Unlike the cake, your wedding photographs will last a lifetime. In our three part series, we aim to help you get one of the most important items crossed off that to do list!
Two not always better than one
I have touched on this in a previous posting that two photographers are not necessarily better than one. I will not dwell on this point too much other than to say that I have never needed another photographer to capture a wedding day. I actually feel there is more possibility of mistakes with two photographers, and that not all companies offering two photographers are both professionals, with one of the two often being a trainee or spouse / partner of the one professional photographer; not always the case I grant you. I believe one photographer who is talented and has experience in photographing weddings has the ability and knowledge to ensure they capture the day consistently every time.
Ask yourself, does David Bailey or Annie Leibovitz have a second shooter with them? Two photographers may sound like you are getting better value for money, but are the results likely to be twice as good as one photographer? If that were the case then have several cheap photographers photograph your wedding.
Body of work
When you visit a professional photographer they should have a wide variety of work to show you, often with albums that are similar to the type of wedding you are planning. They may not necessarily have an album of a wedding at the venue you are having your wedding, but I would suggest they have an album from a similar type of venue.
If you are having a church wedding with marquee reception then expect a photographer to be able to show you some work from that type of wedding. Alternatively if you are having a civil ceremony and reception in a hotel, then an album with a wedding in that style should be available to show you. The photographer should be able to show you a wide variety of samples from various aspects of a wedding day in various different situations with different lighting to reassure you they can cope with any eventuality. The work should be something you like and can see yourself in the photograph, and there should be an element of creativity and unique style in the photographs.
The albums that a photographer uses should not replace the quality of the photography, but should represent a quality that will last. The album style should represent the style of a photographers work, and should be a style of album that you like. The style and quality of the photography should without doubt be first and foremost over and above the albums in terms of what to look for, but if the albums are of an inferior quality then they are unlikely to last the test of time.
Top quality albums are not cheap by any means and the style and choice that you have as a consumer should be something you like and be happy with. The album adds to the whole package that you finally receive, and a poor quality album will almost certainly taint the overall photographic package you receive. A professional photographer will want to show of their work in the best way possible, and should be using albums that are of top quality which complement their style of photography. Although there are a lot of album manufacturers there are only a handful that have a quality that are suitable in my opinion to class themselves as top quality, with one being head and shoulders above the rest; Queensberry of New Zealand. Needless to say all my albums are Queensberry albums.
Personality of the photographer
A photographer is in a very privileged position to be able to photograph your wedding day. It is the most important day of most peoples lives and to spend that time with you and for you to be in the presence of a complete stranger you have to be completely comfortable with them. If you do not quite gel then there is a possibility that you will not relax completely during the day or during the formal photographs, and unfortunately this will show through in the end results.
A photographer should have a personality you are happy with. Someone who has the ability to control a situation but not upset anyone. Not be overbearing if it is a quiet intimate wedding, and not be shy if dominance is required. Usually a photographer should have a personality that you like who you can see yourself enjoying having time with on your wedding day. You can usually tell when you visit a photographer what they will be like on your wedding day. If they talk constantly whilst you are looking at albums then they may well be domineering on your wedding day. You should ask them how they would expect to photograph your wedding from start to finish, and they should be able to tell you without a problem. You do not really want someone who uses flash during the ceremony putting you off saying your vows, or to stop you as you are walking down the aisle on your way to get married just so they can setup up their camera to ensure they get a good shot. A good photographer should be ready anyway and know when not to interrupt a wedding day.
It is something to bear in mind and something you should consider strongly when making a decision. If when you get your album you can think of nothing other than how much the photographer ruled the day and how long you were away from your guests, then you have not done well in choosing a photographer for your particular wedding.
I personally do not hold much credence with qualifications, especially from photographic bodies, despite the fact that I have a selection of good qualifications. Professional academic qualifications should give you the reassurance that a photographer has been taught the technicalities of photographic equipment, and they have been in varying photographic situations as part of their course, but should not really be considered how good a photographer is as their style could very much well be a style that you do not like.
Photographic body qualifications can be a little deceptive as although 20 photographs may have gone through a judging process, the qualification gained is very much dependent on the opinions of people who either like your style of photography or not. It is to a large part dependent on personal opinion as to the qualification you gain. Also a photographer can choose 20 of their best photographs to put forward but 20 photographs are not that many and most average amateurs can take 20 good photographs that can gain them a photographic qualification if they take enough of them.