How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

There are so many things that worth of preparing before your wedding day. Since I’m a photographer, I’d like to share some thoughts from a photographer’s view and cover this topic in several sub-topics.

1. How to choose your photographer.

View past work.
The first thing that comes to my mind when choosing a photographer is to view his/her past works. Photography is an art, not everyone with a camera can master it. Although, digital camera has revolutionized how photos are taken and gives more latitude for photographer to correct their mistakes after the shoot, photographers still need photographic skills and knowledge in order to capture the moments. That skills and knowledge can not be developed or acquired overnight. It takes time for a newbie to become a fully fledged artist. Regardless what the photographer states, if you do not like his/her past work, don’t work with that photographer. Remember, you are going to hire someone to record maybe the most important moments in your life. You do not want to regret after seeing the wedding photos that you are not happy with. Budget enough money and take enough time to find and hire a capable photographer that matches your style and taste.

Photography styles
Traditionally, wedding photos are mostly done inside studios with props and setups. Photographer often gives very specific modeling instructions and advice to brides and grooms. If the subjects know how to pose correctly, it can result in great photos that are sharp and well composed. Unfortunately lots of people are camera shy and don’t even know how to smile in front of a camera. Under this circumstance, posed shots may not be your best choice.

Photojournalistic wedding photography has gained its popularity during the past 15- 20 years. This photography style offers less formalized shots with much less posing requirements from the subjects. Photographer takes the shots without giving too many instructions and records raw and untarnished emotion. Sometimes, subjects don’t even realize that they are photographed. I personally prefer this approach for portrait because people look best when they are under their natural state. However, this approach can cause technical constraints with photographer. As lighting is one of the most important elements of photography, photographer may not get all the preferred lighting when he/she moves around like a journalist. Photographer really needs to rely on their knowledge and equipment to get the best shots taken.

Wedding is never a natural event; therefore, hybrid style is frequently used. Hybrid style photography is a blend of staged shots with photojournalistic shots. Photographer can ask group shots to be staged while take candid photo to show emotions or story.

Cost
This is the one question that’s asked most frequently. When selecting photographer, many brides put the price as the number one deciding factor. I believe that this is not the best approach of choosing the right photographer. Please remember, you are hiring someone to document the most precious time in your life. There is no second chance for photographer to ask you to re-do the ceremony or take the same photos twice. You really need the help from professional not some amateurs. Cost of professional photography has come down significantly due to popularity of digital camera and competition. Wedding photos used to cost $2,000-6,000, and most photographers charges between $1,000-3,000 nowadays. How much should a couple spend on photography services? I’d say, about 10-15% of your total wedding budget should be a reasonable allocation. I’ve seen amateurs advertised their wedding photography services for only $450 and offer to give a DVD disc to client right after the wedding. I believe that this is an irresponsible way of producing wedding photos. Good photos need to be created both during and after the shoot. What I mean is that post processing is also important besides good original photos. Post production can correct the color, create romantic feel, and add some nice touches to the originals. The wow factors usually result from post processing. Post production is time consuming and requires technical and artistic skills. Amateurs who provide DVD right after the shoot try to avoid the time spend on post production (or even don’t know how to do good post production) and time deal with client after the wedding.

They consider their job completed when wedding day is over. Brides who focus on saving money and hire this type of amateur photographer most likely end up having photos look just like the ones taken by their friends. This is not saving money, this is wasting money. If you do a simple math, taken the time that pro photographer charges for post production, the price you pay for amateurs and pros should be similar; therefore, you are paying pro price and got an amateur service. There is a reason for people who charge very low fees. All these amateurs care is money. Quality and customer satisfaction are not their main concern. Be aware! Professional photographers need to maintain certain price level in order to survive and make money because taking photos is all they do for living.

