Top 10 Wedding Photography Myths: Wedding Photographers and Brides, Oh My!

You might be getting married (congrats, by the way) and trying to decide whether or not to even hire a wedding photographer. You might be trying to decide now on which photography professional to choose for your wedding day. You might be a wedding photographer, trying to understand the delicate and confounding psyche of those who engage in wedding planning.

Whoever you are, for your reading pleasure, check out the top 10 myths of wedding photography as relayed by a photographer who still loves taking pictures. These are broken in to three categories: a. Myths about not hiring a professional at all; b. Myths about the selection process; and c. Myths about how the photography should be done.

CATEGORY A: I don’t need/want a wedding photographer because:

1. My cousin’s roommate from college just got the new Canon 999D and a plethora of ‘L ‘ professional series lenses; it will be great (and, did I mention, FREE!).

Is it impossible to find a good free photographer? No. Is it likely? No. Is it a good idea? Almost never. But hey, it is your wedding day. You can chance it on the stranger who could very well be overly intrigued by the bridesmaid who has just a little bit too much to drink at the reception and starts to dance provocatively. That way, the bulk of your photos could be of her. Perfect, right? And free. In this situation, you can just point out to your kids, twenty years down the road, that the photographer did take these photos with really cutting edge technology, which is why you can see just so much detail of the lewd woman at your wedding with, how shall we say… ‘perky’ breasts. No, she isn’t the bride, but doesn’t she look like she is having fun?

2. Why would I get a photographer? Everybody and their dog has a camera (even cell phones pictures are creeping up in the ‘megapixel’ race). The snapshots from guests will suffice.

Yes, it is true to state that most of us now carry a camera on our body at all times (on our phone at the very least). Moreover, at a wedding, many if not most guests bring some type of additional camera to memorialize the event (particularly things that go wrong, if they don’t like you; tears from the groom if they do). However, rigorous double blind studies have been done on the data stream to which we are referring, and they all show one thing. These pictures have a 99.9982% chance of sucking. Really badly. There might be one great photo of the bunch, of a dog at the end of the aisle that meant so much to Great Aunt Esther. It will be perfectly exposed, focused, and display Sparky with a beautiful stance using great composition.

3. Wedding photography is too expensive – why would I support an industry of so-called ‘professionals’ who really only work a few hours a week. I don’t know whether to be angry or jealous.

You can be angry if you would like. You can even be jealous, since we have a job that (hopefully) we love, and take great pride in. If you think we work a few hours for a single wedding, you are fooling yourself. Those are the hours that you see us at the wedding; suffice it to say, many hours of preparation went in to that particular wedding, countless hours will proceed upon the end of wedding day in post-production. When done correctly, the work is extensive, fun, and pays decent.

CATEGORY B: I do need/want a wedding photographer, but the selection process should be limited:

4. I’ll hire my photographer after all the other planning is done. I’ll select the flowers, the venue, the dj or band, the bridesmaid dresses, the honeymoon hotel, and more. Then I’ll think photography.

Of course you will wait till the last few months to hire a photographer. Why would you want a wedding professional like a great photographer to help you with smart referrals for all the other services you will be seeking? While a good photographer will have worked with a spectacular cake business in previous weddings and gladly suggest that you check them out, you can spend forty-seven hours pouring over brochures featuring batman shaped carrot cakes (a theme which will certainly to take off when new brides really stop and think about it). Really, though, consider this – waiting will only limit your choices. Photographers contract for specific dates. When your arch enemy plans her wedding on the same day as you (out of spite), she will also try to wrap up the services of the best photographer in town. Beat her to that photographer for years of bragging rights.

5. I don’t want recommendations – why would I care what some other couple says about this photographer? I love her website; it is shiny, happy, and new. It makes me smile on the inside.

