Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect

 

By Peter Bronski

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YOUR GUIDE TO CHOOSING AND GETTING GREAT RESULTS FROM YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

 

 

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More than 60 years after his wedding day, my grandfather, Papa, still flips through the pages of his wedding album. My grandmother lost a battle with pancreatic cancer more than five years ago, but until the very end—after more than 50 years of marriage—Papa still referred to her as his bride. Today, their wedding album sits on his dining-room table, opened to pages of the two of them together on their joyous day. The pictures are moments captured in time and preserved for posterity, and they’re more important to Papa today than ever before.

Selecting your photographer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the wedding-planning process. The photos from your wedding will be some of the most enduring mementos of your treasured day: visual memories captured forever. Unless you’re my wife, Kelli, who remembers that our wedding cake four years ago was a “poached pear-and-vanilla-bean pound cake with caramel mousse and cognac buttercream,” you probably won’t remember what you ate for dinner or dessert. But 20 years or more down the road, you will have your wedding photos.

And it pays to get them right. You put hours upon hours, months, or even years into planning and making sure your wedding day is picture perfect. Follow this advice to make sure your wedding photography is too.

 

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Starting the Search Once your wedding date is set, begin looking for your photographer. The best professionals can fill their schedules more than a year ahead, and advance planning increases the chances that the photographer you want is available on your day.

 

Finding Photographers Names of wedding photographers can be found virtually everywhere—on the Internet, in brochures, advertised in bridal magazines, and at bridal expos.The result can be a mind-numbing number of choices.

Where to start? Above all else, get personal referrals from people whose taste and style you trust. “Ask everyone you know for the names of photographers they’ve used or worked with,” says Janelle Robbins, a bride from Yorktown Heights. “Friends, family, co-workers, even other wedding vendors you’re hiring.” Robbins honed her initial list of referrals down to five photographers to meet with and found her match from there. Michelle Maiz, a bride-to-be from Yonkers, found her wedding photographer thanks to the recommendation of another bride she met through a wedding website message board.

 

Choose Your Style Knowing  the style of wedding photography you like will help you further narrow your search for the perfect photographer. All wedding photography generally falls into one of two categories: formal or photojournalistic. 

The formal style includes lots of traditional, posed shots. Within the formal category, you’ll find both a classic style (think typical portraits) and an artistic style (think people running and jumping in the photos or creatively framed between the foreground and background). The artistic style is also known as “directed photography,” since the photographer is directing the bride and groom, and possibly the entire wedding party, through a series of shots.

A photojournalistic style includes lots of candid shots. “We’re capturing you in the moment, interacting, and we’re the silent watcher,” says photographer Bill Fredericks, owner of Bill Fredericks Studio in Manhattan and one of the most sought-after photographers for Westchester weddings. A photojournalistic style can later help you “tell the story” of your wedding, since your photographer will have snapped pictures of the events as they unfolded. More than any other style, photojournalism is in vogue at weddings these days. “We wanted someone who was going to melt into the background and capture the moments as they happened,” Robbins says. “We didn’t want them to become the focus of a moment by posing it.”

Most photographers, in practice, will shoot your wedding in a combination of styles, and ultimately it’s less about style and more about simply answering the question: Do you like the photographer’s work? “You don’t need to be an expert in photography to look at a photo and say ‘I like it,’” Fredericks says.

 

Pick Your Price Costs for wedding photography run the gamut, from the mid-hundreds to ten thousand dollars and up. More often than not, the higher the price, the higher the quality. “You get what you pay for,” says Kent Miller of Kent Miller Studios in Peekskill.  “If photographers are undercutting their price, they either don’t have a lot of experience or they don’t feel confident with what they can do—and hence don’t feel confident enough to charge for a quality job.”  Bottom line: Don’t skimp on getting the best professional you can afford.

Yorktown Heights resident Janelle Robbins and her husband, Steve, heeded that advice. “Photography is really important to both of us; in college, I ran a darkroom and taught photography classes, and my husband and I both enjoy photography as an art form and as a hobby,” says Janelle. “We were paying for our own wedding, and photography was one of the few key items we were really willing to splurge on.”  There’s no set rule on what percent of your budget should be spent on photography, but if you’re looking to cut corners, this is not the place to do it.

 

Meet and Greet Narrow your search down to three to five photographers to meet with in person. Kimberly Terry, a bride from Larchmont, spoke with eight photographers on the phone before making appointments to meet with three.

If you haven’t already looked at an online photo gallery, this is the chance to see your potential photographer’s portfolio. If the studio has more than one professional, ask to see the work of only your prospective photographer, not a compilation of the studio’s best work.  Also ask to see a full series of shots from a single wedding, not a collection of multiple events.  This will allow you to better judge the photographer’s quality of work. “Also try to check out a photographer without him knowing it,” recommends James Ferrara of J. Ferrara Photography in Cornwall, New York. “Go onto pictage.com [a popular site for wedding photographers] and check out raw wedding shots, from start to finish. Don’t just rely on a studio’s highlight reel.”

The meet-and-greet is also a chance to see whether the photographer’s personality meshes with yours. “Personality is everything,” Ferrara says. “It will come across in the photos.” Kent Miller adds: “We’re professionals. We know how to take pictures. But with whom do you feel comfortable? If you can’t get along with your photographer, it can make the entire day a nightmare.” Sometimes, it’s not about how your personality meshes with the photographer’s. It’s about how the photographer will fit in at your wedding. If you have a large, boisterous extended family, a soft-spoken photographer may not be the best choice.

