OK, I know what you’re thinking….”He’s going to try and make me choose him.” Well, yes, but I also want you to know that it’s not just about choosing me. In fact, I can recommend several great photographers, but I mainly want you to see the difference between hiring a professional verses allowing that special friend or your Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally to be your wedding photographer because they just got a real nice digital camera. I also want you to see why you need someone with experience over someone who just started shooting weddings last month.
Experienced wedding photographers
I was talking to a friend of mine recently and she is getting ready for her wedding in a few months. When I asked her how the wedding planning was going, she replied “great! and I found a wonderful photographer for my wedding!” I was happy for her, but continued to inquire about the “professional wedding photographer” and found out a few things that worried me. First, the person had never shot a wedding before. The photographer was a portrait photographer and according to the bride, had some wonderful portraits on her site, so they should be able to shoot a wedding. While this sounds good, it’s not always the case. I am a portrait photographer as well and when shooting a portrait, you can control the client, the poses, the environment (in some cases), and the lighting. Second, they had no albums to show her. How can I know how “great” a job you’re going to do for me if I have no proof of it? Third, they were restrictive in what they were offering. My friend wanted an image to place in a newspaper announcement and wanted to choose it herself, but the photographer wouldn’t allow it and they insisted that they had more experience in choosing the proper photograph.
Shooting a wedding is completely different. Each location is different. The ceremony location may have large windows, or no windows at all, high ceilings with lovely lights, or low ceilings with ceiling fans. The wedding photographer may be able to use flash, but some places, especially Churches do not allow flash photography during the ceremony or any photography at all and the wedding photographer with experience can adjust to those conditions whereas someone who has never shot a wedding before may not be prepared.
When you meet with the wedding photographer, make sure you are able to view samples of their work from any wedding they have shot. In fact, that should be one of the first questions that should be asked – how many weddings have you shot? In this new digital age, many people are becoming “professional wedding photographers”, but you have to ask yourself, do you really want someone to practice and get experience at YOUR WEDDING??
In this present economy, quite a few people are finding “wedding photographers” on places like Craigslist, and while that may seem like a way for you to save money, I can give you several stories of brides that have called me to ask if I can fix the pictures the person they hired shot for them (see the paragraph above about experience). I agree, cost is a concern in this economy, but most of us can work with you on payment plans to still give you what you want for your special day. Be careful of those that offer you everything and the kitchen sick for a very low cost.
There are several wedding photography “companies” that have started up recently, that claim to have the best photographers on staff. Some of them even provide you with a list of those photographers who also have their own studios as well. The down side is that if you book with one of these companies, the chances are slim to none that you get any one of the wedding photographers on the list they showed you. the chances are greater that you would end up with someone with little or no experience in shooting weddings. Even worse, you won’t find out who your photographer is until it too late to do anything about it! I’ve spoken to some brides that didn’t know who their photographer would be until the day of the wedding!
You also want someone who understands that this is YOUR WEDDING DAY and not their creativity project. The wedding photographers’ job is to make your memories and not theirs. Your wants and wishes should be the priority.
What equipment do professional photographers use?
Wedding photography is far different from most other types of photography and the equipment that the professional wedding photographer carries is essential. Brand name doesn’t matter (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, etc..), but make sure that the wedding photographer has the proper camera bodies and lenses to take care of you. If they are shooting film (yes, some of us still shoot film), make sure they have enough to cover any issue that may arise. If they are shooting digital, then they need extra data cards as well. While not mandatory, it’s always good for the wedding photographer to have at least one “spare” camera as a backup in case something happens to the primary camera and most non professionals only carry one camera body and only one lens and if either breaks or fails to work, then you are left without wedding memories!
This, in a way, goes along with experience, but needs to be addressed separately as well. As technology advances, the cost of equipment goes down so much so that almost anyone can afford the latest and greatest “digital toy”. I shoot freelance sports for local local publications and while on the sidelines, I notice a lot of parents with equipment similar to mine and in some cases better! Often, even with the better equipment, they do not know enough about to be able to adapt to the different lighting or environment issues that come up in weddings (dark churches, candlelit ceremonies, different types of light at the reception, etc.) and therefore can’t make the necessary adjustments on their camera to compensate for it.
Along with shooting digital, professional wedding photographers have the computer equipment, software, and knowledge necessary to produce a good final result, whether in print, album, or CD. the latest 8-10 megapixel camera, the fastest computer, or the latest software program is no good unless the person knows how to use them properly. Professional wedding photographers have experience framing, cropping, retouching, and enhancing your images to give you just the look and feel you want.
Can my friend shoot my wedding?
One thing to consider also when hiring friends or family to shoot your wedding: they are your friends and family! During the ceremony and especially during the reception, they could lose sight of the fact that they are “hired” and forget about taking pictures and start having fun. A professional wedding photographer is there to serve and work for you. You will only have one opportunity to make these memories and they are too important to trust to someone without experience. There are wedding photographers in every price range and in every budget so please do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not you have someone there to make your memories all that they should be. We photographers have a saying: