A number of people I’ve chatted with (who are now happily married) have mentioned that although they had an awesome wedding day, they were unhappy with the results produced by their wedding photographer. Comments have been something along the lines of; their photographer was late, they didn’t capture the moment, or that they advertised one style and delivered another. The biggest complaint about their photographer was that they didn’t deliver the experience that they hoped for on their wedding day or in the relationship that developed in the lead up to and after their wedding.
Just quietly, I think that there is a small issue in the photographer-client relationship space. I think that the problem stems from the value proposition that is promoted by some photography studios. I am aware that there are a tonne (literally thousands) of wedding and portrait photographers in this wide world, and that each photographer has their applicable costs and fees. However, I think that sometimes the artfulness of photography gets left out of the equation. Everyone knows that photography is an art art-form, but sometimes when money and fees are brought into consideration the artfulness or creativity of a photographer can get left behind in the selection process. As a result, the value (hint: packaged inclusions) gets considered first, and some people perhaps overlook a more significant consideration when choosing a wedding photographer.
Thus, I feel that there is an opportunity here to provide some guidance to the masses. You – the brides and grooms of Sydney – might want some help! So here are my top tips on how to choose a wedding photographer, and how to choose a photographer that will make you smile every time you look back at your wedding photographs.
Of course, being a wedding and portrait photographer myself, I have a bias in this discussion, but I feel comfortable in recommending you away from me if I do not suit your style.
How do I choose a wedding photographer?
This question is difficult to give a direct answer to, simply because there is such an abundance of wedding photographers out there. There are loads of styles, packages, price ranges, and personalities to choose from. Further, Uncle Bob and his DSLR camera are available, keen, and cheap (free!).
Let me start with this: Don’t ask Uncle Bob to photograph your wedding. There – I said it. Don’t ask a family member or friend to photograph your wedding. There are many reasons…
Uncle Bob might be decent with his camera. But is he experienced under pressure? Has he been to enough weddings to expect what happens next? There are so many subtle aspects to a wedding that make for the best photo opportunities and memories, that are easily missed by those who are not expecting them. Emotion, reactions of parents and family members, subtle looks that the bride and groom give each other during the ceremony and speeches, not to mention the shy couple who’s’ first kiss lasts literally just a split-second. Genuine emotion only occurs once.
Uncle Bob is also a guest. You want your family and friends to relax and have fun on your wedding day. The day is about celebrating you as a couple, so let them celebrate you! You would be surprised at how often photographers run around in a sweat photographing a wedding day. We need to be all over it! Whilst your guests can watch from afar under a shady tree, your photographer cannot.
This is a difficult point to write; but what if Uncle Bob makes a mistake? What if Uncle Bob misses your first kiss? Does Uncle Bob know how to manage family members whilst taking your formal family photographs? If Uncle Bob makes an error it could be quite upsetting which might test family relations after your wedding (we’ve heard the stories!). Our job as professionals is to get it right and to get it right every time. This is important to consider when you choose a wedding photographer because most people get married once!
To help address the primary topic, let’s address this first: What makes a good wedding photographer?
A good wedding photographer is technically capable. A great wedding photographer can understand light, and they can ‘paint’ with light. An awesome photographer uses their tools to create photographs that are meaningful, and tell a story of you on your wedding day. Importantly, the best wedding photographer can get it right ‘in-camera’ every time, and they are there when they need to be – they have the experience to know what to expect, and can get the shot they need when the moment occurs to tell your story.
Generally, a good photograph is created by lighting a subject properly and framing the subject in a good location with an interesting composition. Photoshop and other tools are available to aid in enhancing good photographs, but you cannot create a good photograph without nailing three fundamental concepts – light, location, and composition.
So, how do you choose a wedding photographer – and select the best wedding photographer for your wedding?
At the end of the day, there can be quite a few similarities between wedding and portrait photographers, so the photographer’s individual style, story-telling ability, and personality comprise the main differences. Remember the above proposition – photography is an art-form. You need to know that the photographer’s style represents you as a bride and groom and that they can work well with you to document moments from your wedding day that are captured timelessly.
Although perhaps hard to stomach, it’s worth paying a little more for a photographer that you like, rather than skimping a little to get a second-rate photographer ‘that will do’. The reason is simple: after your wedding day, the dress and suit are in storage, the cake is eaten, the wedding cars have driven off… the only things that are left are your memories and the memories that you re-live through your wedding photographs. When you choose a wedding photographer it is important to keep this in mind.
Browse through your prospective photographer’s portfolio. Most wedding photographers have sample galleries online. Decide if you like their photographs. Do you like the way that they represent their wedding couples in the photographs? What do you think of their composition and framing? What about the colour grading in the photographs – do you like the editing that is applied to their sample images? Do you think that their wedding photographs are a timeless representation of that couple?
A key difference between wedding photographers – is how well they can tell the story of a couple and their wedding through the use of the photographic medium. Most couples will probably display about two to three of their favourite wedding photographs on their wall, and if your photographer can tell your story in those photographs then you’re on to a winner!
A small, be important consideration – How well does your potential photographer’s personality fit with you and your wedding plans? Does your photographer You will probably be able to understand most of the above criteria before meeting with your photographer, so I suggest that when you meet in person that you ask questions to help you understand their personality. Do you think that they will be fun to work with? Do think that they will have fun with you on your wedding day?
Here’s a big one – Do you think that you would want to see yourself in your potential photographer’s images hanging above your fireplace, in ten years time? Remember, your wedding day is just a snapshot of the commencement your lives together… you want to look back at this day through these photographs and remember that you had a really awesome wedding!
So finally, some advice:
When you choose a wedding photographer my suggestion is to look around on your prospective photographer’s website and ask yourself some questions in relation to the above considerations (light, location, composition, experience, style and how much you like their work). Find out how your chosen photographer works with their clients. Please ensure that you meet with them at the time of booking (which is why I insist on meeting my clients for a coffee!), and also speak to them at least once before your wedding day to clarifying your wedding schedule.
So, I hope I have been of some help to you in making this tough decision easier…
Good luck, and all the best for your wedding day!