Carley and Eric

April 10, 2019

How did you two meet?

Eric: We actually met in high school. My sister started working for a special rec place for people with disabilities. I started working there as a summer camp counselor shortly after. That's  where we met Carly who also worked there. We got to know each other pretty good because we hung out with a core group of friends. We saw each other quite regularly but then we both went off to college. We talked frequently but every so often we'd visit here and there. We have a lot of similar interests and know some similar people and we also communicate well. Well that just turned into one of those things like "why not" so I asked her out and she said yes and the rest is history.....haha

What were some of your favorite pictures and why?

Carley: One of our favorite photos would be the wide bridge shot. When we went outside we knew that there was going to be some really cool areas to shoot. We were driving over this bridge to a cool location, Harper and Dean told us to stop and before we could turn around they were already chatting with excitement and setting up the shot. We thought this was an amazing space but we were unsure what their vision was. They encouraged us to look out in the distance. It's simplistic and shows the area we were at. To us it's just a really cool moment captured that wasn't planned. 

We definitely love the ones where we played this "5 second game." We also love the editing effects. We just loved the idea of the 5 second game, it's where we can be goofy and ourselves. It's a really fun experience and you get to look back at the images and think "what the heck were my friends thinking?" Makes you wonder... maybe we should choose better friends. HAHA!

The Romantic shot on the bridge... it's a beautiful landscape out there and you can't tell that it was what like 15 degrees outside and snowing in October. I love how much those flowers pop and I love all the color and all the effects that are put into that photo. It's definitely one that you need to make sure it's on a canvas, hung up for public to see. I mean that one is by far one of favorite photos.

Eric: Another one is the "end of the night shot". The black and white one!  We got a couple different options, but the black and white one specifically, it's such a cool photo! You can see a lot of the people that are still there later in the night and it's just like a depth shot where there's a lot going on and you can pick out different people in the crowd. This is really cool too because it's got a romantic moment between me and Carly kissing and that you've got everybody else just kind of doing their thing in the background so this is a cool way to end the night with the photographers.

How did we make you feel special and why?

Eric: When we actually came in to meet with you for the first time we sat on the couch and you asked questions about who we were and what we like to do. We didn't even talk photography for like a half hour. It was more about getting to know us and actually getting a feel for each other before we went into you showing us what you do for photography. It was more of like a friendship than a business relationship. We met with other photographers, and they were all about business, "Here's our packages, what do you want us to do?" When we walked into Valen Studios, they were much more about the relationship. I feel if you have a great relationship with your photographer, the business will take care of itself. If you don't have that good relationship between each other then the photos will suffer. So much of the collaboration started from the very first visit. I think one really cool aspect was doing the engagement shoot as well, we got to meet the people that are going to be with us on our wedding day. We were able to have that connection before our big day so it wasn't just a random person like a big studio.

Carley: It was nice to walk into the church to the room where we were getting ready, and Harper was already there. Since I already had met her it wasn't awkward like "oh you're my photographer" I was like...EXCITED. It was so welcoming and really nice having that connection and relationship.

Two things you would keep from your wedding...

Carley: As a couple we like to put together some puzzles and we'll put them up on a wall like artwork pieces. We had a wooden puzzle piece guest book that had individual puzzle pieces in a bowl and that's what they would sign. We pieced it together and now that's something that we have that we can frame and put up on a wall somewhere. That is another thing that will last a lifetime from now and it's something that will be able to see the messages that people left for us on that day. I think that was a really cool idea to do something like that.

Eric: I would keep our DJ, DJ Nate from "enchanted evening". The music was constantly changing but there was never a time that the dance floor was empty. At 11:30 when the event was over there were still 200 people on the dance floor, I'm like sorry I people you gotta go! That's a good problem to have.

Carley; We'd keep the venue, we did it at White Deer Run golf course in Vernon Hills, IL.
It had the atmosphere we wanted with some greenery behind us.  We didn't want to be in like a strip mall setting or something like that. The staff there, the food, everybody raved about the food portion size and quality. We looked at several venues and are very happy with the one we picked.

One thing you'd do differently on your wedding day...

Eric: I think one thing I would change would be my lack of paying attention to time lines before the wedding day. When I booked our shuttle from the church to our venue I knew we had X amount of hours and if we went past that we're talking about hundreds of dollars in late fees for 15 minutes. I kinda felt like this should all work out, but then you get in the moment and you actually feel rushed to get family pictures done before the shuttle needs to leave. I wanted to be able to remember who was there, through those special photos, so it really does help to write down what specific photos you want ahead of time and give that to your photographers, like we did. But even after all that, so many family members want unique family pictures as well and this adds so much unexpected time. Had I personally prepared for this, I would have had the shuttle stay longer in my contract. After we signed it, the late fees were WAY more than the original contracted price. So my advice is get an agreement with your transportation with a hour buffer built in for delays that you can't predict.

