The Wedding Whisperer’s How To: find a wedding photographer

One thing you’ll never hear me say: “Don’t bother getting professional wedding photos”. Never. No how. 3guys_handsThat’s partly because of my own personal regrets at discovering there are no photos of my husband’s side of the family in our wedding album, but mostly because opportunities to get great photos of yourselves, and of the ones you love, are too rare to pass up.

It seems that the reluctance stems from two main sources – cash, and self-consciousness. I’ll start with the money question:

While it makes no sense to go into debt for photos, be careful of making false economies:
For example, a mid-range photographer will cost no more than the total cost of “cheap” disposable cameras on tables at the reception: [The hidden cost is that these cameras use film requiring special processing, and honestly, most of the shots will be completely useless.] If you’re going to spend the money, you might as well get photos you’ll want to look at again!

Wedding photographers range in price, from $500 – $5,000. At either end of the price range, it’s a mistake to choose your photographer on price only. The difference between a brilliant and a merely good photographer might be a matter of a few hundred dollars, so you’ll need to do your homework to pick the one that’s right for you. Don’t be in a rush to book the first one you speak to. Take your time. Look carefully at the sample images they show. Each photographer has their own style – it’s important to match the right style of photography. You also should consider the personality of the people who will be actually taking the photos. You will be sharing a great deal of your wedding day with them, and their manner will impact on your day.

When comparing prices, take into account just how much time the photographer will spend with you.
Ask if you get to keep your own negatives/images, or will you have to buy any extra copies directly from them [and at their price]? Do your photos come mounted in a fancy album? How many images will you get for that price? Will there be any enlargements or special processing? How many cameras will be working at your wedding? and so on….
A large part of the difference will also be made up of the way the photographs are delivered to you – fancy processing, leather-bound albums, etc, all add to the cost.

It’s becoming more common for photographers to offer your photos on a disc, which means you only pay to print the photos you want to put into albums or on the wall.Careful, though – this can be another one of those false economies – printing costs add up quickly, and cheap photo-booth style prints simply don’t hold their colour well over time.

Bottom line? Sandra JohnsonIf something’s important to you, you’ll find the money for it. My top pick for a wedding photographer in the >$1,000 range is Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography. I’ve used Sandra’s services for a number of years, and am always amazed at how often I find myself with a new ‘favourite photo’ of myself – a rare event for me, normally!

If, however, the problem is that you hate having photos taken of yourself, then you really, really need a professional. Believe me – an amateur will be far more in your face and space than a professional photographer.

Make sure you tell your photographer how you feel, and they will make it possible to keep the posed shots to a minimum , while still capturing images of your celebrations.

James at Tasman Photography is particularly skilled at balancing getting great shots without pressure or fuss. Tasman PhotographyI’ve watched him at work a number of times, and am always impressed by his calm presence. If you’re struggling with the idea of hiring someone to take your photo, I’d definitely recommend that you meet with him!

Wedding photos are also a great opportunity to get pictures of your friends and family, all together in one place, and dressed nicely – how often does that happen?! It’s surprising how rarely a couple or family will have decent photos that don’t require one of them behind the camera. Give clear directions to your photographer about who belongs with whom, and you will not only take the pressure off yourselves, but also have a meaningful gift to include in your thankyou notes!

You might consider having your main formal photo session BEFORE the ceremony. The advantages of this are that you don’t have to have such a long gap between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast – a huge bonus for your guests.

I have observed that couples who have had their photos before the ceremony tend to be more relaxed throughout the rest of the event – not so worried about smudging makeup or crumpling clothing. If you decide to break with tradition and have an early photo session with your groom before the ceremony, ask your photographer to make sure that you do not end up accidentally giving the early arriving guests a sneak preview!

If you are planning to have your photos between the ceremony and the reception, it’s a good idea to take a picnic hamper with snacks, and cooler with juice and bottled water, champagne, glasses, etc.
Chances are, you will have been too nervous to eat much during the earlier part of the day, and it may be some time before speeches etc. allow you to eat freely at the reception. It’s also a nice way to fit in some quiet time together, in the middle of what will be a demanding and busy day for both of you.

When it comes to choosing locations for your photos, don’t simply settle for the nearest pretty garden. Try to choose at least one location that says something about you. It doesn’t seem like it now, but you are creating historical documentation, why not plan to make it a true record of this point in your lives. I’ve seen absolutely stunning wedding photos shot on factory floors, and sports fields, around heavy machinery, fire engines, even ships down at the port, creative locations chosen because the bride or groom worked in that environment.
I’ve also known newlyweds who stopped for coffee and photos at their local Starbucks [where they first met], much to the bemusement of the staff and patrons!
Think about having some photos taken “on the street where you live”,
These spaces might not seem ‘special enough’ to warrant being the backdrop for wedding photos, but as time passes, these are the photos that stimulate the most conversations. If you don’t have the time to head off-site for your photos, plan some fun shots – give the groomsmen matching sunglasses, fake handlebar moustaches, or have them pose holding the bridesmaids’ bouquets, and so on.

Of course, a great photographer will already have suggested most of these things – so if this whole post is ‘old news’ to you – you’ve made an excellent choice!

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