Ira Casel Photography

Frequently Asked Questions


What’s Your Style of Photography?

That’s a really good question. My style of working is very unobtrusive – I like the slip into the crowd at the party and blend in – which helps me capture genuine expressions and moments of interaction. However, I wouldn’t call my photojournalistic per se, because there are times when I’ll be directing and generally setting up an image that just might not happen if I didn’t create the possibility. Also, I think there’s an impression that photojournalistic photographers stand at a distance, somewhat removed from the action, and that’s definitely not how I work.

What Happens After the Mitzvah Celebration is Over?

There’s a lot of work that goes into getting your pictures out of the camera and ready to deliver to you. First, the image files are downloaded from the memory cards onto multiple hard drive and backed up off-site. Then, each picture is reviewed one-by-one and the total collection of pictures is culled down to a more reasonable, but still quite large number. In this process I eliminate the images where someone closed their eyes, my flash didn’t fire or someone moved into the frame accidentally. I’ll also make some choices when there are multiple images that are nearly the same – I’ll chose the best ones and eliminate the others. Once the final collection of pictures is selected, each picture is hand edited to make it look its best. There’s no mass-production technique here. Each picture is edited and adjusted in turn, so they all look they best and they all have a consistent look and feel

Do You Bring Along a Second Photographer?

Only sometimes. Most often, I photograph bar/bat mitzvahs on my own. That’s how I’ve been doing it since the beginning and I find it works well with my unobtrusive style of working. That said, there are variety of situations when I bring along a second photographer. Sometimes, the client family just knows that they want one. Sometimes, the mitzvah parents still feel regret about pictures they believe were missed at their own wedding and want the insurance of a second photographer at their party. Maybe their most trusted friend used a second photographer at their child’s mitzvah celebration and felt it was the great choice. It may be that their party planner convinced them it was worth spending extra for a second photographer.

On some occasions, I’ll suggest a second photographer. If you want traditional table pictures taken at the party, I would suggest a second photographer so that I can spend my time and attention making photographs that will make your heart sing. Also, if you’re going to have a very large number of guests and you’re concerned about capturing pictures of everyone, a second photographer would be a good addition to your package.

Will We Receive Digital Files?

Yes, you will. You’ll receive two complete sets of the final, edited images from your mitzvah. One set will be full size, high resolution images so that you can make your own prints for family members or use some of the photos on your next Hanukah/New Year’s card. You’ll also receive a complete set of small sized files, which will make it easy to share your pictures on social media and to send them to friends and family via email.


Will We Own Our Pictures?

Sort of. As the photographer, I own the copyright to every picture that I make. However, you will be granted what is called a personal use license to the entire collection of final edited images from your family’s mitzvah event. What that means is that you can share the pictures in person and online, copy the digital files, make prints for friends and family, make a book for your great aunt and use the pictures on your holiday card. You just cannot use the pictures for commercial purposes. So, if your friend is an editor at Martha Stewart Living who is doing a story on mitzvah celebrations, you cannot provide any of the pictures for publication without my permission.


How Many Pictures Will We Receive?

I don’t work toward a specific number of final pictures. Your total number will depend on a variety of factors such as the length of the party, the number of guests, whether or not we do pre-party family portraits, how many people attend the portrait shoot at the synagogue and how many ceremonial elements such as a candle lighting are part of your party. In most cases, I’ll say that you’ll receive at least 650 edited pictures from you bar or bat mitzvah.


Will You Do a Family Shoot at the Temple?

Yes, a family bimah/temple shoot is part of all of my standard mitzvah collections. We’ll spend about an hour and a half photographing a variety of poses and family groupings in different spots within the sanctuary and around the synagogue, as appropriate. Many of the pictures made during this shoot will be set up, posed intentionally lit but there are still opportunities to capture candid moments as they unfold.


Where Can We Do Our Pre-Mitzvah Shoot?

The options are wide open. My first question would about whether your son or daughter has any ideas or preferences about the location of their shoot. Are they interested in doing the shoot in natural setting or do they prefer a more urban, downtown feel? Do they have a specific location in mind, a place that’s important to them, perhaps? We can be close to home or travel a bit – the city and the beach come to mind as places that are worth a drive. I also offer studio portraits for a more fashion-oriented feel (with an additional fee for the studio rental). Just like our shoot, the choice of location is collaborative, so let’s talk about it


When Can We Do Our Pre-Mitzvah Shoot?

