This gigantic post is a compilation of posts over the past 5 years to my ‘Learn’ forum on my web site:

Read more ‘Learn’ topics, including how to save your ‘lost’ digital photos HERE.

6/08:

I guess what I’ve been telling people is to look at really top-notch national shooters and get the idea of what amazing work is being done, and then use that to gauge the work they are seeing as they interview photographers to do their wedding.

Jess Strickland is part of the Gary Fong Friends posse’ and she posts very complete wedding shoots here:

Look at the ‘Fashion Magazine’ style she does. Maybe it’s not for you, but it really is great work. This is the current evolution of the ‘journalistic’ style that I’m such a fan of… lots of beautiful shots that are more moments that are caught that a bunch of totally fake tableaus.

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(quick snap from a wedding… no it’s not a great shot, but I thought all the text would bore you πŸ˜‰

I was at a wedding recently where they still did the 1970’s totally fake shots… very odd to watch it unfold. Groom is sat down in a chair, bride is given the wedding certificate to display as a trophy as she pushes her boosom, shall we say, up into his face… very classy. Yuck. While the photog ate and chatted with the DJ, I saw some lovely moments escape… OK, maybe I’m being harsh, but I’m just warning you. And I know she finally did take some snaps of the good moments later on as they reoccurred. And as a benchmark, I think the ‘chicken dance’ and the garter belt things should be banned as well…YMMV.

A client recently complained about a photographer at a family wedding that took very few shots of the couple together and was overly pushy. Everyone has a bad wedding photographer story… that’s why I don’t do weddings.

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Yup, that’s Mom doing the Chicken Dance… she had fun… why can’t I just let people have fun you ask!

I guess the ‘pushy’ thing is a wild card, because it’s a personality issue… and to get the best shots, the photog needs to insert himself into the event. People get sick of me popping up to get the shots clients ask for. I totally jumped in front of James Carville once to snag a shot that a client wanted… I try to be polite and fast, but I was ‘pushy’ to do it. Make sure you know the level of ‘pushiness’ you are comfortable with and make the photog interview about personality as well as quality images.

Ah, well… I hope this discussion continues to help clients and friends navigate toward getting really wonderful shots at their wedding!

7/06

Man have I learded a lot about wedding photography lately. I’ve really liked the photo-style and digital photo teaching of the wedding photog Gary Fong

So I’ve gotten a bit into the head of the high-end wedding shooter and maybe some of the info will help you.

Yes, it’s still really expensive, but the great news is that they’ve gone way beyond the cheesy old photos and albums, and even beyond the ‘photojournalist’ wedding like I’ve noted in other posts.

Now a top-tier wedding photographer can do a real ‘art book’ of your wedding, that seems to me to be worth more than the old stuff.

Cost:
Now, like I said, it’s still expensive, so I’m sure there’s a place for young photographers doing normal wedding shoots with an eye toward just getting good prints made. But if you can afford more, consider that you’ll have that memory-book on the coffeetable for life, with a copy for your parents and your $1000 gown will be in storage… Just a thought.

And then, when I hear what dresses cost, flowers, hall rental, etc.. I realize a bit better the price range a photographer might be in.

I’d suggest that there’s a new divide out there… simple is fine if that’s what you want and can afford (hey, I did my own wedding photos!) and then these awesome books. The area to watch for is in the middle. You pay just enough to hurt and the work is just stale enough to not excite you for years. Does that make sense??

Family Groups:
I had a friend who’s photographer had to bail on shooting his wedding, so I shot it to help out. You know, I’ve read about wedding photogs refusing to shoot family groups. I just don’t agree with that. I really think it’s such a valuable service to the couple’s families. I know that it would be annoying to be drug around for hours to shoot only this couple and that, but I was happy to do a short series of family groups. I also told the couple that I would [i]not[/i] be drug around by anyone…

❗ So as a tip, please pre-plan your photo needs with your photographer and then stand by them if any relative tries to take over. While the photog is getting some shot Aunt Edna wants, he might be missing a beautiful, quite moment with you and your new hubbie…

BTW, here’s my blogpost on the wedding I shot and some photos:
http://www.huthphoto.com/Blog/2006/07/17/ron-margaret-are-hitched/

OK, so that’s the update on what I’ve seen lately. Hope the info helps when looking at photographer’s work for your wedding.

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See how much less bored you are by seeing these photos…

The original post from pre-2003:

We don’t photograph weddings, but many clients and friends ask our advice, so here it is…
Choosing a Wedding Photographer:
See my referral page for some names. Also I’ve posted a few web links there to see what really great contemporary wedding images looks like.
The yellow pages and the local ‘Wedding Planner’ magazines you get at the supermarket have plenty of people to call, but how do you pick one?

Everyone suggests talking to many photographers before you decide. Be candid with them that you are talking to several people, they should expect and encourage that. See several weddings that they have done, get a feel for the consistency of the quality. As photographers, we are taught to never put shots in our portfolios that we have to make excuses for, if you see to many poor shots, this is an indication that either they don’t do enough to have all good images, or that they don’t have the same quality standard that you may have.

