choosing a wedding photographer-style

One of the most difficult decisions when planning a wedding is choosing a photographer. Look at a bridal magazine or do a Google search and the choices are overwhelming. How to decide?

There are several things to keep in mind:

What style do you want? A more traditional, posed-oriented photographer or the more modern, candid, PJ style shooter? While many photographers will offer a combination of the two, most still emphasize one over the other. While trained very traditionally, I now consider myself an editorial-style candid photographer. By that I mean I will take any and all posed photos that you, as the client, want and need, but for the most part I am there to capture the event as it unfolds. I shoot a wedding very much as a newspaper photographer would (though not with the same detachment). I generally stay away from contrived situations and spend most of my time documenting the day in a straight forward, though hopefully artistic way. My philosophy is that a wedding is an inherently special and happy day and showing the couple and their guests in the best way possible simply means letting them just be themselves.

That was easy! You’ve decided that an editorial style is the way to go! The next decision is what category of photographer should I choose?

Should you choose a larger studio with many photographers or a smaller independent? Because I am an independent I obviously think the latter is the way to go. Would you rather be one of a hundred or one of 30? A smaller vendor can offer levels of service that a larger studio simply cannot match. But what about backups? Isn’t a bigger studio better equipped to provide a replacement should disaster strike? Not necessarily. First of all, you are talking about a very rare occurrence. In over 20 years of shooting weddings I have never missed a date (I’m knocking on wood right now). But ok, what if it did happen? What if I got into a car accident on the way to your wedding? Well, for most of my weddings I work with at least one other photographer. In case of disaster they would take over as the primary shooter. For those events where I am working alone it gets a little more complicated. If I was disabled a month before your wedding finding a backup would be no problem. While I don’t have a staff of 15 or 20 photographers, I do have a network I can tap into (incidentally, one of the benefits of PPA and WPPI membership is that they will help a photographer find a substitute if necessary).  Also, it should be noted that if something happens to your photographer on the way to your wedding or at some point during the day, the size of the studio you hire matters little. No studio, large or small, keeps a stable of photographers at the ready in case of a once in a lifetime event. A second factor to consider is that larger studios require that their photographers work in a very similar, if not virtually identical, style.  I know when I worked for a large studio improvisation and individual style was discouraged. From a management point of view, the photographers should be as interchangeable as possible. In other words, it’s an assembly line mentality. Independents such as myself, work under no such restrictions. I can approach every wedding as the unique opportunity that it is. 

Now you’ve decided that you want a wedding photographer with an editorial emphasis and who is an independent (yes!) there should be one final piece that factors into your decision.  Remember that you will be working with the photographer for several weeks or months following your wedding (ordering prints and album design) so be sure to hire someone with whom you feel comfortable. They can be the greatest photographer in the world but if they are difficult to work with you’ll live to regret your decision.

The next blogs will examine several issues in detail, such as pricing issues, levels of service, and what to keep in mind to get the best photos for the day.

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