Top 10 Wedding Photography Myths: Wedding Photographers and Brides, Oh My!

You might be getting married (congrats, by the way) and trying to decide whether or not to even hire a wedding photographer. You might be trying to decide now on which photography professional to choose for your wedding day. You might be a wedding photographer, trying to understand the delicate and confounding psyche of those who engage in wedding planning.

Whoever you are, for your reading pleasure, check out the top 10 myths of wedding photography as relayed by a photographer who still loves taking pictures. These are broken in to three categories: a. Myths about not hiring a professional at all; b. Myths about the selection process; and c. Myths about how the photography should be done.

CATEGORY A: I don’t need/want a wedding photographer because:

1. My cousin’s roommate from college just got the new Canon 999D and a plethora of ‘L ‘ professional series lenses; it will be great (and, did I mention, FREE!).

Is it impossible to find a good free photographer? No. Is it likely? No. Is it a good idea? Almost never. But hey, it is your wedding day. You can chance it on the stranger who could very well be overly intrigued by the bridesmaid who has just a little bit too much to drink at the reception and starts to dance provocatively. That way, the bulk of your photos could be of her. Perfect, right? And free. In this situation, you can just point out to your kids, twenty years down the road, that the photographer did take these photos with really cutting edge technology, which is why you can see just so much detail of the lewd woman at your wedding with, how shall we say… ‘perky’ breasts. No, she isn’t the bride, but doesn’t she look like she is having fun?

2. Why would I get a photographer? Everybody and their dog has a camera (even cell phones pictures are creeping up in the ‘megapixel’ race). The snapshots from guests will suffice.

Yes, it is true to state that most of us now carry a camera on our body at all times (on our phone at the very least). Moreover, at a wedding, many if not most guests bring some type of additional camera to memorialize the event (particularly things that go wrong, if they don’t like you; tears from the groom if they do). However, rigorous double blind studies have been done on the data stream to which we are referring, and they all show one thing. These pictures have a 99.9982% chance of sucking. Really badly. There might be one great photo of the bunch, of a dog at the end of the aisle that meant so much to Great Aunt Esther. It will be perfectly exposed, focused, and display Sparky with a beautiful stance using great composition.

3. Wedding photography is too expensive – why would I support an industry of so-called ‘professionals’ who really only work a few hours a week. I don’t know whether to be angry or jealous.

You can be angry if you would like. You can even be jealous, since we have a job that (hopefully) we love, and take great pride in. If you think we work a few hours for a single wedding, you are fooling yourself. Those are the hours that you see us at the wedding; suffice it to say, many hours of preparation went in to that particular wedding, countless hours will proceed upon the end of wedding day in post-production. When done correctly, the work is extensive, fun, and pays decent.

CATEGORY B: I do need/want a wedding photographer, but the selection process should be limited:

4. I’ll hire my photographer after all the other planning is done. I’ll select the flowers, the venue, the dj or band, the bridesmaid dresses, the honeymoon hotel, and more. Then I’ll think photography.

Of course you will wait till the last few months to hire a photographer. Why would you want a wedding professional like a great photographer to help you with smart referrals for all the other services you will be seeking? While a good photographer will have worked with a spectacular cake business in previous weddings and gladly suggest that you check them out, you can spend forty-seven hours pouring over brochures featuring batman shaped carrot cakes (a theme which will certainly to take off when new brides really stop and think about it). Really, though, consider this – waiting will only limit your choices. Photographers contract for specific dates. When your arch enemy plans her wedding on the same day as you (out of spite), she will also try to wrap up the services of the best photographer in town. Beat her to that photographer for years of bragging rights.

5. I don’t want recommendations – why would I care what some other couple says about this photographer? I love her website; it is shiny, happy, and new. It makes me smile on the inside.

Classy websites abound among wedding photographers, for all of the obvious reasons. You are considering paying them money for an art, so the designs they use for marketing and information delivery, then, should be equally artistic. However, take a quick look at the photographers in your location, and I’ll bet that you find one with an impressive website, with dramatic motion and animated vines growing out of the monitor and instant chat functionality with on demand videos… and other cool technological things I don’t even know about. However, you may also find that this particular photographer has acceptable photographs, and nothing more. Then, I hope, you will realize that you deserve more than acceptable photography from a marketing guru who dabbles in photography.

6. I’m looking for a photographer who can take pictures – that is ALL. Give me the product, and then keep on your merry way, Mr. Camera Man.

