THE NEW YORK TIMES
December 20, 2007
Is This a Toothbrush or a Drill Sergeant?
Honestly, how hard can it be? We’ve been doing it twice a day since kindergarten. But still we can’t get it right
“Odd as it sounds, most people are no good at brushing their teeth,” said Dr. Paul Warren, a dentist and a vice president of scientific relations for Procter & Gamble Oral Care.
All you have to do is go tooth by tooth, bristles to the gumline, for at least two minutes, according to the American Dental Association. But most adults fail miserably. We brush haphazardly, concentrating on the front-and-center teeth and making short work of our molars. For many, the cardinal sin is scouring their gum lines as if plaque were bathtub grout.
Patience is also no virtue among toothbrushers. “They spend an average of 47 seconds doing it,” Dr. Warren said.
All of that incompetence is good news for toothbrush makers. The toothbrush is a mature product, one that designers and industry analysts say has reached far limits of amelioration. But thanks to our ineptitude, toothbrush designers have a raison d’être. Lately, toothbrush makers have feverishly reworked one of the most worked-over devices known to man. Colgate has presented 14 manual brushes in the last five years. Oral-B typically introduces one electronic brush a year, the fruition of the work of more than 300 designers and engineers over 3 to 5 years.
Never mind that the device we know — bristles mounted on a 6-inch-long handle — has been around for more than 5,000 years. Or that its job, removing remnants of your last meal, be it a bowl of Wheaties or a slab of roasted boar, has remained unchanged. The toothbrush has had more makeovers than Michael Jackson.
Some changes are merely cosmetic, but the majority are intended to make the simple task of brushing even simpler. “Consumers aren’t good at brushing, so we’re taking them out of the equation,” said Graham Mott, a research and development executive for Philips Sonicare. “We’re making the toothbrush idiot-proof.”
How to explain our ineptness when it comes to oral hygiene? “Most people don’t really understand the process or don’t want to spend the time and effort they should,” said Dr. Howard S. Glazer, a former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization devoted to advocacy and continuing education. “They think it’s O.K. to go once around the park and then home.”
People don’t follow their dentists’ instructions, either. “Lots of patients brush way too hard, no matter what we tell them,” said Dr. Susan Karabin, a periodontist in Manhattan and the president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “They think they’re not doing a good job unless they’re spraying toothpaste all over the vanity.”
Fret not, the oral care industry is here to help. The new Ultreo brush ($169.99) adds ultrasound to sonic bristle action to make things even easier. Just gently move the handsome orange-tinged gadget around until you get the signal to relocate other part of your mouth. This hint occurs every 30 seconds. Too tough on your teeth? The Colgate 360 (about $3.99) has a NASA-worthy bristle configuration, with extra rubber bits that squeegee plaque away with almost no pressure at all. For the truly brutish (or brainless), there’s the Oral-B Triumph ($149.99) with SmartGuide, which features a remote digital display that delivers an audible and visual warning when you’re brushing too hard. Or the Sonicare FlexCare ($179.99), with its two different routines, the speedy GoCare setting and the MaxCare mode, a 2-minute cleaning and 1-minute massage.
Gizmos like these are designed to beat heavy-handed brushers at their own game. "These brushes provide their own motion, so they do the work for you,” explained Mr. Mott of Philips Sonicare. “Even if you’re doing everything totally wrong, you get the job done —and you can’t hurt yourself."
Damage by toothbrushing is more common than you might think. After $5,000 worth of gum surgery, Stephanie Mascott, 32, a recovering aggressive brusher, bought an Ultreo and now hopes to have kissed her receding gums goodbye. “With a manual brush, it’s too easy to get carried away,” said Ms. Mascott, a brand director in San Diego.
Alli Noland, 38, a public relations executive in Jackson, Wyo., was also a bruiser of a brusher. “I always brushed really hard, so I thought I had special cavity-fighting powers when I was a kid,” she said. After six fillings, Ms. Noland reassessed her methods and bought a Sonicare, which she says better helps her clean her nooks and crannies. “Now I’ve got no cavities, my teeth are actually cleaner and I’m not scrubbing my mouth off.”