Most weddings happen during the weekend on Saturdays, thus there are only 4 weddings in a month. Even say photographer charges $1500 per wedding, that’s only $6,000 a month. After business expense, equipment depreciation, taxes, and other misc. expense, what’s left in photographer’s pocket should be no more than $3,500-4,000. It is not a lot of money, but that’s reality. In addition, winter months are usually slow or even without any business. If a pro wedding photographer charges less than $1,000 a wedding, it is hard for him/her to survive in at least Washington DC metro area, unless he/she can pull income from somewhere else.

Professionalism & Personality
Do you want to work with people who are negative and aggressive? Do you want your guess feel that the photographer is intrusive and unfriendly? I suggest that you at least talk with photographers a couple of times over the phone or have an interview with them before signing a contract. Do not just view the website and then decide who to use. Follow your instinct and use the one you feel comfortable with. The manner photographer answers the phone can also tell something about their professionalism. If a photographer never answers phone or only return your phone call or email days later, chances are they are not very good at customer services. Is the photographer on time for an appointment? This is extremely important and can be an indicator of his reliability because you don’t want the photographer show late (or not showing at all) at your wedding. Lots of good photographers work from their own home, and this should not be a judging factor of their professionalism.

Contract
A professional photographer should have a well drafted contract/agreement. If a photographer just promise to show up on your wedding date and does not want to sign a contract, don’t work with him/her. I had brides told me that someone took the deposit and simply disappear. Although, give a 50% deposit is common practice to secure your wedding date, ask for full amount of the service ahead of time is unreasonable.

The contract should clearly state photographer’s responsibility, duties, coverage time, deliverables, and any terms you’ve agreed upon. Read the contract carefully and see whether it is fair to both you and the photographer. Do not blindly sign the contract because the photographer tells you it is standard.

Referrals
Most likely the first person that you are going to ask for referring a photographer is one of your family members or friends. That’s a perfect way to get started. However, if the referred photographers are not available for your wedding date who do you turn to find the information? Go to local wedding vendors asking for referrals. Because vendors usually won’t recommend other vendors who provide bad service that can back fire their reputation, it is relatively safer than you look for a photographer on the internet. Check with the florist that you usually buy flowers from, your bridal gown maker, caterer who prepares your food or even wedding venues that you are interested to see whether they’ve got some photographers to refer. However, you still need do your homework of interviewing the photographer yourself. Once the photographer has gained your trust, you can sign the contract with him/her.

Timing
Photographers are normally booked weeks or even months before an event. Once you make up your mind, reserve the photographer right away. There are only 52 weekends in a year, so it is easy for others to book the photographer you like ahead of you. If you delay, you may have to start over the hunting process again. Don’t procrastinate because you feel that there’s plenty of time to find a good photographer.

I’m a professional photographer that maintains high standards both for my pictures and my services. To check out some of my past work, please click on the following link.

http://www.aperturephotoart.com

The 10 Secrets You Must Know To Choose A Good Wedding Photographer

Selecting your wedding photographer is not a difficult task. By learning my 10 secrets you will eliminate many of the pitfalls it is so easy to fall into. It is very important that you make your selection of photographer early on in your wedding plans. The best and most popular photographers get booked early, often a year or two in advance. So once you have set your date and arranged the wedding venue, the next thing 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 dark room developing films and making photographic prints by hand. Your options for the wedding day would have been limited. The photographer would usually turn up at the end of your wedding service and meet you at the church door. He would then take a handful of pictures on his large camera. Usually a full length picture of the couple at the church door, a close-up if you were lucky and then perhaps a family group or two. Colour pictures were a definite luxury in the 30’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 and white originals, but these would be an expensive option.

It was not uncommon to take a trip to the photographers studio either on your 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 a reasonable quality. Simple cameras were becoming more available to the public, but they were very basic with few control. In those days the professional photographer still had a mysterious quality; part artist, part chemist and part magician. He could produce photographs you just could not achieve yourself with your ‘Box Brownie’ camera.

