How to select the right wedding photographer?

June 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The photographer is going to be the only vendor who will be with you throughout the wedding day. The dressmaker's job is done as soon as they sell you the dress, the celebrant will be there for 30 minutes, makeup artist and hairdresser for a 1-2 hours, the venue manager and caterers will be there for 3-4 but your photographer ( and videographer if you need one ) will be there with you- all day from getting ready to the send off. 

Deciding on the style of photography is the first step. Let's discuss a few styles of wedding photography:

Do you want cutesy/hipster style of  photography?
They are currently in trend these days thanks to DSLRs and fast lenses :) 10 years later - Ummmm..... Not sure.

Do you want fashion/glamour kind of wedding pics?
Lot of emphasis on bride and groom....(actually the bride). I think a bit narcissistic and unnatural, but if you want to feel like a princess for a day- this is the way to do it!When photographed by a really good photographer- results can be exceptionally beautiful- straight out of a magazine, but only a handful can truly do justice to this style - rest of them end up making the photos look like it had too much work done on photoshop and results may not be tasteful. 
This style suits best if the bride actually looks like a model and is happy to spend a lot of time posing for each shot.
Has anyone seen a fashion/glamour style wedding photos where the bride is just an "normal" looking woman?
I haven't.


Do you prefer to have available light photography?
Available light means- your photographer is not going to carry any light / flash ( or has no idea how to use a flash ) and will rely on mercy of the gods and lighting setup at the venue and will resort to calling photos with ugly muddy colour and grainy photos as "artistic choice" - Not a problem if you agree with them.

Most venues have terrible light for photography....focused halogen lights that focus perpendicularly on bridal party and cake and the tables etc. While it looks pretty to naked eyes,you cannot have worse lighting pattern for photos. Which means - ugly shadows under eye socket and cheekbones and burnt highlights on the dress, forehead and top of the cheeks. The available light photographer is now screwed! Who designs lighting at these wedding venues anyway?
Don't get me wrong, I love and use available light when as much as possible. Available light photography will give amazingly beautiful images on ideal conditions. Make sure you are getting married on a bright day ( ideally overcast day) and the church and reception venue has good light coming from big windows. Your photos will be really beautiful if you take that into consideration.

A lot of available light photographers argue that flash - can be obtrusive, can ruin the "mood" of the image, images look too polished etc.
Yes, its partly true, but for me- content is the king and as wedding photographers we are there so that people can get beautiful photos. Not every shot needs to be arty or moody.

Do you want traditional wedding / classic portraiture style photography? 
Only a handful of photographers know how to actually how to pose according to the traditions of the masters and use lighting beautifully to create beautiful images (using available light or flash).Posing in classical way is a lost art. When done correctly, the result will look like a work of art.

Do you want photojournalistic coverage?
Extremely hard to pull off....needs exceptional skill, vision and experience. Only a few photographers can be called true wedding photojournalists and I have a lot of respect for them. Most of these guys are 10-15 year veteran news photographers or street/documentary photographers.

Do you want "commercial" style of photography? 
Beautiful vibrant colours, sharp images, good depth in each image and lens and light selection will result in fresh and polished look.
A great combination of most styles of photography from product to macro to portraiture and fashion. Some elements of classic and photojournalistic approach is also incorporated.
They think of themselves as photographers - not "artists" and aim to produce consistently good photo. The photos will look "professional". Most people love the commercial look and I am a big fan of this style and I don't think these photos will ever go out of fashion.

My Style of Wedding Photography
The way I define my style is mostly commercial with a bit of photojournalistic approach. I do not do cutesy/hipster and fashion/glamour is not really my cup of tea and and that requires too much time from the bridal party.
I want my brides to look beautiful and "sexy" is not how I like to describe my brides. 50 years later- I want my bride's grandchildren to look at the album and say - grandma you were so beautiful. 

I like my photos to be colourful, sharp and have a nice depth so you can see the context so that the images tell the story of the day. Some photos just look stunning in Black and White and I also convert some photos to BW. I am happy to work in BW.

I arrive at every wedding with an arsenal of lighting equipment. .I may not use them all the time, but when the quality or quantity of light is not good or adequate, I will be using my "readily available light" as I am not doing to be at god's mercy or at the mercy of lighting conditions at the venue for good light when I am shooting someone's wedding. 

Some Honest Opinions and FAQs.
I get a lot of inquires from brides who "know" exactly what they want and most of the time they start the list with - " I want two photographers"

The
 bridal magazine and blogs that the brides have been reading always emphasize on asking for two photographers ( including a second shooter)  and honestly I really don't see the point. Is there any benefit of having a photographer and a second shooter?
My honest answer - No.

Their logic

1)- two different photographers- two different angles.
Nothing will be missed and you can have heaps of photos.
Do you really need heaps of photos? I think a few hundred ( 400-700) photos is what you should expect, any more than that is just going to be repeats and starts getting uninteresting.
The only time I can think when 2 photographers are useful is when the bride is walking down the isle. That's only 30-40 seconds!

