I recently attended a wedding where I was not the official photographer. It was interesting to watch how other “professional” photographers operate. I’ve put professional in quotation marks for a reason that will become apparent. Since that occasion I have decided to write this blog in order to inform future wedding couples about the pitfalls of hiring a photographer.
The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ seems not to apply to wedding photography. Sure, there are many price points for this service, but they do not necessarily reflect the quality of professionalism that they buy. I am a firm believer that you should let your own quality of work do the talking and criticising another’s work is not very noble; however I was incensed at what I saw. The photographers were booked two years in advance of the day and I do not know the circumstances leading to their choice, I can only comment on what I observed. There were two photographers, male and female. Both arrived with the Bride, which is to say no one was at the church beforehand capturing the Groom, family and friends arriving and/or pre-ceremony excitement. I will label the two photographers as prime (female) and second (male). Although the church was a traditional 13th century building, it was a sunny day and plenty of light was being reflected around the interior white walls, however the prime insisted on using the focus assist light on the front of her Nikon dslr, quite distracting having a bright light flashing on every time she took an image. The second was using a prosumer (mid-range) Canon dslr with a Nikon strap. Once the Bride was in position with the groom the second photographer positioned himself at the back of the congregation and attempted to set up a tripod. I say attempted, it appeared to be the first time he had ever used a tripod. He placed the mounting plate on the tripod head and then tried to screw the camera to the plate in position. This obviously didn’t work and eventually he removed the plate and attached it to the camera off the tripod. It then took him another five minutes failing to get the camera clamped to the tripod. He gave up. I have spoken to the presiding priest who said she had met the prime photographer at the wedding rehearsal the previous evening. The priest had made it clear that during the service the photographers should be as unobtrusive as possible and not distract the congregation from the proceedings. This request had obviously fallen on deaf ears. During the first half of the ceremony, even when the priest was addressing the couple and congregation, the second photographer was wandering up and down the centre aisle getting the attention of couples and making them pose in their seats for a shot. Both prime and second photographers were continually chimping, looking at the back of the camera after every shot and missing that special moment, a sure fire indication that they were unsure of their settings and that every shot was hit or miss. After the ceremony the newly married couple made their way down the aisle and were ushered into the toilet. The rest of the congregation left the church building and amassed outside. The photographers were nowhere to be seen. The wedding couple were left in the toilet for ten minutes with the Groom finally coming out to see if they could leave the building. Eventually the prime photographer instructed them to leave and organised the confetti throw. Apparently she had moaned to the priest that the 70m avenue of trees was not long enough for the confetti throwing, even though they were only about sixty guests (even one deep each side = 2.3m per person). Generally the idea of a second photographer will be to capture the candid shots of the wedding guests enjoying meeting, talking, laughing, crying etc. On this occasion both prime and second stood together discussing each shot for minutes at a time, disagreeing where they should take the group shots, in the shade or in the blinding sun. As you can imagine tensions were rising as time crept by. The priest later said the prime photographer asked her why the bridesmaids were so grumpy, I wonder. I cannot comment on the reception and, as yet, I’ve not seen the final images. I would love to be proved wrong by a set of stunning shots; however I wait with bated breath.
Shots missed (even with two photographers present): tender moment with Bride and Father in the church porch, the expression on the youngest bridesmaid when she dropped her lolly down the heating grate, the crayon pictures of the Bride and Groom drawn by the children at the back, and several more candid moments.
My advice to couples wanting their day captured in a professional, friendly, relaxed and smooth manner, with quality images that reflect the whole day with emotion and enjoyment, is that they employ a qualified photographer. Look for membership of an accredited professional body, for example: the British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP), the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) or the Association of Photographers (AOP). Check they are insured, including public liability, and if children or vulnerable adults are involved it is always reassuring for the photographer to be DBS checked. Don’t just go by previous work, although do check that any images they show you as marketing material are all their own work. Personal recommendation is always a fair bet but again check their credentials; it may have been a lucky day.
A professional photographer is so much more than an image machine. They can be a calming influence, someone who knows all about wedding days. They should be able to give you peace of mind and an assurance that they know what you want and how much or little of their guidance you need. Finally couples shouldn’t be afraid to ask for references and/or copies of qualifications and memberships.