Classy websites abound among wedding photographers, for all of the obvious reasons. You are considering paying them money for an art, so the designs they use for marketing and information delivery, then, should be equally artistic. However, take a quick look at the photographers in your location, and I’ll bet that you find one with an impressive website, with dramatic motion and animated vines growing out of the monitor and instant chat functionality with on demand videos… and other cool technological things I don’t even know about. However, you may also find that this particular photographer has acceptable photographs, and nothing more. Then, I hope, you will realize that you deserve more than acceptable photography from a marketing guru who dabbles in photography.

6. I’m looking for a photographer who can take pictures – that is ALL. Give me the product, and then keep on your merry way, Mr. Camera Man.

Well, it is not the case that I am going to suggest you develop a relationship with your photographer that you would develop with, say, the groom. However, the talent or skill of taking good photographs really is only part of the package. A photographer ought to also be able to show up on time, dressed appropriately, converse with the guests, corral the wedding party, and so on. Otherwise, you will have the photographer who shows up at the wrong location, late, wearing her parka in the Florida summer because of her ‘extreme anti-social’ nature and a desire to photograph only the frogs near the wading pool. Again, the frog photos might be great. But you will have to reminisce about your wedding without any visual evidence to support the memories.

7. I want a photographer who does the latest post-processing fad, and proudly displays it. An absurdly heavy vignette with color spot and ‘double exposure’? Groovy.

Some photographers, myself included, groan just a little bit on the inside when clients request a particular photographic fad that jeopardizes the timeless nature of photography. What we typically shoot for are photographs that will speak to the event itself, and not serve as an indication of the era. Granted, some of the content of the photo – the people and places photographed – will pick out clothing styles, automotive or architectural design, and the like. But the photography itself – the image – should fail to scream ‘This happened in 1984 – no one superimposes a ghost-like image of the grooms head over the bride praying anymore.’

CATEGORY C: I’ve got a photographer, and here is what is going to happen:

8. I want ONLY [formal or candid] shots. Any shots other than [formal or candid] are stupid, make me cry, and give me stomach pain.

Use antacid and just stop it already! No, really. Virtually every wedding photography professional practices the craft in a way that utilizes the benefit of multiple ‘styles’ of wedding photography. Some photographers emphasize one over the other – mostly heavily posed fashion shots, say, with only a few candid shots from the ceremony and reception. However, understand that both styles, and so both sets of images, will tell the story of the day, whereas the absence of one of those sets would yield a collection that isn’t as rich or descriptive.

As you select your photographer(s), you will take a look at the collection of photographs that he or she chooses to display prominently, and these will speak volumes about the style of photography that is most important to that person. However, it is perfectly reasonable to expect (dare I say, assume) a certain amount of variety in the final collection of images.

9. I’ve got a shot list. It is important to me. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Deviation from this list will result in a world of pain. To the photographer who dares to cross me.

Please understand, it is the opinion of this author that certain wedding planning resources overstate the rigid and unyielding nature of wedding planning, which can be far more organic and fun than you might otherwise believe. That is right, I just claimed that wedding planning can be fun. So that means that you don’t need to hang your head in shame when you haven’t selected the caterer by the 18th planning day when the moon is in decent. THERE AREN’T STRICT RULES ABOUT THIS STUFF.

Nor is there a strict rule about the beloved (alternatively: dreaded) shot list. Such a list can be quite useful in many situations, particularly when family members in attendance are especially important (for whatever reason) and certain shots are needed of them prior to, say, their imminent demise. (This happens to photographers, unfortunately, with some regularity. The groom will pull us aside midway through the reception, and mention the fact the we should really try to get some great shots of the brides father who “will not be with us much longer.”)

For those that can’t resist looking over typical shot lists, your best bet will be to print out one that you like, highlight a few that are especially important (‘a few’ in English means three or so; I didn’t write ‘highlight all of them’), and hand it to your photographer. Nicely state that, while you are sure that she would capture these regardless of the list, the highlighted shots are REALLY important to you. Message sent, right?

10. I will direct my photographer throughout my wedding day like the pitiful waif that he is. (Alternatively, the photographer will direct me throughout my wedding day and I’ll obey every command.)

