Why you need an experienced wedding photographer

East-Sussex-photographer

Brides and grooms pray for wall to wall sunshine on their wedding day, but their wedding photographer dreads the concept. What?!  Find out why you need an experienced wedding photographer.

Yes, really, in the UK wedding photographers are more accustomed to shooting in overcast or at least partly cloudy conditions and, while beautiful blue skies look great in a photo, the harsh shadows created by direct sunlight will have many a wedding photographer scratching her/his head in frustration.  On a bright sunny day we look around for shade cast by a building or dense tree. Without it we really need to start thinking.

I like to shoot into the sun by positioning the bride and groom or group with their backs to the sun so nobody is squinting into the sun, they don’t have harsh shadows across their faces and they are nicely backlit.

Another major challenge is wind.  I’m happier with a rainy day than a really windy day.  It very, very rarely rains constantly all day long, so at some point in the day there will be an opportunity to nip outside and get some shots.  Wind on the other hand is usually constant and really messes with hair and clothing.

Now, add wind to a bright sunny day and the fun really starts for a wedding photographer, because as surely as eggs are eggs the wind will be blowing in the wrong direction.  You want to shoot into the sun, but the wind is coming from behind the bride and groom or group, which makes the ladies look like they’re moshing at a heavy metal concert.  Not a good look for a wedding.

Dave and Jade’s wedding in Brighton on a gorgeously hot, sunny day in May that was also incredibly windy is a perfect example.  The venue was a beachfront hotel with the sun shining straight onto the front of the building with no outside space at the back of the hotel for photographs in the shade.  We’d planned photographs in the bandstand, but as luck would have it a wedding was taking place there at the time that we’d set aside for photographs.  So, that left only a very crowded, very sunny, very windy beach.  What do you do?

Cue well trained assistant who battled the wind holding a scrim (frame with lightweight, translucent fabric spread over it) above her head to diffuse the bright sunlight and cast a soft shade over the bride and groom sitting on the pebbles, thereby eliminating harsh shadows.  I shot from above them aiming down to cut out crowds in the background.

You work with what you have.  In this case that also meant including the crowds, because it was rather lovely that the beach erupted with applause for the newlyweds when we first appeared.

And then finally….you never give up.  You step outside after the wedding breakfast and speeches are over and you find that most people have gone home, the wind has died down and you’re into the “magic hour” or “golden hour”.  That time of day photographers love, when the sun is lower in the sky and the light turns a beautiful golden colour.

And you get the shot.

 

How to choose a wedding photographer

sussex photographer

You hear some horror stories of disappointed brides and grooms hiring people calling themselves wedding photographers.  Unfortunately, now that digital cameras have made photography so much more affordable and accessible, so many people are jumping on the bandwagon calling themselves photographers when in fact they simply own (possibly) a fairly decent camera.  I own a car, but I’m no Lewis Hamilton.

I no longer take on commissions for wedding photography as my portrait photography studio is so busy, but I still feel passionately about service quality in the wedding industry and the importance of respecting a couple’s once-in-a-lifetime special day, especially in relation to wedding photography.  Ten years from now, your photographs, and your spouse (!), are all that you will have to remind you of your wonderful wedding day.  The food will have been eaten and forgotten, the flowers will have died and not many brides keep their dresses these days.  So, to help you avoid disappointment on one of the most important days of your life, I thought I’d put together some advice on how to choose a wedding photographer:

