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When considering a wedding photographer

I am often asked for some things to consider when a friend of mine is looking for a photographer.This happened recently and I figured it might not be a bad I dea to just get them all on paper - err, blog. I am trying to categorize them

THE PEOPLE:

First of all, take some time to get to know your photographer, after all, you will be spending your day WITH them and it is no fun with someone that is no fun! If a photographer was not interested in being confortable with me and my bride-to-be, that would raise a flag for me. Think about it, the more comfortable you are with your photographer, the better the images will be.

THE PRICE:

This really boils down to your budget and how much you value photography.

Take a moment to think about this: flash forward to being married and maybe having a child. You have just been ordered to evacuate your home due to some natural disaster. Aside from your family and pets, what do you pack? If you are like most people, you will make sure to grab your wedding album and other photos.

Personally, I think that the photography has more long term meaning than the invitations, the food and certainly the cake. It's right up there with the dress.

THE STYLE:

Wedding photography is a lot like mixed martial arts. In mixed martial arts, if you are only a boxer, some guy can come in there and wrestle you down, or another guy can come in kicking and win. As in MMA, wedding photography is a blend of styles that all lead to success. Back in my grandparent's day, it was mostly posed shots. Styles that are now a part of the mix are traditional, photojournalistic, illustrative, fashion and candid.

  • Traditional - Think of the timelessness of your grandparents' photos. These are mostly posed and set up.
  • Photojournalistic - Telling a story is the goal of this style. On the technical side, there is very little use of flash, instead opting for ambient light.
  • Illustrative - This style tends to include the surroundings - using the chapel as a dramatic backdrop for example. Photos tend to show more of the photographer's artistic eye.
  • Fashion - Photos in this style accent the clothing that the couple is wearing as much as the couple themselves. There is no runway in view, but the images evoke something that you would find in a magazine.
  • Candid - Being a fly-on-the-wall is the goal here. Photos are mostly of moments where the subject is unaware they are being photographed, and an emotion is being displayed.

So your photographer might specialize in one or a couple of the above styles but I bet they are pretty good as most all styles - we are mixed photographical artists :)

THE GEAR:

If you are going to ask the question "What kind of gear do you use?" you REALLY need to bone up on the options. I really don't think this question is helpful in finding a good photographer but it might help you weed out the people that are working only as a hobby with a camera kit from Costco.

  • Here is a wikipedia article on the Canon EOS Digital SLR cameras - There is a great chart there that segments the entry-level through pro-level LINK
  • And here is something similar for Nikon LINK - it has a different looking breakdown but you will be able to differentiate the entry-level gear from the pro-level.

It is important that they have a number of cameras because having a backup could be very helpful - imagine having a camera fail during the ceremony - YIKES!

Bottom line, you can get a great photographer without pro gear, BUT if the photographer has made the investment (and it is substantial) in the high-end of flagship level camera bodies, they are more likely to be serious and focused on photography.

THE DELIVERABLES:

Digital images on DVD? A leather-bound album? Images on an iPad? The options are pretty endless but there are some people that offer packages and some that do not. Packages might be something like:

  • $xxxx for 6 hours of coverage, all images delivered on DVD and hosted online for 120 days.
  • $xxxx for 10 hours of coverage, 20 page wedding album.
  • $xxxx for unlimited coverage, 20 page album, all images on DVD, 2 canvas prints.

It is hard to compare most packages because they are not going to "apples to apples". There are various options for albums alone - the manufacturer (asuka, leather craftsmen, apple, blurb, zook, willow and many more) and to further complicate matters, there are options WITHIN the options.  The type of binding, the way the images are put onto the page (printed or matted), how many images per page, how many pages, different types of cover materials (leather, cotton, custom), weather or not the pages have a gutter....  WHEW!

The alternative is a photographer that offers all the services a-la carte - a piece here and a piece there. There is nothing *wrong* with this pricing as it offers a lot of flexibility for you but having all those options can sometimes be a tough decision.

Now for the physical items, like an album, my advice here is to do your research to find the type of albums that are offered and determine the one you like - that will help with one variable.

The coverage time that you get with each is also a variable, so take a look at your day's timetable and determine if you need 4 or 12 hours.

Some photographers offer the services of a second shooter, someone to help with the photography during the day. This ia also optional but it is a help.  You can feel confident that with 2 photographers, you will get all the moments that you expect.

So, try to work down to an apples-to-apple comparison, if you end up interviewing multiple photographers, it will make things a little easier on you.

MAKING YOUR DAY GREAT:

I feel that you need to have plenty of time to be photographed on the day of your wedding and more times than not it comes down to this single question "Are you planning to see each other before the ceremony?". I want you to think about this for a few minutes:

The officiant has just pronounced you as "Man and Wife" and you are making your way down the aisle. From there, in the schedule, you have set aside 1 hour to make photographs of the whole family, bride and groom with bride's parents, bride and groom with the bride's siblings, bride and groom with the bride's grandparents, bride and groom with all of the above, bride with only her parents, ..... then onto the groom's side of the family. Hopefully, things run smoothly and you are able to break free from the crowd and get some photos as a couple in this AMAZING venue that you booked. Then you are off to be announced into the reception and the festivities continue...

Does that sound a bit hectic? The answer is YES! The way I love to see it is:

The officiant has just pronounced you as "Man and Wife" and you are making your way down the aisle. From there, you are FREE until the reception. Feel free to mill about with your guests during the cocktail hour :)

The way this can happen is by taking the time to make those photos before you have the ceremony - I know, I know...  I am a heretic, pesh, don't you know it is bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before being married?!?!?!?!? I know... but hey, I am just trying to get a ton of great images for you (the happy couple) together, in great surroundings, with your families in a calm and orderly fashion - yay! no stress.

I know it is a bit of a stretch but it is sooooo helpful, you just gotta trust me on that one :)

So that is one major way to make the day great, here is a quick list of ideas that are also worth mentioning:

  • Make sure to mention any surprises for the guests or your fiance
  • Share the must have images that you are hoping for, like those with parents or grandparents
  • Consider a shot-list, take some time to think through the group photos so those can be coordinated well
  • Speaking of coordinating - have a family member that knows all the people on the shot list there to help :)

So that is about all for now, I might turn this into a section on the site and come up with a new tip periodically....  What do you think?