You’ve gotten engaged…you’ve picked a date…and you’ve picked a venue. Time to pick your wedding photographer. If you have someone already in mind, you might want to check with them before you pick your date.
Picking out your wedding photographer is one of those details you shouldn’t leave to the last minute. Many photographers worth their salt are booked often a year in advance.
Before you start making calls, you should have an idea of the 3 different general types of wedding photography coverage available to you.
When people typically think of wedding photos they often think of the posed shots of the bride and groom after the ceremony, a slew of posed photos with friends and family, zany shots with the bridal party, table shots of guests, and cutting the cake. These are the photos that end up on your parents’ mantles or that are sent out as christmas cards. Many people will think, posing people, how hard can that be? There actually is a real art to it. Making sure that people don’t look stiff, that the poses look natural, yet interesting and balanced is a critical skill for a more traditional photographer. This type of photographer will usually cover the ceremony and a few hours of the reception. They will tend to bring large flash setups with them to mimic the perfect lighting conditions they like to have when taking photos in a studio. Since this type of photographer is not as focused on getting every little detail they will usually shoot fewer exposures (~300-500). If you want many framed formal shots, traditional portraiture is a good style to choose.
Photojournalism is a buzz word you are likely to hear time and time again as you are interviewing prospective photographers. This style has become fairly popular of late. In this style, the photographer is there to capture the story of the day more so than to capture perfect family portraits. If you are planning on investing in getting a wedding album, this is often a style to choose. To tell the story, they usually spend the whole day with the Bride and Groom, from beginning to end. This includes them getting ready for the big event in the dressing room (sometimes including shots at the hair salon), all the way to the bride and groom leaving the reception, sometimes even capturing as they arrive at their hotel. Their photos look similar to that which you’d find in a magazine or newspaper. Due to this more expanded coverage, photojournalists tend to shoot more exposures at a wedding (~700-2000+). They will get shots of the program, the shoes, the hair clip, bridesmaids laughing, the father of the groom straightening his son’s tie. If it was at the wedding, this type of photographer probably has a photo at it in one way or another.
Some use flash, and others rely completely on natural light. If you generally don’t like flashes going off many times or if you or a member of your family has epilepsy, this is something you should take into account. Some rely on natural light for different reasons. Some find natural light is just more beautiful and captures the feel of the event better, while others want to be as unobtrusive as possible. Without using flash, they can better become flies on the wall who are just there to cover the event. These types of photographers will usually not ask anyone to pose, they are there to capture real, unposed, moments. Other photojournalistic photographers may loosely direct people into a pose or ask you to re-enact something they saw you do that would make for a beautiful photo.
Most photojournalistic photographers are willing to shoot the expected family photos (although some will not). Some are good at getting those family portraits, others, not so much, be sure to ask for some samples of their basic posed work as well.
Portrait Journalism/Fine Art
The last style is bit of a hybrid of the two. Portrait journalists excel at posing subjects in a more modern fashion. This type of photographer will usually request 20-30 minutes of time with just the bride and groom to do some more editorial posed photos with them, or may even suggest a whole bridal session on a day prior or after the wedding day. The look and feel of these portraits is most similar to that which you’d find in a fashion magazine. The images are meants to be pieces of fine art which can stand alone or be part of an album. Portrait journalists usually have a keen eye for detail. If you are looking for the most artistic way of capturing your day, selecting a portrait journalist is probably the best way to go.
Melting Pot Style
Very few photographers these days fall neatly into one of these 3 categories. Most take little bits and pieces from each of the styles. It is important when picking your photographer that their dominant style matches what you want for your wedding photos.
With this information in hand, hopefully you will have a better chance of finding the right wedding photographer to capture your special day perfectly for you.