Questions & answers
I’m still not totally convinced about hiring a professional wedding photographer, which is just so expensive. A friend of ours just recently bought a DSLR camera and they’re supposed to be so clever these days our friend’s bound to get the great pictures we want. Why not just let him do the wedding photos?
A few years ago I was talking to a salesman in Jessops here in York, and he told me that about every other week, an engaged couple would come into the store asking about buying a DSLR to lend to a friend to photograph their wedding. They reasoned that because wedding photography costs hundreds of pounds, why not spend that money on a camera which they then get to keep after the wedding. On the face of it, there’s a certain logic to this, if you believe it is really just a matter of pointing and shooting and the camera does it all for you. But there are several reasons why this will more likely than not lead to disappointment.
Let’s just take one example. An inexperienced person will put the camera on “automatic everything” and then just point and shoot. But let’s suppose the wedding ceremony is in front of a bay window in a hotel room. The heavy backlighting will just result in dark silhouettes of the bride and groom, if the person photographing doesn’t know how to over-ride the camera’s automatic function. Leaving you with unattractive photos of a couple of people who could be anybody! Another example is the shallow depth of field that helps to isolate a subject from its background and can also lend intimacy and atmosphere to a photograph.
These kinds of shots are only really possible with “fast” lenses that have wide apertures and these are not the kind of lenses sold as part of a “kit” with a camera body, which you would typically buy in a camera store. Rather they are more expensive and are bought separately. Also, the camera operator needs to lock focus on his subject with a very high level of precision and consistency. A poor exposure can be rescued after the fact, an out of focus shot cannot. Beyond this, a person inexperienced with the typical timeline of a wedding day, with its particular sequence of events, will likely not anticipate all the crucial moments. And when a moment is gone it’s gone! This makes taking wedding photography particularly stressful for inexperienced shooters, which again can lead to errors. Even if one is reasonably experienced with a camera, it can be very challenging to be thinking about technical things like camera settings at the same time as relating on a human level to your subjects. And last but certainly not least, an artistic eye is necessary to capture truly memorable images. All things considered then, it really is best to hire an experienced professional.
There are so many wedding photographers, how do I choose one who’s right for me?
It certainly is a competitive field! Thomson’s Local directory contacted me a couple of years ago and told me there were two hundred wedding photographers listed with them in York alone! Gumtree no doubt will offer ads from more hopefuls in search of experience who will shoot your wedding for nothing or next to nothing. And sure, we all have to start somewhere, but be wary of the lure of getting a freebie from someone who will be basically using you to learn on the job.
At the other end of the spectrum are the celebrity photographers (not that there are many of those) who will charge enormous fees, but objectively, will you be paying for much more than a prestige name? You really need to take some time to look at a good deal of wedding photography, not just locally but internationally, noticing the current standards that are attainable and seeing what styles and approaches you feel drawn to. Once you have found a photographer whose pictures you like, the next obvious question you’re going to be asking yourself is do I want this person at my wedding? It clearly has to be someone you like and feel comfortable with and who is obviously competent. And I’ve heard jaw-dropping stories of photographer’s clumsy or inappropriate behaviour at weddings. So a consultation is essential, and in fact, the majority of wedding photographers will offer this for free. It will take some time to find the right person but will be worth the effort.
How would you describe your style and approach to photographing a wedding?
My approach is a mixture of photojournalism and formal portraiture. I enjoy capturing the fleeting moments of expression and intimacy that characterise wedding days, that so often are emotional occasions that frequently bring out the best in people. So on a personal level, my approach is one of empathy and connection. I want to feel part of what is going on around me, and not just be the detached observer.
The photojournalistic or street photography approach to shooting weddings has become much more common these days, borrowing from the idea of the “decisive moment” popularised by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. This basically states that there is a special moment when all the elements in the frame come together to create an image that has both symmetry as well as emotional resonance with the viewer, conveyed by its subject. However, this “decisive moment” has frequently involved patiently waiting at a given scene for all elements to fall into place.
Of course, at a wedding, a photographer has no such luxury. He or she has to be constantly moving on to the next moment and the next as the day unfolds. However, to hold the decisive moment as an ideal to work towards and to be constantly looking for makes for a significant amount of inner quality control. It means being constantly on the lookout for when magic can happen. And if I am really looking, oftentimes I will find. There is also the more formal portrait and group shots, which by necessity are set up, but the extra degree of control over setting, lighting and posing can also lead to very memorable images. They just have a different kind of emphasis.
What kind of processing on the pictures do you do?
Clients receive images in colour and also a fair amount in black and white and occasionally sepia and split toning. As a general rule of thumb, I will tend to shoot the majority of formal and group shots in colour, while the majority of the back and white images, will be from the candid, on-the-fly shots. Any image in colour that you’d like to see in black and white, or vice versa, will be added to your online gallery.
What kind of equipment do you use?
I use professional level Canon DSLR cameras. Typically on a wedding I will have two on me all the time, one with a wide to mid-range zoom, and another with a longer range zoom. This allows me to cover any field of view I need at any given moment, from the broad overview to close up, intimate moments
Which areas do you photograph in?
Mainly I photograph in York and have experience with the majority of venues here. But I have also done weddings throughout Yorkshire as far afield as Scarborough, Sheffield and Keighley. But I’m open to photographing a wedding wherever clients would like me; subject of course to travel expenses.
How many pictures do you take an hour?
While I’ll be shooting continuously throughout my time with you (and will at no point be sitting around making new friends) I also like to be discerning when I take pictures, rather than taking a “machine gun” approach and hoping for the best. I tend to shoot between about 200 and 250 pictures an hour.
Do you use flash a lot?
I shoot mostly with available light, but know how to use both on camera and off camera flash so that it looks completely natural. Sometimes during the formal group and portrait shots I’ll have more elaborate lighting set ups with umbrellas and off camera flash, if the occasion and/or venue call for it.
How many pictures do I get on the USB stick?
The number of fully processed images supplied depends on the length of the wedding, but will be between 150 and 500.
Who designs the wedding book? How do I approve the design and will it cost extra if I want things changed?
I design the wedding book. Once the design is completed, I’ll send you a PDF proof copy via email for you to approve or else suggest changes. Anything that should have been right from the beginning will be changed free of charge. However if you want images added that weren’t part of your original choice, this will cost extra.
How many weddings would you shoot on a day?
I never shoot more than one wedding a day. Beware of “production line” photographers! There’s a lot of investment in time, energy and preparation to really deliver for a couple the special images they want. And you’re hardly special to a photographer who has you down as number 3 in the day.
Are you a member of any associations?
I am a member of The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers and a qualified member of The Guild of Wedding Photographers.