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.