By Peter Bronski
YOUR GUIDE TO CHOOSING AND GETTING GREAT RESULTS FROM YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
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.
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
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
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 â€˜I like it,’”
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
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
The meet-and-greet is also a chance to see whether the photographer’s personality meshes with yours. “Personality is everything,”
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
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,”
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,”
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
Price: $3,500 and up
Arbor and Ivy Photography
Captured Moments by Carmen
Style: black and white/color photojournalism
Price: $2,000-$2,999 and up
Price: $3,500 and up
J. Ferrara Photography
Style: candid fashion
Style: Undirected and documentary
Price: $3,000 and up
Bill Fredericks Studio
Style: creative documentary
Price: $3,950-$6,950 and up
H & H Photographers
Price: $2,400 and up
David Lindner Studio
Price: $3,500 and up
Ian Londin Photography
Style: documentary and intimate moments
Price: $5,500-$7,000 and up
Photography by Terry Michael
Price: $2,000 and up
Kent Miller Studios
Todd Shapera Photography
Price: $5,000 and up
Peter Bronski (www.peterbronski.com) is an award-winning writer from