Wedding Photography Frequently Asked Questions
***Hi There! Got a minute? Heartfelt words updated March 14, 2017***
By all to be seen and heard, the availability of wedding photographers from 10 or 20 just a few years ago to now a zillion per town or city listed at internet wedding sites and searches does not indicate a sudden burst of creativity. It does indicate a decline in price of SLR (interchangeable lens) digital cameras which has encouraged a mass of salesmen and amateurs to produce misleadingly appealing websites promising you really nothing but a gamble you do not need on your wedding day. In over 20 years at this work I adore, in my capacity as "the photographer" wedding guests always come by me to share wedding photography adventures which had mostly not been too frightening until the last couple years, with venerable terms like "classic", "photojournalistic", "documentary style" and most recently "vintage fine arts" photography reduced to buzzwords to sell poor lighting and judgment and all the lens flare money can buy, and I'm left wondering what's happened as just a few years ago even the least talented wedding photographers really weren't all that bad and at least were honest. A little close to home, the esteemed PPA (Professional Photographers Of America) in 8/2011 finally suspended a Rochester, NH photographer's membership for two years for unethical business practices (write or visit for documentation).
Be cautious, do your homework--it's your Wedding Day, it's you at this amazing moment in your life, and it only happens once. If I'm no longer available for your day, I'll steer you in the direction of other real professionals who love their work as much as I do mine and won't disappoint you. Here are questions most often asked of me via phone, internet, or in person. This information is intended not only for couples for whom I'm available to shoot, but for those I can't help otherwise because I'm already booked for your Wedding date when you write or call. I hope my following, considered replies to the most common questions asked of me regarding Wedding Photography are of some use to you.
Be wise, and be happy.
What should I be looking for in a Wedding Photographer's work?
Artistry and consistency.
Someone who'd like to be your Wedding Photographer might speak well, seem nice enough, and have a lovely web page. In 2017 your job is to try and differentiate the artists from the proliferation of amateurs and salesmen who have muddied this art form since the advent of inexpensive digital cameras.
Wedding Photography, and in particular the portrait aspect of Wedding Photography, ought not only elicit some sort of hopefully positive emotion from you, but be interesting in form and tidy in detail.
When studying a sample portrait, how do you feel about a pose itself. Does it look stiff (stick-figures), contrived (a macho groom gazing affectionately at a butterfly) or unbelievable/illogical (people posed sitting or lying on a wedding dress train)? Is a pose and/or a photographer's lighting choice flattering to the subject(s)? Are there elements of a photograph (perhaps bright reflections, or indiscreet use of photo filters) which distract you from the subject? In an outdoor photo, could a branch which appears to be growing out of someone's head have been avoided? In a full-length portrait of a bride, is part of her dress cut out of the picture (a pet peeve of mine--"If she wanted a shorter dress she would've bought one!")? What are people doing with their hands--is a groom helping his bride hold up her heavy bouquet? In group shots, are relationships apparent, or are fake-smiling people posed from tallest to shortest or vise-versa in a straight line stretching into near-infinity?--no matter any particular photographer's price, it's too much for such a boring depiction of humanity. And keep in mind a portrait is more than a picture of a person or persons--it's also a picture about how the person or persons being photographed feel about their photographer and his/her skill.
In the field of Wedding Photography you'll find all manner of workmanship at all levels of pricing. Put on your critic cap when you surf photographers' websites. Tender moments over-powered by bright reflections, burly grooms gazing oddly affectionately at butterflies, couples with trees growing out of their heads, brides with their elegant wedding dress trains cut off, and more utter curiosities, are all found on local web pages. The good news is there's also wonderful work to be seen, composed by truly caring, talented professionals who might rightly be called "Artists".
As part of my search for talent for my wedding day, I visit business Facebook pages and don't understand why among photographer and other wedding service provider pages there are sometimes a hundred or less "likes" for the more talented people while those who don't seem to be as good can have a thousand or more. What's going on?
number of Facebook "likes" on any given business Facebook page pretty much means
nothing any more as "likes" can now actually be inexpensively bought in batches
of 50 or 100 or more from non-Facebook affiliated web sites. This practice
gives any business the appearance of popularity in the ever-important social
Since the rise of the internet and digital photography, much about the field of wedding photography has lately become less about photography and more about salesmanship. It breaks my heart a little when I see it. But there are honest, excellent, real photographers around, and you will find them if you try.
Do you bring an assistant?
In my 20+ years of shooting over 800 weddings from Boston, MA to North Conway, NH to Portland, Me, not one couple has either asked me for an additional photographer or decided after-the-fact they needed anything more than a single, talented, energetic one.
Unless the price of your wedding photography increases substantially for a second photographer, that additional photographer is probably an amateur along primarily for the sake of increasing the price and quantity not quality of photos promised.
Do you attend bridal shows?
