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{There is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy idea…} Ansel Adams

there has been a ton of discussion lately about the cost of wedding photography. about whether a professional should be invested in or should a start up photographer be used; whether a couple should have a friend or relative with a snazzy camera shoot it for free to save money or scrap it all together. i have read and listened to endless debates in both the professional photography world and with couples trying to swim through all the information and make choices for themselves. i see the arguments from all sides and being both a professional photographer making my sole living in this great chosen career and also being a mom of three young children trying to figure out how to do the best by them on realistic life budgets i have learned some useful things through personal experience, through feedback of others and through time tested reality checks of what works and what doesn’t. so here is my two cents for the wedding couple looking for a photographer…

 

{just because a camera can yield a properly focused, perfectly exposed photo, it’s still a bunch of ones and zeros, or a little piece of gelatin on plastic unless the photographer making the picture knows what he or she is doing}

yes, all of us professional photographers had to start somewhere; yes, many of us are self-taught and most are hardworking. but when you are deciding between having a friend shoot your wedding to save money or hiring someone who has experience and what level of experience at that…please think through this carefully! i can’t tell you how many (countless) couples contact me each year after their wedding asking if i do couples shoots so they can dress up in their wedding clothes again because their wedding images were such a disappointment and they just want to have some shots of them in their wedding clothes that look wonderful. it breaks my heart how often i get this type of inquiry and they can never go back and change things. it’s done, finished…what they have is what they have…and my heart aches for them! i can feel their pain because years ago i did the same thing. i opted to bring on a wedding photographer as a favor to a friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s friend who was starting a business and i wanted to help her out…but ended up with absolutely horrible images. and to make it worse, when we went to order just a few of them that we thought were decent enough, she had skipped town never to be heard from again. so we were left with a proof book of horrendous work and nothing else. **sigh**

whatever your reasons in your decision as to whom you have photograph your wedding…whether it be to help someone out like i did, to save money, because you think anyone can do it so it really doesn’t matter, etc, etc. know that there is a HUGE difference in quality regardless of how fancy the equipment is. yes, anyone can work the “automatic everything” digital cameras these days. but does that same person know how to handle a giant dark cathedral with minimal lighting and dark wood beams…oh, and by the way, the pastor does not want you using flash. how do you get fantastic images now? what about a low light reception hall or bright sunshine? or setting sun? automatic can’t compensate for these and numerous other situations. it’s the person behind the camera who puts it all into manual and knows exactly how to actually drive the equipment that will make all the difference. not only in their technical skills to understand what they are doing but in their innate ability for composition, observing and anticipating just the right moments and right shots. technical skills can be taught but artistic abilities and a good eye often come naturally and when you combine those abilities with the spot on technical experience…you will have amazing images!

 

{when i say i’d like to photograph someone, what i really means is i’d like to get to know them…} annie leibovitz

you visit a website, you fall in love with the images, you set a time to meet the photographer, you are severely underwhelmed with the connection you make with that person, you walk away from the experience disillusioned. this happens so often and i hear it…all…the…time! i hear it from couples who have met with other photographers in their search; i hear it at weddings from guests who have been at other weddings and observed the photographer. it is a sad thing and happens often. in your search one important thing to keep in mind is that it is the full package of someone that will make or break your wedding photography experiences. yes, you want someone with solid, strong technical ability and a great eye for composition that creates unique artistic imagery…but you also must have a personality that meshes well with yours because you will be spending an awfully large amount of time together! on your wedding day, you will spend the most time with your photographer than anyone else that you bring on to help with your day besides family and friends. you photographer will be there for getting ready, for private emotional moments all the way through last man standing on the dance floor. plus, you will be connected before and after your day and many people forget that the relationship you build does not start and stop with the wedding day only. many, many, many of my couples have become friends and i am blessed to watch their families grow, see their children grow up, share in their joys (and some sorrows) and even become like an honorary family member. it is what i love most about my “job”…the connections that are made and the bonds created.

trust in your gut and your instincts…pick your photographer carefully and make sure you feel that connection. when you have that, all the other things fall into place and you can relax in knowing that you will feel natural, feel free to be yourself in that person’s company…which will allow for genuine, emotional imagery and an ease in your working as well as personal connection that is created.

 

{i have many talents but mind-reading is not one of them…}

assume nothing and say anything! when you are meeting with possible photographers please ask questions…and tons of them! get to know not only the artist but the person and don’t ever feel uncomfortable asking things that are important for you to know. open dialogue should be encouraged and you should walk out of a meeting feeling that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions. i know, for me, i often joke that i’m a “jersey italian” and nothing is sacred. 🙂 i want people to always know that i am approachable, open and willing to answer any question, discuss any concern or generally chat about…well…anything! if you feel standoffish or sense a reserve while meeting a photographer, be careful and listen to that inner voice of whether you are comfortable with that person regardless of the art that is produced. again, personal connection is key!

 

{once you make a decision, the universe conspired to make it happen…} ralph waldo emerson

do not make a snap decision! yes, this sounds contrary to popular belief that we need to rush through things, to rush through decisions, to hurry up and get it done…yadda, yadda, yadda. while you don’t want to sit on things too long and lose a photographer that you connect well with and who creates art that you love…do take just a little time to think through things. any professional photographer worth their salt will answer all your questions, be helpful and guide you through the process (which can be overwhelming) and recommend that you take some time to think it all through. you should leave a meeting with a potential photographer armed with enough information, things to look through that you may have covered like album or pricing. it’s a lot so take the time to digest it all, ask any clarifying questions and feel good and knowledgeable as you make your decisions. a huge red flag comes from any photographer who pressures you into making a decision right on the spot. think through things carefully!

 

there are so many, many more things i could share but these are the most important that i have learned over the years. enjoy the fun of it all and find joy in the planning because it will all be here and over so quickly…and you’ll wonder how that happened in a blink of an eye. but, of course, you will have the photographs long after your wedding day to help you remember all of it and get to relive moments you loved and moments you didn’t even know happened. chose wisely, chose carefully and chose from the heart.

happy wedding planning!

 

  • Rachel,
    Well thought out and expressed. Real photographers have a “depth of field” that most novices will never understand.

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