How To Find The Best Wedding Photographer
A Guide To Finding A Great Photographer
How to find the best wedding photographer can be quite a task. While this guide is not exhaustive, it will certainly give some useful pointers to help steer you in the right direction, and avoid some of the pitfalls, and hopefully lead you to a successful and satisfying wedding photography experience.
It's very often said that the day after a your wedding, the only thing that you are really left with is the wedding photography. That beautiful room that took so long to plan has been dismantled, the flowers have all withered, the wonderful food has been consumed, and the refreshments, once stacked high behind the bars, are long gone. Yes, all of the planning and investment in your dream wedding is almost entirely based around that one, single day. And what a day it is!
How often do we look at past photographs of ourselves and think "wow, look how young I was!", or perhaps you think, "I remember that day!" Photography plays a crucial part of our lives, and a glance at an image can bring memories flooding back. Sometimes just seeing a photograph from the past can evoke all sorts of emotions, we can even smell what something was like from years ago. So before you book a photographer to capture possibly the most important day of your life, it might be worth asking yourself the following question.
Just how important is a professional wedding photographer?
To know the true answer to that question, ask a bride who isn't happy with her wedding photography. It's very easy to take good wedding photography for granted, but if for some reason it all goes wrong - it's a pain that will never leave you. I can say that from first hand experience, as well as speaking to many past brides who have booked the wrong photographer. Everyone wants an awesome wedding photographer, and awesome wedding pictures, but where do you even start?
Choosing a photographer, the right photographer, is obviously extremely important. For a moment, let's look at who is the WRONG photographer. I have put together a short list of people who absolutely SHOULD NOT photograph your wedding day.
- Your cousin who got a few good comments on Facebook about their iPhone images.
- A friend who loves taking pictures - and wedding photography will be their gift to you.
- Your uncle who has what looks like a really nice camera.
- A photographer who takes awesome portraits - weddings are VERY different.
- A photography student who is trying to build a wedding portfolio.
- Anyone who has no FULL WEDDING sample albums that they can show you.
- A photographer showing you only website images - you can actually buy those!.
- Someone who cannot show you several weddings, in their entirety, start to finish.
- Anyone who makes excuses about not having samples, a website, etc. It's a red flag.
- Any photographer who cannot hand you PROFESSIONAL camera equipment, AND backups.
- Anyone you just don't feel confident about. You should trust your gut.
And now the bright side!
Now that we have dealt a little with what not to do - just exactly what should you do?
Being a wedding photographer is not as easy, or as cool, as many people think it is. On the face of it, I show up on the day, shoot images for a few hours, and go home. It's a one day a week job, right?
That's not entirely how it is. I estimate that for every hour I am in the field, I spend 2-3 hours in post production. That's before I even get into album design and meetings. All in all, I calculate that the average wedding takes up about 50 hours. That's a lot of hours! This is the difference between a pro wedding photographer, and a "weekend warrior". The weekend shooter will burn the images onto a DVD on Monday morning and be done with it all. What the client misses out on is professionally polished memories, properly retouched files.
What things should you look for?
I covered what to avoid in a wedding photographer - now lets examine the "must have" requirements. This is of course only my opinion, but it is based on years of experience and lots of weddings. If anything isn't clear, feel free to contact me.
This is what you SHOULD BE EXPECTING from a professional wedding photographer:
- Full time - a photographer whose income is entirely from photography, and it's not just a weekend job.
- Professional equipment. Not all Canon cameras are professional. Amateur cameras WILL NOT give pro quality.
- Professional lenses. Our most used lenses are $2,500 each. Yet we see people shooting weddings with $100 lenses.
- Two photographers - not one pro photographer and an assistant. For images to match, you need two professionals.
- Someone who can show you all the images from at least three full weddings. No client galleries is a HUGE red flag.
- Albums. Can your potential photographer show you at least three? Again, a huge red flag if there are no samples.
- Back up equipment is a must. Make sure your photographer has it. If a camera fails, what then? This is critical.
- Your photographer should help you plan a detailed wedding timeline. I would NEVER omit this crucial point.
- Insurance. Your photographer should be able to provide liability insurance in case someone gets hurt.
These points really are just the tip of the iceberg. For a bride, planning a wedding is often immensely stressful, and I realize that trying to figure out where to find the best photography, best florist, best baker, best band, etc, etc, is difficult. Brides are constantly telling me how stressful these things are. In writing this page, I hope to help you with at least a few pointers. Print this out - consider the information carefully.
Some of the above points could be expanded upon greatly. Full time photography and post production work for example. I see people being promised their wedding images within a few days. That tells me one thing - little or no work will be put into the final product. To fully edit an entire wedding shoot from two cameras takes quite some time - if you are doing it properly. Rushing might get the images into your hands quicker, but what's the point if they are rough around the edges?
Lenses. If $100 lenses and $400 cameras were capable at producing professional results, why would anyone even consider spending $6,000 on a camera and lens combination? Why would it even be for sale? I spend it because the final product is way ahead of what a cheap camera can produce. It's one thing to say that a good photographer can use any equipment to get a good image - but no matter how good they are at wedding photography, they can't make an unsharp, low resolution image something that it isn't capable of being. Even the mighty Photoshop can't improve resolution.
Light. We didn't touch upon light yet, the basis of all photography. While modern cameras have fantastic auto setting on board, a wedding photographer should be capable of shooting in full manual mode. Trusting auto is fine if the light conditions are ideal, but the second the light changes, the shot changes. This is one of the challenges a professional wedding photographer faces, and should be able to deal with - changing conditions. One minute outside in bright, harsh sunlight, the next minute in a dark church or reception venue. Even some quality portrait photographers will shy away from wedding photography because it is so demanding and fast paced.
Awards. Recently, I noticed some awards had been given for wedding photography, and I was really surprised since the work looked to be pretty poor. I started to look at why awards are given, and how they can be bad for a bride, since she would naturally assume that an award winning wedding photographer would do a good job. That makes sense, right?
By now your head may be spinning from all of the information that I am throwing at you. So please bear this in mind - I am always here to help with any questions you have related to wedding photography. Call me, even if you just want to pick my brains.
© Hugh Anderson 2017
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Hugh Anderson Photography
Detroit Wedding & portrait photographer specializing in high end images in the Detroit & Oakland County areas.