Others see catering to the lackluster brusher as marketing plain and simple. “This rush for innovation is all madness,” said Timothy Dowd, a senior analyst with the research firm Packaged Facts and author of its Oral Care 2007 market report. “If you didn’t have product innovation, the market would rise or fall with the population because everybody brushes his or her teeth.”
Stephen Wilcox, a principal at Design Science Consulting in Philadelphia, who has designed a few in his day, is of the same mind. “The toothbrush has been around forever,” he said. “We’ve quit improving it. Now we’re just competing for the consumer’s attention, so we’re seeing a lot of mindless tweaking.”
But don’t tell that to brushing sloths. “I love my Sonicare because it does all the work,” said Barb Obergfell, 54, an outreach librarian in Indianapolis. “I can space out because I barely have to move it. It’s ironic because I advocate reading and distribute books all day, then come home and surrender to my electric toothbrush.”
Despite makers’ claims that their toothbrushes offer superior cleaning, “there are relatively few large, well-controlled studies demonstrating a clear advantage of one brush over another,” said Marjolijn Hovius, the editor of the International Journal of Dental Hygiene. How methodically a person brushes is far more important than the brush he or she uses, most experts agree. A meticulous brusher can remove plaque with a bit of wood as well as with a state-of-the-art toothbrush, Dr. Karabin said.
But there’s one advantage to buying a $180 cutting-edge toothbrush. “If you spend a lot of money on a toothbrush, that’s a great motivational tool,” Dr. Glazer said. “You’ll probably use it more than the one I give to you for free.”
STICK WITH SOFT BRISTLES Hard bristles damage teeth and gums unless they’re used very carefully. Dentists universally recommend using a soft-bristle brush, said Dr. Howard S. Glazer, a former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization devoted to advocacy and continuing education. So who buys hard brushes? “Probably some macho guy,” Dr. Glazer said.
SCRUB SOFTLY “Plaque is pretty soft, so if you get the brush in the right place and gently clean in that area, you’ll get it off,” said Dr. Susan Karabin, a periodontist in Manhattan and the president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “Scrubbing back and forth is definitely not required.” Instead, place the brush at a 45-degree angle against the gums, then move it gently in short strokes.
QUICK AND DIRTY IS NOT THE WAY People who brush only the chewing surfaces of their teeth, and the front, are missing the places where disease-causing plaque likes to hide: the inside surfaces, the back teeth and the gum line. “Just going through the motions of brushing doesn’t cut it,” Dr. Karabin said. “You’ve got to do it right.”
BEWARE OF BLOOD Leaving plaque along the gumline leaves gums swollen and inflamed and apt to bleed. Left untreated, bleeding gums can lead to tooth loss and painful surgery. If you see red, see a dentist; it may be a sign of inferior brushing.
The Busy Woman's Guide to Clean
No time? No problem. A healthy home doesn't require as
much scrubbing, dusting, and disinfecting as you think
up in a spotless house, but apparently cleanliness isn't an
inherited trait. Frankly, I don't want to clean. I don't
like it and I don’t have time for it. But I also don't
want my family living in a germ-ridden Petri dish.
I checked with Charles P. Gerba, PhD, a University of Arizona microbiologist
and leading hygiene researcher — and found that my haphazard approach
isn't so bad after all. “You certainly don't have to sanitize
the whole house to stay healthy. I would rather do other things than clean,” he
says. That's my kind of germ expert! Gerba tells me that making just
a few changes to my current cleaning routine — and focusing on the
messiest areas — can go a long way toward keeping me and my family
his take on the least you should do to keep your house clean — or clean
The biggest chores in the bedroom — picking up laundry piles, vacuuming,
dusting — are important in terms of aesthetics but not necessarily health.
The one exception: if you or a loved one is asthmatic or suffers from allergies.
