Selecting your wedding shooter is not a painful task. By learning my 10 secrets you will eliminate many of the pitfalls it is really easy to fall into. It is very important that you make Honolulu photographers your selection of shooter early on in your wedding plans. The best and most popular professional photographers get reserved early, normally a year or two in advance. So once you have set your date and arranged wedding ceremony venue, the next thing on your list should be your shooter.
If you were engaged and 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 shooter or his admin would spend hours in the dark room developing films and making photographic images personally. What you can do for the big day would have been limited. The shooter would usually arrive 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 an absolute luxury in the 30’s as colour film was still in its infancy. A talented shooter might offer you hand colored or tinted pictures which he would make from monochrome originals, but these would be a costly option.
It was not uncommon to vacation to the professional photographers studio room either on your big day or shortly afterwards. The whole business became quite an occasion. Posing in front of hot studio room lights was something you merely did on special occasions. It was the only way to get pictures 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 shooter still had a mysterious quality; part artist, part chemist and part magician. He could produce pictures you just could not achieve yourself with your ‘Box Brownie’ camera.
Today things are very different. Photography has been started up its head. Gone are the famous companies like Agfa and Kodak. Film based photography has been replaced almost entirely by digital technology, the standard of which improves dramatically year by year. Most people are in possession of a camera of some type and are pleased with the pictures they take. Rapid advances in digital imaging have ascertained that the ‘auto’ function on your camera will give you a good 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.
Try looking in any Yellow Pages or any other directory, Google ‘wedding photographer’ for any town or city and you will find an rising number of entries under the listing. Why is this? It is simply because technology has improved to this extent that even the most modest and affordable camera is capable of producing great images.
Sadly you will discover that its not all so called shooter is a professional shooter. Some act on it on a in your free time basis and might be a cleaner, airport taxi driver or office worker from Mon to Friday and a wedding shooter at the weekend. It has become a in your free time profession for many keen newbees looking to make some more money at the weekend.
The questions you must ask yourself are; would I go to a dentist if i was not 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 just weren’t qualified and registered? No, it could be a matter of life and death.
Would I trust my wedding pictures to a shooter who might be working in your free time at weekends, sets everything regarding his camera set to ‘auto’, promises me hundreds of pictures on a compact disk for a few hundred pounds? Sadly many people do!
The reasons for doing this are intriguing. Independent of the technology issue I have mentioned above, 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 enthusiast covering, today it is cool and fashionable to have wedding pictures that look like snap-shots! Pictures that look quickly arranged, which is not staged and capture the feeling of the day without being embarassing or formal in any way.
What does all this mean in reality? Firstly, it is assumed that to make this happen ‘documentary’ or ‘reportage’ look, all you need to do is to take an inordinate number of pictures and chances are you will get some suitable ones in the mix. So snap away is the thinking of many inexperienced professional 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 eliminate 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, prepare your picture correctly, and finally be able to control the guests such 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 shooter!
- 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 on most people who wish to set up in operation. So you cannot assume that someone with a fancy web site is the best choice. He may have another profession to pay the mortgage. Does the web site have a biography page? How much information does it give about the shooter, their experience and their professional qualifications? How long have they experienced business?
- Do they belong to a realised professional photographic association, or just a camera club? Are they susceptible 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 get a fancy camera regarding his redundancy money on Friday and call himself a professional shooter on Sunday. In the You. Okay. there is no regulation of professional photographers at the moment. Anyone can legally set themselves up in operation as a shooter and they do not need to register with anyone. The public is not protected by any legislation. Over the years the major professional photographic associations in the You. Okay. have lobbied successive governments regarding this matter, but without success.
- Is a postal address listed on the web site, or just a mobile number and email address? How will you discover their whereabouts if there is a problem? Its not all shooter has a standard studio room, much work from home quite properly. A professional shooter will always publish an address.
- If the shooter works from home he/she is unlikely to have a large studio room unless it has been purpose built or modified 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 current selection of wedding pictures, or do they refer to coming to see you your own house? When it comes to looking at samples, pictures containing a variety of weddings can look fine. Professional photographers always like to exhibit their full capacity pictures. Always ask to see complete weddings from start to finish. That will give you a better indication of the photographers’ skill, rather than admiring pretty pictures.
- 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 You. Okay. There are degree courses in Written photography, but weddings or social photography are not covered in a depth. There are wedding qualifications honored by the main photographic bodies in the You. Okay., such as the MPA, BIPP, SWPP. These are honored 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 shooter can produce work of a competent and professional standard. They will also have good business skills if they have achieved a Diploma or degree in Professional Photographic Practice (DipPP). The second level of training course 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 get, therefore there are fewer Associates than Licentiates. The top level of training course and ultimate purpose of all aspiring professionals is to be a Fellow (FMPA or FBIPP). To be a Fellow is a rare achievement. This implies the highest level of competence, experience and artistry and indicates the shooter has a unique style. These are the top professionals who have been realised as leaders in their field.
- That will be taking your wedding pictures? Get to fulfill the person him/herself. Many professional photographers rather than turn being married commission away, will sub-contract the work to an admin, keen amateur, or camera owner. Always find out who your shooter will be and get to see their collection of work. The boss might take good pictures, but think about his admin?
- 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 different thing. That only covers him if his camera is thieved.
- Don’t be tricked by statements like ‘award winning’. Always ask “what awards”! Are they realised professional awards or something picked up at a Camera Club?
- 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 professional photographers worldwide will shoot RAW files in their camera, for maximum image quality. They will then hang out to editing these RAW files on a computer to produce jpegs. If your shooter argues that she doesn’t need to shoot RAW files because his jpegs are just right… beware! Jpeg files produced directly by the camera will never be as good as those served by editing RAW files hand, because the internal camera software makes general assumptions on the subject and lighting conditions. The shooter who edits RAW files hand 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.
- Ask what are the results if they become ill the day before your wedding? What are the results if they break a leg or are involved in an accident? What back-up is in place? A professional shooter will have a network of qualified fellow workers he can call upon either locally or via their professional association.
So now you have the 10 secrets to finding your wedding shooter. Always meet them in the flesh and discuss your plans in more detail. He will probably know your wedding venue already and will be able to put your brain at ease should it rain on your special day. If you are interested in having some group pictures 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 Gran who can’t stand up for long, you must tell your shooter so he can make allowances.
Your shooter will need time to take pictures for you, therefore 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, you 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 shooter you will need to confirm your booking. Don’t leave it prior to the last moment assuming your kind shooter is holding the day for you. He/she has a business to run so expect you’ll pay a deposit or booking fee to secure the day. When you book expect you’ll sign a contract which simply states and 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 around 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? inch In the You. Okay. legally the copyright is owned by the shooter on the understanding that they’re going to give you any images you require. If you are in China, Asia, The indian subcontinent and many other countries in the world, copyright and intelligent property is another ball game and my own field!
To sum up, the better you get to know your shooter, the better your experience will be. Many people say “Oh, I hate having my photograph taken”! If you choose an experienced shooter, 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 shooter 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 big day to get the best pictures for you.
The choices you make in booking your wedding shooter are very important. A good wedding shooter will act as your choreographer, are more useful than the usual bridesmaid and tell you what to do and when. He will have safety pins and a mirror in his bag should, and he will function as the person you can trust to make sure everything flows efficiently, and ensure you have perfect big day.