Choosing a wedding photographer can understandably prove a very daunting and difficult decision for many brides to be, especially if like most people you’ve never actually had the occasion to hire a professional photographer before. Much rides upon this decision as not only is wedding photography expensive, you can ill afford to waste money at this extremely expensive time, but you will also want to look at these photographs for the rest of your life.
Masters of diplomacy and tact the wedding photographer must work with great speed, confidence and of course technical competence. A great one will quietly and effortlessly fit into your day without without creating a scene, a poor one will obsess, embroil you in their anxiety and even upset your wedding guests. Thankfully out of the many weddings that I’ve been lucky enough to attend or have a part in, almost all of the photographers have fallen into the ‘good’ category. Sadly though there have been one or two exceptions in recent times. At these weddings the photographers exhibited all the negative attributes mentioned above, but worst still the end results were quite awful and totally unacceptable from a so called professional photographer.
Mention the word ‘wedding’ and peoples eyes start rolling dollar signs like cash tills. In recent times few other industries have witnessed such a massive boom in consumer spends and as a result many photographers both good and bad have been tempted into the industry. This combined with the onslaught of cheap plus easy to use digital cameras and the apparent allure of the photographic profession has seen the world of wedding photography swell and bloat with photographers. Here is a list of things that I would seriously consider when trying to weed out the good ones from the bad.
Style. First I would shortlist your photographers by disregarding those who simply don’t offer a photographic style that appeals to you. Each photographer will have their own unique approach but ultimately there are three very distinct styles of wedding photography: traditional and formal, traditional but more casual and the trendy photo journal or documentary style. There are also a handful of contemporary wedding photographers who have their own very individual and quirky approaches. What style you choose is down to your personal taste but I would be wary of following any fads too closely; trends come and go very quickly but you wedding photos will be on display for many years to come!
Finances. How much cash can you realistically afford? Only you can answer that one but try to set a budget and stick to it. There will always be temptations to up the spends, especially if your friend hired the celebrity photographer for her wedding day, but try to avoid this. There are thousands of wedding photographers out there each one with a different fee structure, so there will be one that both caters to your budget and artistic sensibilities.
The Photographers Portfolio. This is your opportunity to become the the art critic you’ve always fancied yourself as being. Things to look out for include: sloppy compositions where arms, legs or wedding dress trains are brutally cut-off, unnatural or over posed facial expressions, unpleasant colour castes especially on the photographs that might have been shot inside, poor detail in the highlights such as the brides dress or harsh contrasty skin tones, and poor shadow detail with nasty muddy dark tones. If the photography stands up to such close scrutiny, then the chances are you’ve found a good photographer who exhibits all the technical abilities that you’d expect from a professional.
Endorsements. Both ‘professional’ endorsements through affiliation in industry societies and ‘personal’ reviews written by past customers. Being a member of a professional body should carry some weight and offer some assurance but sadly this isn’t always the case. In my experience their are some truly amateur members of these so called professional clubs and unlike in other professions where membership almost guarantees a certain level quality and code of conduct, photographic societies mean precious little other than the photographer pays an annual subscription and displays a basic level of technical competence. Customer reviews, if to be believed, are always a much better reflection on the photographers abilities. Always try to speak to some past customers in person to assure the reliability of any such endorsements.