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Thursday, 28-Jul-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Overview of Today's Wedding Photographers

If you have not immersed yourself in wedding photography (yet) this brief explanation should clarify your thoughts as you choose your wedding photographer.

Remember: After your wedding, you will have several tangible treasures forever: your rings and your photographs. When choosing your wedding photographer, you are investing not just dollars and cents, but also your own time (and your family's) on the wedding day. That is why you should not settle on the most economical photographer, but seek out a skilled imagemaker whose style matches your vision of your wedding day, one who has an eye for superb images. (At the bottom of this page you will find links to great wedding images I have found on the www.)

If you understand how today's professionals approach weddings, you will have an easier time comparing photographers. To help you see your way clearly as you visit photographer, keep in mind four approaches to wedding photography: traditional, wedding photojournalism, illustrative and creative.

Traditional photography includes portraits of bridal party and family - close-up and full length - and candid photographs that tell the story of the day. This is the style that suits most couples and their families.

Wedding photojournalism means no posed photographs - all pictures would be taken without any instruction from or awareness of the photographer. This style became popular in the 1990s.

Illustrative photography has drama, grand poses and majestic scenery. Every detail in the image is carefully arranged to produce a photograph with impact. Think of this style as what you would find in high-fashion photography - where even the candid photos are the results of precise posing and lighting.

The Creative or impressionistic photographer creates images with the unusual angle or juxtaposition. The photographer is creating his or her artistic impression of your wedding day. The goal is to produce a limited number of art prints from your wedding.

Most photographers actually present a mix of all four of these, with an emphasis on the first (traditional). This makes sense: even if you love the impressionistic approach, your mom will surely want a touching photo of the bride and groom and a smiling picture of mom and dad with their son or daughter.

When you visit a photographer, you want to look at sample albums (the same wedding from first page to last, not just highlights from a hodge-podge of events) and see how well the photographer has created images in each of these four categories. The formals (posed) photographs should have the subject lit with directional and flattering light. You should see a natural sparkle (catch-light) in the eyes and the background should not compete with the subject for attention. Look for a variety of relaxed and natural expressions. If there are photojournalistic shots, see if they have impact and clarity, or are they merely snapshots. Ask yourself, "Why was this picture taken?"

The illustrative photos (with dramatic posing) should express ideas about romance and fantasy. The subject of the photograph should be a meaningful part of the picture, not just a bride plopped down on a rock in front of a bridge. The creative photographs should be playful and alive, and complement the coverage.

Reading these few paragraphs about photography will not totally clarify your ideas about wedding photography. So, here are some technical details that you might keep in mind while looking at photographs. As we mentioned above, the formals photographs should be lit with good light (soft or dramatic, to suit the pose and expression!). Good lighting gives depth and roundness to the subject. Using a flash on the camera usually gives the opposite result, so that is one thing to avoid. People Magazine thrives on flash-on-camera photos. Look in magazines with good photography, like Vogue and Vanity Fair, for good lighting. Kodak advertisements feature good lighting. The posing should be flattering, not stereotypical. Generally you want the subject to fill the frame (unless the picture is in the illustrative style) but not feel crowded by the borders of the photograph.

Since the photographer is showing you what he/she thinks are his/her best work, the focus and exposure (light/dark balance) should be perfect on just about every photograph, and there should be no need for the photographer to apologize for shortcomings in the photographs or presentation. The candid photographs should read easily: the story of the photograph should be apparent, with few distractions.

Do make sure that the person you interview, whether at a store-front studio or working out of a home - is indeed the photographer, not a sales rep. You want to see the images and meet the artisan behind the images before you decide on your photographer.

As you can see, you cannot interview your photographer in depth over the phone. In fact, until you have visited several photographers you don't even know the cost of photography that suits your taste. That's why we recommend that you not draw up a photography budget until you have met with a few and looked at samples to determine your own preferences in photography. Expect to invest 8% to 13% of your entire wedding budget in photography.


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