Pre-mitzvah shoots are done on weekdays, typically after school, although some kids leave school a bit early that day for hair or makeup appointments. I understand your desire to schedule your child’s pre-mitzvah shoot on a weekend day, but as you can imagine, my weekends are booked with mitzvahs and other events. I won’t say a weekend date is totally impossible, so if you have special circumstances, please feel free to ask. If your mitzvah date is during the winter, I would suggest scheduling your pre-mitzvah shoot during the fall, before the weather turns cold and it starts getting dark early.


What About Pre-Mitzvah Shoot Wardrobe Options?

It’s definitely a good idea to bring a change of outfit or two, or three or four. Since we’ll be spending an hour and a half or so photographing your son or daughter, it’s a good idea to take advantage or the opportunity to create a wide variety of looks by changing their clothes during the shoot. Most likely, your son or daughter will hop into the back your car and change their outfit a couple of times during our shoot. I like mitzvah kids to wear things that make them feel comfortable and most like themselves. Some kids like to get dressed up and some like to be more casual. That said, I like these portraits to have a somewhat classic look and to keep the focus on the subject, so I recommend avoiding from anything with large logos or writing, track pants and other athletic wear. Of course, it’s okay to bring along sports uniforms or favorite team jerseys to incorporate into the shoot.


Can the Whole Family Be Part of the Pre-Mitzvah Shoot?

Of course. The main focus will typically be on the mitzvah kid, but we can make some pictures with the siblings and parents, too. I usually like to work with the family at the beginning of the shoot and then spend the rest of the time with an uninterrupted focus on the mitzvah kid. This focused time helps us establish a rhythm to the shoot and to get to know each other, so your son or daughter feels very comfortable with me when the big day arrives. If other family members are going to be involved in the shoot, I suggest that everyone’s clothing coordinates and looks good together, but I’m not a fan of the whole-family-in-matching-outfits look. These portraits have a casual, lifestyle-shoot feel and it’s just not believable that the whole family happened to put on jeans and white t-shirts on the same day.


What Happens If You Get Hit By a Bus?

Good question. I’ve been photographing bar, bat and bnai mitzvahs since 2009 and so far, I have never missed one for any reason. Of course, it’s possible that I would be ill or incapacitated such that photographing an event would not be possible. In that case, I’ll do everything possible to make sure that an excellent photographer is there to take care of you and your family and make beautiful, heartwarming pictures of your bar/bat mitzvah. In a case like this, I could call on my associate photographers/second photographers to take my place. I could also reach out to local photographers with whom I have close relationships and understandings about covering for each other in emergencies. I could also call upon other photographers who are members of national organizations of which I’m also a member. I would not let you down.


Do Most People Choose an Album?

I encourage all of my clients to include an album as part of their bat/bar mitzvah package. I want you to have a tangible, beautiful heirloom when the mitzvah weekend is over. Of course, you’ll have your digital files but we all spend too much time peering at screens as it is. I don’t want to give you one more reason to curl up on the couch with a laptop. Unlike files on a hard drive or a flash drive in a desk drawer, you’ll live with an heirloom-quality album. It sits out in the open, on a coffee table or bookshelf and calls to you, reminds to look back at your favorite images from your child’s mitzvah day. It encourages you to live with those pictures and to relive the wonderful moments they represent.

Yes, you could use your printable high resolution files of the final, edited images from your mitzvah weekend to make a book on your own. However, my experience is that it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get around to doing it. Once the bat mitzvah is over, you’ll be consumed with other projects and responsibilities. I find that it’s challenging enough for families to find the time to select their favorite pictures for me to create their album, let alone do the additional work of making a book with an online service. And of course, the quality of a self-made, press printed book is nothing like that of the album of real photographs printed on fine quality paper that I’ll make just for you.


How Does Your Album Process Work?

