How to find your Wedding Photographer
Wedding photographers are the most important of wedding professionals. Read pretty much any publication on planning your wedding and you will find this statement of fact in one form another: “If you’re going to splurge on anything for your wedding, it should be the pictures”- The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner* , “Of all the people and places you’ll shell out money to over the course of your wedding, your photographer will be one of the most important”- The Everything Wedding Checklist**. Your wedding gown you’ll wear for say, eight hours, the entertainment will last three to six hours, and the food will last for about thirty minutes. Your wedding pictures will last for generations. There are certain aspects of your wedding day that you will no doubt remember clearly, however, once the day is over most of it will be a blur, even if you don’t drink. Stress, nerves and excitement all affect how clearly you will remember details. Needless to say, all three will likely be present on your wedding day. If you take care and choose your photographer wisely, you will find yourself scanning through your wedding images and saying with delight, “Oh my goodness! Remember this? I had completely forgotten that happened!” Also, all those tiny details you spent weeks stressing over will never be forgotten because they will be preserved for many years to come in the wonderfully simple form of a photograph.
Wedding photography on it’s face appears to many to be a lucrative and simple business. Because this is the case, if you do an Internet search for “wedding photographers” you will find something like this: “Results 1 – 10 of about 71,100,000 for wedding photographers. ” Each and every day it seems another advanced hobbyist opens for business providing ‘budget wedding photography’. The thinking behind this, I assume, is: “Wow! take pictures for a few hours? I could do that for half the price and still make bank!” Sadly, by the time this theory is tested by the “neo-wedding photographer” and the tight-budgeted bride and groom, the wedding is past and the pictures are what they are.
There is also the friend or family member with a “really good camera”. In the Wedding world we call this person “Uncle Bob”. This is fine as long as Bob happens to be Annie Lebovitz.
I have seen the results of theses two scenarios and I must tell you, they aren’t pretty. I cannot emphasize strongly enough: Hire a Real, Professional Wedding Photographer and these are the reasons why:
There is so much more to photographing a wedding than “taking pictures”. A professional photographer knows where to be at what moment to get “the shot”. A professional photographer has experience moving through a crowd of guests to catch a moment of sheer emotion – without miscellaneous elbows, hair-do’s, and point-and-shoot cameras in the frame. They know how to adjust settings (rapidly) to shoot in every conceivable lighting condition, weather situation, etc. He/she will be ready for anything and everything. Hiring someone who is not a True Professional, will just about always get you pictures that resemble family-picnic style snapshots: half are out of focus (because things are happening so fast) and the rest are…. well….. Believe me- I made this mistake myself.
Amateur or hobbyist photographers are likely using consumer- grade cameras and lenses. Although the image quality may not appear any different in a 4×6 print, what happens when you want an 8×10, 11×14 or 16×20 enlargement? You’ll get a noisy, grainy, blurry image that does no justice to your beautiful wedding day. Let’s say this hobbyist is using a professional camera. Did he/she read (and understand) the 500-page manual? Are they able to scroll through 8-screen deep menus to locate and choose the exact setting needed for the current conditions? Do they understand the details of the lens they’re using and know at what distance a person should be photographed with it? These are some of the things that make the difference between a true professional and a person with a great camera who thinks they can make some money with it. Even publications on planning an elegant wedding on a very tight budget will tell you not to cut corners on the photography. Here are a few things Priceless Weddings for under $5,000*** says about using an amateur photographer: “There is a higher chance of the photographs not turning out…it could be hard to find someone who is responsible and committed to doing an excellent job…lack of technical expertise could be a problem…less experienced in regard to lighting, shadows…an amateur may not understand how a wedding functions and which shots are crucial to take.”
NOW- how do you, the bride and groom, tell the difference? One thing to look for is someone who will show you an entire “proof book” from an event. This will give you a sense of the photographer’s basic overall style, plus, you can be sure that the quality is there from beginning to end as opposed to catching a few lucky shots. Make sure you are shown a number of images form at least a few different weddings so you can see a variety of techniques and angles in different situations.
Another thing to do to ensure you’re talking to a true professional is: Ask Questions. Ask what equipment they’re using. You want your professional photographer to be using professional cameras and lenses. Ask if their lenses are professional-grade lenses. Yes, there is a huge difference in quality between a consumer lens and a professional lens of the same brand and type. Ask what back-up equipment they will be bringing- are those lenses professional-grade too? Make sure you ask if the person you will be meeting is the actual person who will be photographing your wedding. Ask this before you meet with with them so you don’t waste your time. Ask him/her what their philosophy is about shooting weddings. Look for a genuine passion about their work. When you view the proof book, look to see if they captured the emotion and really connected with the couple. If there are certain pictures you really want to have taken (i.e. a specific group of people, a particular posed shot, or anything else) ask if he/she is willing to bring a list of these shots with them on the day of to ensure they get taken. Ask about the digital files. Does the photographer keep them? Do they sell them to you for an additional cost? Or are they included in the packages price? Also, do you get all of them (good, bad, indifferent) or do you only get the selection of images he/she chose for your proof book?
You will find many Q&A’s about hiring your wedding photographer but here is a look from the perspective of some highly skilled and established professional wedding photographers and photojournalists:
“The camera doesn’t make the photographer… But it helps.” A professional wedding photographer will invest in professional equipment. There is no doubt that the new consumer grade digital cameras are capable of producing very good images but there is a reason for and a big difference between a $600 ~ $1000 digital SLR camera kit and $8000 professional camera bodies and $3000 professional lenses. Also does the photographer have back-up equipment in case of a malfunction and what is the quality of the back ups?”
“Photography at it’s core is indeed an art form, however beyond this, wedding photography is Pressure with a capital ‘P’. A wedding photographer must be capable of creating art in a visual environment that is similar to watching a hockey game through a key hole. This takes an intense personality that is the center of calm and cool. The best wedding photographers are not bubbly slick talkers.”
Daniel Colegrove – Ventura California Wedding Photographer Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Ventura County.
*Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0247-5
**F+W Publications. ISBN 1-58062-456-1
***Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80460-X