Today things are very different. Photography has been turned on its head. Gone are the famous companies like Agfa and Kodak. Film based photography has been replaced almost entirely by digital technology, the quality of which improves dramatically year by year. Most people now have a camera of some type and are happy with the pictures they take. Rapid advances in digital imaging have ensured that the ‘auto’ function on your camera will give you an acceptable image. Today you don’t have to worry about shutter speed and ‘f’ stops to get a reasonable picture. Point and shoot is the easy option. However, technical progress does not mean that everyone knows what they are doing.

Look in any Yellow Pages or any other directory, Google ‘wedding photographer’ for any town or city and you will find an ever increasing number of entries under the listing. Why is this? It is simply because technology has improved to such an extent 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 professional photographer. Some work at it on a part time basis and might be a cleaner, taxi driver or office worker from Monday to Friday and a wedding photographer at the weekend. It has become a part time occupation for many keen amateurs looking to make some extra cash at the weekend.

The questions you must ask yourself are; 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 install a gas fire if he were not qualified and registered? No, it could be a matter of life and death.

Would I trust my wedding pictures to a photographer who might be working part time at weekends, shoots everything with his camera set to ‘auto’, promises me hundreds of pictures on a disc for a few hundred pounds? Sadly many people do!

The reasons for doing this are intriguing. Apart from the technology issue I have already mentioned, the other current influence is fashion. The current fashion in wedding photography can be described by the terms ‘documentary’, ‘reportage’, and ‘life-style’. In a nut shell, today it is cool and fashionable to have wedding photographs that look like snap-shots! Pictures that look spontaneous, which is not staged and capture the emotion of the day without being intrusive or formal in any way.

What does all this mean in reality? Firstly, it is assumed that to achieve this ‘documentary’ or ‘reportage’ look, all you need to do is to take an inordinate number of pictures and chances are that you will get some suitable ones in the mix. So snap away is the mentality of many inexperienced photographers. After all, after you have bought your camera and memory cards, the images are free. There are no processing costs as with film, if the image is no good just delete it, it costs nothing!

In reality, to take good ‘documentary’ images you also need other skills. You need to anticipate the action, be in the right place at the right time, know when to press the shutter to get that decisive moment, know how to cope with a variety of lighting conditions that will fool your camera, compose your picture correctly, and finally be able to control the guests in such a way that things you want to photograph happen naturally.

How do you avoid the pitfalls? It can be difficult, but 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 web site is within the budget of most people who want to set up in business. So you cannot assume that someone with a fancy web site is the best choice. He may have another occupation to pay the mortgage. Does the web site have a bio page? How much information does it give about the photographer, their experience and their professional qualifications? How long have they been in business?

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 to if things go wrong? Sadly a man can go to town and buy a fancy camera with his redundancy money on Friday and call himself a professional photographer on Saturday. In the U.K. there is no regulation of photographers at the moment. Anyone can legally set themselves up in business as a photographer and they do not have to register with anyone. The public is not protected by any legislation. Over the years the major professional photographic associations in the U.K. have lobbied successive governments regarding this matter, but without success.

3. Is a postal address listed on the web site, or just a mobile number and email address? How will you find them if there is a problem? Not every photographer has a high street studio, much work from home quite legitimately. A reputable photographer will always publish an address.

4. If the photographer works from home he/she is unlikely to have a large studio unless it has been purpose built or adapted from a garage or other room. They are unlikely to be taking many portraits during the week. Can you arrange to visit them to view a recent selection of wedding pictures, or do they insist on coming to see you at your home? When it comes to looking at samples, albums containing a variety of weddings can look fine. Photographers always like to show off their best pictures. Always ask to see complete weddings from start to finish. That will give you a better indication of the photographers’ skill level, rather than admiring 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 photography at any college in the U.K. There are degree courses in Documentary photography, but weddings or social photography are not covered in any depth. There are wedding qualifications awarded by the main photographic bodies in the U.K., such as the MPA, BIPP, SWPP. These are awarded by the submission of actual work that has been undertaken. So look for professional qualifications. There are three levels: the basic level being Licentiate (LMPA or LBIPP). This level indicates the photographer can produce work of a competent and professional standard. They will also have good business skills if they have achieved a Diploma in Professional Photographic Practice (DipPP). The second level of qualification is the Associate (AMPA or ABIPP). This indicates considerable experience and a talent to produce artistic and creative photography. The second level is difficult to attain, therefore there are fewer Associates than Licentiates. The top level of qualification and ultimate aim of all aspiring professionals is to be a Fellow (FMPA or FBIPP). To be a Fellow is a rare achievement. It indicates the highest level of competence, experience and artistry and indicates the photographer has a unique style. These are the top professionals who have been recognised as leaders in their field.

