Five Myths About Wedding Photography

Posted by ISPWP Admin on March 21st 2009

The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP) asked its members if there are any myths or misconceptions about wedding photography that they continue to hear or read about. Here’s what they came up with:

MYTH: “I need to provide a list of wedding photos for my photographer to shoot throughout the day”

In years past it was common to find multi-page lists of “must have” wedding photos in every wedding magazine on the rack. These were checkoff lists to make sure the photographer would get a picture of “Mother adjusting veil while bride looks into mirror” and “Flower girl kissing bride on cheek” and of course the never-ending list of every possible combination of wedding party attendant and family member. Amazingly we still see a remnant of these lists showing up on websites and blogs targeted at brides. These lists came from a time when photographers could only load a small roll of film into their medium-format cameras. Every shot had to be previsualized and preplanned to conserve film. Nowadays with pro digital cameras and 16GB memory cards there is no such limitation. If your wedding photographer has the experience of many weddings under their belt, they will definitely know the important shots of the day, there is no need to remind them to take a picture of the cake cutting or the first dance. That being said, some photographers still like to have a list of the formal group shots to make sure they include the key bridal party and family members in those pictures.

Jessica Christian of Jessica Photo in Austin Texas says: “I think it can be a challenge for clients to know where to begin when hiring a photographer. After all, this is usually your first time hiring a professional photographer. I recommend the place to start is not with a list of photographs that you want or showing a photographer images that appeal to you. If you are a hiring a professional photographer of a distinguished caliber viewing her online portfolio and any other supporting images is where to begin. Study them carefully and make sure the images you have in your mind’s eye are represented. If not, move on to another photographer. Each wedding is completely unique with unique people, locations and moments. The talent of a photographer is her ability to interpret your day with her own unique skill, flair and talent. If you give your photographer a list you will inhibit her. Personally, I don’t work with clients who give me a list, I know I’m not the right photographer for them. For the formal portraits I recommend thinking this through beforehand and getting some idea of what you want and discussing it with me. My clients gather their closest friends and family and we fly through it simply and effortlessly. The more you plan out each and every photo you want, the more stressful your day will be.”

MYTH: “Wedding photojournalists don’t take formal portraits”

Wedding photographers who shoot in a photojournalistic style spend most of their day documenting the wedding day as it happens without intervening or directing. Their goal is to take images of the day as they happen and not create or setup images. This often leads to the misconception that wedding photojournalists don’t take ANY posed portraits or group shots. While there may be a few rare exceptions, virtually all wedding photojournalists are happy to take some time for group shots of the family, bridal party, and wedding couple. However, they are more likely to keep this session shorter than other types of photographers so they can quickly get back to what they do best, documenting the real moments of the day.

Jay Crihfield of Jay Crihfield Photography in Chicago says: “Every now and then I get the question ‘Is it OK if we take a few family/posed/formal shots during the day?’  My answer, ‘ABSOLUTELY!’  Sometimes brides think that contemporary, photojournalistic, or modern wedding photographers don’t, or won’t, shoot any posed bridal party or family formals.  Furthermore, a common misconception is that these pictures can take up tons of time on your wedding day and cut into the time for more creative, artistic portraiture or documentation of the day.  However, just because a photographer you’re considering doesn’t feature formals on their site or in their portfolio doesn’t mean they don’t realize the importance of these pictures, not only for the Bride and Groom, but for the parents and extended family as well.  Regardless of their unique, specialized style, any professional photographer should be equipped to handle these pictures as efficiently as possible.  The image below has 24 subjects, including 5 kids, and took a grand total of about 2 minutes to setup and shoot.  Total time on all of the “formals” at this wedding….16 minutes.  These kinds of basic group shots may not win any awards any time soon, however it’s important to make sure these are included with any coverage.”

MYTH: “It’s better to have two mediocre/inexpensive photographers than one excellent/expensive photographer”

If you’re thinking of hiring multiple photographers for the sole reason of getting lots of images and viewpoints, don’t forget that you shouldn’t skimp on quality. It’s more important for you to focus on the talent and portfolio of the photographer(s) you are considering rather than the number of photographers who will be at your wedding. Some photographers prefer to work alone and create wonderful images, while some studios prefer to work in pairs. Both approaches can be successful. The number of photographers at the wedding doesn’t matter as much as whether the photographer(s) you hire can deliver the types of images you want.

