Photography is so much more than just having a nice camera or taking a lot of pictures to cover your bases. The first thing I hear from all of our assistants trying to become professionals is, “Wedding photography is harder than I thought it would be.” My answer, “Of course it is!” The goal of this article is to help prevent you from hiring the wrong photographer, or even worse, “Uncle Joe.”
This section will cover more of the soft-skills that your photographer needs to possess. These are areas that you need to pay attention to during your meetings and conversations with professional photographers because they are not things that you can determine by asking a question.
A professional wedding photographer should not only well versed in the technical side of the trade, but he must also be artistic and creative. Those are two opposite personality traits. How many people do you know are very technologically savvy and artistically creative at the same time?
Have a great camera and technical skills will allow the wedding photographer to capture exposed, well-lit images regardless of the lighting situation and time constraints. On the other hand, having great creative skills will allow the wedding photographer to approach each shot with a unique viewpoint and artistic vision ensuring that the shots are not just photos, but they are beautiful images.
When a business has numerous reviews they are more likely to be established and deliver a great product compared to a company with just a few reviews. It is common for clients to rave about not only their final product their experience with the company as well. Websites like Yelp or The Knot are great places to read reviews from previous clients and get a feel for what type of experience you may have with your photographer.
Just as important (if not more important) as their technical knowledge and creativity are the wedding photographers interpersonal skills. How well do they interact with their clients and those at the wedding? Are they outgoing, personable, charismatic, professional, and honest?
Not including engagement shoots, bridal shoots, etc. You are going to be spending a full day with your photographer on the most important day of your life. A wedding photographer with a personality that matches your own is essential to the overall experience of your wedding.
While researching photographers, you’ll come to notice the many styles of wedding photography. At the same time, you’ll begin to notice what styles you do and do not like. You will get a better idea of the photographer’s artistic style from looking at their blog or website rather than a few images on their Instagram. Taking the extra time to research the complete portfolios of your top choices will be worth it and you will not regret it.
We often are asked the question : why do I need more than one wedding photographer ?
Well, if you were to look at a wedding written up as a movie script, you would see a primary storyline surrounded by smaller side stories that are happening at the same moment. For example, during a wedding ceremony, the main story is, of course, the bride and groom. However, there may be multiple side stories occurring at the same moment. For instance, mom or dad wiping the tear from their eyes or the flower girl sitting in the corner picking petals from a rose in her hands.
No matter how good a photographer is, he cannot be at all places at the same time; and so, to compensate, we use multiple wedding photographers, each with a different focus. For example, a lead photographer focuses strictly on the bride and groom. A second wedding photographer would focus on reaction shots from the family, guests, etc. A third (when needed) would focus on creative imagery by constantly surveying and moving around the scene to find unique angles and compositions of our subjects.
Having multiple photographers enables our team to broaden the coverage and creative eyes at the event. While I recommend two photographers regardless of the size of your wedding, I tell clients that it is almost required if you have 100-200 people at the wedding. For clients with very large weddings, i.e. 200+, I recommend three photographers.
When seeking a photographer, don’t get caught up in the amount of products each photographer is promising. Stay focused on the actual quality of the work provided. I realize that some people are working within a budget. Think to yourself that you can always purchase an album or additional prints later (even 5-10 years later), but you can’t change the quality of the photographs taken at the wedding after the wedding day.
I strive to tell clients if there is something you need to cut from your package to make it more affordable, start with the products. Cut the prints from the package, remove the album, but don’t go with a cheaper photographer because they are willing to give you all the products you want up front. If you can, always keep at least two photographers in your package.
From the South Asian Baraat to the Chinese Tea Ceremony, cultural weddings include an abundance of exciting traditions. Documenting a cultural wedding requires additional time and attention to detail when compared to Westernized weddings. It is important that your creative team has that experience and understanding of your traditional wedding ceremonies.
Once you get pass technique, creativity, and personality, the next thing you should be looking for is an experience. Is the wedding photographer actually a professional photographer, or is this their “weekend gig”? How many weddings has this photographer shot?
While experience is important, some of the best and most hardworking wedding photographers I have met are experienced photographers, but relatively new as wedding photographers. In situations where you love the photographer’s style but are concerned with them not having enough experience, ask to look at their entire collection of images from each event they have shot.
To help you out further when I hire applicants for assistants and associate photographer positions, I base their level of experience off of how many weddings they have shot as the lead photographer. (i.e. not under another professional photographer’s guidance or direction).
1-5 Weddings – Inexperienced
6-10 Weddings – Amateur (Qualified as an assistant photographer)
10-20 Weddings – Knowledgable
21-30 Weddings – Experienced
31+ Weddings – Professional (Qualified as an associate photographer)