In that case, you'll have to clean more diligently (and more often).
The least you should do:
• Dust and vacuum weekly if you have allergies or asthma; otherwise, let
your personal “ick” meter be your guide. Try these easy-breathing
tools: Microfiber dusters grab and hold dust instead of spreading it around,
and a powerful vacuum that carries the Green Label seal from the Carpet and Rug
Institute will protect indoor air quality by sucking up soil. (Find approved
vacuums at carpet-rug.com.)
To be even safer:
• Launder your pillows, quilts, and comforters every two to three months.
• Consider investing in a HEPA air purifier. It filters out small particles
in the air and lessens the amount of allergy-aggravating dust circulating in
• Steam clean your carpets every 12 to 18 months to knock out dust mites
and their droppings.
When Gerba and his colleagues ranked household areas by their germ load — including Streptococcus and
diarrhea-inducing E. coli — the kitchen took the dubious top
prize. “In most homes, you're better off eating off the toilet
than the kitchen counter,” Gerba says. That's partly because “people
tend to use antibacterial products in the bathroom but not the kitchen,” he
The least you should do:
• Clean your sponge. “The tiny crevices trap bacteria, and a sponge
just wipes those germs all over the place,” Gerba says. Microwave your
wet sponge or run it through the dishwasher daily. And for tasks that don't
require a sponge, like giving your countertops a once-over, opt instead for paper
To be even safer:
• Spritz the sink, countertops, and cutting boards with an antimicrobial
spray after preparing every meal. To kill the most germs, let the cleaner sit
(check the label for exact times) before wiping it up with a paper towel.
• Load the dishwasher or wash dishes by hand every night. Wet, food-spattered
surfaces are an ideal breeding ground for bugs.
• Swab the fridge handle and telephone with antimicrobial cleaner daily
to cut down on trading germs (if you open the fridge or answer the phone after
cutting raw meat, the next person to touch that surface will encounter those
• Sweep up crumbs with a dry cloth sweeper (try the
Swiffer Complete Pack, $13; walgreens.com).
The Living Room
Feeling guilty because you're hiding all that dust under the rug? You're
on your honor when it comes to cleaning the living room — you can safely
let the dirt pile up until it offends your sensibilities. The only items that
need a little extra attention are the TV remote and the computer peripherals.
They may look pristine, but since they're constantly handled, they're
almost certainly covered with germs, according to Gerba.
The least you should do:
• Clean the remote control, computer mouse and keyboard with disinfectant
wipes once a week, more often if a family member has a cold or the flu.
To be even safer:
•Dust and vacuum weekly (more often if you have allergies or asthma). For
carpet stains, keep an automatic spot cleaner, like the Bissell SpotBot Handsfree
Compact Deep Cleaner ($130; sears.com) on hand. Place it directly on
the mess, turn it on, and let it do all the work.
Although the kitchen is the biggest germ pool in the house, the bathroom ranks
second. According to Gerba's research, the sink, faucet, and shower drain
all can shelter bacteria that cause infections and diarrhea; cold viruses are
also known to lurk in these areas.
The least you should do:
• Wipe down the sink, faucet, shower drain, and toilet seat once a week
with an antimicrobial cleanser. If you need a quick in-between cleaning, it's
fine to use disposable sanitizing towelettes, like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.
To be even safer:
• Mop the floor (including the area behind the commode) every two weeks.
An extendable cleaning tool, such as the Mr. Clean MagicReach, makes it easier
to get into tight spots ($15 for the Mr. Clean Starter Kit; amazon.com).
• Use an after-shower spray regularly to prevent mildew and grime buildup.
After each shower or bath, lightly mist the whole area, including the inside
of the shower door or curtain, with a spray like Tilex Fresh Shower Daily Shower
Cleaner. No need to rinse or wipe it away.
• To keep germs out of the toilet tank, drop a toilet tablet with bleach,
such as 2000 Flushes Bleach, into the tank every three months.
