So you're engaged (yay!) and the excitement of getting the ring has given way to the reality of planning a wedding. It can a bit daunting when you realize how many decisions you have to make and just how many choices you have. I'm going to address one of those choices in a series of posts called How to choose your Wedding Photographer. You'll find loads of articles with this title, but most of them weren't written by photographers, so while the recommendations are fine, they miss the mark on a lot of technical aspects of the search, which are very important when choosing someone to document your wedding day.
You've probably done some searching online and you can't believe how many wedding photographers there are in the metro Atlanta area (most of us can't either). How can you possibly make the right choice when there are so many options? I'm going to break down the types of photography you'll find in this first post and the pitfalls to watch for when making a decision about which type is right for your wedding. And then I'm going to tell you the best thing you can do to make sure your photos are exactly like you want them to be.
Most of the wedding magazines and blogs will tell you the basic types of photography styles and a list of questions and send you on your way. But most wedding photographers don't fall cleanly into a given category and the descriptions can leave you confused at best and unhappy with your photos at worst.
In my opinion, there are only really two types of wedding photographers and it means more about what they shoot and how they do it than how the photos look, which will always vary from photographer to photographer:
Traditional - This word sends creepy shivers down the spines of most modern couples. They have visions of their parent's wedding albums with people facing straight forward in front of the alter with flowers at their waists and uncomfortable expressions on their faces. Yuck, basically. In reality, it's actually much better than that and most photographers fall into a version of this category.
What does it mean then? It means they capture the entire day as it unfolds taking special care with the big events. They pose their clients, they do family formals, they shoot details and they cover pretty much everything there is to see at the wedding. They may not call themselves traditional because no one wants to be thought of as stodgy and boring and most of them are not. But you'll be able to tell that by looking at their photos.
Photojournalistic - This category is also misunderstood. Most blogs and magazines would have you believe that PJ shooters are the only ones who shoot candid moments at a wedding and capture the day as it's unfolding. The truth is, most photographers do this for much of the day. The big difference between a true PJ shooter and a more traditional wedding photographer is with the portraits. A real PJ shooter doesn't set up portraits. They capture the portraits of the bride and groom and everyone else (including families) as the day is happening. It's just like they're shooting journalism for a paper - they don't interfere with the day at all, they're simply there to document.
Good PJ shooters are amazing, bad ones are just traditional photographers who are afraid of posing. Every area, including Atlanta, has a few really good PJ shooters and lots of not so good ones. This is one of those categories where you have to ask yourself if you're cool with no posed portraits. Also, make sure your families and wedding party members aren't going to be surprised when there's no time set aside to do the big group shots. It's not fair to a good photojournalism photographer to expect them to pose you (and then think their bad if they don't) and the good ones are very clear on this. Unfortunately, the not so good ones will simply tell you to, "go over there and do something." Way lame. Try to avoid one of those.
Most wedding photographers are a combination of the two types. They pose their clients and shoot journalistic type photos during the rest of the day. Stylistically, however, they can vary quiet a lot.
Just like trends in fashion, decor and music can come and go, trends in wedding photography likewise shift and change. With the advent of digital photography, there are loads of Photoshop actions and tricks that can change the look of the images you receive. By and large, that's a good thing for you. You get some interesting and different photos in the mix. But be careful in choosing someone who is all trend. Just like you don't want to be wearing the same shoes 10 years from now, you don't want to have your wedding photos enshrined in the current look of the day. For the past 5 years or so the trend has been vintage. Soft focus, yellowy looking images with dreamy flare lighting has dominated the contemporary wedding photo scene. There's nothing wrong with that, but try to choose a photographer who incorporates that look into a broader neutral styling so you don't end up cringing later in life when the trend has shifted to something else.
Photographers will often describe themselves as artistic when they refer to their style. People with an art photography background or a fashion sensibility bring their own style to the day. They know how to pose you so you don't look stiff and they shoot your decor and details with an eye toward the artistry of the shot. But you don't have to take someone's word for this. Just look at their photos and you'll be able to see.
You're going to hear this a lot from me. Wedding photography is the ultimate in what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). But you have to know what to ask to see. If there's a big secret to choosing the right photographer for you, this is it. What we put on our websites is our best work. Of course, right? But a wedding day is very long and goes from day to night in most instances. You might find a photographer who has perfect images when the lighting is just right, but really falls off when it gets dark. So which images do you think she's going to show on her website or in her sample albums?
You taste the cake, you taste the food, you look at the venue, you try on the dress, why would you settle for only seeing part of what a photographer can do when those skills are so important to the images you're going to have for a lifetime?
You have to ask to see it all - full galleries of full weddings. You will get push back when you ask for this. They'll tell you it's a privacy issue or it's too many photos or, my personal favorite that I heard from a perspective client trying to see full galleries, "You don't want to see all those closed eyes." They were right! And you don't want to see them in your gallery either. Really good photographers are proud of their work and they don't like the fact the industry has been overrun with people who don't always know what they're doing. If someone doesn't want to show you a full gallery, there's probably a reason they don't want you to see it. Move on. And as for the privacy issue? I've had two couples in years of shooting who asked me in advance to keep their images private after the wedding. Most are more than happy to help others make their decision.
My next post on this topic will give you a list of steps to take and questions to ask after you've narrowed down your search by type and by looking at full galleries. And if you have questions or would like to talk to me about your Atlanta or destination wedding, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a text or call me at 404.210.0879.