Well, it is not the case that I am going to suggest you develop a relationship with your photographer that you would develop with, say, the groom. However, the talent or skill of taking good photographs really is only part of the package. A photographer ought to also be able to show up on time, dressed appropriately, converse with the guests, corral the wedding party, and so on. Otherwise, you will have the photographer who shows up at the wrong location, late, wearing her parka in the Florida summer because of her ‘extreme anti-social’ nature and a desire to photograph only the frogs near the wading pool. Again, the frog photos might be great. But you will have to reminisce about your wedding without any visual evidence to support the memories.

7. I want a photographer who does the latest post-processing fad, and proudly displays it. An absurdly heavy vignette with color spot and ‘double exposure’? Groovy.

Some photographers, myself included, groan just a little bit on the inside when clients request a particular photographic fad that jeopardizes the timeless nature of photography. What we typically shoot for are photographs that will speak to the event itself, and not serve as an indication of the era. Granted, some of the content of the photo – the people and places photographed – will pick out clothing styles, automotive or architectural design, and the like. But the photography itself – the image – should fail to scream ‘This happened in 1984 – no one superimposes a ghost-like image of the grooms head over the bride praying anymore.’

CATEGORY C: I’ve got a photographer, and here is what is going to happen:

8. I want ONLY [formal or candid] shots. Any shots other than [formal or candid] are stupid, make me cry, and give me stomach pain.

Use antacid and just stop it already! No, really. Virtually every wedding photography professional practices the craft in a way that utilizes the benefit of multiple ‘styles’ of wedding photography. Some photographers emphasize one over the other – mostly heavily posed fashion shots, say, with only a few candid shots from the ceremony and reception. However, understand that both styles, and so both sets of images, will tell the story of the day, whereas the absence of one of those sets would yield a collection that isn’t as rich or descriptive.

As you select your photographer(s), you will take a look at the collection of photographs that he or she chooses to display prominently, and these will speak volumes about the style of photography that is most important to that person. However, it is perfectly reasonable to expect (dare I say, assume) a certain amount of variety in the final collection of images.

9. I’ve got a shot list. It is important to me. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Deviation from this list will result in a world of pain. To the photographer who dares to cross me.

Please understand, it is the opinion of this author that certain wedding planning resources overstate the rigid and unyielding nature of wedding planning, which can be far more organic and fun than you might otherwise believe. That is right, I just claimed that wedding planning can be fun. So that means that you don’t need to hang your head in shame when you haven’t selected the caterer by the 18th planning day when the moon is in decent. THERE AREN’T STRICT RULES ABOUT THIS STUFF.

Nor is there a strict rule about the beloved (alternatively: dreaded) shot list. Such a list can be quite useful in many situations, particularly when family members in attendance are especially important (for whatever reason) and certain shots are needed of them prior to, say, their imminent demise. (This happens to photographers, unfortunately, with some regularity. The groom will pull us aside midway through the reception, and mention the fact the we should really try to get some great shots of the brides father who “will not be with us much longer.”)

For those that can’t resist looking over typical shot lists, your best bet will be to print out one that you like, highlight a few that are especially important (‘a few’ in English means three or so; I didn’t write ‘highlight all of them’), and hand it to your photographer. Nicely state that, while you are sure that she would capture these regardless of the list, the highlighted shots are REALLY important to you. Message sent, right?

10. I will direct my photographer throughout my wedding day like the pitiful waif that he is. (Alternatively, the photographer will direct me throughout my wedding day and I’ll obey every command.)

Neither of these options will occur; no one should allow it. Your wedding day is YOURS in every sense, and you are given enormous powers to direct the vendors you hire. However, the vendors you hire, including your wedding photographer, are professionals and know what they are doing. While this may very well be your third wedding day, presumably your photographer has had even more.

The service provided by wedding photographers is one best performed in the presence of open communication. There may be a situation where your photographer has an idea, pitches it to you, and you decline (nicely, of course, but firmly). “No,” you say. “I will not place that stuffed animal under my arm while humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic, gazing thoughtfully towards the east.” Similarly, there may be a case where you suggest a shot and your photographer says ‘no thanks.’ “No,” he says. “I will not take that photo; it makes me uncomfortable and I have never worked for Larry Flynt, so I don’t have that kind of training.” This type of open communication is the best (and only) way to conduct business for a photographer, and we expect it of our brides as well!