• Replace your plastic or vinyl shower-curtain liner every six months;
after that much time, it would take an enormous amount of effort to keep it mold-free.
Or take a more Earth-friendly approach: Buy a nylon curtain liner and toss it
into the wash every few months (make sure to check the label for washing instructions).
• Swap your washcloths for a synthetic pouf or sponge. They dry fast, so
they don't harbor as many germs. Just hang ‘em up to dry after every use
To protect your wallet and the world, look beyond the
Energy Star label
the right appliances offers the kind of payoff Americans love: You
save money and the planet in one stroke. By buying (and using) smart,
the typical US household can reduce energy bills by about $600 a year — and
decrease its annual carbon dioxide output (one of the major pollutants
in the atmosphere) by about 30 percent. According to a recent Environmental
Protection Agency survey, about 72 percent of us are purchasing energy-efficient
But figuring out which appliances are best for your wallet and the environment
takes some work. Many consumers start by looking to the Energy Star label,
a sticker that is supposed to let you know which washers, refrigerators and
other appliances are the most energy-efficient. The problem? The Star doesn't
tell you everything.
The Energy Star program, administered jointly by the EPA and the Department
of Energy, recognizes products that exceed the government's standards
for energy consumption, explains Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary for
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE. It was never intended to
provide all the information you'd need to select an appliance, just to
help you narrow your choices.
But there's been some confusion about the Star in recent months, says
Jennifer Thorne Amann, a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient
Economy (ACEEE) in Washington, D.C. For one thing, the criteria are different
for different products; dishwashers must exceed federal standards by 25 percent,
for example, while refrigerators must be only 15 percent better. Moreover,
the standards themselves can quickly become outdated. As manufacturers get
better at producing energy-efficient products, the market gets saturated with
Energy Star-worthy products, meaning you might see nearly every dishwasher
in the store sporting the little blue sticker.
The Energy Star designation is awarded to products in more than 40 categories,
including dishwashers, refrigerators and lighting products, that meet energy-efficiency
criteria set by the EPA or DOA. And although it has its weaknesses, experts
say it's still a good gauge of an appliance's appetite for energy.
The Energy Star program has been under fire recently, in part because consumers
often are unclear about what the emblem means — and how to use it. Another
source of confusion is the way the program is organized. It essentially compares
to apples, meaning you it can tell you which side-by-side refrigerators are
more energy efficient than they have to be, but it can’t tell you if
a side-by-side fridge is more efficient than a freezer-on-the-top model. Each
appliance type has its own standards, meaning that refrigerator A — a
side-by-side unit that's better than other side-by-sides — might
bear the Star, while a top-mount — which actually uses less energy than
A but isn't
significantly better than the other top-mounts — might not.
Shoppers should use the Energy Star as a starting point, says Noah Horowitz,
senior scientist with the San Francisco office of the Natural Resources Defense
Fund (NRDC). “All other things being equal, the product with the Star
will use less energy than one without it.” But you should also look for
another sticker: the bright yellow Energy Guide, which is issued by the Federal
Trade Commission and shows an estimate of the product's annual energy
consumption and a comparison of its efficiency to that of similar products.
Like Energy Star, however, the Energy Guide doesn't cover everything,
and it ranks most appliances against others of exactly the same type.
For more help getting the most out of your appliances, follow the advice below.
Washing machines gobble up energy, mostly through their hot water use, which
can be as much as 90 percent of the washer's energy costs. Energy Star-labeled
washers use about half the energy and water of non-qualifying washers. Compared
with a 1994 model, a new washer can cut your utility bills by $110
Buy a front-loader. Because it tumbles
clothes in and out of a shallow pool of water, it uses up to 66 percent less
energy and H20 than top-loading washing machines, which
must fully immerse your laundry.
If you're set on purchasing a top-loader, get one that's labeled
high efficiency, or HE, meaning it uses less water and energy. (All front-load
machines are HE.)
