What to look for in a wedding photographer
Photography is so much more than just having a nice camera or taking a lot of pictures to cover your bases. The first thing we hear from all of our assistants trying to become professionals is, “Wedding photography is much more difficult than I thought it would be.” Our answer, “Of course it is!” The goal of this article is to help prevent you from hiring the wrong photographer, or even worse, “Uncle Joe.”
This section will cover more of the soft-skills that your photographer needs to possess. These are areas that you need to pay attention to during your meetings and conversations with professional photographers, because they are not things that you can really determine by asking a question. We recommend that you read this section first, then head on over to our section called, “15 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer” for more specific ideas on what types of questions you should be looking to ask.
Expertise – being technical and creative
A professional wedding photographer must not only be completely versed in the technical side of the trade, but he must also be artistic and creative. Those are two completely opposite personality traits. How many people do you know are very technologically savvy and artistically creative at the same time?
Having great camera and technical skills will allow the wedding photographer to capture properly exposed, well lit images regardless of the lighting situation and time constraints. On the other hand, having great creative skills will allow the wedding photographer to approach each shot with a unique perspective and artistic vision ensuring that the shots are not just photos, but artistic imagery.
Personality – being personable and charismatic
Just as important (if not more important) as their technical knowledge and creativity is the wedding photographers interpersonal skills. How well do they get along their clients and those at the wedding? Are they outgoing, personable, charismatic, professional, and honest?
Not including engagement shoots, bridal shoots, etc, you are going to be spending a full day with your photographer on the most important day of your life. A wedding photographer with a personality that matches your own is important to the overall experience of your wedding.
Experience – professionals or part time
Once you get past technique, creativity, and personality, the next thing you should be looking for is experience. Is the wedding photographer actually a professional photographer, or is this their “weekend gig”? How many weddings has this photographer shot?
While experience is definitely important, some of the best and most hard- working wedding photographers we have met are experienced photographers, but relatively new as wedding photographers. In situations where you love the photographers style, but are concerned with them not having enough experience, ask to look at their entire collection of images from each event they have shot.
To help you out further, when we take applicants for assistants and associate photographer positions, we base their level of experience off of how many weddings they have shot as the lead photographer, i.e. not under another professional photographer’s guidance or direction.
- 1-5 Weddings – Inexperienced
- 6-10 Weddings – Amateur (Qualified as an assistant photographer)
- 10-20 Weddings – Knowledgable
- 21-30 Weddings – Experienced
- 31+ Weddings – Professional (Qualified as a lead photographer)
Quality over quantity
When seeking a photographer, don’t get caught up in the amount of products each photographer is promising. Stay focused on the actual quality of the work provided. We realize that some people are working within a budget. Think to yourself that you can always purchase an album, or additional prints later (even 5-10 years later), but you can’t change the quality of the photographs taken at the wedding after the wedding day.
We strive to tell clients, if there is something you need to cut from your package in order to make it more affordable, start with the products. Cut the prints from the package, remove the album, but don’t go with a cheaper photographer because they are willing to give you all the products you want up front. If you can, always keep at least two photographers in your package.
Assistants: Having more than one photographer
We often are asked the question, “why do I need more than one wedding photographer?”
Well, if you were to look at a wedding written up like a movie script, you would see a primary story line surrounded by smaller side stories that are happening at the exact same moment. For example, during a wedding ceremony, the main story is obviously the bride and groom. However, there may be multiple side stories occurring at the exact same moment, such as mom or dad wiping the tear from their eyes, or the flower girl sitting in the corner picking petals from a rose in her hands.
No matter how good a photographer is, he/she cannot be at all places at the same time; and so, to compensate, we use multiple wedding photographers, each with a different focus. For example, our lead photographer focuses strictly on the bride and groom. Our second wedding photographer would focus on reaction shots from the family, guests, etc. Our third (when needed) would focus on creative imagery by constantly surveying and moving around the scene to find unique angles and compositions of our subjects.
Having multiple photographers enables our team to broaden the coverage and creative eyes at the event. While we recommend two photographers regardless of the size of your wedding, we tell clients that it is almost required if you have 100-200 people at the wedding. For clients with very large weddings, i.e. 200+, we recommend three photographers.