With due respect to all sturdy, engaged couples who bundle up in mid-winter to visit a New England bridal show, the truth is you won't find many of the most talented, reasonably-priced photographers there as $500-$1000 table fees don't make much sense to established, busy people. What you will largely find are people meaning to convince you to pay more for less than you can now find by a Google search.
What is "fine arts" photography? So many photographers are now calling themselves "fine arts" photographers.
I used to know what "fine arts" photography meant, which was something about photographic art developed for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility. When I think "fine arts" I think of masters like Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and the exciting portrait work of Mark Seliger, Annie Leibovich and my personal favorite Henry Diltz --brilliant artists! "Fine art" used to mean something special. From what I've seen lately in the world of Wedding Photography, the concept of "fine art" has been mostly reduced to yet another opportunistic sales pitch and bland, color images which when converted to B&W are apparently to be considered "fine art". Not quite.
Adobe Photoshop is a fine tool I love to use, but "special" is that inexplicable something which happens before a photographer ever clicks on a mouse.
Other artistic terms in danger of being bled of meaning and reduced to buzzwords are "photojournalistic style" and "documentary approach", which have lately mostly come to signify ineptness at meaningful portraiture though such "photographers" apparently hope to lure you by promising a zillion candids, no matter that only a small portion of them will be of any real use to you. The latest wedding photographer spin I've seen is "vintage fine arts", as if contrasty, sepia-toned images are suddenly something any studied photographer can't easily make for you if you just ask.
What's the difference between a "full-time" and "part-time" photographer?
As compared with part-time photographers, professionals who've chosen photography as a full-time career are typically studied artists able to also offer couples more personal attention, more flexible business hours and likely much faster turn-around time in providing you with your images and prints--not to mention generally better work. Lately I've noticed some very good full-time photographers offering more reasonable pricing than less talented part-timers, which seems odd until considering part-timers have other sources of income and therefore don't mind if their pricing leaves them photographing only a few weddings a year. Lastly, it's worthwhile to consider that when a person's entire livelihood depends upon their reputation as a Wedding Photographer, they have a vested interest in doing the most complete and satisfying job for you possible.
What is the difference between shooting in RAW mode and JPEG mode?
When working with Digital, anyone worthy of your consideration shoots strictly in RAW image mode for far superior, final images as compared with shooting in JPEG mode. RAW is a non-lossy image file format; JPEG is a lossy image format. "Non-lossy" means every bit of the image taken is saved by the camera without compression, thus the huge size of RAW image files. "Lossy" image formats compress image files so less camera memory is being used, but somewhere something has to be sacrificed to obtain a smaller file size, and that something is image detail. Shooting in JPEG is convenient for a "photographer" who's lazy and/or cheap as it saves that person from having to purchase expensive ($400-$600) RAW conversion software then put in the many hours required to work with it, no matter that this negligence robs YOU of the best images Digital can offer.
The very best Wedding Photographers and Pro Photographers in general whether their specialty be high fashion, commercial or otherwise care way too much about their images, reputation and clientele to shoot in anything but RAW mode. All true pros, including an esteemed Photographer from National Geographic who engaged me in conversation at a recent Wedding, will say that for a "pro" to shoot in anything but RAW is "utterly irresponsible". I'm sure you remember 35mm film cameras, and possibly you're aware of Medium Format film cameras, which the best pros used and produced negatives up to 4.5 times the size of 35mm cameras. Compared with the days of film, which were not at all long ago, shooting in JPEG now would be akin to shooting cheap Konica film in 35mm cameras instead of Pro Kodak in Medium Format cameras--"yesterday's" version of RAW, really. Turns out though times change, some things remain the same. Don't even consider bothering with a "photographer" who shoots digitally in JPEG mode. As always, write me with any questions, and I'd also like to hear about or from any "photographer" who denies anything I've written here. As of yet, I haven't heard a peep.
How much do I need to spend for my Wedding Photography?
You'll find all manner of pricing for all manner of workmanship.
I've built an office and studio in my own home, so I have no storefront rental-space costs to pass on to you. Studio/office space renters will of course parrot "you get what you pay for" or "my prices are higher because I'm in demand" excuses for bloated pricing. As well, my prices reflect the fact that of all the sorts of photography to pursue I'd rather be busy at the work I love the most--Wedding Photography. I use the finest lighting and Digital photographic equipment and the most highly regarded state-of-the-art professional photo labs available for my print work, and my web pages, word of mouth, recommendations from wedding venues, and social media such as Facebook keep me very busy with minimal advertising.
So, does reasonable pricing mean sacrificing quality? Especially lately, yes it can. Though you don't need to spend several thousand dollars for exceptional Wedding Photography, be as wary of prices which sound too good to be true from people endeavoring to sell quantity as quality, lately most evidenced by some part-time amateurs, but mostly by regional/national discount "studios" who draw you in with web pages featuring several beautiful images but in actuality cheaply employ pools of the very worst local "photographers", offer too-good-to-be-true pricing, bet on your naivety, and prey upon your happiness. Substituting genuine talent and care with sly salesmanship, such amateurs and wedding mills are an insult to you and the dignity of the art form of ALL Photography, and can be avoided by working with smaller, established studios with a history of at least 5-10 years of impeccable references.
