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Selecting a Photographer

by Dennis Felty

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The selection of your wedding photographer is an important decision. Ideally you will select a photographer who will exceed your expectations not only for the moment but for a lifetime. When done well, your album will not only be a record of your wedding as an event, but it will capture the relationship & love between you and your fiancée and that of your friends and family who will come together to share this most wonderful and exciting experience. 

Your wedding album becomes a cherished collection of images that more than anything else will hold your memories for a life time. If possible, start early in your selection, many of the best photographers are heavily booked 6 to 12 months in advance. 

Interview several photographers. Take plenty of notes so that you will be able to accurately compare information and packages when you have completed the interviews. Take the time you need to talk to the photographer about your expectations as well as his or her style and philosophy on wedding photography. It is likely that a majority of your wedding day will be spent with your photographer being present. The relationship of the Bride and her photographer is intricate, requires trust and is crucial to the success of the wedding photography and your enjoyment of your wedding day. So, it is rather important that your photographer be someone with whom both you and your fiancée are very comfortable and are able to establish good rapport and trust.

When reviewing the prospective photographer's portfolio, look for images that are consistently: clear, sharp, have intense saturated colors, capture real emotions and intimate relationships between the subjects. Look for examples of photographs that really excite you, the one's that create a "wow" experience. Viewing one or more proof books will gives you a good indication of the consistency and the range of work you will be able to select your own album images from. Lighting is crucial to excellent photography. 

Confirm that the photographer's work makes good use of natural and artificial light. In order to avoid dark and muddy backgrounds. Double lighting uses two light sources that create dimension, depth and prevents backgrounds from going dark. If you are interested in the best in wedding photography, double lighting is essential. In most cases double lighting requires an assistant and is thus somewhat more expensive. You will want to know if the photographer uses this technique and if s/he does, does the photographer's work demonstrate proficiency in this area? 

Compare the number of images with a photojournalistic perspective to classically posed images to determine if the photographer's style will meet your own style expectations for your wedding photography. Realize that the portfolio you are reviewing is the photographer's best work and your own photographs are not likely to be better than these. Look at examples of several complete wedding albums as well as a compilation of the photographer's best work. Looking at complete albums gives you a good indication of what your album will look like as well as a good evaluation of quality and consistency of the photographer's work across a single wedding. 

Make  certain that your discussions are with the actual photographer who is under consideration for doing your wedding. It is also important to confirm that the sample work you are viewing is also   that of the specific photographer under consideration for your wedding. Confirm that the studio will not substitute another photographer to accommodate a busy schedule. 

Ask about the photographer's philosophy on wedding photography to ascertain that this philosophy is compatible with what you are looking for and that the photographer is dedicated to and enthusiastic about doing professional wedding photography.   It is wise to have a forthright discussion about working style i.e. how directive or how discreet do you want the photographer to be. Do you want candids during the ceremony. If so, these should be taken only with available light (no flash) to assure that the sanctity of the ceremony will not be intruded upon. It is wise to check what restrictions the church or synagogue might impose on photography during the ceremony. You might want to ask if the photogra­pher will be willing to contact your pastor, priest or rabbi to discuss this issue. 

If it is important to you, you might want to ask what the photographer will be wearing during the wedding. It is helpful to have a discussion about the photographer's work plan and pacing. When will the formal group photographs be taken? When will the photographer arrive. If he or she is not familiar with the wedding location will they visit the sight in advance. Will the photographer be doing another wedding on that day and if so what is the latest time he or she can remain at your reception. 

It is wise to go over a list of the photographs that you might be interested in having taken. This should include the various groupings of family members in the formal series. This exercise will help you identify the actual number of photographs you will want in your album.   With this information you can be more certain that the package you select will best meet your needs and will be your best value. Ask how long negatives will be kept on file. Will you be able to purchase additional prints in the future? You might want to ask what happens to the negatives if the studio/photographer stops doing business.

Expect that pricing will be clear for the various packages and add on items. Ask for a copy of the contract or written proposal that will describe the services promised and their cost. Be certain that the   proposal stipulates whether   the package in­cludes: an engagement portrait, the minimum number of exposures to be taken at the wedding, hours of coverage including any additional hourly charges if applicable, the type of album pages & mats, available options and cost of album upgrades, the num­ber & size of prints included, the number of proofs, their availability for purchase, and the cost of addi­tional prints and album pages. 

The proposal might also include "no later than" delivery dates for the proofs as well as the finished album. This is also a good time to discuss options such as a "Family Al­bum" slide presentation at the wedding. Some pho­tographers are able to include images from the wedding in this   presentation. An additional option is a family portrait studio at the reception for use in making individual and group portraits of family members. This is an often an attractive option, es­pecially if many family members and friends are coming from out of town. Many photographers will offer "environmental" portraits in a natural setting as part of the package. This can be on the day of the wedding for the whole wedding party or can be pre or post wedding day for the Bride & Groom. Black & white as well a panorama prints are becoming very popular and are offered by many photographers. 

You may want to ask if you will receive "machine prints" or "hand printed custom" prints. "Hand printed custom" prints are dodged, cropped and burned to assure maximum image quality & color balance and as a result are somewhat more expen­sive. You also might want to ask if there is a charge for retouching if required to correct facial blemishes. Confirm that the photographer will be using first quality professional equipment. Be certain that the photographer will be carrying duplicate (back up camera & flash) equipment in the event of equipment failure.   

If you are considering use of a videographer in addition to a still photographer, it is wise to confirm that the working style of each will not interfere with the other. It is usually preferred that guests not   take flash pictures during the formal wedding photog­raphy. These flashes can trigger the professional strobe lights causing recycling that can adversely impact the quality of your formal images. Most professional photographers will treat their work as a creative product subject to applicable copyright laws. If you are considering including the proofs or finished prints in your video, you might want to discuss the permissibility of this activity with the photographer. When you make your final selection, you should expect to receive a written contract. Be certain that it accurately describes the package, prices, add ons, incentives and any verbal commitments that are important to you.








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