December 20, 2007
"Is This a Toothbrush or a Drill Sergeant?"

April 2007
"The Busy Woman's Guide to Clean"

September 2006
"Green Machines"

"Stepping Up to the Plate"

Fall/Winter 2003
"Just Shoot Me"

Spring/Summer 2003
"Hot Showers"

July/August 2000
"Ski Towns in Summer"

lifestyle clips — page 1

go to lifestyle clips
page 2

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

see other clips from this publication

download this article

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.”

Pearly Wisdom
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.



April 2007

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

download this article

I grew 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 healthy. Here's his take on the least you should do to keep your house clean — or clean enough.

The Bedroom
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

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 the room.
• Steam clean your carpets every 12 to 18 months to knock out dust mites and their droppings.

The Kitchen
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 says.

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 towels.

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 same bacteria).
• Sweep up crumbs with a dry cloth sweeper (try the Swiffer Complete Pack, $13;

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; on hand. Place it directly on the mess, turn it on, and let it do all the work.

The Bathroom
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;
• 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 and replace every month.


September 2006
Green Machines

To protect your wallet and the world, look beyond the Energy Star label

download this article

Choosing 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 products.

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 apples 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
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 a year.

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
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 costs.

Quick tip
Many states and local utility companies offer tax incentives or rebates for buying energy-efficient appliances. For tax credit information, go to or To find out about rebates, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy ( 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 chilled air.)
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 opened.

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
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 naturally.
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 the food and load.


Fall/Winter 2003

Stepping Up
to the Plate

Want your big day to go off without a hitch? Do your homework, cross your fingers— and hire the right caterer

Ask 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.

"Most 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, a Boston 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," she 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 big on 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 buffet.

So how to go about choosing the best caterer — and ensuring that your dreams become his or her reality? Here are a few hints:

Talk 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 offer 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 they've gotten that proposal, most brides have got the wheels turning," Marino says. "And whether you're experienced at this type of event planning or not, you 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 presenting each departing guest with a slice of cake - to go.

Don't let your budget limit your imagination, Marino says. "Price isn't always the first consideration, whether you're deciding on menu items, lines 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 priorities.

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 meal. 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 option available.

If you have an appreciation for another culture — but you're not quite ready to go totally exotic - ask about adding just a touch of international flavor. "Lots of couples today want to incorporate an element of Latin or Asian culture," says Wheaton. For example, you might add some colorful (and 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 of these meals included in your estimate.

When you're considering a caterer's estimate—and preparing to sign on the dotted line
be sure you're seeing every item you'll be paying for. That 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!"


Fall/Winter 2003

Just Shoot Me

Take a deep breath and smile—and focus on capturing the thrill of the day

go to the top of this page

So 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 framesplus 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 photographed.

Here are some things to consider:
The medium. While there have definitely been big advances in digital photography in the last few years, most wedding photographers still shoot 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 picturesyou with your mom, you with your dad, you with each individual bridesmaidchoose a photographer with a more traditional style.

While you might have a definite preference for color or black and white images, 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.

Color (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 you’re 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), then print 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 charge), so 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 according to 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 she 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’sis crucial here. For starters, you should allow plenty of timeas much as a year or moreto find the perfect photographer and to ensure that he or she will be available to cover your wedding. Availability is a particular concern for Saturday 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 have the formal photos taken. “I love this idea,” says de Manio. “It makes the day longer
and less stressfulfor 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, you and your husband can pore over your pictures, pick your favorites, then order the prints you want.

go to lifestyle clips — page 2


browse the clips

about me

contact info