Do I really need a professional wedding photographer?
Take away my bias for the industry & I still truly think that your wedding photography is one of – if not ‘the’ – most important elements of your wedding day. At some point you’ll be able to laugh off the DJ played the Golden Oldies when you’ve requested Top 40… the Hors d’oevres coming out 45 minutes into your hour cocktail & the Reception meal being cold will – eventually – be forgotten… your niece who preceded to spend 20 minutes stuffing herself at the candy table then puking on the dance floor will be blackmail when she heads out on her first date… But the decision to allow a ‘family friend with a great camera’ or an otherwise bad photographer? That sticks with you forever! There’s no way to explain away the lack of experience that will be a brazen headline in all of your final images & wedding album…
I can’t tell you how many brides I’ve had come in to look at my albums, and tell me: “My sister got married last year. They had Uncle Bob take their pictures because he only charged them $200. But she didn’t get a single picture from her wedding that she likes. Every time she looks at her pictures, she cries.” The biggest mistake a bride can make is to undervalue her wedding photography. Countless brides have tried to save a few dollars by hiring a friend, or having a family member take their wedding photos. And countless brides have little but tears to show for it. Think of professional wedding photography as an investment in your future joy. It will cost a little now (although it will cost less than the food you serve at your wedding), but it will pay off in great dividends, as you enjoy the memories for the rest of your life.
~ Fritz Liedtke, Fritz Photo, Portland, OR
So when that friend or family member who has a great camera & wants to try wedding photography… think long & hard about it. They make take a great image of their little boy romping around the local splash pad, but there’s so much more to a great wedding photographer then snapping a cool image. A professional has extensive knowledge in lighting technique as well as posing & time management. They will also be well-versed in the unexpected changes to the day’s timeline & be able to work on the fly & under substantial pressure without breaking a sweat. Behind the scenes stuff is extremely important as well; their insurance policy, their post-production editing, their general customer service (do they make you feel as if you’re their most important client or instead, as if you’re on an assembly line?), what past brides are saying about them… There’s really no other way to do your research into a wedding photographer other than extensively!
A professional wedding photographer has to be as good at running a business as they are at photographing a wedding. This includes the use of good contracts/agreements, clear concise information and pricing, well-articulated expectations (for both parties), and good communication.
Professionalism is paramount to being a wedding photographer. The ability to handle whatever situations that arise on the wedding day quickly, effectively and with a smile. A wedding is an emotional event and it is important to be able to share in the enthusiasm and excitement as well as diffuse any stress that might be present.
When you’re really ready to start thinking of the photography of your wedding, first do your online research. What’s their portfolio like – is it your style? What are others saying about them? Check out their social media outlets as well as wedding review sites. Are they in your budget? Do they offer post-wedding options you’re interested in – wall prints & canvases, coffee table wedding albums, copyrights, etc?
Next, set up a meeting. Most professionals will want to sit own with you for a consultation 6 months to a year before your wedding date. Look over their packages & determine your budget & what exactly you’ll be getting so there’s no surprises later down the line. Make sure you completely understand the contract & aren’t leaving your meeting with any questions. This also is a great opportunity to see if this is someone you’re comfortable with. Overlooking the photographer’s personality can be a huge mistake! You’re going to be spending some extensive, intimate time with this person. if you’re uncomfortable with them, it will show in your final images!