6. Who will be taking your wedding photographs? Get to meet the person him/herself. Many photographers rather than turn a wedding commission away, will sub-contract the work to an assistant, keen amateur, or camera operator. Always find out who your photographer will be and get to see their portfolio of work. The boss might take good pictures, but what about his assistant?

7. Ask what insurance they hold. Your ‘cowboy’ will not have Professional Indemnity cover if his equipment fails. He will not have Public Liability cover should a guest trip over his camera bag. If he says his camera is insured that’s not the same thing. That only covers him if his camera is stolen.

8. Don’t be fooled by statements like ‘award winning’. Always ask “what awards”! Are they recognised professional awards or something picked up at a Camera Club?

9. If you ask a technical question this will put everyone on the back foot. Ask if they shoot jpegs. If the answer is yes then beware! The vast majority of professional photographers worldwide will shoot RAW files in their camera, for maximum image quality. They will then spend time to editing these RAW files on a computer to produce jpegs. If your photographer argues that he doesn’t need to shoot RAW files because his jpegs are spot on… beware! Jpeg files produced directly by the camera are never as good as those prepared by editing RAW files manually, because the internal camera software always makes general assumptions on the subject and lighting conditions. The photographer who edits RAW files manually can make specific and individual fine adjustments to the exposure, white balance, tone & sharpness of each image, together with an array of other specific controls which will produce the highest quality images.

10. Ask what happens if they become ill the day before your wedding? What happens if they break a leg or are involved in an accident? What back-up is in place? A reputable photographer will have a network of qualified colleagues he can call upon either locally or via their professional association.

So now you have the 10 secrets to finding your wedding photographer. Always meet them face to face and discuss your plans in detail. He will probably know your wedding venue already and will be able to put your mind at ease should it rain on your big day. If you are interested in having some group photographs of your family and friends, make a list with names so that no one is left out or hides away. ‘Brides family’ is not very specific, list the people you want in the picture. If your dress detail is important or Aunty Betty made the cake, or you have a frail Granny who can’t stand up for long, you must tell your photographer so he can make allowances.

Your photographer will need time to take pictures for you, so it is important that you plan for and consider timings. If you really want a big picture with all the guests as soon as you get to the reception, it won’t work. Guests always arrive in dribs and drabs and someone will be missing. Rather plan for that picture to be taken just before you all go into your wedding breakfast. There will be more chance everyone will be present.

Once you have selected your photographer you will need to confirm your booking. Don’t leave it until the last moment assuming your kind photographer is holding the day for you. He/she has a business to run so expect to pay a deposit or booking fee to secure the day. When you book expect to sign a contract which simply states what will be provided and the fee expected. This is usual practice. Generally all outstanding fees are payable prior to the wedding. Finally, just to avoid surprises, ask about hidden fees. Is VAT included or are you going to get a nasty 20% addition at the end of the day.

At some stage you might ask the question “Who owns the copyright on my wedding pictures?” In the U.K. by law the copyright is owned by the photographer on the understanding that they will supply you with any images you require. If you are in China, Asia, India and many other countries in the world, copyright and intellectual property is another ball game and mine field!