Neither of these options will occur; no one should allow it. Your wedding day is YOURS in every sense, and you are given enormous powers to direct the vendors you hire. However, the vendors you hire, including your wedding photographer, are professionals and know what they are doing. While this may very well be your third wedding day, presumably your photographer has had even more.

The service provided by wedding photographers is one best performed in the presence of open communication. There may be a situation where your photographer has an idea, pitches it to you, and you decline (nicely, of course, but firmly). “No,” you say. “I will not place that stuffed animal under my arm while humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic, gazing thoughtfully towards the east.” Similarly, there may be a case where you suggest a shot and your photographer says ‘no thanks.’ “No,” he says. “I will not take that photo; it makes me uncomfortable and I have never worked for Larry Flynt, so I don’t have that kind of training.” This type of open communication is the best (and only) way to conduct business for a photographer, and we expect it of our brides as well!

And there you have it. 10 myths of wedding photography, laid plain in all of their deserved glory.

Wedding Photography – How to Market Yourself Successfully As a Wedding Photographer

Oh boy, there are a lot of wedding photographers out there aren’t there? Or at least, there are a lot of photographers out there that claim to be good right? I have seen some really terrible shots, and hideous wedding photos, from people who are charging premium prices for their work.

There are many really talented photographers out there, who are not getting the work. So why is this? It can be put down to one simple fact.

Marketing

Let us ponder this point for a moment: If you do not know how to market yourself, then you may be the most talented photographer in the world, but you will remain a very talented, and unemployed photographer. Here are some key points to help you on your way to success as a wedding photographer.

Get Good Quality Printed Material

Nothing says, “I’m awesome” like some really great, good quality printed marketing material. The fact that you are able to produce such good quality material, inspires confidence and trust in your potential customers. Get the best that you can afford. You do not need 1000 brochures, or business postcards etc Quality rather than quantity is paramount if you are to court the right kind of clientele.

Some suggested items include: High gloss promotional postcards, business cards of at least 300gsm (gsm indicates the weight of the paper), glossy tri-fold brochures.

Be Clever with Where You Target your Printed Material

The most obvious place to leave a business card (along with 1000 other budding photographers) are bridal emporiums.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leave a business card there, but try at least to build a rapport with the staff when you visit, so that you are more memorable than the other 999 photographers who walked in before you.

Feel free to offer them an incentive if the client books you as a result of getting your card/flyer/brochure/post card from them. A simple gift certificate will often suffice. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then at least reward them if you receive a booking from them anyway – flowers and a box of chocolates are always appreciated, and you can be sure that you will be recommended again.

You can even offer to photograph some of their merchandise, and offer to reciprocate the referral to any brides who approach you, who may not have heard of their particular bridal shop.

If a bride is referred to you by a particular bridal shop, then it is an absolutely wonderful idea to take the bridal shop some of the photographs (displaying their merchandise on the bride) after the wedding. They will be so appreciative to see the end result and it will give them something concrete to show future customers proof of your photographic skill!

Other suggested places to take marketing material include: Premier Wedding Venues, Fabric shops (who specialise in wedding/evening dress fabrics), hair salons (hair stylists are chatty by nature, and if you can get them to talk about you – even better!), wedding planners, event planners etc.

Advertise in Local Business Directories

Sometimes simple is best! Often a local yellow pages (sometimes called white pages in some parts of the world), will have a special ‘pink’ bridal section.

For most brides, they may not know where to start looking for wedding vendors, and the yellow pages is an often overlooked advertising medium for photographers (our local yellow pages does not have one single listing for a childrens portrait photographer) which could be a potential gold mine if you place the right advertisement at the right time.

Remember that yellow pages get delivered free of charge to all homes and businesses with a listed telephone number – hello!

Join a Local Business Network

Local business networks operate in most major cities, and often have suburban chapters. In many cases they will only permit one person of each profession to join (e.g. one real estate agent, one lawyer, one optometrist, one graphic designer etc), so try to find one that either doesn’t have wedding photographer, or photographer at all, or is a new chapter and looking to increase its membership.