First, the hard part. You’ll select your favorite images and winnow them down to a number that will fit well into the album size you’ve selected. Then, I’ll create a custom album design with the pictures you’ve selected, taking into account any special requests you may have. When the design is ready I’ll share it with you via an online proofing system that allows you to make comments on each page. Once your finish making your comments, you’ll send them to me in the online system. Then your changes are made and you’ll see a revised design again and have the opportunity to make any final tweaks. Once you approve your album, the photos will be sent into retouching and you’ll have time to mull the many cover and imprinting options. Once you decide on the cover details your album will be printed, bound and delivered to you.


Can You Recommend a Videographer?

Yes, I would be happy to recommend a videographer. I work closely with a talented and easy-to-work with videographer whom I gladly recommend to anyone who asks. Of course, I’ll happily work alongside any videography professional you choose to help capture your mitzvah celebration.


How Can We Get Extra Prints?

Of course. You can just let me know by phone or email which file number and what size and I’ll have them retouched, printed and sent directly to you in a gift box. This is a great option for family members who may be clamoring for copies of this and that picture – just send them to me and I’ll take that job off your plate. Also, you’ll have watermark-free high resolution files which you can use to make your own prints. I’ll be happy to suggest a photo lab or two that will provide you with high quality results.


Do You Offer Grandparents’ Albums?

Yes, we offer grandparents’ albums in all sorts of sizes and styles. They can range from a small size with just a few pages to an exact copy of your main family album. I’ll be happy to share options and pricing with you.


Do You Have Insurance/Can You Provide a Certificate?

Yes, I sure do. I have $2,000,000 of liability insurance as part of a complete business insurance package from a top-rated insurance company. I would be happy to provide a certificate of insurance for your synagogue or party venue. You or your party planner or venue staffer just needs to ask.


What Kind of Equipment Do You Use?

I’ve been a Nikon shooter for a long time. I use their top of the line professional gear, including DSLR bodies, lenses, flashes and accessories. I have backups for every piece of gear. I also have some Fuji mirrorless gear that I break out on occasion.


Is Photography Your Full Time Job?

I’ve been seriously involved in photography since middle school when I was my school’s official sports photographer and created a darkroom in my family’s tiny basement. I started making commissioned portraits in 2007 and photographed my first bat mitzvah in 2009. Photography has been my sole business and career since 2010.


Can You Hold Our Date?

I’m sorry but I can’t hold your date or put you in my calendar as a tentative booking. Dates are booked with a deposit on a first-come first-served basis. It’s the only way that makes sense for my clients and for me.


What's Your Payment Schedule?

Your first payment of approximately one third of the total secures my services for your date. A second payment of the same amount is due 30 days before the mitzvah date. The third and final payment is due before you receive your digital files. I accept personal check as well as Visa and MasterCard. Credit card payments can even be handled over the phone.


Is It Too Early/When Should We Book You?

It’s really never too early. Families get their bar/bat mitzvah dates up to three years in advance. So, as soon as you know you want to work with me, it makes sense to book your date. If you wait, it’s possible that I won’t be available. Plus, I don’t set higher prices for later dates. My fees today are the same no matter when your mitzvah is, so you do save by booking early. If you wait, prices could be higher.


Can We Get a Discount?

My fees are set realistically, not with room built in for price adjustments. However, discounts are occasionally available based on my schedule and availability and your date.


Do You Take Table Pictures?

Not generally. I’d rather use my time at your mitzvah celebration to make pictures that are really going to make your heart sing. And I’d prefer to photograph your guests celebrating with you, rather than interrupting their dinner to arrange them for a group portrait. If you really do want formal table pictures, then we should create a collection for you that includes a second photographer, who would handle the table pictures.


Do You Take Formal Family Portraits at the Party?

Yes, of course. These images can become heirlooms which you’ll value more as the years go by. I try to keep the family formals efficient and relaxed, so it’s an easy and lighthearted process for the whole family. It’s a little more challenging during an afternoon party when there’s no time between the end of services and the beginning of the cocktail hour, but we can make it happen. There is also an opportunity to do some extended family portraits at the bimah/temple shoot, so if you’d like to invite grandparents or other close relatives to participate, you’re more than welcome to do so.