Consider its MEF. Check the machine's
label for its Modified Energy Factor, which is a measure of the energy used
during the washing process and the moisture left in the clothes after the spin
cycle (an indication of how hard the dryer will have to work). Experts say
to shoot for an MEF of at least 1.72; the higher the MEF, the more efficient
the washer is. Unfortunately, this number isn't listed on the label, but you
can see the MEF score on all Energy Star-qualifying washing machines at www.energystar.gov.
Go cold. Wash
all but your undies and dirtiest loads in cold or warm water — and always
use a cold rinse. You'll save about $63 a year when going cold, reports
the Alliance to Save Energy. Contrary to popular belief, cooler temps will
get rid of topical soil just as well as hot ones, notes the Soap and Detergent
Association. In fact, cold water may actually prolong the life of some fabrics.
Worried about whites? Washing with bleach in cooler temperatures prevents dinginess.
Although the Energy Star and Energy Guide don't cover dryers — they
don't vary much in the amount of energy they use — you can cut
energy use by about 10 percent by switching to a machine with temperature-
or moisture-sensing controls.
Choose gas. If you have the option,
pick a gas dryer instead of an electric model, Horowitz says. While the purchase
price will be about $50 more, it costs about half as much to operate.
Get sensitized. Look for a moisture
sensor inside the drum instead of the exhaust vent. The drum sensor checks
how wet the clothes are as opposed to how damp the exiting air is, allowing
for a more accurate read. The result: You'll save about 15 percent in operating
Many states and local utility companies offer tax incentives or rebates
for buying energy-efficient appliances. For tax credit information, go to energytaxincentives.org or irs.gov. To find out about rebates, check out the Database of
State Incentives for Renewable Energy (dsireusa.org) or the ACEEE
Refrigerators and freezers account for a sixth of your electricity usage, more
than any other household appliance. Today's high-efficiency refrigerators
use about half the energy of 15-year-old models.
Be size-smart. In
general, the smaller the refrigerator, the more energy-efficient it will be.
Before you buy, seriously consider what your family truly requires. Amann says
that a 21- to 24-cubic-foot refrigerator should meet the needs of most families.
Look for a freezer on the bottom. This
is the best configuration, energy-wise, followed closely by the significantly
more popular top-mount. Freezer-on-the-side models are the worst,
using 10 to 15 percent more energy. (The freezer compartment has
greater surface area, making it harder to cool).
Stay stocked. Because it takes a lot
of energy to cool an empty space, freezers run most efficiently when full.
However, you shouldn't overstuff the fridge: When food is touching the
top and sides, air can't move around. (The unit works, in part, by circulating
Go horizontal. If you’re buying
a stand-alone freezer, opt for a chest type instead of an upright, Amann says.
Cold air sinks, meaning horizontal models lose less cold air when they're
The EPA estimates that replacing a dishwasher manufactured before 1994 with
an Energy Star model can save you at least $25 a year. It also conserves
water and reduces your community's water-treatment costs.
Know the EF. That’s the energy
efficiency number: The higher it is, the more energy the dishwasher conserves.
Aim for 0.65 or better. Like a washing machine's MEF, this isn't
found on the label. Go to www.energystar.gov.
Shop for washing options. Buy a dishwasher
that has several different cycle selections, including rinse and hold, light, normal and heavy,
Amann says. Using the correct cycle will help cut the machine's work
time and water and energy use. Pick rinse and hold if you want to
wait to run the machine until you’ve accumulated a full load. If your
dishes are only slightly dirty, choose the light wash (or energy-saving)
cycle, which uses less water and operates for a shorter time. Go with heavy (aka pots
and pans) only when you need serious cleaning.