❗ One of the biggest impacts other than photo skills is [b]personality[/b] and working style. I think so many of you ask me to do your weddings because I’m a nice guy, will be good to your guests and family, I’d not take over the whole event, I get shots while being mostly ‘invisible’…(hope that didn’t sound too self-serving πŸ˜‰

Think about which of those types of issues is important to you with your wedding. You don’t want someone to push everyone around, but the photographer is hired to get certain shots and he/she MUST get them–look for tact and really plan what you need so that the day isn’t all about the photos.

Wedding Photography Styles:
I hope the tacky 1970’s wedding album style is dead and that we are all more visually savvy that to want some of those hack set-ups my family had to endure.

Some options on styles these days are: More traditional (good, clean people shots doing the wedding stuff–just beware of schmaltz), Candid (loose, shot like any event, more focused on the feel of the event and going with the flow not taking things over), the New B&W (often done candid and in the hands of someone talented is a real classy look), Portrait/Groups (Some people have this done at a studio, look for portrait and group skills in any photographer you hire).

One reason I’ve never wanted to shoot weddings (other than a belief that I should stick to my core talents in journalism/publications is that I sense a stress between what most people say they want and what is the family expectation. Please consider that if you choose a cool/funky B&W style–do you care if that bugs one side of the family?? Many people tell me they want a casual style and I wonder how the final shots will play with the whole family…just getting the list of who to invite to under 1000 almost took a mediator, so you’d better explore family expectations on style. For the photographer, [b]let them do what you hire them to do[/b]…If they specialize in cool shots–don’t let Aunt Mabel insist on a shot of ‘the best man keeping the groom from escaping’ or whatever.

Cost by Kind of Photographer:
Expect it to cost a lot. Sorry, that’s a fact these days. I have a few tips later in my ‘Ken’s Ideal Wedding’ section though, so take heart. To have the whole thing shot can easily run thousands of dollars. Do compare prices…for the most part you get what you pay for in photography and photographers at a certain level of expertise charge similar amounts. From the little I know, here are the tiers I see (and the tears they may cause you)…

A friend shoots the wedding, you pay little and the results are snapshot to a bit above. (PS: 2008 Note: I just heard another sad story about an amateur coming away with no photos from an event after accidentally deleting them from the camera card somehow…)

Part-timer is someone who has a normal job and does weddings on the side. Since they won’t starve if the markup on your wedding isn’t as high, you may get a good person at a good price. You may also just be getting someone who isn’t good enough to go full-time. Ask them how many weddings they have on the books for this year and look at images from several weddings.

Event Photographers are people like me who also choose shoot weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. This can be a good category if you like a more candid wedding. Make sure you check out portrait and group photo skills.

Normal wedding photographers do what you expect and skills and prices vary. These are the people you find in the yellow pages.

Specialized and Elite wedding photographers are the ones who have a certain style of shooting they are known for (like B&W or cool candids) and you decide if the look is so distinctive that you are willing to pay a premium for it.

In defense of expensive photographers, some of this work is just stunning, and you will want to put it on your walls and the photos won’t just gather dust like less distinctive work may.

Even if you can’t afford these folks, make sure you see some of their work (in person, on their web page, in magazines like Town and Country) to have a standard of what is possible and of what kind of images very talented shooters produce.

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Lisa and I got new rings… we were so poor when we got married that the rings we bought wore through. We just hit 21 years!

Cost by Ways of Shooting:
Once again, I’m not a wedding photographer, so this is just based on friends who are, reading industry publications and the overlap with my business. Get a price for the whole wedding start to finish, so you can compare. Some photographers (like me) charge mostly for the shooting and then mark up prints less. Some shooters use the ‘cell-phone system’ and charge very little to shoot and make all of the profit on the prints. So you need to know the fee and expense for the wedding shooting and then the cost per print after.
Some kind souls in the lower expense brackets will even give you the negatives/digital files at the end..this should [b]not[/b] be expected, but if they do, it’s a real gift. If you do get the negs/files, please do a few things out of respect for the photographer: make sure you’ve ordered a good number of prints from him–he’s got a family to feed and [b]negatives/digital files should be seen as a way to get prints 5 years from now, not keep todays bill down[/b]. Also get the reprints made and a decent lab. Drug store/Walmart prints may be fine for your snapshots, but they may fade more quickly and stand a better chance of being lost than a real photo lab.

Camera Format: (Wow, this discussion also seems so dated in 2008!)
35mm film has come a long way, so I am less apt to tell you to not use a wedding shooter that doesn’t use the larger 2 1/4″ cameras. Just know that if someone is using 2 1/4 (also called 120 or medium format) that they are giving you the highest quality and larger prints will show the difference (a bit on 8×10 and definitely on 11×14″). 35 mm is ideal for the candid type of wedding if you are leaning that way. 2 1/4 also means higher cost, so expect that.

