How to choose your wedding photographer, part 1

 

Western NC wedding photography- Ocoee Lake, just across the TN border.

single flash unit, very little editing. spotted the location as we were driving elsewhere- so we jumped out of the car and made this our last stop of the session!

This is actually my introductory blog post, in spite of having a website for the better part of the last decade. I write regularly, mostly letters and poetry, but the concept of writing a journal or article for my website has always been on the back burner, eclipsed by the more important (to me) issues of continuing to create and find additional outlets.

I’ve been taking photographs for more than 25 years, mostly as a job but always for myself. I came at photography somewhat backward, first exploring alternative processes (adjusting chemistry in the developing process, distressing prints, transfer processes, etc) then gradually moving to portraiture and less abstract subject matter and more standard processes. These days I combine my vision and my technical aptitude (read: long years of trying hard to get it right) to create representative work with my own observational flavor.

Wedding photography has been a key part of my most recent evolutionary track- the breadth of subject matter found over the course of any wedding day is astounding- it’s the highest concentration of meaning-laden details available in a given place, and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.

Regarding wedding photography- these days my primary concern is how well I connect with the couple. Barring a major catastrophe (and sometimes, even then- I once shot a wedding in the middle of floods caused by a hurricane) I can find beautiful photographs in virtually any environment. The presence of interesting subject matter is a given- if you look closely. Yes, there are stunning environments and beautiful settings, some more than others, but some of my favorite portraits from 2015 were shot off the side of a road near a pile of trash and highway debris, on the muddy edge of a lake. There is no such thing as a lack of subject matter, only a lack of access to vision. As a creative, my job is to constantly seek a new perspective in order to create an image and share it with you.

So, here is a brief guide to finding the right fit for you.

  1. Look at a bunch of photographs. Yes, this seems obvious… but it needs to happen and frequently doesn’t. As you look at the photographs, bear in mind that what you’re seeing on Pinterest, Facebook, Google Images, and Instagram are usually the photographer’s favorite images from a day (or a lifetime) of shooting.
  2. Determine your budget, and spend as much as you can afford to. Let’s be clear- I’m aware that as a photographer, I probably place more weight on photographs than most people. But these are memories, and they’re meaningful as more than just pictures of your wedding day- they’re a record of a family event, and they’re a chance to capture great pictures of people who you might not see again for a long time. Showing your kids a photo of your grandmother at your wedding is a pretty beautiful thing.
  3. Decide what you want. The last entry spurred this one- what’s important to you? Do you absolutely have to have a disc of all your photos? If your knee-jerk answer there is “yes” then why? In my experience people don’t actually print the digital files they receive on a disc- instead, they set that disc in a drawer somewhere to get back to it later…. and life happens. My goal is for you to have something beautiful and meaningful displayed somewhere in your home. I love hearing from past clients about the picture hung in their living room, and how often it makes them smile. For that reason, I discourage getting digital files and prefer providing a print set instead. This is not as costly as you might imagine, and the experience of seeing your image as a finished product is wonderful.
  4. When you’ve narrowed down your choices to 2-3 photographers, ask to see a full wedding or session from each of them. If there is one image that has really hooked you, ask if you can see THAT wedding in particular. This way you’ve got an idea of what to expect to get from the photographer.
  5. Talk to your venue about their recommendations. Ask in what capacity they’ve worked together… a good working relationship with a venue means that your photographer is reliable enough that they come recommended. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a photographer who’s not recommended by a venue, but it can be one more mark in the “plus” column.
  6. Ask for references, reviews, and recommendations.References and reviews are another good starting point for your conversation, and another way to get a feel for how your photographer performs. A good photographer will have favorite hair & makeup artists, stylists, session times, et cetera. The caveat here is if you are asking them to travel- away from home territory it’s less likely they’ll have a preference.

To be continued…. look for part 2 in a few days!