiles. He always seems to bring down any picture he is in. Any words of advice of how to shape him up for the big day?

Well there is always one of them. My suggestion is, have a discussion with the photographer so that the two of you can plan some "very slight" harassment. For instance, when he is in a group shot have someone pinch his behind at the right moment. Remember, singling out a friend or family member on a sensitive topic should not be pushed too far. So tease slightly and accept that is just the way he wants to be perceived or is uncomfortable in some way. So move on and don't make an issue out of it.

Bethesda, MD
How do I get great photography on a budget?

Great question! First, research photography and call people whose work you love. Then understand they still 

might be on the fringe of your budget. Next step: accept one important fact. Getting great photography and a

package that includes everything you know you want at the price you want to pay may NOT be feasible.  

Once you get past that, you can shop for great photography in steps. Think of it as an investment. If you get

X photographer and they include everything you want in package but you're not sure you love their style of work

or they don't have much experience. What are you going to do when you don't love the pictures and have paid for

an album that you're going to hate. You want this investment to hopefully be a wonderful family heirloom.

That is why we offer packages that start with full coverage shooting and options for Web and proof items.

The next step in that strategy is if the client knows they eventually want a specific album package we offer that

at our current rate structure so that in a timely fashion they can still fulfill their photographic goals.


Adams Morgan
What questions should I ask photographers as I'm trying to decide who to book?

You want to feel like your job matters. I know packages are important, but make sure there are ways the packages can include the things that are important to you and your family. One thing that isn't done much but is the best way to get the truth about how things went is to call previous clients to get the personal scoop on how it was working with a particular studio as well as photographer. It is an easy way to get the truth. Remember that the experience you have from the start is going to be pretty representative of a studio's responsiveness. Hope you consider us in your quest. 

Are there any photographers who use film anymore? I sort of like the classic feel of film photography, but I'm not sure if anyone even uses it anymore.

There are, and one of our photographers that still uses film for some parts of a wedding – considers it like sprinkles on a cake. Just enough to give it some uniqueness. I don't use film anymore but love the texture and feeling it can bring to the story and wouldn't have switched completely if i didn't feel like we can still get that feeling out of shooting digitally.

Alexandria, VA
This might not be your domain, but I'm wrestling with the idea of having a videographer in addition to our photographer. I'm worried that the videographer might put me over the top in terms of my budget, but I'm also concerned that I'll regret not having video—at least of the ceremony—if I choose not to do it. What do you think? Do people actually watch their videos afterwards? Is it a waste of money or a good investment? Help!

Weddings are life cycle events. Not having some video to me would be a mistake. When or if you have a family someday not being able to show your children some kind of video memory of some of the people that were important to both of you would be too bad.


Arlington, Va.
In your opinion, what's the prettiest monument or prettiest section of the Mall that's not cheesy? I'd like to have some wedding photos taken near the Mall but I hate to look like a cheesy postcard. Thanks!
The lack of cheesyness comes from not having a cheesy photographer. But, I do love the Jefferson Memorial area.
Washington, DC
Hi Michael, What's the most unique place in DC you've ever photographed a wedding?

Uniqueness always starts with the bride and groom. If they are unique and wonderful then it will be a memorable event. I love surprise weddings because they are completely emotional. The emotional element of a wedding is much more exciting to me than a venue. However, to answer your question I love some of the traditional Washington venues like the Women's Museum, the Mellon Gallery, the untraditional Halcyon House. But the intimacy of the smaller venues with charm are always wonderful.  I love locations that have outdoor spaces or just great light.


Arlington, VA
Do you have any suggestions on a different way we might take our groomsmen pictures? I am not against some of the standard shots, but it would be fun to mix it up a little bit – nothing out of a fraternity party, but nothing stale, either.

Personality is what you want. They need to have fun. I recently photographed a wedding and bride and groom wanted to have outdoor pics. But groom and friends love basketball. We made both happen and the groom shots playing a quick 4 on 4 are awesome. And most important, he LOVED those. 

Kensington, Maryland
What are the new trends in photography?

Very stylized, shallow depth of field shots. The drawback is most photographers only show you the stuff that worked. When there are candid moments and they are shot with shallow depth of field and you want to make the image large for your book. You may not like the way it looks. 

Rockville MD
How do you find new inspiration after being in the wedding business so long?

I've always been impacted by the world visually and I'm never visually bored with Wedding photography. 

I am very lucky that my job is to insure the memories from a family's once in a lifetime experience. I feel very privileged to hold that responsibility.  I also love doing it. 

Thanks so much to all for your detailed questions.


That's all the time we had for questions today. If I didn't get to your question or if anyone wants to follow up on other questions, please don't hesitate to call me or email me.

Happy Weddings to All!!

Phone # 301 654 0909