First of all, congratulations on your engagement! This is such an exciting time in your lives together, and I am happy to be able to spend a little bit of it with you. Over the next few weeks, I will provide you with insights, tips, and actionable strategies that will help guide you through the process of choosing the right wedding photographer for you.
Let me first tell you a bit about myself so that you can have some context over the next four weeks. I am a husband to my wife Allison (we got married in July of 2010), a first-time father to our daughter Ava (we welcomed her in March of 2013) and I have been a full-time professional wedding and portrait photographer for 8 years.
My photography style can be summed up in the five words: classic, natural, pure, genuine and timeless. I believe in simple imagery and in documenting real connections. I believe that wedding photography is about people, relationships and the moments that they share together. If you’d like to see some more of my work so that you are familiar, you can do so over at www.bcapphoto.com.
Enough about me, though. These next four weeks are about you! I want you to help you find the best wedding photographer for you. I believe that every couple, no matter what their age, location, wedding size, budget or style, deserves to have beautiful wedding photographs. When I look back at my album with my wife, I am reminded of the importance of wedding photography and how much of an impact it can have. The people, the moments, the stories, the details. It all goes by so quickly, and photography is the only way that they can live on.
About this program
I believe so much in the importance of wedding photography that I have designed this program to be as non-self-promotional as possible. There is no hidden agenda. I just wish to help you find the right photographer for you and guide you through the process.
I have subscribers to this program who are local to Niagara, I have subscribers who are from other areas in Ontario, and I have subscribers who are halfway across the world in other countries. Wherever you’re from, the reasons for hiring a wedding photography are universal: you want beautiful images that capture all of the moments and details from the most important day of your life.
These next four weeks will give you a guideline and a foundation to start off with when searching, meeting and choosing your wedding photographer.
Week #1 – Wedding Photography Foundations
This week, I will familiarize you with the wedding photography industry. With photography being such a perceivably “easy” field to get into, there are more wedding photographers now than ever (notice how I said perceivably … of course that is not the case in reality). Statistically speaking, I’ll bet that you probably personally know at least two people who are trying to “make a go” at being a photographer. Am I right? With the industry being so diverse, it couldn’t be more confusing for couples like yourself to sort through all of the conflicting information, various portfolios, articles, prices, and options.
I am here to be your voice of reason. I am an educator in the photographic community, I have spoken to, taught, inspired and mentored literally thousands of wedding photographers. I am the chair of the Hamilton/Niagara branch of Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), I sit on the provincial board for PPOC, I am an author of two books for professional photographers and I am regularly asked to be interviewed on photography podcasts, blogs and programs. I have the insider’s perspective that you want, and I’m happy to share my experience and knowledge with you.
Here is the biggest factor in hiring your wedding photographer: the photographer is the one who makes the picture. Therefore, it’s all about the photographer. This is where many couples make their biggest mistake. They assume that a photographer is a photographer, and that as long as they have good equipment, they’ll be able to do a competent job at photographing their wedding. I know that this isn’t you, but it is a common misconception that often leads to a couple not loving their photos.
A good camera takes a nice picture no more than a good hammer builds a nice house. This almost sounds silly to say, but we all know that a “tool” like a hammer doesn’t build a house – it’s the expertise, knowledge, experience and craftsmanship of the contractor that does. Similarly, a “tool” such as a camera doesn’t make the picture – it’s (again) the expertise, knowledge, experience and craftsmanship of the photographer. A wedding day is arguably one of the most difficult things to photograph – constantly changing environment and lighting, tight timelines, lots of people, crowds to work with and the pressure that you only have one chance to get it right. To top that off, every photographer’s vision and approach will be slightly different. Therefore, not only is it important to find a photographer who specializes in photographing weddings, but also, connecting with the unique style of your photographer is incredibly important.
It’s no surprise to say that photography has evolved over the years. Overall, it is the unique blend of these three factors that define a photographer’s style:
- Direction: This factor has the biggest impact on storytelling and emotion in a photographer’s style. Simply put, it dictates how much the photographer will be “visible” in your wedding photographs through direction, suggestion and posing. It ranges from very intentionally posed to very naturally candid, and everything in between.
- Editing: This has the biggest impact on outward perception of a photographer’s style. It ranges from very heavy, artistic editing to simple, natural adjustments, and everything in between.
- Personality: This has arguably the biggest impact on how much you will enjoy your wedding photographs. Think about it – you will be spending the entire day with your wedding photographer. They will be with you more than any other professional that you hire for the day, and probably even more than most of your wedding guests, family and wedding party. They will not only be present for some of the most intimate, personal and private moments on your wedding day, but it is their sole responsibility to capture it in an artistic and non-intrusive manner. You can see how much the personality of your wedding photographer can impact your wedding day, not to mention your images. You pick your best friends to stand beside you on your wedding day because you like them, you trust them, you get along with them and you know that they have your best interests at heart. Similarly, you should choose the photographer that you like, trust, get along with, and who you know will have your best interests at heart. Simply put, if you don’t like your wedding photographer, you will not like your wedding photographs. If you enjoy their company and their presence, and are comfortable with and around them, then you will love your wedding photographs that much more.
A photographer’s unique blend of directing style, editing style and their personality create their own individual “brand” that you must connect with. If you don’t connect with one of these three factors, then you are only setting yourself up for disappointment.
Lesson #1: Identify your comfort level in terms of how you want your wedding day to be directed by your photographer. Understand what style of editing/artistic finishing that you like and know what kind of personality you will connect well with. Find a photographer who will match your style.
Before we get too deep in the conversation about wedding photography over the next few weeks, I want to define a few terms that you may come across throughout your search.