And there you have it. 10 myths of wedding photography, laid plain in all of their deserved glory.

Six Things You Should Think About Before Hiring Your Wedding Photographer

I’ve had lots of people recommended by friends, clients, family,… who wanted to hire me just because they knew me… And, although it always is nicer to work with someone you know or has been recommended by someone you know, you should always check their work first! Someone being very nice DOES NOT mean they take good (or bad) pictures!

  • If the photographer has been recommended, ask the person who recommended him how they know him: have they hired him, is he family, a friend? If they hired him did they have any kind of problem, what did they like best about his work?
  • You should also ask yourself: do you like this photographer’s style? Every one has a different “eye” and you may love images someone else won’t! They are several different wedding pictures styles: Wedding Photojournalism, with a focus on candid shots, Artsy ones, with more experimentation, or a more Classic approach, with an emphasis on photo quality and more prepared (posed shots, etc…)… Each style has its peaks, but only you can know which style represents you best!!
  • Do you think this particular photographer will be able to make you look your best? Photographs quality is one of the most important aspect of wedding photography: dark or unfocused shots are not what you should be looking at in a photographer portfolio. However, I have found myself looking at technically perfect shots, but with the bride or groom looking awful: the photographer’s interest should not only be taking beautiful photos but also to make you look your best!!
  • It also is a big plus to see at least one entire wedding sample (lots of wedding photographers have a blog or blog section on their websites where you will find them). Anyone can make a 30 pictures gallery with nice photos after having shot several weddings. But do they deliver enough good pictures for one wedding? Look for consistency, not only that one stunning shot you can see on a lot of wedding photography websites!!
  • Ask the photographer what his policy is about cancellation, delivery time, etc… And remember: it is always better to ask for a contract, even if you know the photographer: this way they will be no ambiguities about any of these questions!
  • A lot of people base their decision on the price: it is important, and will be a big part of why you picked your photographer. Just don’t let it be the main reason why you choose one photographer over the other: there is no miracle here: if you want quality you will have to pay for it… And a $300 USD price difference may also be the difference between good and bad pictures!

I hope this article will help you find your dream wedding photographer and that you will have the most beautiful images to remember your wedding day!!!

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

There are so many things that worth of preparing before your wedding day. Since I’m a photographer, I’d like to share some thoughts from a photographer’s view and cover this topic in several sub-topics.

1. How to choose your photographer.

View past work.
The first thing that comes to my mind when choosing a photographer is to view his/her past works. Photography is an art, not everyone with a camera can master it. Although, digital camera has revolutionized how photos are taken and gives more latitude for photographer to correct their mistakes after the shoot, photographers still need photographic skills and knowledge in order to capture the moments. That skills and knowledge can not be developed or acquired overnight. It takes time for a newbie to become a fully fledged artist. Regardless what the photographer states, if you do not like his/her past work, don’t work with that photographer. Remember, you are going to hire someone to record maybe the most important moments in your life. You do not want to regret after seeing the wedding photos that you are not happy with. Budget enough money and take enough time to find and hire a capable photographer that matches your style and taste.

Photography styles
Traditionally, wedding photos are mostly done inside studios with props and setups. Photographer often gives very specific modeling instructions and advice to brides and grooms. If the subjects know how to pose correctly, it can result in great photos that are sharp and well composed. Unfortunately lots of people are camera shy and don’t even know how to smile in front of a camera. Under this circumstance, posed shots may not be your best choice.

Photojournalistic wedding photography has gained its popularity during the past 15- 20 years. This photography style offers less formalized shots with much less posing requirements from the subjects. Photographer takes the shots without giving too many instructions and records raw and untarnished emotion. Sometimes, subjects don’t even realize that they are photographed. I personally prefer this approach for portrait because people look best when they are under their natural state. However, this approach can cause technical constraints with photographer. As lighting is one of the most important elements of photography, photographer may not get all the preferred lighting when he/she moves around like a journalist. Photographer really needs to rely on their knowledge and equipment to get the best shots taken.

Wedding is never a natural event; therefore, hybrid style is frequently used. Hybrid style photography is a blend of staged shots with photojournalistic shots. Photographer can ask group shots to be staged while take candid photo to show emotions or story.

