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.


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.


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

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.


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!


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.

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:

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.


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 😉

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.


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 8x10 and def­i­nite­ly on 11x14”). 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.… 😉

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.

💡 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. 💡 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.


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 4x6’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 4x6’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.


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