1. Introduction: What's your story?
My name is Rachel Levine and I never wanted to be a wedding photographer at all. As a matter of fact, I thought it was the worst idea. So what happened? I was living in Las Vegas in 2007 and I'd been doing every other kind of photography, from boudoir to products and I was happy with that, but I had a friend who was an economist and they'd told me we were going to have a big crash in the economy and that I should learn some skills that would be recession proof. They suggested wedding photography and as I protested in the car on the way to dinner one night, we drove by the community college and they dared me to sign up for a class. It turns out that CCSN has the best photography program in the country for a community college and I tried a class. The teachers were all also working in the field and were really inspirational to me. I sat in the front row prepared to be bored, and instead I had this engaging teacher who had just retired from thirty years as a pro, and he completely got me hooked. He'd written a little guide called "Hurry up the limo's waiting" and I read it until I knew every tip and trick to keep my wedding day flowing. I still worked with a lot of models, and some had been married and still had their gowns. I made a "fake it till you make it" book of brides and booked my first wedding at the Mt Charleston Hotel in Las Vegas, using that.
I spent three years in Lake Tahoe after that, honing my skills at high altitude. I shot some of the most beautiful weddings of my career up there, but I was ready for the real world, and moved down to San Francisco ten years ago. My first year in the city I got a call from Jeff and Melissa from Missoula Montana. They were die hard 49ers fans and wanted to drive out with their witness, get married at San Francisco City Hall and then go to a game with 50 yard line tickets for their honeymoon. And that's exactly how it went. My heart quickly grew roots in this magnificent historic building, I learned all the floors, the history and everyone who worked there from the sheriffs to the building historian. (ten years later I can still barely get her to smile at me, she'd prefer the building was a museum) I photographed forty five weddings my first year, and ninety nine the next, and it just kept growing. Most of our couples come into town from someplace else. Texas, Florida and the UK, Canada and Philippians would be a good example of our destination couples.
I decided to build out my team, and added photographers and a videographer. Over the years I saw who stuck and who wasn't the best fit for the team, until we got to a really solid place. I realized that over and over my couples were making the same requests for other vendors, like an officiant and hair and make up, so I added those to the team and recently built www.theeffortlesswedding.com, which is a site dedicated to all inclusive packages in a few select locations. Now it's time to rebuild the www.rachellevinephoto.com website and I have some unique options for my couples there, like an exclusive photo bus tour of San Francisco with a vintage vw bus company. I created that partnership because as we've had a solid decade of the tech industry moving into town, my couples didn't want to see that when they came here. They wanted a really authentic San Francisco experience, so with The Summer Of Love on my mind, I reached out to Josh and Vergine who own the bus company and we put together some photo tours with pop up weddings, and it's been a big hit.
This year is my ten year anniversary at SF City Hall, and although they've been closed since March 13, I'm not letting that stop me. We've done some weddings across the street in the little park, using the beautiful building as a backdrop, and I'm going to keep dreaming up new options for all of our couples who want to get married, no matter what. Please visit both of my brands, and see if there's something that gets you excited about planning your wedding again!
2. How long have you been shooting weddings? How many weddings have you photographed?
I've been shooting weddings since 2005 and I've probably shot about 1100 weddings in that time, if you include all of the elopements and tiny weddings at SF City Hall. I generally focus on elopements and pop up weddings since 2010, and I think the most weddings the team and I did was about ten on 7/7/2017. Couples pretty much lost their minds over that day!
3. How would you describe your photography style?
I would describe my style as fun and playful, with a good dash of romance thrown in. I'm going to direct my couples though a series of poses and give you ques and prompts to interact with each other and just be your self. I want you to enjoy your wedding day, and I try to be intuitive and give my couples some space to enjoy their day without a lot of staged posing.
I like a mix of posed, candid and artsy.
4. How well in advance should couples book their wedding photographer?
Because we are a team, I'm usually going to have availability with one of the team members. I don't have any second shooters, everyone on the team is completely trained and capable of running the whole show themselves. A few months in advance is usually fine, unless it's a very popular date like Thanksgiving or Christmas and New Years week, or around Memorial and labor Days, especially the Fridays before. You can book nine to twelve months out for those days. We do a lot of mid week weddings, and it usually works out fine.
For San Francisco City Hall, the Friday slots get booked up very quickly, so six months to a year out is a good bet. Mondays have also become popular there, but if you're getting married Tuesday to Thursday we'll have more open slots.
5. What are the different packages that you offer and which one is your most popular package?
My $1299 package for an all inclusive tiny wedding has been the most popular for a few years now. With so many elopements in 2020 it was booking up and was really helpful for couples who had changed plans and venues many times, and finally had very energy left to plan their weddings. We have photography, hair and make up, bridal bouquet and groom flower, and the officiant and ceremony ready to go for them. This package is super versatile and while it was originally created for our destination SF City Hall couples, it worked well at all of the locations we were asked to travel to this year as well.
Our $1399 vintage vw bus photo tour and pop up wedding was equally popular and added a nice wedding twist with the fully restored bus. They have seven colorful buses, but Pearl the white wedding bus has been our go to girl. This package comes with three hours of photography (you can add our videographer for $900) We added cake and champagne, to make it a real wedding, and the results have been very very sweet. Over the warmer months, we offered an individual picnic box option for families, complete with a huge Persian carpet, puffs and pillows to lounge on and it was very Pinterest worthy!
6. Are you the wedding photographer who will be shooting on the wedding day? Who else is there in your team?
This year I have mostly been the photographer, but Julia, Mindy and Melika have all worked with my for two to four years, and are very nice to have with you on your wedding day. If I won't be your photographer because I'm already booked, I'll send you galleries' of the other ladies work, so you'll know exactly who will be your photographer and guide for the day. Everyone has the same enthusiasm and love of wedding photography that I do, and you'll be able to speak with them before you decide. Julia specializes in adventure weddings, and can take you to places even I don't travel too. Mindy has a beautiful light and bright style, and Melika has a classic, romantic style with a hint of vintage.
Will is our main videographer. Quiet and unobtrusive, his edited final product moves me to happy tears every time I see his work.
7. Do you charge a travel fee? For what distance? What does that cover?
Generally we don't charge a travel fee for anything under an hour and a half. If it's farther out, we'll talk and discuss what would be fair. I don't have a set amount, it really does depend on the circumstances.
8. Are albums or prints included in your packages?
I like to keep my packages very affordable for my couples, so I provide a gallery of downloadable images, and the option to print the images you select right from your private viewing page. I do have some weekend packages for 5-10 hours that will come with a beautifully custom made wedding album.
9. How long after the wedding will the couple receive the images? How will they be delivered?
Usually within the first week I'll send you a sneak peek, and the edited images are ready within 2-3 weeks, depending on how busy the season is.
10. What is your cancellation and/or refund policy?
Normally I take a small deposit that isn't refundable, but is transferable. There is never a fee to change your date, and you may use your deposit for another service such as couples portraits if you haven't yet planned the new wedding date. There have been some refund exceptions this year for people who could not travel into the country.