In summary, the better you get to know your photographer, the better your experience will be. Many people say “Oh, I hate having my photograph taken”! If you choose an experienced photographer, he/she will put you at easy very quickly. If you have the opportunity, have a pre-wedding shoot. It is true that the more pictures you have taken of yourself, the more comfortable you will feel in front of the camera. A good photographer will give you tips on how to stand comfortably and how to make the best of your body shape. He will also explain exactly what he will be doing on your wedding day to get the best pictures for you.

The choices you make in booking your wedding photographer are very important. A good wedding photographer will act as your choreographer, be more useful than a bridesmaid and tell you what to do and when. He’ll have safety pins and a mirror in his bag just in case, and he’ll be the person you can trust to make sure everything flows smoothly, and ensure you have the best possible wedding day.

Newborn Photographers: Top Ten Things to Look for

Choosing newborn photographers these days is almost as involved as choosing pediatricians. You ask around to your friends to find out who they use. You talk to your parents and go online for hours looking at pictures, but what should you really look for in a good newborn photographer? What attributes and policies should they have and how do you tell if they have them? This list should help out in finding the right person who will document the memories of this special moment in your life.

This is a top ten list. There may be more things that are important to you. Here’s a tip first and foremost, make your own list. Use some or all of these suggestions and then add to it with things that are important to you and your family. It is also important to note that just like finding true love and that perfect pediatrician, you may not find everything on your list. So be sure you know what is most important to you and what you would be willing to get “close enough” to or to sacrifice all together. Again this all comes down to how you feel, so be sure you feel comfortable!

The top ten things to look for in a newborn photographer are:

  1. Attention
  2. A Plan
  3. Meeting
  4. A Home Option
  5. Patients
  6. Digital Skill
  7. Love
  8. Comfort
  9. Adequate Time
  10. Personality

Now for a more detailed explanation. I’ll start at the top.

  • Attention- You want to look for someone who will give you their full attention. What I mean by this is that there should absolutely never be anyone else scheduled for that photographer’s time on the same day as your shoot. Your shoot may only be two or so hours, but it is not going to help anyone if your photographer is preoccupied thinking of other clients. You should be their top priority.
    • How to tell: It is totally okay to just ask if you have a question so that is what you will do in this case. Simply ask your potential photographer if they schedule multiple shoots on the same day. You could ask this in email, over the phone, or at their studio if they have one. That goes for the rest of these “just ask” answers. Don’t be afraid, I can guarantee they are used to answering questions like these.

  • A Plan- An important thing to understand in a newborn shoot is efficiency. Babies of any age don’t much like to be dressed, undressed, and changed, over and over again. It is important that your photographer have at least a rough plan or pattern to go by on what shots to get in which order. On that note however, it is also important that your photographer know how to deviate from the plan effectively when an opportunity for a good shot presents it’s self.
    • How to tell: This is another “simply” ask answer as many of these will be. You can just ask your photographer, “Do you have a plan or try to get certain shots in any particular order?”

