While planning for your wedding, you to be will find numerous lists of questions online directed at brides and grooms regarding what questions they should ask during their wedding photographer during meetings and consultations. These lists do have value and very likely will help you get started thinking along the right lines to make an informed decision about wedding photography. They include questions like:
How many weddings have you photographed?
How do you describe your style?
What equipment do you use?
Have you photographed at my venue?
Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like?
How many images will we receive?
What is the turnaround time to receive the images?
These are great things to ask and you absolutely need to know these answers before booking, but they give limited insight in what the images you receive will look like. This is because it excludes what we what believe is the most important question:
Can we see full galleries of photos that you delivered from recent weddings?
Every professional photographer you are considering hiring should welcome this request with open arms! It is their opportunity to give you an in-depth look at their work and show you what the the memories they create from your wedding day will look like. They can use this opportunity to talk through the day in greater detail and explain what they are doing from a photography standpoint as you scroll through. If they deny to show you these or refer you to the back images on their website, be very very cautious.
A home page and portfolio galleries gives sense of a photographer’s overall style and the types of photos they can achieve. That is the reason those pages exist; to give you a first impression of their work and allow you to decide if it is what you imagine for your own wedding. However, there are numerous ways that these initial images might be very different than what the set of photos you receive looks like. These reasons are listed below
Images might be edited specifically for portfolio use.
It takes a lot of expertise and effort to edit a full set of wedding day photos well. To do so successfully, a photographer needs to be able to keep hundreds and hundreds of photos taken over the course of eight or more hours all looking consistently good while maintaining a particular style. This is a very different type of skill than being able to spend an hour editing a single image in Photoshop to perfection. It just isn’t practical to spend this long on every single delivered image; you would never get their photos and the photographer would need more time than exists in their lives. So some photographers may spend extra time processing and editing to photos they will know will be reaching a very large audience to give the best impression of themselves. This isn’t wrong, but you need to know if this is the case and what the photos that did not get a very particular treatment look like. You won’t be happy if you open your own gallery and a majority of the photos are edited poorly or in a totally different style than displayed on the photographer’s website.
Displayed photos might be from second shooting jobs with another studio.
In some cases, the photographs displayed on a photographer’s page will be from second shooting another studio’s wedding. This often means that the primary photographer had already done the difficult part of choosing the location, setting up the couple, and possibly positioning lighting. The second photographing got themselves into the position during this setup to capture the photo from the angle you see. This still takes expertise and being a great second shooter takes its own skillset and very valuable. However it doesn’t represent what the photographer can accomplish when they are at your wedding on there own with all of the possibilities are wide open. Mixing in some photos from second shooting is not misleading in itself and is a good way to show some more unique shots, but there should be a good number of images from their own weddings as well. Specifically newer and less established studios often learn too far into showing second shot images because they have not photographed a large number of their own weddings.
Some individual or even sets of images might be from styled wedding shoots.
Styled shoots are growing give an opportunity to take photographs at a staged wedding and are growing in popularity. The location and time of day are selected very carefully, details are chosen based on how well they photograph, and the the bride and groom are models. Over the course of a few hours, everything is positioned into a range of realistic looking wedding day circumstances while the photographer(s) can move around and capture images perfectly in their vision. They can take as much time as needed, they can ask the models to adjust, and there are no other guests or timelines to worry about.
This is great as a learning experience, but these situations are clearly very different than an actual wedding where time is short, and people are moving on their own accord, and lighting will not be perfect for photography. A photographer can be an expert at capturing models in a studio-like settings, but have trouble working in the imperfect conditions where weddings exist. Wedding photography is the art of making magic out of naturally occurring situations rather than taking photos of perfect situations. Viewing the full set will show you what a the photographer can truly accomplish under these real conditions.
Portraits might be from a editorial sessions.
You will find photos of a bride and groom in the middle of Times Square early in the morning with no crowds and the city lit up behind them or maybe on the peak of a mountain with a foggy valley below. You should wonder how they managed to finish their hair, makeup, get dressed, take care of the many other details you have to worry about on a wedding day, and get to that location at that time. They either had to begin at midnight the day before and are severely sleep deprived or, more than likely, it just isn’t their wedding day. Some couples value portraits very highly and will set aside time to get dressed up on another day to capture photos that are otherwise impossible with how weddings must be scheduled. This is an awesome idea if you feel similarly, but photos captured during these types of sessions do not reflect what you will receive on your wedding day. Sometimes there are just twenty short minutes for portraits and a photographer must to push their creativity to create amazing images in the location they have to make use of.
The photographer might have gotten lucky for these shots.
It sounds harsh but almost anyone can capture a few great images when photographing something for 10 hours straight and taking thousands upon thousands photographs. Digital cameras and huge memory cards means there is no real limit of how many attempts you have other than schedule and time. Digital cameras also have very acceptable automatic modes built that also do get things right sometimes. If someone pulls their 30 best images out of the past 20,000 they took they can easily make their abilities look greater than they actually are when that is all you are given to judge. You need to see the full galleries to know if this is the case or not. To document a wedding well, the photographer needs to be need to be consistent and capture get great moments all throughout the day. Think about all the different moments of your wedding that you want documented; I am sure you won’t be very happy if there are only a few moments of greatness mixed in with hundreds of photos that are very “blah”.
The photographs could focused entirely on the photographer’s strengths.
Photographing a marriage takes a very varied skillset ranging from product photography for details, to the posing of people throughout the day for families and portraits, to photojournalism for those candid moments. The events of the day also take place in forever varying lighting conditions from natural to artificial and almost countless mixes between them. All photographers, from those just starting out to very established studios, have different strengths. For some this is just a slight preference towards one aspect but to others this is a very large discrepancy in ability or focus. Some photographers may have an amazing eye for details and portraits and display these very prominently on their website and others may be amazing at using window light when the bride is getting on her dress. However both of these might have trouble lighting a first dance during the reception or capturing that first kiss in a very dark church. Their strengths they display might align with what you want out of your wedding photographer or they might not. The only way to tell for sure is to look through the gallery and ensure each part of the day can stand strongly by itself, the moments important to you are well represented, and it is all in in a style you love.