2)Even if one photographer's camera breaks down, the other can still shoot and so on.
Pros carry two cameras at least. Only idiots go to photograph weddings with one camera. Cameras do fail for no reason at all - and I've had a few failures, that's why I carry at least 3 cameras with me on every wedding. If one fails, I just put it aside and carry on with the second camera and fetch the third camera from the car or my roller case when I get a few minutes break.

3) The best logic -even if the main photographer takes bad photos- the second photographer may take a good one.
That makes me giggle every time I read one of these blogs or article written by an "expert" who got married last summer or her friend got married last month.

If a photographer needs a second shooter to cover his/her back, that's doesn't not say a lot about his/her skills and abilities. 

I do not use a second photographer. I have never worked with a second shooter and have never missed a second shooter.
I know where I need to stand and what moments to capture and I have enough experience to be able to anticipate when interesting things will happen and I will be ready for those moments.
Yes, assistants are handy and I may choose to have one with me, but no second shooters for me.

Is it important to capture a photo every 0.25 seconds?
No. Its a wedding- not a Melbourne cup photo finish moment.

Is it important to have photo of the ceremony from every angle?
->I don't think so and I am sure the church would not appreciate the sound of shutter going off every 0.25 second. It starts to gets annoying and will ruin the beauty of the moment and worse, the second photographer will ruin the shot by appearing in the main photographer's images and vice versa.

Guests would rather hear the vows and enjoy the moment than to hear shutter sound every other second and being disturbed by flash going off constantly.....also, the constant flashing will ruin your video coverage.

Is it worth paying extra for second photographer?
No. But if it makes you happy....why not? 

Would I suggest my best friend to hire two photographers for their wedding?
No. I would ask them to hire a good one.

Can I see all photographs from a recent wedding?
Yes cf course! But I cannot do this online - I can only show it to you when I meet you in person. I never give passwords of my client's galleries to prospective clients.

Why don't you get a second shooter? Most photography companies have second shooters? And you can charge more by using two photographers!
->Because the second photographer is not my clone, he/she will have a different style of shooting and photos will look different. My clients pay for me to shoot. They are not hiring me to hire a second shooter to save the day in case I screw up.

What if your camera breaks down or battery runs out?
->I always carry two identical Full Frame cameras and at least one extra backup camera kit in the car just in case both my cameras break down. I have never run out of battery on any wedding and I still carry a few spare batteries and cards just to be sure.

What cameras / lenses do you use?

I use professional quality lenses and modern Full Frame camera bodies which I find comfortable to use on an all day assignments. Even if I used the cheapest or the best camera available today - as long as I am comfortable using them, there will be absolutely no difference in the quality of my images. Its got nothing to do with the cameras.
I also shoot film cameras ( if you are interested in film photography and like the look of film, its a great idea to invest a little more in film photography - even 2-3 rolls of film will be great addition)

I just got a quote from a big studio recently are offering two shooters with every package. Can you match their offer and price?
-> We are not a big "factory studio" with dozens of contractors working as photographers- who may not really care. Each wedding is personal to me and I photograph each wedding personally unless I have really good reason not to and I shoot in my own style.
I do not match other's packages- its their packages and their prices and I have nothing to do with them.
Moreover, our service is bit more "personalised" and flexible. I am always there at least 30 minutes before the starting time and I do not look at the watch and leave as soon as 8 hours are over. Weddings are unpredictable- sometimes it finishes few minutes early sometimes it finishes a few minutes late.
I always ask the bride or groom before I leave and may stay back if they agree to extend the hours.

We are always happy to tailor packages to suit our client's requests and needs but I do not like to negotiate on prices. Our prices are already very affordable and reasonable for Sydney. 
I may be cheaper or more expensive than the photographer next door but I am happy with my current pricing. It's a great bargain for what my clients are getting and I am happy with that.

Once I agree to your wedding even a full year later at today's rates - you don't have to pay me a singe cent more even if my price doubles after a year. But I may ask you if my capable associate can shoot your wedding instead with your approval in case I need to photograph a destination wedding the next day far away and I need time to travel. I do not shoot two weddings in a day.

When can i see the photos?
I know a lot of my clients who have been shocked to get their photos in 2 weeks and many have told me about their immediate friends or family who got married a almost two years ago, paid nearly 5K all in advance and still haven't seen even 1 photo! 

We deliver all photos on DVDs/USB as well as online within 2 weeks. 3 Weeks max if we are extremely busy that fortnight  ( our clients will be pre-notified if we expect to be very busy and editing the images would take a bit longer).
Albums will be ready within 1 month. I don't see why it should take months and years just to see the edited photos?

I would suggest every bride to hire the photographer they like as a person- it has to be someone they can trust, someone they can relate to as a friend.  Not because they offer an army of photographers or for the price alone. Its important to get someone who can provide you great images of the wedding - no matter how dark the venue is or how bright the sun was shining on that day.

I am not saying you should hire me. 
Its extremely important you hire someone person who can make you feel comfortable on your wedding day, be gentle and kind to all the guests. You should hire a photographer who takes picture in the style you love. There is not point in hiring us if you expect hipster/cutesy photos. But I will be happy to point you towards someone who does work in that particular style and are really good at it.

Remember - the photographer will be there with you all day. They can make your wedding day enjoyable and we have heard the story of and even seen the rude ones at someone's wedding - don't let them ruin it for you.

 


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