Choosing a wedding photographer can be a minefield. More often than not couples feel a little confused as to what makes a good wedding photographer. They think that because they know little about the art of photography, they are somehow unqualified to gauge what is acceptable and what’s not?
Well the best and the only way to make a decision on a photographer will be based on their work, but more importantly the continuity of that work. I do know of photographers who build portfolios based on other photographers work! If you find yourself looking at a gallery of images and you like the style and feel of two out of maybe 30 images this could well be the case, and if it’s not it will highlight a consistency issue. This would mean that the photographer in question has not developed their technique to a level where they can control the images they take, or have not developed a higher understanding of light and composition.
Also a lot can be told about the quality of the equipment the photographer uses when viewing images. Now I am not suggesting for one minute that photographer’s talent is measured by the cost of their equipment, but….. Have a look at the pictures do you see in any of them, a creamy dream like background nicely out of focus, so the subject stands out without distraction. If the answer is no then the chances are that the photographer is not using professional a lens. But is using hobbyist equipment. Now this equipment is fine but quality photographers use quality equipment to produce the very best images they can for you, and fast lens use wide apertures which create that beautiful out of focus area. Of course there are many occasions when an out of focus background is not prudent, but this should add to the photo and not detract.
Do the photos have really bright highlights on the forehead and nose, if yes then the photographer will be lighting direct from the camera straight into the subject which is the least flattering light for any subject? Some photographer will use bounce flash and a whole host of gadgets to get light on their subject with the main aim being that the light diffuses and hits their subject at an angle; failing this they will have an assistance to hold a light in place to prevent your pictures looking strained or flat. Dynamic lighting is of vital importance for quality images, even if that light is from a natural source. The depth and emotion of an image is conveyed by its shadows as much as its highlights.
Look at the composition are they pleasing to the eye without distractions, do the images provide emotion, depth, texture. Remember a portfolio should showcase the photographer’s best work only. If you feel there are bad photos within the set, then you should ask yourself, would you be happy if your set of photos were gauged on this level of acceptance.
Sometimes it is almost irrelevant of what is in the picture, more a case of how well the photograph has been composed, and recorded with relevance of light, emotion and composition. Some of the best wedding photographers in the world specialised in portraiture for many years, before offering their skills in the wedding sector.
Always meet your chosen photographer; sometimes personality’s clash and you are best to find this out before your big day. Also be aware of the fun photographer who wants you to play on slides and do chicken impressions for your timeless wedding art. Many sell themselves as unique, fun, and friendly. But give me competent, artistic, passionate and professional every time. Your wedding is one of the important days of your life; you should try to create a timeless collection that glows with quality and professionalism.
Now I know cost always comes into play, but just a word or two on that front. Beware of the budget price. More often than not in life, if it seems too good to be true it usually is. A professional photographer may take anywhere from 5 – 10 days to edit your photos and arrange albums/book for you, clearly dependant on the level of service. The time they put in has to be charged within the price, that’s simple business practice. If you have a great price ask yourself how much time is going to be put into your images?
Copyright lies with the photographer, who will normally grant printing rights for your own use, but you should check this is the case before paying your deposit. If a photographer claims to forfeit the copyright to you, beware, Firstly you will need a legal signed document to verify this and if a photographer wishes to forfeit his rights he clearly does not think too much of his own work, which should raise a red flag immediately.
Final thoughts on style, this is very much a deciding factor in your selection process. Story book, Photojournalistic, Fine art, Traditional, styles come and go over the years, what you should not do is try and fit in with the latest trend. Style is personnel to the photographer and you should choose someone whose style and technique speaks to you. Whether that person’s gallery is full of wedding pictures or portraits, you will have an affinity to that photographers work whatever he produces.
There is no rule that dictates a photographer cannot use his own unique way of seeing to produce images that fit within all the styles named above. But they will be done, via that person’s perspective of the world and their interpretation of light, composition and emotion.
ALWAYS ensure you have a wedding contract with your chosen photographer this will offer both you and them protection and assurance.