Wedding Photography 101

Wedding Photography has changed quite a bit over the years. One of the most significant changes has been the advent of digital photography.

A decade or two ago, there were only a few qualified wedding photographers in any given geographic area, since the training involved in creating quality images of weddings, usually with medium format film cameras, was intense. As time went on, the cameras became easier to use, and digital photography is much more forgiving than film, thus encouraging many to try their hand at wedding photography. Although it is wonderful for brides and grooms to have so many choices, it is also confusing about what qualities in a photographer you should be evaluating.

Referrals are always a start when you begin your search for a photographer. If someone you know or trust has been happy with a photographer’s work, there is a strong probability that you will also. If the catering venue has a list of photographers, this can also be beneficial, as those photographers have proven themselves over and over, they are familiar with the venue, and the previous clients have given positive reviews. However, you may also find your perfect photographer through a website, a bridal show, a magazine, or other means. In that case it would be beneficial to ask for a few referrals.

A very important component of making your choice is to meet with your photographer. In addition to getting a feel for the photographer’s style, you should also be able to get a good sense of how you connect. The photographer will be able to get the best photographs of you as a couple, as well as those of your guests, when you feel comfortable with him or her. Unlike the florist, the caterer or the band, the photographer will accompany you the entire day, so you will want someone with whom you will feel very comfortable. When I work, I try to be always present and approachable, so that anyone can ask for a special photograph, yet not be noticed or obtrusive. Attention should not be directed away from where it should be! One of the fundamental changes that digital photography allows is the ability to view and share photographs on line. In the not too distant past, I used to hear complaints from wedding guests that they never get to see the photographs. That is because the bride and groom would have their proofs, and if you didn’t happen to see them at their own house, or ask for them to bring them where you would see them, no one else could enjoy them. It also meant that both sets of parents would need to borrow the proofs, sometimes for a length of time, before the albums could be ordered. Brides and Grooms can now share with their friends and family on line. The guests can usually even order a photograph right on line without bothering the bride and groom to order for them, and then dealing with the money. Whether or not the guests want to order photographs for themselves, or as a gift for the happy couple, it is still a lot of fun to relive the wedding through the photographs.

Another big change with digital photography is the ability of the photographer to be more creative with the actual wedding albums. Multiple images can go on a page to help tell the story of the day. The same image could be color, black and white, or sepia toned. Wedding photography packages are not as standard as they used to be. Comparing packages that different photographers offer can be extremely confusing. I cannot stress enough that you should try not to base your selection of a certain photographer on price alone, or on what items are in a specific package. If you find a photographer whose style you love, see if you can custom create a package that suits you. The most important thing is having the photographs taken that you will cherish forever. You can always add another album or prints to a package at a later time. There are couples that would like to contract for the photography, and then create their own albums. Brides and grooms may not realize the intense time and know-how that goes into album making, and may put the job off and end up with nothing but a stack of proofs. Also, the top album companies only deal with professional photographers, so couples should make sure that they could always have the opportunity to come back to their photographer to get a beautiful album made, even if they originally contracted for proofs only or a disc. I have had people ask me, when they hear that I am a wedding photographer, if they can make an album years after their wedding. All they have are proofs. Although it can be done, it would be costly and the quality would not be what it should be. It would be a shame to wish at a future anniversary that you had an album made of your wedding to enjoy and to pass down to future generations, but one was never made. Especially in a time in which we are loaded with snapshots, there is still nothing like having a magnificent album to remember such a special day!

With the improved cameras, a few wedding couples may think that they can have friends take photos and that will be enough. There is no replacement for the skill, artistic vision, and experience of a professional photographer. It can also be an imposition to guests to expect them to cover the event, as they will always worry that they are missing something important, and then feel guilty if they did miss something. However, it is always fun to let guests take candids that they will then send to you. Your guests may put together groups of people that the hired photographer wouldn’t think of. I like it when guests take photos, because when they gather the group, I also grab a shot, and it will be a good one!

When you look at a photographer’s work, you will want to see artistic vision, as well as good, flattering lighting on the subjects. Some will prefer more traditional, while others prefer more avant-garde compositions. Whichever you prefer, you will still want to look good! An experienced photographer knows how to pose and light people well. You want to have the most flattering photographs of you and your guests as well. If you see in a photographer’s work, people who look good, and look natural and comfortable, that is a reflection of the photographer.

Although wedding photographers have always taken plenty of photographs at a wedding to make sure to cover the event, with digital photography there may be a large increase in the number taken. The important thing to remember is that it is the quality of the photographs taken, not the quantity. If a photographer tells you that they will take 800 photographs, that does not mean that once edited, you will find the images that you will love to have to reflect on for decades to come.

Some photographers may be accompanied by an assistant or two. That might also increase the amount of images taken. It will also direct more attention to the photography. It is a personal preference to how important unobtrusive photography is to you. In my opinion, a good, experienced photographer should be able to cover the event without multiple shooters. You may even have the option of hiring the photographer with or without assistants.

Have fun visiting photographers to look at their work. You my even get some ideas for dresses, flowers, or table settings! I love looking at photographs. Enjoy!

Deborah K O’Brien
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