How to Pick your Wedding Photographer
Picking your photographer can be a bit overwhelming. There are certainly a lot of great photographers out there and their prices can fluctuate from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars. I am going to break down some of the most important things to be on the lookout for.
Most photographers are going to document your day in a natural, photo-journalistic way, and that is great news for those of you who do not want your parents' wedding photography. But when most wedding photography is capturing those candid moments, how do you tell the difference? What should you be looking for in their portfolio?
There are a few different ways that photographers will create the story of your day. These different ways they can use their skills are worth paying attention to, in order to find the photographer that is the best fit for you.
LIGHTING: How you use light is 80% of what makes a good or poor image. A great and simple way to understand light is to hold your hand up, palm toward the window. Slowly turn your hand away from the window. As your hand moves away from the light, the quality of light changes from even and clear until your hand gets to about ninety degrees, when you have dramatic shadows. Then, if you keep going, of course, you have nothing but shadow.
Some photographers live in that light and airy light while others will move toward a moody and dramatic feel. This is the job a photographer does all day, figuring out where the light is coming from, and how to use it to create an airy, dramatic, soft, or moody image. How light is captured creates completely different moods. These images were taken just a few seconds apart and we move from hip and cool to romantic and dreamy.
When you are looking at a photographer's portfolio, get a feel for the mood the light gives off. Is it edgy and dramatic or light and ethereal?
Some photographers only use natural light which is another way of saying "available light". I have seen some amazing "natural light" photographers BUT always ask what they will do on a rainy day or in a reception hall with no windows and dim lighting.
If you ask to check out a photographer's reception images and they are all blurry, that is a bad sign. If the images are well-lit from front and back, it means the photographer can create images even when there is little or no light available.
COMPOSITION: Composition is framing your main subject to create a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest. O.K., so that is the definition but we can just say, "is it an interesting image?" In the image below, I used the carriage that brought the bride to the ceremony to frame the couple, and the flower petals lead the eye toward the couple as they give their vows.
When you are reviewing a photographer's portfolio, you must ask if the images are all from the same perspective, meaning, the same viewpoint. Does the photographer create something interesting? Are there moments that tell a story by themselves, while adding to the story of the whole wedding day? The image below is such an example.
POSING: Almost everyone would like to have candid, real images that capture the emotion of the moment. We all have that image that takes us back to a time so real that we can place ourselves there the second we see the image. Most photographers got into photography to capture these images. I love to get these images, but a well rounded wedding photographer will create great group and family images as well.
Creating a timeline and shot list for a wedding day should be 60% of what a wedding photographer does. I know all my percentages add up to more than 100% and a really good wedding photographer puts at least 140% into a day!
Ask your potential photographer about their process for group/family photos. I create a photography timeline with every couple AND I ask for a shot list so we do not miss any images. Of course we may add groups on the fly, but it is worth it to create a list outside of the busy wedding day.
Make sure your wedding photographer is organized and ready to direct people (in a nice way) during family photo time. I have photographed a lot of weddings and I have never heard anyone say, "boy, I wish the group photos lasted longer." This time can be chaotic and your photographer must be ready to move everything along.
But, you should all be having a good time too!
TO SUM UP: O.K. That is a lot of information and I am sure there are more questions, but this is a good starting point. Overall, you should like your photographer and their images while keeping an eye out for how professional and organized they are.
I got into wedding photography because I love the excitement and fun of creating images with couples on one of the coolest days of their life. At the same time, I have heard enough "bad wedding photographer" stories to want to help you find an organized professional for your big day.
Oh and I also learned that if you have someone take a photo of you with your wedding couple, they might just pick you up and throw you around!
Good luck and happy wedding planning!