They usually meet once a week at a local coffee shop or restaurant, over breakfast, and the meeting allows members to speak about their businesses for 3-5 minutes each (depending on how large the membership is) and then to exchange referrals. e.g. the graphic designer is working on a the invitations for a wedding, and has promoted your services to the bridal couple, and they then pass on the contact details of the bridal couple for you to contact, and showcase your work to.

Be More Versatile in Your Work

Most photographers do not just shoot weddings. When I started out it was in the Sports Action genre, particularly Equestrian photography, and my very first wedding client, was one of the riders who had always liked and purchased the sports photographs that I had taken of her, and asked me if I would shoot her wedding.

It was the perfect opportunity to cut my teeth in a new direction, a small family wedding at home, and it was a huge boost to my confidence when the photos were so well received.

Remember wedding clients can be found anywhere, even in the current economic climate, people are still getting married, and still have wedding budgets so there is no reason not to go out marketing with all guns blazing as normal.

Network with Other Photographers

Believe it or not, other photographers can be your greatest source of work. Have you ever wondered what would happen, if you booked a wedding client, and then the day before the wedding you were suddenly involved in a car accident? What if you were unable to show up and shoot the wedding? Can you imagine the brides dismay when they’ve probably paid you a hefty deposit, and you suddenly can’t produce?

That’s why it’s best to have back up at every wedding you shoot. Offer another photographer a chance to shoot alongside you, or act as runner, or equipment set up person. Chances are they will do the same for you. If you are suddenly hurt, or unable to shoot for whatever reason, then they can cover the wedding for you.

Just make sure you have clear rules and boundaries regarding who shoots what, who edits, and who gets paid what before you even begin. Most photographers will have a network of photographers with whom they work well together, and it makes it very easy, and smooth if something should happen to go wrong.

It’s a good selling point to your potential clients if you are able to reassure them that even if something happens to you, that they have nothing to worry about, and someone will be there to shoot their wedding.

Lastly, Bridal Magazines

While this may seem the obvious choice, advertising in high end magazines is a very expensive though fruitful option. The exposure is good, the readership is huge, and it will in all likelihood yield a great number of bookings for you.

However, it is probably an avenue best left to the wedding photographer who has already made an impact on the local industry, and is just looking to keep exposure and name to a maximum, and perhaps to begin to take bookings on a national or international level.

The best of luck to you with your wedding photography marketing efforts.

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer – 10 Tips For Selecting Wedding Photography

You want your wedding photographer to capture everything that makes your day special, to capture you at your best, to deliver photographs that live up to your expectations. Here are 10 tips for selecting wedding photography that you can live with throughout your new life together.