Search the internet and find distinguished professionals lamenting that from wedding mills to amateurish part-timers the art of Wedding Photography is currently in a precarious state. More stylish-looking photography websites with a handful of likely heavily doctored images pop up weekly, but most often don't tell the real story. Check with the Better Business Bureau before even considering hiring anyone. While visiting a photography studio, ask to see actual, complete wedding proof albums. Look for examples from many different Weddings to get a clear idea of consistency--photos from only two or three weddings will tell you they've probably only shot for a couple of their friends. In the circumstance a person you're meeting with won't be the one to actually shoot your Wedding, insist upon interviewing the actual photographer. And if possible begin to seek your Wedding Photography services at least a year ahead of your Wedding, or you might soon find the only photographers still available to be lacking talent, unpleasant, and/or either oddly expensive or under-priced. The same goes for any other service in the Wedding business.
What is "photojournalistic style"?
Most everyone with a camera has at one time or another taken a pleasing "candid" photograph. "Photojournalistic style" is an elevated form of candid photography in which a story is told by artfully capturing detail or non-posed/unscripted moments at their peak--to many, an important element of your Wedding photography. Certain aspects of your Wedding ceremony and much of your reception--including dancing shots, Best Man's toast, bouquet toss, etc.--are all "candid" and naturally lend themselves to a photojournalistic approach.
Some photographers are definitely better than others at photojournalism; likewise, some photographers are more adept at candid photography in general at the unfortunate expense of fine portraiture, and vice-versa. In particular, the current popularity of the "photojournalistic style" concept combined with the declining cost of suitable digital cameras has prompted a glut of amateur-turned-part-time Wedding photographers whose brand of "photojournalistic style" is basically "anything non-posed", have little or no concept of lighting techniques, and are usually completely lacking in the art of elegant portraiture. This recent trend hits home to me sometime during the reception of most every Wedding I'm shooting when guests approach me to chat about some aspect of photography, and married people often wind up talking about their own Wedding photos. Though many couples speak highly of their photographer, an increasing number are disappointed and explain they hired a company or individual with an appealing website but wound up with no more than a lot of dull candid work they feel most anyone could have done. In their search for a photographer, these couples admit they were impressed by price and a few pretty website images but did not do their homework. The best Wedding Photographers offer a well-rounded blend of creative portraiture and exceptional photojournalism at no extra charge, and will gladly lean one way or the other depending upon what you ask them to do. Though trends and people who exploit them for profit's sake come and go, your Wedding Photography is Forever.
Are the negatives from my Wedding available to me, and for how much?
All highest quality Digital negatives from your Wedding Day are now included in my packages. My experience is the overwhelming majority of couples nowadays are primarily interested in excellent images then creating their own reprints and albums at their leisure, which is easy to do either online or at your favorite local photo lab and will save you hundreds of dollars in reprint/album costs. Your Digital negatives will be huge, RAW generated highest Adobe resolution JPEG files on disk. These superb JPEG files directly generated from RAW are perfect for making albums or 16 x 20 or larger reprints, and I'm always here to help you if you need me.
A photographer I spoke with suggested that to minimize the time my guests need to wait for me to arrive at my reception, I should consider having all my formal Wedding Party and Family shots done prior to my Wedding ceremony, but this would mean I'd see my fiancÚ before our ceremony, and I don't want that.
All your life, you've
imagined your Wedding Day, and you knew how you wanted your day to be before you
ever ventured to speak with anyone about planning it. Your Wedding Day has
nothing to do with anyone's convenience but yours, and has everything to do with
what you've always wanted. Keep yourself in the center of the one day you
get to be there.
One photographer I spoke with boasted about his/her membership to one or another photography association--does a photographer's membership to such a thing really make a difference for my Wedding?
No such association requires more than a name and credit card number to acquire membership. Research and see this for yourself.
Talk is cheap. Observe a person and his/her work.
I've met with a photographer who's work and personality I think I like, but I'm still not quite sure about hiring him/her. What to do?
Trust your instincts and ask for references. Ask for more than one reference--hopefully, someone's done something right more than once. Google "reviews" for any wedding photographer or wedding photography company you're considering--you'll be surprised what you might find.
There's no reason you shouldn't feel as certain as you can feel about all of your Wedding Day choices, and the more faith you have in the people you hire, the more you can relax and fully take-in your day. "It went by so fast!", I often hear. If such a day must seem so short, do your best to make it a joyful and care-free ride.
Thank you for bearing with me, and all the best to you,
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Acclaim Professional Photography
452 Foundry St
Rollinsford, NH 03869