Skip the hot air. All dishwashers come
equipped with a heating element that can speed-dry dishes — and draw
a lot of electricity. However, many models let you dry without the heat; select cool dry or air dry. To save even more power, bypass the
drying cycle entirely. If your machine won't allow this, simply shut it off
after the wash and
rinse cycles are finished; you can prop open the door and let the dishes dry
Load wisely. Always place the soiled
side of dishes toward the center of the machine and keep large items at the
sides and back so they don't block the sprayers. This will ensure you
won't have to run the machine twice. And unless you won't be running the machine
for awhile, you can skip the in-sink rinse before loading dishes into newer
machines. Just scrape off
BOSTON ELEGANT WEDDING
to the Plate
Want your big day
to go off without a hitch? Do your homework, cross your
fingers— and hire the right caterer
most wedding-goers what they remember most about the nuptials they've
attended and you probably won't hear a lot about pretty bridesmaids'
dresses or fancy limousines. Unless they were intimately involved in
the wedding (or its planning), most folks will recall the event as a
sum of its many parts: the site, the food, the flowers and the rest.
Once the ceremony is over, the wedding party and guests will arrive at
the reception and get down to the serious business of celebrating. And
it's at this exact moment, say the experts, that the real flavor of a
wedding will emerge.
More than any other vendor you'll hire, your caterer will have the biggest
impact on your wedding reception. By preparing and presenting the food and drinks,
he or she will play a big part in creating the overall atmosphere and ambience
of the event. Will it be bold and dramatic, or understated and romantic? The
decision is yours - but the execution is up to the caterer. While the wedding
receptions of old were more about formality and showmanship, today's couples
are much more intent on expressing their own style, says Jennifer Wheaton, a
sales representative at A Catered Affair in Hingham. And regardless of the size
of the guest list, most are looking to create a sense of intimacy. "These
days, a lot of brides want their weddings to feel more like a Thanksgiving dinner
or family reunion," Wheaton explains. "They're looking for ways to
welcome their guests and really incorporate them into the celebration." Thus,
they're asking their caterers for the menu items, serving styles and decorative
touches that will create that kind of friendly, intimate atmosphere.
couples today want to have a reception that tells their guests, 'This
is who we are,'" adds Linda Marino, co-owner of La Bonne Maison,
caterer. That means working with a caterer to create an event that's more
focused on individual elements - the food, perhaps, or an ethnic theme or a
particular color — than on any old-fashioned ideas of what a wedding ought
to be. "People aren't married to the traditional way of doing things,"
explains. "They'll talk with us about what's most important
to them, and
then we'll create the event around that." So if the two of you are
food - you love to eat at the best restaurants and have an appreciation for
haute cuisine - you should choose a caterer who shares your sensibilities
and can deliver the type of menu you envision. For example, a couple who
loves seafood might decide to offer guests an assortment of sushi at the
cocktail reception, then treat them to a dinner of a few more seafood
dishes, prepared by chefs at various stations around a dining room or
So how to go about choosing the best caterer — and ensuring that
your dreams become his or her reality? Here are a few hints:
with your fiancée about what type of reception the
two of you want, then take your wish-list to prospective caterers
and find out how they would
interpret your ideas. For example, Marino says, many couples today are
making a special effort to keep guests entertained throughout the day (a
welcome change from old-fashioned practice of abandoning guests for several
hours between ceremony and reception to allow the photographer to shoot
all those wedding-party portraits). "Couples want to orchestrate the day to
accommodate their guests," she says. If you fall into that camp, talk with
your caterer about how to best schedule the day's events — and mealtimes
— so that your guests won't feel abandoned.
If you're not sure about the details, start with the overall feeling you'd
like to create; a good caterer will offer specific suggestions. For example,
a casual, afternoon reception held on a beach or lawn might inspire a meal
of barbequed shrimp and corn on the cob, while a formal, evening affair
in an historic inn would suggest a more serious menu. Your caterer should
at least a few options to fit the theme you've selected.
Don't be afraid to offer your own ideas. "In my experience, once
gotten that proposal, most brides have got the wheels turning," Marino
says. "And whether you're experienced at this type of event planning
shouldn't be afraid to make suggestions or ask your caterer's advice."
