A candid discussion about the type of person you are hiring to document your wedding day.
You are engaged! Cue the celebration. You are texting, calling, and constantly distracted by a new stone happily placed upon your, or your fiance’s, finger. Fast forward a bit. The smoke has cleared and the time has come to begin planning your wedding day.
Side note: We hope this is a fun process for you. Too many people get wrapped up in so many details and expectations that they end up making themselves miserable. The amount of time we’ve heard the words, “I’m just ready for this to be over…” is heartbreaking. Enjoy the process and don’t create too much pressure for yourself.
You’re now looking at a vast sea of wedding vendors. Thousands of florists, venues, caterers, and photographers. Wedding dresses; tuxes; hair; makeup; decor. The amount of pins you have on Pinterest board is about to break the internet. It’s truly a never ending well. Fortunately, it’s 2020 and there is an equal amount of quality resources like The Knot and Junebug Weddings to help you filter through the options and ideas pretty quickly.
So you’ve narrowed down some candidates for photography that you think may fit your style. They all seem pretty similar to you. The portfolios are comparable and you even forget which photographer’s site you’re on based on how alike they all feel. So you reach out, schedule meetings, and ultimately you go with the one that is the most affordable because if the end product looks the same then why pay more?
“You Get What You Pay For”
Here’s the deal. If you were looking for a decent photographer at a “good price,” you found it. You likely just booked someone who is well within your budget, maybe even a lot less, and who will most likely deliver you “good photos.” Now I put the word “good” in quotations because that term, my friend, is relative. It is a minefield for disappointment. Junebug Weddings wrote a great article about the cost here.
Before I go any further I need to say this. We, here at F&F, understand a budget. We understand that sometimes you just want to get married and if you can’t spend a lot that’s just the way it is. That is okay! What we’re hoping to do is to inspire you to look a little deeper than cost of “good photography” and to look for a photographer that resonates with how you want your wedding day to be remembered.
So what should you be paying attention to?
The Amateur VS The Artist
There is a strong difference in someone who knows the mechanics of taking nice pictures of a moment and someone who knows how to capture a moment to evoke an emotion for years down the road. Here we make the distinction between what we believe separates a “good photographer” from a photographer who is a true artist.
The amount of photographers in the world today is comical. Everyone you meet has a nice Canon or Sony camera these days and many of them can even take nice looking pictures. A lot of them, confident enough to do it for money.
The Amateur has learned enough about how to use a nice camera to get the lighting to look good and they can get that forever coveted “blurry background.” They have watched enough tutorials on Creative Live to be able to pose a subject in a few pleasing ways. They even know a few jokes to make someone laugh, hopefully, and can capture it on camera. They’ve got there bag of tricks. No judgement. We have ours too. In general, they have what it takes to deliver a good product within ideal conditions.
What’s Wrong With That
Nothing. Again, relative. If that’s what you are looking for then you can stop there. Pay the retainer and move on with planning. However, we find that most of our clients are looking for a little more. See, the Amateur lacks the intuition of an artist. It could be style, mindset, or lack of experience; but something is holding them back from looking at your wedding day in a deeper way. They are distracted by camera settings, itinerary, and pulling off the latest camera trick they saw on a YouTube tutorial. They aren’t really paying attention to who you are and attempting to capture it within the frame. They are preoccupied with their own check-list of photos to get. They continually return to the same poses, lighting conditions, and framing for each couple, regardless of that couples style or mood.
It may look good and might even produce consistent results. Great! However, it says nothing about you as a person, couple, and family.
In a heavily saturated market, we see less of these. What separates the artist from all the others?
1. The artist is a pro.
A less artistic point. The artist was once an amateur. They have used that experience as a stairway and learned from each step along the way. As always, the greatest lessons came from failure; some small and some large. Why does this matter to you? This is in part your insurance that the same failure will not happen on your wedding day. The experience your photographer has matters, which is why a professional costs more.
2. The artist is using the camera as a medium.
The camera is a tool for them. They use light, color, and composition to evoke emotion. They are not interested in you seeing the photos and remarking, “Yep. That’s what happened.” The artist’s goal is to make you feel happiness, love, warmth, nostalgia, anticipation, urgency, nervousness. To help you remember the way you felt and not just see the way you looked. They are both documentarian and orchestral conductor, nudging you along and curating an experience for you to hold on to. The camera does not distract. They use it to create the image they want. The image that shows who you are. Not to record the image everyone sees.
3. The ability to be flexible and roll with the punches.
The artist is able to adapt. This is, perhaps, the most important distinguishment. The wedding day is often hectic. Schedules rarely go as planned and there are almost always unforeseen circumstances and events. There can be rainy days, wardrobe malfunctions, and many other things going wrong. These things can change the scope of the rest of the day and the time for photography is always the first thing on the itinerary to get kicked to the curb. An artist is prepared for this. They have experienced this before. They are ready with ideas and inspiration to tell the right story. Your story. They are not panicked by the time, lack of sunlight, and dramatic relatives (we all have them). They are poised. The artist is calm, attentive, and ready to capture the images they were hired to capture, nearly regardless of circumstance. While the amateur will make excuses for things like little time or no sunlight, the artist, if allowed, will find time and create light. The amateur will get good images with great circumstances. The artist will make great images in any circumstance.
You Get to Decide
We are also not slamming on amateur photographers. Everyone starts somewhere. We were there once. Hell, you may say we’re still in that category. I suppose that is relative too. In the end, you get to decide who you believe is an amateur and an artist. What a beautiful thing! Again, we’re just hoping to inspire you to really look at the photographers you are considering to photograph your wedding day. Spend a little extra time and truly consider if their portfolio inspires trust and carries emotional weight.
How can I know?
We’ve heard a lot a stories over the years of people who wish they would have hired a different photographer for their wedding. Many of them went like this: “We thought they were good. Their portfolio looked great to us but we hated our own wedding photos.” Quality in art is so subjective that you can never be 100% sure what will happen, but hopefully here we can give you a few red flags to look out for so you’re not telling that same story down the road. So here are a few quick tips for things to look for.
Quick Tips and Things to Look For
Really consider the quality of their work. Does it resonate with you? Why or why not? Is it magnificent only because it was taken on a mountaintop by the ocean underwater while skydiving (you get my point) or did they really draw the personality out of a person?
Weird. I know. But if the photographer’s portfolio is thin, if you’re seeing the same faces everywhere on their website and instagram, it could be a sign that they just don’t actually have that much experience.
We know weddings cost a lot. Wedding photography is no exception. However, price is very often a great indicator of professionalism. If you’re shopping around and you find a few photographers at different prices, and then one comes in way under everyone else, it’s most likely a sign that they are not real pros. On the opposite side, if you find one that is much more expensive, it is a good chance that they are seasoned professionals. Expertise is where you can find trust in a photographer. But expertise usually costs more.
Photography is one of the only parts of your wedding in which the value of it will increase over time.
We obviously believe in the power of photography to preserve a moment and a feeling. We also want everyone to look at their wedding photographs and love them forever. For that to happen for you, you have to be able to see beyond trends, pressure, and yes, cost.
If you’re looking for a photographer we would love to be considered. We encourage you to look through our work. Read through the pages on our website and really think about whether or not we might be a good fit for each other.
If you feel something special, we hope you’ll reach out.
Fill out our contact form! We are stoked to start the conversation.