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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Selecting A Wedding Photographer
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: Wedding Tips

In planning any wedding there are a myriad of decisions to be made from the simple and trivial to the complex and potentially expensive. 

One of these planning decisions is that of selecting your photographer.  Because the resulting images and prints, albums, or other works of art that are created from them will be some of your longest lasting recorded memories, this will be an important decision for many couples.  For some couples it will be one of the first decisions they make together that will define their style for years to come.  While it is easy to say that photographs of life events are "important," choosing a photographer for your wedding may force you as a couple to decide how important?  What is the value of a photograph (or a resulting work of art) relative to other aspects of your wedding as you allocate your overall wedding budget?  Since this can be an emotional topic and one whose full value may not be fully realized until years later, it is one that deserves thoughtful communication.       

Here are some tips to help the couple planning a wedding to work through this question of a photographer.     

Probably the best starting point is to honestly assess whether you will be happy preserving the memories of your important day with simple snapshots, or for this day, and these important memories, do they deserve - indeed, will you require - the skills and artistry of a professional.        

Everybody with a modern digital camera has probably gone to a wedding and taken a few good pictures.  This gives many people a false sense of confidence that it is easy, when in fact, wedding photography is one of the hardest and most demanding specialties there is.  Wedding photography in any style is a wild unpredictable mix of portrait photography, candid photojournalism, fashion photography, event photography, and even architectural photography.  And it is all done in an environment of constantly changing lighting and backgrounds, more often than not under constant pressure to do it quickly - but get not just one shot right the first time, but hundreds!       

I recall photographing a wedding one time and met a woman taking a few candid photographs for the family.  A few weeks later I met her at another wedding, but I noticed that she did not have her camera out.  I asked her, "aren't you taking pictures today?"  She answered, "are you kidding?  not in this light!"  This church was a lot darker and many of the good angles were strongly backlit - her skills were simply not up to taking good images under such conditions.  The thing we have learned about weddings is that conditions are rarely ideal, time is often at a premium, and sometimes nerves are on edge.  It takes a great deal of skill to create artistic images in poor and rapidly changing lighting; it takes great people skills to put people at ease so they reflect the joy of the day in their photographs and not the stress of what just went wrong five minutes earlier; and it takes tons of passion and downright flexibility to strive all day long to be in the right time and place even though they changed their mind at the last minute and did it differently than planned only the night before and did not remember to tell you.       

Once you have identified a photographer with the appropriate skills and a compatible style, the next most important question is personality - do you want this photographer or photographers sharing almost every minute of one of the most important days of your life with you.  The photographer will see more of you (good and bad) on your wedding day than almost any of your family and guests.  They will share your joy and also be there when you have to deal with something going wrong.  Will they be calming and helpful, or will they be part of the stress?  A good question to ask yourself is, if they were not your photographers, are they the type of person(s) you would invite to share your wedding?  If not, you may want to keep looking.     

As you select just the right photographer for YOUR wedding, you will want to choose someone who will capture your memories with professionalism, artistry, personality and your style in mind.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider photographers for your wedding:     

Recognize that the job of delivering beautiful photographic works of art that properly honor the memory of your special day does not end with the click of the shutter - it barely begins.  A full-service photographer will photograph your event; sort and touch-up and perfect each of the hundreds of images taken - often from multiple perspectives; custom design your album and other artwork; and have it printed and bound or framed to exacting standards not readily available to the non-professional.    

Recognize that there are different photographic styles -- photojournalistic and traditional styles, candids and formal posed shots, etc.  You should select a photographer who excels at the  style you like the best, even if you want a mix of styles in the final products (like a mix of candids and classical posed portraits, for example). Full-service professional photographers usually have the skills and experience to offer a high quality mix of styles rather than one-size-fits all.    

If you would like a mix of black and white and color, or other artistic treatments, make sure your photographer has the skill and capability to deliver them. Consider both your personal taste and the type of wedding you are planning when deciding your preferences.   

In evaluating the creative portfolio of a candidate photographer make sure you look at images from multiple weddings, look at ALL of the images from a few weddings, and of course, look at several sample albums from entire weddings from start to finish, rather than just a few select shots. Can the photographer deliver consistently high quality images from all aspects of the wedding experience? - this is what separates the professional from the amateur enthusiast.    

Look for consistent technical quality (composition, lighting, exposure, etc.) and good variety, as well as whether the people in the photos seem at to be at ease. Most importantly, do the photos tell the story of what happened in an engaging manner, capturing the excitement and emotion of the occasion?   

Be sure the sample work you see was done by the same person you’re considering hiring as your photographer. Many studios have more than one photographer and the sample work doesn’t always indicate this.   

Understand in detail how the photographer works and charges. How long will the photographer stay at the event? Will there be an assistant? Is back-up equipment available? Can you provide a list of specific photos you want taken? What exactly is included in the package? How long will it take to see your images, and receive your album, once you approve the design?    

When booking a photographer well in advance, it may be important to know how long prices are guaranteed?  Booking a year ahead, you may not yet know all the items, or even sizes of albums, etc. you will want later.  Are the prices you saw when booking your package guarenteed until say 90 days after your wedding, so if you want more albums or extra pages, or a framed canvas, you will know what they will cost without having to put them into the initial package?        

Ask for references and call them. Past customers can give you insights you may not get from the photo studio.


Posted by ayerphoto at 2:20 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2011 4:22 PM EDT
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