What makes a good wedding photographer?
Whilst that’s not a straightforward question to answer, a bit like , “what makes a good chef” there are some common features required to be a good wedding photographer.
Let’s firstly think about the task at hand.
That’s basically to attend a wedding on behalf of someone else – a paying client who has certain expectations ranging from someone who wants photos only slightly better than her sister would get on her iPhone, through to someone who wants several hundred front page magazine quality images.
So requirement number one is probably to be able to give the wedding client what they want no matter what that is.
Moving on to more pragmatic issues…
Photographing a wedding, being a “good wedding photographer” will vary depending on who you ask so this is my view as someone who’s photographed over 150 weddings.
As they say, in no particular order.
Get The Shot!
I’ve attended weddings in heavy sleet where the temperature was 2c and a freezing wind. I’ve attended weddings on a beach in blazing sun and 35c It makes no difference – you still need to get the shots that matter. To achieve that comes down to :-
Photography Knowledge and Experience Camera Gear
I photographed my first wedding for family member over 25 years ago, followed by a wedding for friends or family every couple of years or so. This was when expectations were much lower and 30 or 40 black and white prints were satisfactory. Gradually as time moved on so did my knowledge and skills. By the time 2006 arrived and my first digital camera expectations were higher – with the “NEW” digital photography allowing scores of digital images to be delivered – then Lightroom arrived allowing images to be easy manipulated and we rapidly moved towards where we are now.
And that is where the Bride and Groom expect a couple of hundred digital images of their Wedding, all edited to technical perfection.
Having gradually progressed from enthusiastic amateur to top class professional over many years accumulating skills and knowledge just happened.
Then there’s Camera Gear.
I’ve just shot a wedding in a beautiful old hotel in mid-winter late afternoon on a dull dreay day. Lighting was a few wall lights and a couple of chandeliers with some candle bulbs in. Beautiful but practically night-time! It’s only modern – professional camera gear that can cope with these sort of conditions and produce images that are top quality. Mid-range or amateur camera gear would simply not be able to get photographs. Then there’s a multitude of flashes and more importantly lenses. The right lens for a particular wedding photo is essential to getting a great photo.
BE CREATIVE WITH SHOTS AND POSES AT THE WEDDING
OK, most wedding couples don’t want to spend more than a few minutes getting photos of themselves – it’s their wedding and they’d rather mix and mingle with their guests than stand around so the photographer can get everything just perfect.
Hence why it’s vital as a wedding photographer to be efficient and be able to spend literally a minute or two with the couple getting magazine type shots, having already set everything up like lighting, the camera and lens etc. Then there’s actual posing – I have a selection of just 6 simple poses for wedding couples and 4 each for the bride and groom. We often don’t get to do them all but it does mean I don’t waste time “trying” various positions and poses
HAVE A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE THAT’S ARTISTIC AND POPULAR
Wedding photography style – what is that? I smile often when I see the gallery of many wedding photographers – especially those where all the photos are sunny with dreamy light and airy backgrounds where the beautiful bride has her veil gently blowing in the wind.
It’s a con!
Maybe, just maybe the photographer will attend two weddings a year where it’s warm and sunny with a gentle breeze and a beautiful bride in a beautiful dress at a beautiful wedding venue. Reality is more likely a chilly wet Wednesday at a modern registry office and reception at a local village hall.
So don’t be fooled by a wedding photographers’ gallery!
For me style is created when a photographer has done scores of weddings and found the equipment that best suits them, know which lens will give the best photo, the method they use to get photos, they way they work with the Bride and Groom and their guests.
It’s about being able to create super photos even on that Wet and windy Wednesday!
BE MORE THAN A JUST A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
During a 10 hour wedding I’ll probably be with either the bride or groom for around 6 hours. That’s in the same room, working with them to get shots, or in close proximity. Countless times I’ve been asked for help and advice, “should I do x, y or z?” . “What do you think about xy or z?” As someone who’s attended well over 100 weddings I’m in a good position to help out with good advice.
DELIVER EVERYTHING PROMISED AND MORE
Like all successful businesses I know that it’s essential to give wedding clients more than they expect and more than they’re paid for. It starts before the wedding where I try and get to know my bride and groom a little, to understand what’s important to them – are they family orientated or high fashion followers. What kind of wedding photos do they really like – remember my “style”, unlike many wedding photographers, is to give the clients what “THEY” want rather than what “I” want to give them! On the wedding day I always arrive way too early – this is so that no matter what I’ll be on time – I once had a puncture on the way to a wedding but still managed to arrive in plenty of time. I never watch the clock – weddings are notorious for not running to schedule so I need to be accommodating too. After the wedding I’ll deliver more images than I said, spend a lot of time on albums and prints – to give something worthy of someone’s most special day.
HAVE THE GEAR TO GET THE WEDDING PHOTOS THAT MATTER
Sorry – your friend at work with a DLSR who takes “amazing” photos simply doesn’t have the gear to photograph a wedding to professional standards.
Two Professional Cameras (what if her camera shutter gets jammed and she can’t get anymore photos?) are essential. A variety of lenses – I use 5 these days from 17mm focal length to 135mm. All super quality professional lenses and each costing nearly £1000 Lighting – Weddings are often in dark venues (churches are notoriously dark) and off camera flash(es) is essential Lightroom – most amateurs shoot photos as “Jpeg” files Professionals use “Raw” which allow much more manipulation later using Lightroom or Photoshop to create professional quality photos.
NEVER EVER LET ANYONE DOWN
Simple – unbreakable law. If I say it I do it. Never any questions
BE AN AFFORDABLE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
To give the level of service I feel every wedding couple deserve I can do no more than one wedding per week – and during peak season that’s what I’ll do.
However it’s impossible to shoot one wedding a week for much of the year hence I cover about 30 weddings a year. As a professional I need to earn a living – this determines the price for each wedding.
Some photographers work on the basis that if they charge more they’ll be seen as “better” or “top quality” – I personally know one of the World’s top Destination photographers – he charges £15k per wedding. Yet he told me that “anyone” could produce the photos he does if they have a beautiful couple, at a beautiful destination and where they are will to spend several hours getting fantastic photos.
And whilst he gives the impression he’s always fully booked he actually only does 6 of these a year. I aim to do more as I love photographing weddings I aim to give the very best anyone could expect no matter what the price And I aim to make a reasonable income no more.