Cost
This is the one question that’s asked most frequently. When selecting photographer, many brides put the price as the number one deciding factor. I believe that this is not the best approach of choosing the right photographer. Please remember, you are hiring someone to document the most precious time in your life. There is no second chance for photographer to ask you to re-do the ceremony or take the same photos twice. You really need the help from professional not some amateurs. Cost of professional photography has come down significantly due to popularity of digital camera and competition. Wedding photos used to cost $2,000-6,000, and most photographers charges between $1,000-3,000 nowadays. How much should a couple spend on photography services? I’d say, about 10-15% of your total wedding budget should be a reasonable allocation. I’ve seen amateurs advertised their wedding photography services for only $450 and offer to give a DVD disc to client right after the wedding. I believe that this is an irresponsible way of producing wedding photos. Good photos need to be created both during and after the shoot. What I mean is that post processing is also important besides good original photos. Post production can correct the color, create romantic feel, and add some nice touches to the originals. The wow factors usually result from post processing. Post production is time consuming and requires technical and artistic skills. Amateurs who provide DVD right after the shoot try to avoid the time spend on post production (or even don’t know how to do good post production) and time deal with client after the wedding.

They consider their job completed when wedding day is over. Brides who focus on saving money and hire this type of amateur photographer most likely end up having photos look just like the ones taken by their friends. This is not saving money, this is wasting money. If you do a simple math, taken the time that pro photographer charges for post production, the price you pay for amateurs and pros should be similar; therefore, you are paying pro price and got an amateur service. There is a reason for people who charge very low fees. All these amateurs care is money. Quality and customer satisfaction are not their main concern. Be aware! Professional photographers need to maintain certain price level in order to survive and make money because taking photos is all they do for living.

Most weddings happen during the weekend on Saturdays, thus there are only 4 weddings in a month. Even say photographer charges $1500 per wedding, that’s only $6,000 a month. After business expense, equipment depreciation, taxes, and other misc. expense, what’s left in photographer’s pocket should be no more than $3,500-4,000. It is not a lot of money, but that’s reality. In addition, winter months are usually slow or even without any business. If a pro wedding photographer charges less than $1,000 a wedding, it is hard for him/her to survive in at least Washington DC metro area, unless he/she can pull income from somewhere else.

Professionalism & Personality
Do you want to work with people who are negative and aggressive? Do you want your guess feel that the photographer is intrusive and unfriendly? I suggest that you at least talk with photographers a couple of times over the phone or have an interview with them before signing a contract. Do not just view the website and then decide who to use. Follow your instinct and use the one you feel comfortable with. The manner photographer answers the phone can also tell something about their professionalism. If a photographer never answers phone or only return your phone call or email days later, chances are they are not very good at customer services. Is the photographer on time for an appointment? This is extremely important and can be an indicator of his reliability because you don’t want the photographer show late (or not showing at all) at your wedding. Lots of good photographers work from their own home, and this should not be a judging factor of their professionalism.

Contract
A professional photographer should have a well drafted contract/agreement. If a photographer just promise to show up on your wedding date and does not want to sign a contract, don’t work with him/her. I had brides told me that someone took the deposit and simply disappear. Although, give a 50% deposit is common practice to secure your wedding date, ask for full amount of the service ahead of time is unreasonable.

The contract should clearly state photographer’s responsibility, duties, coverage time, deliverables, and any terms you’ve agreed upon. Read the contract carefully and see whether it is fair to both you and the photographer. Do not blindly sign the contract because the photographer tells you it is standard.

Referrals
Most likely the first person that you are going to ask for referring a photographer is one of your family members or friends. That’s a perfect way to get started. However, if the referred photographers are not available for your wedding date who do you turn to find the information? Go to local wedding vendors asking for referrals. Because vendors usually won’t recommend other vendors who provide bad service that can back fire their reputation, it is relatively safer than you look for a photographer on the internet. Check with the florist that you usually buy flowers from, your bridal gown maker, caterer who prepares your food or even wedding venues that you are interested to see whether they’ve got some photographers to refer. However, you still need do your homework of interviewing the photographer yourself. Once the photographer has gained your trust, you can sign the contract with him/her.

Timing
Photographers are normally booked weeks or even months before an event. Once you make up your mind, reserve the photographer right away. There are only 52 weekends in a year, so it is easy for others to book the photographer you like ahead of you. If you delay, you may have to start over the hunting process again. Don’t procrastinate because you feel that there’s plenty of time to find a good photographer.

I’m a professional photographer that maintains high standards both for my pictures and my services. To check out some of my past work, please click on the following link.

http://www.aperturephotoart.com