Carley: Something I wouldn't change but take into consideration that no one really told me is my dress choice. I loved my dress but it was heavy. My mom said, "didn't you know that when you were trying it on?" I wasn't thinking it was heavy at the time, but you are going to be wearing it for 7 hours. Later in the day I'm standing at the altar and I'm like oh my gosh I'm sweating... it's heavy. I definitely loved it but no one tells you to think about these things. Even sitting down for dinner I took up two chairs because it was poofy. I loved it but just looking back I would have liked taking that into consideration.


Groom to groom...

Eric: I would definitely say to all the other grooms thinking about the wedding process that photos are such a huge aspect. The personalities at Valen, Dean specifically who was our shooter, was just like one of the guys, it didn't feel like there was this wedding professional that was with us that's doing this for a job. It felt more like a friend who happens to have a camera. Steve the owner and his crew are so incredibly friendly that it made our wedding day better. Set up a time to meet with them and I have a good feeling you'll feel the same way. Valen was the second photographer we looked at, and everyone we met after that just couldn't compare to the quality and friendliness so we knew it was a pretty easy decision once we left.

Special note from the owner Steve,

I have shot several wedding at White Deer Run and I can speak from experience that I love this place! The staff and grounds are amazing! Schedule a tour and ask to see our photo album they have there for you to see what the place looks like start to finish.


Cat and Dan

April 09, 2019

What is your favorite photo from your wedding?

It is so hard to pick a favorite photo, we love all of them. One of our favorite photos is the epic photo inside the hall where Catherine is more of the focus and I'm standing by the stairs. But all the epic photos are amazing and still makes it hard to decide a favorite. 

What did we do to make you feel special?

You guys made the whole experience fun and very enjoyable. You guys took the time to listen to our ideas and also contribute your own ideas to make the day that much more memorable.

What are two things you would keep from your wedding?

There are more than two things I would choose to keep from the wedding. first would definitely be the photography. All the special moments we wanted to be captured were, including the unique and creative garter dance and toss. Second would be the music. Having the right DJ kept the atmosphere just perfect. 

What is one thing you would change from your wedding?

Honestly, there is not one thing we would change about the wedding. Catherine and I took the time to discuss everything we wanted and didn't want, and worked together to make it happen. We wish we had more time in the day, especially in the morning for getting ready, but also for enjoying all of our hard work.

Special note from Steve, owner of Valen Studios,

I have been shooting weddings at Astoria Banquets for 9 years and I absolutely love this place! The way they uplight this venue is so beautiful, and enhances my photography to the highest level. Max and Lora are some of the hardest working venue owners in the business. I've seen them in action countless times, dealing with couples in the most respectful manner.


Special note from Steve, owner of Valen Studios,

This wedding I had the pleasure of working with Marz, the owner of Charizma Entertainment,
for the first time at this wedding. I have seen his company represented at many bridal shows and have always liked his crew. After doing this wedding, I can only say nice things about the energy he brings to the table! I truly look forward to working with him again.

Ying and Zach's Northshore Wedding

April 03, 2019

Valen Studios interview with Ying and Zach

Ying and Zach's weddingTango dance

Favorite photos and why?

Ying: My favorite photo is one that was taken outside, what I love about it is I love the color and I love that it feels like that we are in Alice in wonderland. Also how the photo was taken at an angle and then the way they made the veil look was very unique. It was a very interesting way to capture that moment, all the veil photos I thought were just beautiful and stunning because it captured our love story.

Zach: Something special that happened that day... we were outside and it actually rained and it only rained for about 5 minutes total and we all had to go inside to do the signing. Something that was really amazing was when it rains it's a good omen because Israel is in the desert. It rained literally for only those five minutes. That was just a really special amazing moment, why bring that up? Because we went back outside and then we took all the pictures of the veil and most of them were just out right beautiful!

How did we make you feel special?

Ying: I don't think it's just a one-day occasion that you guys made us feel special I would have to say that it actually started with the engagement session. Right away we felt that we can trust you guys and that you would make us feel very special on our big day. Not only did Valen Studios listen to what we wanted, they made us feel like a family and on top of that you made me feel so beautiful. Steve and his team made me feel so beautiful on the inside, this makes me so excited, it feels so genuine and makes us happy. We were just really thrilled to go through the whole process and that you guys were the ones to take these pictures and capture this moment of our lives. We love how passionate you were on our wedding day, it's as if you were apart of our wedding too.