Do a little research - into the traditions of your
ancestors, perhaps, or the history of the site you've chosen - and talk
with the caterer about incorporating them into your reception. Are you
(or is your fiancée)
Irish? Try something as simple as adding an Irish beer to your bar -- or
as elaborate as dressing every table in a cloth of lace and crisp Irish
linen. Or, says Wheaton, you could give a nod to Colonial New England by
each departing guest with a slice of cake - to go.
Don't let your budget
limit your imagination, Marino says. "Price
always the first consideration, whether you're deciding on menu items,
or anything else," she says. "More often, it's a factor of
the facility and
the number of guests." So talk with the caterer about your ideas
- and your
When choosing menu items, remember that you'll need more choices if you're
presenting your guests with a buffet than if you're hosting a sit-down
If you know that many of your guests are vegetarian, be sure to pass this
along to the caterer. If you're not sure how many guests are the
meat-and-potatoes type, ask the caterer to have at least one vegetarian
If you have an appreciation for another culture — but you're not
to go totally exotic - ask about adding just a touch of international
flavor. "Lots of couples today want to incorporate an element of Latin
Asian culture," says Wheaton. For example, you might add some colorful
exotic) Indian textiles to your tables, or add some spicy Spanish tapas
to the hors d'oeuvres you're offering.
Talk with your caterer about the children who will
be attending (and eating). "We never charge full-price for children — or for the photographers
or members of the band," says Marino. Ask if the caterer offers
special meals for children (or vendors), and be sure to have the cost
meals included in your estimate.
When you're considering a caterer's estimate—and preparing to sign
dotted line—be sure you're seeing every item you'll be paying for.
means getting an itemized list of expenses instead of a lump sum for each
category. "You should know how much of the estimate is going toward each
line item," Marino says. So if you see "glassware," ask
for a breakdown.
Once you've decided on a caterer, ask about scheduling a tasting to
fine-tune your menu choices. (Most caterers say they prefer to conduct
tastings after signing on with a couple, not as part of the auditioning
process.) Ask to be served with the same linens and wines that will be
used at your wedding. "I tell couples to enjoy the meal at the tasting," Marino
says, "because they probably won't get the opportunity at the wedding!"
BOSTON ELEGANT WEDDING
Just Shoot Me
Take a deep breath
focus on capturing the thrill of the day
you thought it was tough to find the perfect mate? Try finding the
perfect wedding photographer.
Unless you know lots of photographers
(or are a photographer yourself), you’re flying blind. And because
you can’t schedule a do-over if you’re not happy with the
results, you’re also flying without a parachute.
As if that’s not daunting enough, consider the investment you’re
making. While no one can put a dollar value on something as priceless
as your memories, the truth is that photography can be one of the biggest
expenses of your wedding. No wonder so many couples just cross their
fingers and hand the camera to Cousin Nate. How hard can it be to take
a few shots of the ceremony and reception? Just make sure there’s
film in the camera (and everyone’s important body parts are visible
through the viewfinder), right?
Wrong, say the experts. Good photographs rarely happen by accident, and
good wedding photographers are worth their weight in gold (or at least
in film canisters) because they have the skills and experience you, as
a blindly flying, parachute-less bride, require. In fact, one of the
first rules of finding the right photographer is to choose someone with
wedding experience. “Lots of photographers can take pretty pictures,” says
Megan Jones, a photographer in Newburyport. “But not every photographer
can take pretty pictures at a wedding.” A wedding photographer
diplomatic skills—to negotiate a truce between feuding ex-spouses,
even if it’s only long enough to snap a few frames—plus
charm (for winning over shy kids and grouchy adults) and the ability
to disappear at times when you’d rather not know you’re being
Here are some things to consider:
The medium. While there have definitely
been big advances in digital photography in the last few years, most
with film, Jones says. Be sure to ask which format your photographer
will use: either 35mm, the kind that’s used in most non-professional
cameras, or medium format, which is larger and thus produces sharper
details and better overall quality.
