Since 2008, when I wrote my first article on this topic, a lot of time has passed and the market has changed significantly. Fashion came and disappeared in the global marketplace. This is no wonder, since the weddings industry has grown into the ultimate photographic sector that has taken the most money in the last ten years, in a way that more than 50% of all photography revenue comes from wedding photography alone. A lot of money means a lot of things, but mainly the fact that there are a lot more participants in the market who want to take part in the cake, and there is a lot more choice – and this is also obvious – a lot more difficult for someone looking for the right photographer.
I do not want to deal with two types of customers. The first one who is just looking for a photographer because it is the usual way, the end product itself is almost secondary, sometimes it is enough to have more than nothing. The other is the kind of customer for whom price is the only important factor. They can skip this post.
For the rest (they are probably more than half of the customers), there is difficult task to solve. They need to find a wedding photographer who is capable to make a product that meets their requirements and whose paycheck fits into the wedding budget.
For more than a hundred years the choice was easy, everybody asked for the local photographer. Wedding photographers today, however, travel thousands of miles to one job (the author has worked on four continents).
Decision is often not easy. Think about it: we are not in an easy position when we need to get a trouser even if it looks like a relatively simple product. It should have good waist size, length, material, color, cracking, durability, shape and size of the pockets, cleanliness and many other parameters that are not even reminded of.
Photography is a much more complex product, because it can not be measured, can not be tried, but we can only really know if we are chosen well when we get our pictures. Our choice actually starts with the assumption and intuition of finding a good photographer. Let’s look at what are criteria for right wedding photography:
- Styles and choices
If we want to go to a restaurant, we have a some idea of whether we want Greek or international cuisine. If the latter, we may know Italian, French, Mexican, Russian, Arabic, Indian, Chinese or other flavors. Wedding photography is nowadays quite complex, but the same principles work as in gastronomy, where part of the chefs are lousy, most of them mediocre, and the smallest part of which is brilliant.
An average steak can be found in most restaurants, but there are certainly some restaurants where they know how to make it exceptional. Fame of these restaurants are spread by word of mouth, legends are built around them, not without foundation. Not surprisingly, there are such excellent providers in the wedding photography too, and among them, those that have a special quality in a particular segment.
You do not have to know about their styles, first of all that will be enough:
- If you are not willing to do what others tell you on your wedding day, you will probably need a wedding photojournalist who takes photos without asking you to cooperate.
- If you love when beautiful pictures are made of you and you do not worry about playing a little bit for the camera, then look for a wedding fashion photographer. Do not search online, there is no such profession, but there are creative colleagues who like to invent and realize photos, of course with your help.
- If you want a mixture of the above two things, look for a colleague who has both. You will be in trouble here, because there is not enough qualified reporters who understand the fashion genre. Ask candidates to present a full wedding material, you will see it.
- Value for money
There is a parallel between gastronomy and wedding photography. In every country there are simple, but divine places, with nice staffs and relatively low prices, and heavily advertised fancy restaurants with massive rip-offs, average quality behind the loud menus.
Good commodities are of course not cheap, so a higher price than average can mean good quality. However, the most expensive food is not always the best.
You may ask why I write about gastronomy in a photographer’s blog? Well, because there are similar rules in the pricing of creative services like photography.
If a service is very cheap, there is almost certainly a problem, there’s no quality. The middle category mostly knows the standards, especially at the top end. In the top price range there is a big spread, you can make a very good deal and also get ripped off badly, you have to look closely.
We photographers are not the same, we have good and less good people in our community, some of them are idealistic or the opposite, cynical and money-loving others are simply profession-freaks. When you choose, you do not rent a camera and some meat and bone that will operate it. We are people with a feeling and history behind, experience and doubts, we might be tired or relaxed, cheerful or sad.Some of us will get you better, your everyday life, your story, your life, speak the same languages, love same foods, movies, clothes or activities. You would find some of us very annoying, and you could even be friends with others.
Choose someone with whom you like to sit behind a coffee who is listening to you who is interesting to you and whom you like not just as a photographer but as a human being. I really believe that every Jack gets his Jill, and that such people are able to work together (do not have any doubts, a good wedding series is always the result of hard work). Find and read blogs, ask your friends, meet, mail, inquire, and find the right one.
- Awards, references
If you want a decorated wedding photographer or cinematographer, there are rather objective international criteria that show that someone stands out, but I certainly know: the way to go is very long, with exhibitions, international presence, publications, tutoring and hundreds of weddings. In fact there are not too many prizes to pay attention to.
Photography sites you see on the web are often tricky, photography ideas frequently copied from elsewhere, and if you look see a good looking website, it’s hard to say, it’s a good photographer or only a slick marketer, or maybe both are behind it.
I assume that the outcome is important to you, not the marketing bullshit, so I advise you to think simply and look around, ask questions. The real references are simple: I think you can not miss a big deal if you are relying on the rumors of wedding forums, independent recommendations, your friends’ opinions, and your own earlier experience.
In summary: there is no ideal or best wedding photographer. He’s the one who’s right for you, based on his style, his method of work, his personality, his value for money, and has enough experience to handle the potential problems with your wedding photography.
Choosing it is not possible just based on websites and price lists. You have to talk to them, you need to get acquainted with the candidates until you find the one closest to you. Try to look behind marketing, find the man/girl you love being together!
I know this is not a simple task, I wish you patience!