Digital? (2008 Note: Obviously digital is so much better today… I’ll post some 2008 Wedding notes when I get a second)
If a photographer can do your wedding digital–that’s wonderful. At the reception to run those digital images on a TV (or even spring the $400 for a digital/video projector) would be a ton of fun. Digital can also be dumped to a DVD video album. Digital cameras need to be around 5 megapixel and up to be good enough to make decent large prints.
❗ Look carefully at the prints from a digital photographer. I’m a digital shooter and I think we can all admit it’s tricky and prints can sometimes [i]look[/i] digital. Make sure you’d be happy with the prints they are showing you.
On the flip side, digital has the advantage of easy retouching on your photos and for doing some beautiful effects.

Wedding Videos:
Video can be nice if you want to do that, one thought is that as digital video is becoming more common, consider that worth the extra money. My sister’s VHS wedding video from the eighties is fading fast with static. Digital video can eventually be dumped to a DVD and will retain it’s quality forever (like your love…. πŸ˜‰

Ken’s Ideal Wedding:
It’s to Lisa, of course…..but if you want my practical tips on the photo stuff:
If money was no object, I’d hire an elite shooter or more likely, I’d hire someone to do the cool candid look, maybe in B/W…but most people talk to me because they want to save money. I’m a big advocate of saving money and spending it on a vacation(and honeymoon) or two early in the married years. The extra thousand or two you save could be making some great memories with your new spouse.
That doesn’t mean I’m against spending money on weddings, just not going overboard.

πŸ’‘ I like the idea of putting your money into a nice formal portrait. I’d suggest going to a studio like Leichners or a pro studio (or your wedding shooter’s if they have a studio) and getting shots in wedding clothes, dressed up and casual. These shots you can send out in Thank You cards, hang up and will be the key shots to remember the big day. Some people balk at the idea of doing this a day or so before the wedding and seeing each other dressed up–that’s your decision. I just think it removes stress on the day of the wedding and gives you a few key shots (and some more casual ones) that you will have real use for for the next few years.

I’d also spend money having someone good at group shots getting those. πŸ’‘ I’d consider doing things differently than the normal ‘Bridal Party’ shots, and get ones really themed around the groups as you would send photos out. I’d do them by family, and by categories of friends and then send them to everyone. Having a pro shooter do the shot of you with your group of college friends that you rarely see is cool and everyone in the shot will want a copy.

The formal ‘bridal party shot’ is an odd jumble of people that each person in it knows you and maybe vaguely on or two others. If you care about the ceremony shots, have that done, I’m not sure Is get them since they are tough shots anyway. Some friends who did outdoors wedding had some nice shots of the ceremony, so that can work.

Reception Photos:
I think having friends do snaps at the reception or the ‘disposable camera on the table’ thing is a great idea. In general, I think it is less critical to have a pro shoot your party. These are the loose kind of shots friends are always doing and the only snag is coordinating getting prints from everyone . Make sure you plan that out. Maybe be sure to frontload all of the visual things (cutting the cake, bridal dance, etc) and have the pro shoot the first hour. Maybe get some family groups then too (although I’ve read elite wedding shooters that feel that’s ‘below’ them for some reason I can’t fathom.) Then everyone can let their hair down and enjoy the rest of the night. If you’ve got the money… having them stay around is awesome, there are so many little moments to catch through the night…

Ken’s Ideal Wedding (summary):
Have portraits done in a studio lit situation (wedding clothes, dress clothes, casual clothes) a day or two before the wedding.
After the ceremony, quickly have a nice shot together at the alter and with anyone you’d like and let friends grab snaps that they’d like of you. Maybe this is when a pro shooter would arrive to do this shot. Don’t make this drag on and ruin the reception timing.
Have a pro shoot nice groups at the start of the reception based on families, friends groupings, etc. Maybe have them do some quick candids at the beginning to be sure you have something good from the reception. Once again, this should be very quick and not take over the reception time.
Have a friend do a quick video of all of the tables to show everyone who was there. My dad always suggests this as a nice family document.

Prints:

Don’t give in to the pressure to make a bunch of albums for people who won’t appreciate them. Under my system, you should save some money on shooting fees by not having a photographer standing around waiting to shoot things…and have money to spend on nice prints. Get beautiful prints from you favorite portraits for your home and maybe a ton of 4×6’s to send in your thank you cards. Get lots of multiple prints of those family/friend groups and send them to everyone. Make the album casual and 4×6’s just like your normal snapshot albums.

Having said all of this… each photographer has her own system, so if you like some of these ideas, find a photographer that fits what you like… but remember to respect that if they have a system that doesn’t fit what you like, you will both be happier to look elsewhere.

Hey, and enjoy the day! It’s supposed to be a fun day and the photos are to be a cool document of the great start to your new life together. May God Bless you in your life together.

Ken

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