Selecting your wedding photographer is not difficult. By learning my 10 secrets you will eliminate many of the pitfalls it is easy to land in. It is very important that you make your selection early in your wedding plans. The best and most popular photographers often het booked early, may be a year or two in advance. So once you have set the date and arranged your venue, the next on your list should be your photographer.
If you were getting married a generation ago, in the 1930's or 40's, your choice would have been rather limited. In those days photography was still something of a 'dark-art'. Literally the photographer or his assistant would spend hours in the darkroom developing films and making prints by hand. Your options for the wedding day were limited. The photographer would usually turn up at the end of your wedding service and meet you at the church door with a large camera, often on a tripod. He would then take a hand-full of pictures. A close-up, a full length and if you were lucky a family group of two. Colour pictures were a luxury in the 1930's as colour film was still in its infancy. A talented photographer might offer you hand-tinted or coloured pictures which he would make from black & white originals, but these were an expensive option.
It was not uncommon to take a trip to his studio either on the wedding day or shortly afterwards. The whole business became quite an occasion. Posing in front of hot studio lights was something you only did on special occasions. It was the only way to get photographs of reasonable quality. Simple cameras were becoming more available to the public, but they were basic with few controls. In those days the professional photographer still had a mysterious quality; part artist, part chemist and part magician. He could produce pictures you could not achieve with your box brownie camera.
Today things are very different. Photography has turned on its head. Film based photography has been replaced almost entirely by digital technology, the quality of which improves year by year. Most people now have a camera of some type and are happy with the pictures they take. Rapid advances in technology have ensured that the 'auto' function on your camera will give you an acceptable image. Sadly very few know what they are actually doing. Today you don't have to worry about shutter speed, 'f' stops and ISO numbers.
Look in any Yellow Pages or other directory, Google 'wedding photographer' for any town or city and you will find an ever increasing number of entries under that listing. Why is this? It is simple because technology has improved so much that even the most modest and affordable camera is capable of producing great images.
Sadly you will discover that not every so called photographer is a trained and qualified professional photographer. Some work at it on a part-time basis and might be a taxi driver, office worker or cleaner from Monday to Friday and then a wedding photographer at the weekend. It has become a part time job for many keen amateurs looking to make some extra cash at the weekend.
The question you have to ask is; would I go to a dentist if I wasn't confident they had the training, experience and qualifications to take care of my teeth safely and hygienically? Would I trust a plumber to instal my gas fire if he were not qualified and registered.
Would I trust my wedding pictures to someone who might be working part-time at the weekend, shoots everything with his camera set to 'auto', promises hundreds of pictures on a disc (usually unedited) fora few hundred pounds? Sadly many people do just that.
The reasons for doing this are intriguing. Apart from the technology issue I have already mentioned, the other current influence is fashion. The current trend in both wedding and portrait photography can be described by the terms: 'documentary', 'reportage' and 'life-style'. In a nutshell it is cool and trendy to have photographs that look like 'snap-shots'! Pictures that look spontaneous, not staged without being intrusive or formal in any way. Where has all this come from? Well simply from Universities and colleges offering degree courses in Documentary photography. Students leave knowing a little about documentary photography and think they can apply that knowledge to a wedding photography situation. Many assume that to get that 'documentary' look all you need to do is to take an inordinate number of pictures and the chances are you will get some suitable ones in the mix. After all, after you have invested in your camera and a few memory cards, that's it. The actual cost of taking pictures is zero. You don't pay for each picture you take, if it's no good you simply press delete! there are no processing costs any more.
In reality, to take a good wedding images, you need other skills. You need to anticipate the action, be in the right place at the right time and know when to press the shutter at that decisive moment, know how to cope with a variety of lighting conditions that might fool your camera, compose your picture correctly, and finally be able to control the guests.
Here are 10 secrets that will help you when choosing your wedding photographer.
1. Looking in a directory will only give you contact details. Looking at a web site is a good start, at least you get to see some pictures. Today a good and well produced website is within the budget of most people who want to start a business. So don't assume someone with a fancy website is the best choice. Does the site have a bio page about the photographer. What are their qualifications if any? How long have they been in business and what experience do they have? The vast majority of sites will tell you they are 'award winning' photographers...but what awards, are they listed?
2. Do they belong to a recognised professional photographic association, or just a camera club? Are they subject to a professional Code of Conduct? Will you have anywhere to appeal if things go wrong? Sadly a man or woman can go to town with their redundancy money on Friday, buy a camera, and call themselves a professional photographer on Saturday. In the U.K. there is no regulation of photographers at the moment. Anyone can set themselves up in business as a photographer without the need to register. The public is not protected by any legislation. Over the years the major professional photographic associations have lobbied successive governments regarding this matter without success.
3. Is a postal address listed on the website, or just a mobile number and email address? How will you find them if there is a problem? Not all photographers work from a High Street studio, most work from home quite legitimately, but will always publish an address.
4. Can you arrange to visit them to see some samples of their work. When it comes to looking at samples, albums with a variety of wedding can look fine. Photographers always like to show their best work. Ask to see a whole wedding from start to finish. That will give you a better indication of their skill level, rather than just looking at pretty pictures.
5. Are they qualified? I'm not talking of a degree in photography. To my knowledge there are no degree courses in wedding or portrait photography at any college in the U.K. There are however qualifications awarded by the main photographic bodies in the U.K., such as the Master Photographers Association (MPA). British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), Society of Wedding and Portrait Photography (SWPP). These qualifications are awarded by the submission of actual work undertaken. So look for qualifications. There are three levels: the basic is Licentiate LMPA, LBIPP etc... This level indicates the photographer can produce work of a competent and professional standard. They should also have good business skills if they have achieved a Diploma in Professional Photographic Practice (DipPP).
The second level is the Associate AMPA, ABIPP etc... This indicates considerable experience and a talent to produce creative and artistic work. This second level is difficult to attain, therefore there are fewer Associates than Licentiates. The top level of qualification and ultimate aim of all aspiring photographers is to become a Fellow FMPA. FBIPP etc... To be a Fellow is a rare achievement. It is the highest level of competence, experience and artistry, and indicates the photographer has a unique style and are recognized as leaders in their field.
Part 2 to follow...