Dennis Drenner of Dennis Drenner Photographs in Baltimore Maryland says: “A lot of brides these days are looking for a second shooter, believing that two photographers are better than one and less likely to miss crucial moments. My response to that is talent and experience (quality) are more important than focusing solely on quantity. When you go in for a double bypass, would you rather have two medical students working on you, or one experienced surgeon?” For the most part, you get what you pay for in wedding photographers. That said, there are cases where two photographers come in handy. In Orthodox Jewish weddings, for example, important events happen in separate male and female sections at exactly the same time. The bottom line is to focus on your photographer’s talent. If he has a nice portfolio, it is in part because he knows where to be and when. That is, after all, half the battle.”

MYTH: “You can’t get any good pictures on a rainy day”

There’s no question that outdoor wedding and receptions have become quite popular. While an April wedding in California may have a good chance of sunny weather, you may not have as much luck in Washington State. So how do you get good wedding photography when it rains at an outdoor wedding? While an inexperienced wedding photographer may panic, a real professional will be able to adjust. Indeed, as long as the couple is willing, there have been many award winning wedding photographs taken in snow, wind, and rain. However, most couple would probably prefer to stay dry, so what happens on a rainy day when a bride and groom want some good wedding pictures?

Mark Romine of Mark Romine Photography in Bloomington Illinois says: “Well certainly a rain filled wedding day is not optimal for wedding photography but it doesn’t mean that all is lost. Discuss this with your wedding photographer well in advance and ask him/her what plans can be implemented as a back up in case of inclement weather. If you have hired a local photographer they are often familiar with possible options that you can take advantage of for little or no cost. Depending on how bad the weather becomes you may only need a dry overhang to get you in out of the rain. Often nearby park gazebos or historic buildings such as old court houses, post offices, libraries or university buildings with large stone pillars and overhangs can serve the situation well. If the rain is a torrential downpour with high winds then you will obviously need to be completely inside. Some locations that can work well, are again, old historic buildings like train stations or bus terminals. Some photographers have used the public areas of malls that maybe have an atrium in them. I know many photographers plan accordingly and often bring a large umbrella or two just for the purpose of shooting outside with a light rain or drizzle. These photos often make for wonderful romantic photos whether taken with a park or urban setting. If you have booked your photographer from out of town then you may need to scout some locations ahead of time and offer these as suggestions to your incoming photographer but be sure to have a conversation with them so that plans are in place in case you get that summertime thunderstorm.”

MYTH: “I’m having my wedding pictures taken for free by Uncle Bob because he just bought an expensive camera. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Does Uncle Bob have backup gear in case he has equipment problems? Does he know his camera settings instinctively so he can adjust for quickly changing light conditions? Has he invested thousands of dollars in extra flashes, camera bodies, and lenses? Has he mastered how to balance ambient light and flash? Has he invested in high end computer hardware and software, and learned advanced editing and retouching techniques to make your images look amazing? Does he have the experience to anticipate all of the important moments of your wedding? Do you have a contract with him clearly stating what he will be delivering and when he’ll deliver it? Has he attended countless hours of wedding photography seminars and workshops to hone his eye and to learn how to control light?

You get the idea. There is a big difference between an experienced professional wedding photographer, who has dedicated their professional career to wedding photography, and a casual amateur who just bought the latest camera gear. Sure, you may get lucky and Uncle Bob may get a couple of good pictures, but if it’s important for you to have high quality images from your wedding, don’t take chances. We read horror stories all the time from brides who are disappointed with their wedding pictures because they relied on a friend or relative. You don’t have a second chance with your wedding. Find your wedding photography through an organization like the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP) who maintain high standards for membership to make sure you’re getting a photographer with experience, talent, and industry recognition.

All photographers featured in this article are members of the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers. All ISPWP members have years of experience creating amazing images for their clients.


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