  1. A reputable wedding photographer should have a physical location. A physical location where you can find them when you need them and where you can meet with them safely is important. Brick and mortar wedding photography studios build trust within the community and with their clients. If your wedding photographer does not have a local address (not a PO Box) that they will share with you, it’s a good reason not to trust them. They might work out of their house, but do you know where that is? A physical office or studio is paramount to them being trustworthy. Would be you be willing to have a random stranger come to your house, or for you to go to their house? It’s safer and more reliable to choose a wedding photographer with a studio or office you can visit and where you can find your photographer.
  2. A good wedding photographer should help make your day go more smoothly. Aside from a dedicated wedding planner, your photographer is the only vendor who is going to be spending the entire day with you. A good wedding photographer should make things easier for you. They should solve problems. Your wedding photographer should be flexible. They should be able to adapt and thrive in difficult situations. Find out more about their abilities and ask about a difficult lighting scenario, bad weather, or other catastrophe and find out how they dealt with it in the past.
  3. You need your wedding photographer to be focused on you. When you meet with any wedding photographer for the first time, do they ask about you, get to know you, and find out what you want? Or do only they talk about themselves and what they do? Find a photographer who is willing to spend time getting to know you so you know they understand you and your needs. This is the best way to find out if they are a good fit for you.
  4. Your wedding photographer should be knowledgeable and helpful. They should offer suggestions about options you have for different things, provide advice on scheduling and setup, be full of ideas, and be ready to make your day and your planning easier. A good photographer is big on planning. Your photographer should work with you before an engagement session to select clothing and location. Your wedding day photography should be scheduled as part of your day rather than as an afterthought. Photography does not have to be inconvenient – it can be a fun and integral part of your day.
  5. It might sound strange, but not all wedding photographers are the same and not all photographers are a good fit for every client. If your wedding photographer meets you and finds out about what you are looking for and then tells you that they don’t think they would be a good fit for you, it might be surprising, but it’s nothing personal. Wouldn’t you rather a professional be honest about this than trying to change to meet your needs? Sometimes photographers realize that what they specialize in is not the same thing a client wants. Photographers don’t want to make you unhappy, and if a wedding photographer thinks you might be happier with a different style of photography or with a different situation, we will tell you before you book so you are not disappointed later.
  6. Price is NOT the most important factor when choosing a wedding photographer: You definitely get what you pay for. Photography is like anything else in life: You get what you pay for. It is not logical to think you can hire someone for little to no money and get the same results you would get if you had spent twice what you paid. Price is normally a factor when it comes to quality. Photographers who charge more are usually backed by their reputation, their brand, and their experience. You should also understand that your photographs will become the lasting memory of your wedding day. There are two things you should spend money on for your wedding, it should be your venue and your photography. People will probably not remember the food, you will only wear your dress once, and most of the other things are not huge investments anyway (flowers, music, makeup). You will look at your wedding photographs regularly – perhaps even every day – for the rest of your life. Shouldn’t your wedding photos be great?
  7. Your wedding photography studio should be insured and licensed as a legal business. Many venues actually require insurance from vendors working there. Camera equipment is expensive and you should make sure your photographer is fully insured by a reputable insurance company to make sure you are protected. Many photographers are just individuals with cameras and maybe a slick website. Make sure your photographer is backed by a legal, legitimate business.
  8. Your wedding photographer should have backup equipment and a backup plan. Mandatory: Cameras with two slots for memory cards that can be written to simultaneously in case one card fails, backup cameras and lenses, a data backup plan including offsite backups, and a disaster plan. Protect your investment. If your photographer only has one camera, it’s not enough.
  9. Multiple photographers with your package are much better for you than having just one. Your wedding photographer should have multiple photographers on staff in case someone get sick or God forbid injured. A lone photographer cannot be in enough places at once to possibly cover a wedding day adequately. For all but the smallest weddings, your wedding photographer should have at a minimum a photographer and assistant/second shooter. Anything less and you will be missing out on important moments, angles, and opportunities.
  10. Your wedding photographer should NOT dump a disc of photos on you and disappear after the wedding day. Some photographers will sell you a disc of high resolution photos, give them to you, and that’s it. Your wedding photographer should provide value-add services and products after your wedding day – for example, photo books or albums, photo prints, and wall art. Other services you should look for are in-studio viewings and selection, retouching and editing services, and gift options. A photographer that shoots photos for a disc is going to give you a result that is a completely different set of photos than a photographer who is shooting with an album in mind or to create artwork. You are going to get a much better selection of photos from a photographer focused on artwork and an heirloom album than one who is going to shoot-andburn a disc for you and call it a day. Will you really want to spend time and money designing your own album? Probably not. Make sure your photographer provides you with personal usage rights for the images, but you do not need raw files or ultra high resolution photos if your wedding photographer designs for you an amazing photo album, gives you a disc of JPG digital negatives, and offers print, artwork, and design options after the wedding. Consider what you really need and talk to your photographer about what they provide.

If you choose a wedding photographer who you get along with, whose portfolio or example photographs you enjoy, who offers products you want, and whom you feel you can trust, your wedding photography experience should be a positive one.

Photography is one of the most important decisions you will make for your wedding, and you owe it to yourself and your future legacy to invest in selecting a good wedding photographer instead of just the cheapest photographer you can find.