The style. Photojournalism, a documentary-style
approach to shooting an event, has been gaining popularity in the last
several years and shows
no sign of slowing, says Genevieve de Manio, a photographer in Jamaica
Plain. “It’s much more real than what I’d call classic
wedding photography, which is based on very controlled images. I tell
my clients that I’m not there to create a shot—I’m
there to capture it.” While many photographers can shoot in more
than one style, be sure to ask yours what his or her specialty is. Photojournalism
is the way to go if you want to capture the day in all its unrehearsed
drama: Grandma crying into her hankie, the groom and his brother exchanging
high-fives. But if you want mostly formal pictures—you with your
mom, you with your dad, you with each individual bridesmaid—choose
a photographer with a more traditional style.
you might have a definite preference for color or black and
most experts suggest having both kinds in your wedding album. Black
and white shots are striking, but color images convey more
information — and often more excitement.
(or lack thereof). While
you might have a definite preference for color or black and white images,
most experts suggest having both kinds
in your wedding album. “In some cases, such as intimate moments
between a bride and groom, black and white photographs definitely have
the advantage over color,” says de Manio. “A color photo
just has more information, so when you take that away you have an image
that’s pared down to its most basic elements.” Talk with
your photographer about how much of each type of film he or she will
be shooting. For example, you’ll want color shots to capture
the bridesmaids’ dresses and floral arrangements, as well as
the overall environment at the ceremony and reception (especially if
in a magnificent setting, like a cathedral with stained-glass windows,
a sunny beach or an historic home).
Another concern with color vs.
black and white photography lies in the processing.
To get the best black and white images, a photographer must
shoot with black and white film, Jones explains. Sounds logical,
but most consumers don’t realize that photographers looking to
save money can shoot everything with color film (which is cheaper),
some images with the color removed; color processing costs less than
black and white, but when it’s doctored in order to produce
black and white images, the results are always lower quality.
The package deal. Photographers
vary in terms of the services they offer (as well as the prices they
be sure that you know what you’re
buying (and that it’s all spelled out in the contract). For example,
a photographer might offer a few different packages, priced according
to the number of hours he or she will be shooting as well as the number
of prints included in your album. Be sure to ask if you’ll
be charged per roll for the film; also find out if the price changes
how many color (or black and white) images you choose and if you
get to keep the proofs (initial prints) of the pictures that he or
takes. Other variables: the type and style of album and the cost
for any additional
prints you order.
The hit list. Another critical element
of your pre-wedding conversations with the photographer: the ‘must-shoot’ list. “I always
ask clients which people or scenes they absolutely want me to photograph,” says
de Manio. For example, she says, many couples have abandoned wedding-day
dinosaurs like the garter toss and the grand exit from reception to waiting
limousine (in fancy new traveling clothes). However, most still want
to include (and photograph) things like the bride’s walk down
the aisle and her first dance with her new husband.
The timing. As with everything else
in life, timing—both yours
and your photographer’s—is crucial here. For starters,
you should allow plenty of time—as much as a year or more—to
find the perfect photographer and to ensure that he or she will be
available to cover your wedding. Availability is a particular concern
weddings between May and October, says Jones.
Another issue is the timing of your wedding (and wedding photo opps).
Tossing aside the old admonition against seeing each other before
they meet at the altar, many couples meet before the ceremony to
formal photos taken. “I love this idea,” says de Manio. “It
makes the day longer—and less stressful—for the bride and
groom.” And getting those shots out of the way beforehand also
eliminates the dreaded ‘down time’ for guests left waiting
around while the bridal party is posing. “That keeps the energy
rolling throughout the reception,” she says.
Finally, you should consider the photographer’s turnaround time
after the wedding—how long you’ll wait before you receive
the fruits of his or her labors. Again, individual photographers
will vary, but many can have proofs (individual prints or magazine-style
sheets containing several images) within a few weeks. At that point,
your husband can pore over your pictures, pick your favorites, then
order the prints you want.