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Hello there! I'm Matt, and I'd like to talk about myself for a bit. I was born and raised in the mythical 'Amish Country' of far-off Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And although I often have a beard, I'm not actually Amish myself. I became a photographer because 'standard' kind of bores me. I went to a university for a year enrolled in an engineering program, but during a very spirited lecture on how ball bearings are made (seriously, the professor was talking with his hands, and he wasn't even Italian. It was a tour de force.), I instantly decided I was done. I went to art school (goodbye backup plan!), became a wedding photographer, and haven't regretted it since.

I first started out shooting for a more 'traditional' wedding studio.…very posey pose type stuff. While I do get genuinely excited about finding great light and setting up a killer posed portrait, the 'look at me and smile in every photo' style eventually got to me. In my opinion, it didn't really convey the emotions present on a wedding day, and I rarely felt that I was telling an authentic story for the couple. You'd think that most of their guests spent the entire day following me around and smiling! I decided to start looking for a different kind of client — a bit (or a lot!) quirky, with an artsy bent, who weren't afraid to let their wedding day be what they wanted it to be, and who had an appreciation for real, candid moments.

I now shoot in a primarily photo-journalistic style, with a sprinkling of portraiture thrown in. I firmly believe that your wedding day is uniquely yours, should be lived in the way that you want to live it, and should be photographed, not manufactured. If I simply direct you around the whole day, and give you the same images I've given to every other couple that season ("adjust your bracelet and smile at me! Now lets have your mom smile at me while she zips up your dress! etc.), it ceases to be your wedding anymore! It becomes mine, and I would be doing you a huge disservice by not allowing you to make your own memories of your day. I'm not a total fly on the wall — I do provide direction when I have to. But, I try to stay hands off as much as possible, and let the day happen around me.

Think about it — which moment are you going to more vividly remember in 20 years? Holding the knife together and smiling at me before cutting your cake? Or the moments directly afterwards, when the two of you smashed that cake all over each other, and then had to spend two minutes clearing the icing out of your nostrils?

I'd venture to guess the answer was the second one. And I want to photograph you clearing that icing out of your nostrils.

Now, for some bonus fun facts that make me even more relatable to you, my future client!

  • I have a healthy interest in music that's second only to my interest in photography. I play the guitar and keyboard, and find it impossible to learn covers. I inevitably get bored and start riffing it into something of my own.
  • I built my current bicycle because one day I realized that I didn't know how to build a bicycle.
  • I've photographed weddings with a broken arm. I got thrown off the aforementioned bicycle by a pothole (thanks Philadelphia streets department!) and broke both bones in my left forearm. I had two metal plates put in, and shot two weddings while my arm was still healing in a brace.
  • I'm a big ol' nerd. Sci fi? Yes please. Let's talk Lando.
  • I was a MASSIVE video game nerd when I was younger, and still have all of my old systems and games. I've stopped an engagement session for 2 minutes to argue with the groom over what the correct 30-life code for Contra on the NES was. Also, over the fact that I did indeed beat the game without dying.
  • I've gone skydiving, and our parachute failed. We had to use our back-up chute to stop the whole 'dying' thing.
  • I wandered around Scotland for two weeks with nothing but a rucksack and a camera. I found a gravestone of my ancestors from the 1740's, in the churchyard of a church that was built in the 1200's.

Intrigued? Great! Head on over to my website, or, shoot me a line at matthew@matthewbenderwedding.com. I'd love to talk with you about your day!

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How I cater to Offbeat Brides

Being asked by someone to photograph something as important as their wedding day is a big deal, and I absolutely treat it as such when I shoot. However, as you might've gathered, I'm not what would be described as a 'straight-laced' kind of person. So, while I do my best to maintain a constant ninja-like state of photo-journalistic sneakiness, capturing moments throughout the day, and play my part in guiding you through the less-fun parts of a wedding coughformal photoscough, I will certainly joke with you and your bridal party. I'll kid around with your guests. I've ended up in a photo booth more than once, and I've participated in a dance line through a party bus. I will absolutely have fun with you. No crotchety photographer barking orders here!

I love working with couples who treat their wedding day as a chance to celebrate their personalities. Cufflinks made of Lego pieces. A bride with her and her groom's names written in jelly pen on her shoes like a Trapper Keeper. Shooting a couple's e-session inside a comic book shop, because they are just that wonderfully nerdy. That's the kind of individualism I've found that I draw on. And being able to tell the 'story' of a couple's wedding day, rather than just hand them countless photos of people smiling at the camera, is that much better when the day itself, like the couple, is unique. It makes for an exciting story.

I'm currently based in Philadelphia, but often shoot in NY/NJ/DE/MD/DC. Getting married further away than that? No worries, I love traveling, and I'd love to go somewhere awesome with you. Let's talk destination packages.

"Matthew Bender did an amazing job with our engagement and wedding photos. His photojournalist style captured the emotion, the energy, and the personalities that define me, my partner, and our close family and friends. Our photos are that perfect combination of artsy and organic. Matthew Bender gave us more photos than promised in our contract, and he spent extra time with us during our engagement session. Perhaps most importantly, Matthew is great guy to be around. His calming presence is so valuable in the midst of wedding stress, and he makes even the most awkward moments comfortable. Highly recommended!!" – Kristen & Matt

"I cannot recommend Matt Bender enough! My husband and I were looking for a photographer that would be comfortable going against the grain for our non-traditional, offbeat wedding. From our first Skype meeting through the big day and album production, Matt has been amazing, creative and professional through every step.

When Matt suggested that we explore an abandoned section of train tracks and tunnel in Philadelphia for our “warm-up” shoot before the wedding, we knew we made the right decision. The shots from that day in February are truly remarkable, and Matt’s friendly and positive attitude (almost) made us forget the sub-arctic temperatures and foot of snow in our boots.

We wanted someone who could capture the real emotions and moments from our wedding without making it feel like a big production. We weren’t interested in spending loads of time posing for portraits or having anyone jump up into the air en masse for the perfect shot of our wedding party. Matt has a ninja-like ability to grab perfectly timed candid pictures and an eye for spotting unique shots.

Because Matt takes a lighthearted approach to his work, it’s easy to kick back while having full confidence in his final results. He made us laugh and feel completely comfortable in front of the camera." – Lauren & Sam

Mention that you found me through OBB, and I will include a snazzy 16"x24" canvas with your package, on me, when you book. That's 384 square inches of yourself being awesome to hang on your wall. That's so many inches of you! Think about it!

Examples of my work

Rates

$ thrifty
$$ budget
$$$ midrange
$$$$ upscale
$$$$$ luxury