- Digital files: This is a digital version of all of your images in JPG format so that you can view them on your computer. These are usually delivered on a DVD or a USB stick. Most wedding photographers will offer this inclusive of their collections or as an optional add-on. Typically photographers will deliver anywhere between 50 and 75 images per hour of coverage.
- Proofs: A term that originated in the “film” days when proofs were small prints that you received so that you could preview your images. Now with digital, this isn’t as necessary with digital files (above) and online proofing (below). Some photographers may still offer 4×6 printed proofs and some may offer a “proof book” which contain thumbnail-sized images of all of your wedding photos. What you end up with is ultimately your personal preference. As a rule of thumb, proofs are normally colour-corrected, density-corrected and cropped, but not retouched (below).
- Online proofing: This is the most common alternative to the traditional printed 4×6 proofs or proof books. This is a dedicated, private website where you can view all of your images (proofs), usually available for a limited amount of time. Most photographers will also offer the option of ordering prints from the online proofing gallery, as well. This is a great way to share your images with family and friends who are out-of-town or may not be able to view your album in person.
- Retouching: Refers to digital manipulation to an individual image. It is a step above proofs, where the photographer will eliminate blemishes, remove distracting background objects, remove stray hairs, and so on. Photographers normally do not retouch all images, because, quite simply, it would take weeks. Retouching could take anywhere from a few minutes per image all the way up to an hour per image, depending on how much work needs to be done. Prints that you order through your photographer, or images that you include in a wedding album will typically be retouched.
- Posing: Many think negatively about posing because we associate it to our childhood where perhaps we believe posing to be what we had to do for school portraits – uncomfortable, unnatural and awkward. Posing styles vary from photographer to photographer – some photographers are very intentional and will traditionally pose you, whereas others may be more natural and will give you candid suggestions. This is definitely a conversation that you will want to have with the photographers that you are considering, and this will play a huge part into how you like your wedding photographs (as I mentioned above). You want to find a photographer whose style of posing matches your comfort level. Consider this: let’s say that you don’t like being posed and you prefer a more natural approach. Let’s say that you choose a photographer who is more traditional in their posing, because you didn’t have this conversation with him or her. While you may have beautiful wedding photos, you will always remember feeling uncomfortable and stiff for the photos because your photographer’s posing style did not match your comfort level. You will constantly associate that negativity with your wedding photos, and that’s not the kind of nastalgia we want to experience.
- Album: Even though we live in a digital age, wedding albums are still the most common way for brides and grooms will enjoy their wedding photos. A wedding album is the first heirloom in your family as you start a life together, and it is something that you will pass down from generation to generation. Most photographers today offer a slightly different style of wedding album than your parent’s may have had. The albums with the “slip in” prints that our parent’s had are called “matted” albums. While albums are still typically leather-bound, most modern albums now are known as “flushmount” albums, where the images are printed (and bound) right to the actual pages of the album. There are literally hundreds of different sizes, styles and manufacturers of these albums (I know … at the annual WPPI convention in Las Vegas, there are two full convention centres packed full of suppliers of wedding albums, prints, and so on). Some are great quality, some are more budget-friendly. Examining the style of your wedding photographers albums is important to be sure that you will be getting a beautiful keepsake that will stand the test of time.
- Associate: Some wedding photographers aren’t the only wedding photographer at their company. Sometimes, the photographer that you meet with, speak with over e-mail or book with may not be the photographer who shows up on your wedding day. Some studios have “associate” photographers, meaning that they have several wedding photographers who all work for the same company. The danger to this (as I talked about earlier) is that each photographer has their own unique vision and style. If you book with one because you like his or her style, you may end up with another who has a completely different style.
- Assistant: Many photographers will bring an assistant with them to your wedding. Typically the assistant will help cary the photographer’s equipment, set up lights, organize people, and keep the photographer on-schedule.
- Second shooter: Some photographers offer the option of having a second shooter with them at your wedding. This may be an assistant who also photographs, or a completely separate photographer all together. While this may seem like an added benefit, you will want to give it some thought. Once again, if you fell in love with your photographer’s style, vision and imagery, then you will not be getting that type of work out of their assistant. It will be their style, vision and imagery. Sometimes, it’s not about quantity (having more images from a second photographer) but rather quality (having the photographer you fell in love with create the style of images that you want).
Lesson #2: When in doubt, ask photographers questions. Don’t make assumptions, and don’t allow their assumptions that you know what they’re talking about lead to a misunderstanding.
The importance of photography
Before you dive too deep in your search for a wedding photographer, I recommend that you take a moment to evaluate how important photography is to you. This isn’t meant to be a rhetorical statement nor am I implying that photography is the be-all and end-all for you. Every couple will place a different level of importance on photography, and so I am simply saying that it’s crucial for you to define that level of importance for you. It’ll make your vision that much clearer when searching for photographers, meeting with them and ultimately choosing one for your wedding day.
Lesson #3: Make a “top 5” list of the most important aspects of your wedding day. If photography lies in this list, then you know it’s fairly important. Further yet, depending on where it ends up on this list, it’ll give you a better indication of how much of your budget you’ll want to allocate to it.
That concludes the first week. Next week, I’ll be discussing how you can begin to search for your wedding photographer, what to look for and how you can appropriately compare apples to apples. In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback. If you found this week’s article helpful, please e-mail me and let me know.
If you’d like to connect, you can find me over on Facebook where I share my latest session, wedding, articles, tips and thoughts, Twitter where I often chat about photography, industry-related events and random happenings and Instagram where I share images from my day-to-day life and studio events. If you’d like to check out more of my work, please visit my website here.
Until next week … happy wedding planning!