    • Don’t book the cheapest photographer you can find – book the best you can afford.  If you have to compromise, take a smaller package.  Remember, your photographs are forever and your photographer has only one chance to get it right.
    • Always meet your photographer before making the booking – you have to feel comfortable with your photographer.
    • To get an idea of their style you should view a few sample albums of full weddings they have photographed.  If their style doesn’t suit you, don’t book them.
    • If you find a photographer that you really like, but the packages they offer don’t quite suit what you would like, ask them if they could tailor a package for you.  The vast majority of photographers will be only too happy to do so.  Professionals know that every wedding is unique and has different requirements.
Remember that when you hire a professional wedding photographer you’re not just hiring someone who takes good photographs and knows how to pose people so that they look their best.  Equally importantly, a professional wedding photographer:
    • is used to the stresses of the day and so should be skilled at spreading calm,
    • knows how weddings work and how to go with the flow when things don’t go according to plan,
    • knows how to help keep the timing of your day on track and work with the venue to achieve this,
    • is skilled at managing groups for photographs to achieve the best line up in as quick a time as possible while keeping spirits up,
    • knows when to hang back in the background to best capture the atmosphere,
    • can often predict when a magical moment is about to unfold and so will be positioned waiting for it to happen naturally,
    • is insured and will have a network of backup photographers should the worst case scenario present itself so that you are not let down on your big day,
    • always carries backup equipment in case of any problems with any of their equipment.

When interviewing photographers ask if they are insured and have backup equipment.  If the answer to either of these questions is no, or not a very clear yes, they are not professional.  This is a big red flag that you should not ignore!  A word of caution though – don’t get hung up on the size of their camera – a skilled photographer does not need the latest and greatest camera on the market, as long as they know how to use it properly.  Not on “Auto” or “Programme”.  Ask if you can speak to previous clients – not all of them of course, but 2 recent clients would not be unreasonable.

There is no margin for error when it comes to wedding photography.  It is very hard work, but it is a privilege to be so intimately involved in such an important day of a couple’s life together and I like to think that professionals in the industry are passionate about achieving exceptional results of a very special day.

Enjoy finding your ideal wedding photographer – there are many great ones out there!

May your special day be full of love and laughter and may your memories be captured beautifully by a caring, professional wedding photographer.

 

If you have a warning wedding story, to help others avoid disappointment, please post a comment.

Radio Discussion of cheap wedding photographers

It was so good to hear Jeremy Vine of Radio 2 doing a piece on the hazards associated with booking a cheap wedding photographer or videographer.  This followed on from the emergence of yet another horror story from a disappointed bride.  He interviewed Sarah Haywood, a wedding designer and wedding planner, who gave some great advice.  It is sad to hear about wedding moments that have been lost forever, because a non-professional was hired and I do feel for the couples who have been through this, but there is a lot you can do to avoid landing in the same terrible situation.

From a photographer’s point of view it is really good that there have been so many articles in the media over the last few months about this sort of thing.  Many people have gone out and bought a fairly decent camera and are advertising themselves as wedding photographers, often as a second job to earn extra pennies.  The recession has made it worse – everyone is looking to make extra money and others have lost their jobs and are looking for different ways to earn a living.  As a result they are advertising ridiculously low prices that, if you work it out, would be impossible to sustain a business once you’ve paid, tax, insurance (professional indemnity, public liability and of course equipment), accountant, web design and hosting fees, marketing materials, advertising, etc.  Not to mention equipment, including a full set of back up equipment, printing costs, album costs and so on.  In addition there is so much more to it than just turning up on the day and taking the photographs.  A wedding involves 40 – 60 hours of work.

The topic is discussed ad nauseum on professional photography forums, because it has had such a bad impact on the industry.  No professional photographer would consider photographing a wedding for a paying client without the necessary skills and experience.  For example a brilliant professional landscape photographer cannot suddenly become a wedding photographer without training – composing the image, using the correct settings and clicking the shutter is the easy bit.  The pressure on the photographer to get it right instantly regardless of circumstances is immense.  All this, while working to a tight deadline, managing crowds politely and assertively in whatever weather and the inevitable possibility that something will interfere with the planned timing of the day, to produce photographs that will amaze the bride and groom takes experience.

So, while my sympathy lies with those who have been caught out, I am very glad to see these stories being reported so that brides and grooms are better prepared when selecting a photographer.

Your photographs and your memories are the only part of your wedding day that you will keep forever…and your memories of the little things will fade without the photographs to keep it all alive.

To hear the discussion click on the link below, select from the list of items, then fast forward to minute 30:52. Jeremy Vine – wedding photography & videography

I wrote a blog with advice on choosing a photographer – you might find it useful:  Choosing the right wedding photographer for you.