Thank you for returning to read more of my Three P’s of choosing a wedding photographer. Yesterday, I argued that hiring a professional is a necessary investment to secure quality images of your important day. Today, I want to show you how to critically evaluate a photographer’s portfolio to see if they will represent your personal style well. You will find you don’t need an artist’s eye to find photographers with truly striking images.
Putting their best foot forward…
The most exciting way to choose a photographer is by looking at their work. I doubt I have to tell you to check out their website and facebook page to see what kind of wedding photos they take, but let me tell you a little secret. A smart photographer only puts their most stunning work on their website.
Beautiful portraits and detail shots grace many wedding photographer’s studio windows and gallery websites, but here is what you don’t see as much of: ceremony shots, family portraits, reception partying, and candid’s.
The main reason for the missing images is that they contain personal content mostly appealing to the bride and groom-- not a potential client. The other reason? A photographer doesn’t have as much control during those parts of the wedding. They have to rely on speed, experience, and some good fortune when they cannot interrupt to tweak an image.
No one wants the photographer side by side with the pastor to allow for a perfect shot of the groom slipping the wedding ring onto his wife’s French-tipped finger. During moments like the ceremony, the couple should be wrapped-up in their nerves and passion. Imagine… the groom leans in for the first kiss and the photographer yells, “Will you tilt your chin a little to the left?” A better photo? Sure, but it ruins everything.
I think you can understand why photographers tend to shine in areas they can have more control over. This is not to say they shouldn’t also be able to document the ceremony and other uninterruptable parts, but those photos don’t always make the opening image of the slideshow.
However, photojournalistic images will be important to you when it is your wedding day, so ask to see a sample of a complete wedding. When you get to see all the proofs from a wedding it will give you a solid perspective of the quality of coverage you will receive.
The good, the bad, and the why is that in the picture?
I won’t spend much time on this subject, but there are a few big no-no’s in photography that you want to be on the look out for. In order to practice developing a critical eye you remember to look at the presentation of the subject not the actual subject. What do I mean by this? Let’s take facebook for example. I am sure you have a friend who has posted a dark, grainy, slightly out-of-focus photo of a child and watched the flood of comments heralding it as a great photo. I contest it is the cute kid that they love- not the photo.
When you are viewing the work of a wedding photographer, you need to decide if you like the image because the bride is ravishing or because the lighting is exquisite and composition elegant. Rather than spending pages telling you what makes an aesthetically pleasing photograph, allow me to steer you away from the photo faux pas you don’t want to see in your album.
Shadows. Sometimes they creep up behind the bride and groom, but the scary ones fall right across the faces. Dark shadows crossing the faces of the happy couple are a sign the photographer was not controlling their lighting.
Watch for mergers. You know, objects in the background that look like they are part of the subject but shouldn’t be. Nothing is more romantic that a flower arrangement growing right out of the brides up-do. If it distracts or competes with the important elements, it just shouldn’t be there!
Photos should be clean and sharp. They should be cropped appropriately. Yes, if you are going to show ankles you should also include feet. And even though the flower girl is as sweet as cotton candy, people are still going to notice the stop sign and trash can in the background.
Most photographers have an area of strength. I have worked in several print labs and for a few photographers before starting my own business. I saw photographers who shined in weddings because they had very strong photojournalist styles. Others thrived when they controlled every aspect of a photo and created masterful portraits. Some have very modern approaches, and others remain comfortable with traditional poses and lighting. It is smart to identify what you want your wedding photographs to look like, and find a photographer who consistently produces a similar work.
I would love to hear what style of photography catches your eye! Leave a comment and tell me what types of photos capture you attention. Are you in love with black and white candid’s, or do you prefer edgy color images of the bridal party jumping in a field?
Tomorrow, I will tackle the elephant in the room—price. I will also tell you how you can win a free engagement session with me! Until then, go on your own search for great and not so great wedding images to hone your selective skills for choosing a photographer.