  • Meeting- Look for a photographer who would be willing to, or better yet suggest a meeting with you. This serves as a great opportunity to get to know your photographer and for them to get to know you. I can tell you right now when your photographer has met you face to face rather than just through an email or phone call, it will come through in the photographs. During this meeting you get a chance to let them know your style, your personality, and even some concerns you may have. This is also a great time for the photographer to present their pricing, show you products they can offer, have the contract signed, and to get any deposit paid.
    • How to tell: Contact the photographer and tell them you are interested. Then ask if they generally like to meet clients before the shoot. Some photographers may even say on their site that they will meet with you.
  • A Home Option– The best time to take newborn portraits is before two weeks of age. When your baby is that little, taking them to an unfamiliar environment like a studio is not ideal. Look for a photographer who will come to you. Your photographer should feel comfortable in your home and should be able to get beautiful intimate photographs both with background equipment and in the settings for your own home.
    • How to tell: Ask where the photographer normally takes newborn photos. Then when you meet with the photographer, if possible, meet in your home. This may not always be possible, but it is good to ask because seeing your home gives the photographer great insight into who you are, your personal style, and the overall feel of what makes you comfortable.
  • Patients- Anything can happen on a newborn shoot. Your photographer should understand this and have the utmost respect for yours, and most importantly your baby’s comfort. If your baby needs to eat, feed them. Your photographer needs to understand and encourage things like feeding breaks, changing breaks, and even small breaks just because if the baby needs time. This patients comes from experience which is a sort of sub point to look for. Your photographer is the absolute last person who should get annoyed, frustrated, or unhappy with your baby. I would say that even if you get annoyed the photographer’s job is still to be calm, collected, and even try to be sure you know that everything is going to be just fine.
    • How to tell: When you met with your photographer if they seem at ease and calm then will be that way on your shoot as well. Especially if you are meeting in your home, look to be sure that your photographer is comfortable and confident. You don’t want someone who is acting overly nervous or even just awkward being in your home or meeting you for the first time.
  • Digital Skill- It is extremely important especially with newborn photography that your photographer edit every single photograph after the shoot. Those rich black and white photographs high in contrast and beautifully classic can only come from a starting good photograph as a base combined with digital editing skill and experience. This is not only true with black and white images. I can guarantee you that 99.9% of all images need at least color correction and your photographer should be well versed in digital editing.
    • How to tell: Look at the photographer’s online galleries. Your photos will look very similar. Then again simply ask, “Do you edit every photo?” As a photographer I can tell you that I have received this question and it is absolutely not an inappropriate one to ask.
  • Love- It sounds like a silly thing to look for but love is a very important ingredient for good newborn photographs. Your photographer must love what they do and while they are taking your child’s portraits they should love your baby like their own. They must also understand your love for your baby. I don’t think it is 100% required, but it may help if the photographer is also a parent especially if you are a little overly concerned as most parents are right at the beginning particularly with the first child. I know I was!
    • How to tell: Look at their galleries online. If the photographer loves what they do you’ll know because you’ll love their photographs as well. You can also read their “about me” page if they have one to learn a little more about them. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have children if that is important to you and see how they are when they meet with you. This one really shouldn’t be too hard to figure out and if it is I’d keep looking.
  • Comfort- Your photographer should know that the most important factor in getting good newborn photographs is the comfort and happiness of the baby. In reality the photographer is not in charge. Even you are not in charge. The baby is the one in charge and will do what he/she will. Neither you or the photographer can force the infant into anything. Your photographer should know this and encourage bottle breaks, frequent diaper changes if necessary, and even just some mommy baby time.
    • How to tell: Ask your photographer if they encourage breaks and the like.
  • Adequate Time- The amount of time the photographer gives you is something to think about. About two hours for a newborn is just right for most. More than that the baby wont be able to handle. A single hour on the other hand will likely not be enough as the child will almost definitely need some breaks along the way. A second part to this point is adequate scheduling time. Make sure the photographer will allow you to book a session before you have the baby. Because the best time to take newborn portraits is before two weeks of age, the best thing to do is to schedule before you even have the baby.
    • How to tell: Ge on the photographer’s website or contact them to find out the amount for time they offer as a general sitting time. Don’t go with someone who will make you pay extra for that second hour. As far as scheduling goes, just ask what their policy is on scheduling newborn sessions for an unborn baby. They should let you have a guaranteed spot regardless of if the baby is born early, late, or on time.
  • Personality- It is very important that you like your photographer. Find someone who you get along with and could even be your friend. You don’t want to be stuck in a contract with someone you don’t like or who doesn’t understand you and your style.
    • How to tell: Be in contact with the photographer that you’re thinking of using. Call them, set up an appointment to meet in person, email them some ideas you have or some pictures that you like. They should be receptive, supportive, and appreciative or your vision and enthusiasm.

There you are; the top ten things to look for in newborn photographers. Like I mentioned before make your own list of things that are important to you in finding the photographer to document such an amazing time in life of your family. Remember these are memories that you will want to keep for a lifetime and beyond and you have one shot at capturing those memories perfectly, so choose the photographer that is right for you.