Now that your wedding is over, what two things would you keep the same?

Zach: I would keep my bride. hahaha

Ying: I loved everything.  I love the family, the people, the food and I love the photographer! there's nothing I can think about specifically that I would change, I just loved the whole day, it was perfect.

Zach: I loved everything about the wedding there's really nothing I'd change in terms of the vendors we used and of the relationship we built with Valen Studios and some other people. I loved the event all to put together, we had a very unique wedding because we had three different ceremonies! We had the Jewish traditional ceremony, the Chinese ceremony and the typical American ceremony with the whole aisle and what not. But yeah I loved everything, I can't really say one thing I'd do different.

Now that your wedding is over, what's one thing you would do differently?

Ying: One thing that we might have done differently is when we were looking for the right venue, we thought maybe we'll host somewhere in Chicago because part of her family is going to come in from China. China to Chicago is a long flight and we were really quick to find a beautiful venue which we loved. We put down a down payment right away because we were excited only to realize a week or two later that maybe everyone's not going to come in from China, and actually about 95% of our invited wedding guests live in the suburbs. To do a suburb wedding would be more convenient and even more cost-effective,  so don't be so quick to to jump into a certain venue unless you really know that that's what you really want.

Zach: We ended up going with Deer Path Inn located in Lake Forest, IL. The service was top notch and the food was amazing. We were very happy with our final decision.


Current Groom to future Groom...

If you want somebody who's going to care about you and make the whole process fun and to really be in tune with what you guys want as well as making you feel extremely special on your wedding day, then definitely go with Valen Studios. Due of how passionate they are with what they do, you can tell that they love what they do here and not only do they love photography, they love people too. When you blend the combination of passion and love for people, it creates this amazing experience personalized for you, and made us very happy with everything we got.

The DJ we went with was Ryan from 4 Sure Entertainment.

Special note from Steve, owner of Valen Studios,

"I have worked several events with Ryan from 4 sure Entertainment and I'd have to say that working with Ryan has been nothing but a total joy! Ryan is incredibly friendly and his experience shines through every time. I love his enthusiasm and hard work. We were in constant communication throughout the evening to ensure a smooth running event! For real, Ryan is awesome!"  ~Steve

Weekend Fun

June 03, 2014



We had a hard, bitter winter this year but I say it is worth it when I capture amazing images like these! I got to spend my weekend with two amazing little boys. Both of them were troopers! Now that the weather is warming up it can be hard wearing pants and long sleeved shirts outside in the hot beating sun but that didn't stop them from having a good time. 

I love Prairie Crossing for its uniqueness. They have their own barn, a small beach, the homes are colorful, and they are known for their beautiful tall grass. Basically a photographer’s dream location! 


Honored to Share

February 05, 2014

What an honor! Steve and I have been asked to kick off the 2014 Google + hangout for Skip's Summer School.

We love public speaking, Steve and I have both spoken/taught many times before. Steve has spoken numerous times for small to large classes, teaching camera basics (get that camera off automatic, lol) to amateurs and hobbyists as well as to large conferences, attended by 1,000's. Steve actually just got off from teaching for the third year in a row to a large group of corporate photographers on how to create stunning images for their organizations, including adding photo fusion (using the DSLRs to record video then edit the two mediums together). I have taught numerous times over the years on parenting, home life, time management and posing for boudoir and pin up.

This past August, we were honored to be chosen by Skip Cohen and the board of SCU to speak at 2013's SCU unconference. SCU is a week long, hands-on intensive workshop for professional photographers, attended by photographers from around the world to learn side by side with the best of the best in wedding, portrait, landscape and corporate photography. I clearly remember looking out into the group of my peers, my colleagues, people that inspire me, people that I have become friends with from meeting up throughout the year at professional conferences and workshops. eyes met those of my mentors.... people that I have learned so much from, the talented men and women that I have gone to see that have helped me hone my skills as a photographer, business woman and artist. Wow....very humbling indeed.

Now, this morning, as I tighten up my outline for the first SCU 2014 Hangout, I am so aware of the caliber of colleagues that will be tuning in. We take that to heart and want to do right by all of them and present from my heart, knowledge and experience...."I know how you feel, I have felt the same way...and this is what I found..."

Thank you all, our family, friends, past and present mentors and clients for giving us so much more than you could could even imagine. Insights to help us, help others.

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