There are a lot of lists out there of “Questions you should ask your Wedding Photographer.” Instead of giving you a list of questions, I thought I might just mention some things that your wedding photographer should be able to do. This isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list but if someone tells me they are a professional wedding photographer, I expect them to be able to do these things:
Behave in a Professional Business Manner
Does he return emails and phone calls? Does he deliver in a timely manner? If your wedding photographer never calls you back and says he’ll need 8 weeks to deliver your images, be afraid. You want a committed professional who is determined to give you good service and great images.
Posing people can be very important. I’m not just talking about posing a bridal party or posing a big family group. Posing can be so much more. Sometimes it’s just a little direction for the bride and groom, a little “tweek” that can make all the difference in how the pictures turn out. Look for both types of posing when you look for a wedding photographer. Make sure they can pose a group or a couple but also look for images that look natural and have a sense of “flow.” Odds are, he posed those pictures too.
Use Natural Light
One of the first things that you have to learn as a photographer is how to see light. It can take years to develop the ability to see light the way the camera sees it and then figure out how to use that light to your advantage. Sometimes it means using natural light to create a great image and other times you are in a situation where the natural light is actually hurting your images… and if you can’t recognize the problem and fix it, you will have bad wedding pictures. Harsh shadows, lens flare, etc have ruined many a picture.
Use Off-Camera Flash
Taking the flash off the camera and putting it on a tri-pod or handing it to an assistant makes a huge difference in the quality of your images. It can be used to create amazing portraits, to light a dark room and even to create a dynamic light source that wouldn’t exist otherwise. There are still many photographers who refuse to learn how to light their clients but I’ve always felt that you are only hurting yourself by not having that option.
Use Bounce Flash
Bounce-flash is like off-camera flash because it dramatically changes the way that light falls on your subject. Again, there are many photographers who never learn to use it. They either shoot without a flash or they shoot with straight-ahead flash. Just like off-camera-flash, it’s one of those things that it just makes sense to have at your disposal. Whenever I hear of a photographer who refuses to learn off-camera-flash or bounce-flash I think of a golfer who refuses to learn how to use half the clubs in his bag. I mean, sure, you could play golf with only half the clubs but why would you?
Shoot in Low Light
Sometimes you just can’t use a flash (Catholic weddings are famous for “no-flash” rules). When that happens you need professional gear that is designed to shoot in low-light situations. If you are getting married indoors or having a reception indoors, make sure your photographer can get the shots, either by having low-light gear or having experience with lighting a room with flashes.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I was once photographing a bride and groom and dropped a $1700 lens onto concrete (that’s right, the same one from the picture above). I quickly put it in my bag and grabbed another lens. I’ve had weddings get rained out and suddenly have to come up with creative pictures that could be shot in the hotel room. I’ve stood in water, crouched in sand, climbed on chairs and stretched out in the street. No matter what you throw at him, your wedding photographer should be able to handle it. Whether it’s crazy picture requests or broken equipment, they should always be prepared.
I recently read a blog post where the photographer said that people don’t care about what equipment you use or what awards you’ve won. They just want someone that is passionate about photographing their wedding. I get that, I really do. I’m passionate about weddings, I get excited when I create a great image and anyone who’s met me will tell you that I am definitely not a wallflower. But, that alone doesn’t make me a great wedding photographer. There’s nothing wrong with asking technical questions. Make sure your photographer has the ability to handle whatever comes his way on the wedding day to insure that you get the memories you deserve. The pictures above where I was standing 15 rows back in the church? I wasn’t told I couldn’t approach the altar until 5 minutes before the wedding started. But, because I had the right gear and enough experience, I was able to still capture everything.
Design and Deliver a Wedding Album
It’s funny. I meet photographers all the time who tell me that people don’t want wedding albums anymore. I don’t know what they’re talking about. My clients always want an album. It’s very rare that I get a client who doesn’t want an album and when I do it’s usually solely for budget reasons. They usually come back in a year and get one. Why don’t other wedding photographers sell albums?
I believe it’s because they don’t offer a good enough product. My albums sell themselves. They are designed by me, by hand, and printed by a professional lab that only sells to professional photographers. There’s a saying, “Print What You Want To Preserve” and it’s absolutely true. Getting all your images on disk is great but nothing compares to a professional album. I keep waiting for all these clients who have to be convinced to get an album but it never happens. They come in, sit down and before I can even speak they are reaching for the albums. Make sure your wedding photographer can design and print a professional, high-quality album that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren.
Once you’ve picked your images for your album or decided on a large print for your living room you’ll want a photographer who can retouch them. It’s a delicate process. You want those wrinkles smoothed and the blemishes removed but you don’t want to come out looking like a plastic doll. You also want to be wary of the photographer who does too many “effects” to your pictures. “Selective color” and “photoshop blurring” may seem cool now but trust me, in 10 years they will be dated and old. Your wedding pictures have to last several lifetimes so pick a photographer who will give you clean, well lit, well posed, realistically retouched images that will stand the test of time. (I really want to post a picture here to illustrate what I mean but I have this thing about not posting other photographer’s work and trashing it. So, just google, “bad photoshop wedding pictures” and you’ll see exactly what I mean. )
Well, that’s it. I’m sure that my photography friends will point out some things that I missed but this is a pretty good place to start. If your wedding photographer can do everything on this list, you should be in good hands. :)