Finally, use your in-person meeting to answer several important questions. Does the photographer shoot digitally or with film? (Digital is quickly becoming the norm; there’s no difference in quality, and it offers versatility for online galleries.) Do you like black-and-white photography, color, or sepia? How long has the photographer been in the business? (Five years or more is a good rule of thumb, but the quality of the photographer’s work should be your overriding determining factor.) If the photographer shoots in a photojournalistic style, has his or her photography been published in newspapers or magazines? Is he or she a member of a professional organization, such as the Professional Photographers of America?

 

Sign the Contract Once you’ve made your choice, it’s time to make it official. Before signing, don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of any package deals. “We didn’t want a cookie-cutter package,” says Maiz, who is getting married in October. “We weren’t looking for a traditional photographer.” She wanted a photojournalistic photographer who would think, and photograph, outside the box.  She wound up choosing Jerome Braga of Studio 1923, which maintains offices in New York City and Connecticut, for her wedding at the Fountainhead in New Rochelle.

Remember: If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist. Make sure every detail of your arrangement is spelled out in writing. Will there be an assistant or second photographer to support your primary photographer? (This can be especially important at larger weddings.) What will happen in the event of an emergency (if, for example, your photographer gets in a car accident or a blizzard cancels a flight or closes roads)? Will a back-up photographer show up to shoot your wedding? How long will the photographer cover the event? (Six to 10 hours is average.) Who will own the negatives? How soon after the wedding will proofs be delivered? (Two to five weeks is average.) If you’re shooting digital, will you receive a CD or DVD of all photos? How many shots will be taken?  (This can range anywhere from 600 to more than 2,000 shots. But remember that quality is more important than quantity. Most people don’t put more than 100 pictures in their finished album, and the more shots your photographer takes, the more editing you’ll have to do after the wedding.) Will photos be posted to an online gallery or website where guests can see pictures and order prints?

 

Before the Big Day It’s common for photographers to offer a pre-wedding photo shoot (also known as an engagement shoot) as part of their packages. Even if you’re not planning to submit a wedding announcement to local newspapers, take advantage of this opportunity. “Ten minutes in front of the camera can accomplish more than hours speaking with your photographer,” Fredericks says.

Also, before the big day arrives, make sure your photographer is familiar with the venue. Does she know where to position herself for the best photos? What about lighting issues?

Finally, create a hard-copy list of family members and friends who need to be photographed at the wedding, and discuss the wedding schedule and directed photography with your photographer. There’s nothing worse than reviewing your proofs and realizing that someone is missing!

 

Your Wedding Day You’ve set a schedule with your photographer; now stick to it. “A good photographer can handle any environmental situation,”Fredericks says. “But we can’t create time that’s elapsed, and you can’t do great photography in ten rushed minutes.”

Resist the temptation to over-direct your photographer and the photos. You’ve spent a lot of time finding the right photographer; now put your faith in that decision. Photographer Kent Miller has been in the business for many years but has only been married for three. “I know it now more than ever before,” he says. “The day goes by fast. Don’t let the photographer or the photography interrupt it.”

 

After the wedding Basking in the glow of your newlywed status, all that remains is to tie up loose ends. Review your proofs, meet with your photographer, and plan your wedding album. Create parent albums if you wish. Order prints. And reminisce!

 

 

Photography by Alfonso

Scarsdale, NY; www.photosbyalfonso.com

Style: casual

Price: $3,500 and up

 

Arbor and Ivy Photography

Eastchester, NY; www.nyphotojournalist.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $4,000

 

Captured Moments by Carmen

Armonk, NY; www.capturedmoments.com

Style: black and white/color photojournalism

Price: $2,000-$2,999 and up

 

Leslie Dumke

Guilford, CT, and New York, NY

www.lesliedumkestudio.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $3,500 and up

 

J. Ferrara Photography

Cornwall, NY; www.jamesferrara.com

Style: candid fashion

Price: $4,000-$10,000

 

Lisa Forman

Piermont, NY; www.lisaforman.com

Style: Undirected and documentary

Price: $3,000 and up

 

Bill Fredericks Studio

New York, NY; www.bfstudio.com

Style: creative documentary

Price: $3,950-$6,950 and up

 

H & H Photographers

Riverdale, NY

www.handhphotographers.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $2,000-$4,000

 

Chris Leary

New York, NY

www.chrislearyweddings.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $2,400 and up

 

David Lindner Studio

New York, NY; www.davidlindner.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $3,500 and up

 

Ian Londin Photography
Brooklyn, NY
www.londinphotography.com
Style: documentary and intimate moments
Price: $5,500-$7,000 and up

 

Photography by Terry Michael

Tuxedo Park, NY; www.terrymichael.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $2,000 and up

 

Kent Miller Studios

Peekskill, NY; www.kmsweddings.com

Style: photojournalism

Price: $2,300-$10,000

 

Todd Shapera Photography

Pleasantville, NY; www.toddshapera.com

Style: lifestyle/editorial

Price: $5,000 and up

 

 

Peter Bronski (www.peterbronski.com) is an award-winning writer from Boulder, CO.

 

 

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