Come in! There are a few adventures I’ve written about, but most of the content offers classes in photography and mentoring for photographers, including photo theory, which, although a vital part in our profession, is largely an overlooked subject in all published media that profits from and feeds our gadget minded mindset today.
Making sure your wedding or any event is visually beautiful, that is what this draft of a book is all about. Presently, until this is revised, it consists of 19 Chapters and over 62 pages. It is meant to give an event planner or vendor involved in an event numerous ideas and tips for having a picture perfect day…
C1 – A Matter of Style: Traditional, Journalistic, or cinematic? Cinematic! Then try a journalistic approach. Third option, the cinematic approach, is the charm.
C2 – Making the right choices
C4 – A local vs. an outsider?
C5 -Is it medium-format or 35mm, digital cards or film?
C7 – Soft, blurred, or sharp:
C8 – Have Broom and will Travel Up The Ladder
C9 – Come rain or shine
C10 – Own a camera? Now you’re a photographer:
C11 – Attitude, a most important ingredient:
C12 – Personal grooming for the big day.
C13 – What to wear?
C14 – Take A Stand
C15 – By the way, how should my photographer look?
C16 – The Studio Experience
C17 – expectations
C18 – Having a photography or visual consultant
C19 – With the invitation: advice and requests.
A Matter of Style
In looking at wedding photography, you may be told that you basically have to consider two options. Is that all there are? What are the differences between them? Which provides the best and most creative style, and why? I can’t say this often enough: The more you explore your options, the more you’ll learn and the more likely you are to make the right decisions in creating a perfect wedding day that can be beautifully captured, i.e., photographed. The process cascades; it builds on itself, with one thing leading to another. By the way, you may be told you only have to consider, but actually you have three! More choices, what could be better? Let’s explore and discover what kind of photography you like. Let’s see what you need to look for and need to know to find your best photographer (and videographer).
Traditional, Journalistic, or cinematic? Cinematic!
Among the first steps in your journey of visual exploration is to consider what kinds of photographs you enjoy and the style of photography you like. Let’s first explore the different styles.
The original style of photography is commonly called traditional or formal. Traditional wedding photography is a systematic and orchestrated approach to taking wedding photographs. People are posed and the photographs taken are set shots. They are commonly referred to as “money shots.” That doesn’t mean that the photographers using this style are greedy and only take these shots to ensure they make money. This style of photography was started by necessity. In the pioneering days, the old days of photography, cameras were large, film was slow, and lighting was crude. Only somewhat static style or posed photographs were possible. They had to be set up or posed due to the technical limitations of the day. People (and animals, e.g.) had to be posed, to “freeze,” to ensure sharp, focused results. Equipment was bulky and not so mobile or versatile; therefore, the shots had to be set, posed of “frozen” to guarantee they would be the shots people wanted; they had to be the “money shots,” i.e., shots or a list of shots the photographer wasn’t to miss. Money shots begin with photographs of the bride and groom, are followed by ones including the immediate family, then other family and friends, and finally a few select traditional shots, e.g., one of cutting the wedding cake. Traditional or formal photographs often looked rigid, failing to capture the spontaneity of a joyful smile or the emotion of gently wiping away a tear, etc.
Modern technical advances have made photography much more flexible and versatile. The list of shots has been expanded. In my files I keep a printed sheet called “photographs you would not want to miss.” You may have encountered such helpful information by another name. The list now includes the “bride with her father just before the processional (a very tender shot), the exchange of rings, first dance, and other special moments common to all wedding celebrations. Certainly, all the photographs listed should be included, and many more are essential to ensure a complete visual story of the wedding. Due to advances in photography many photographs on the list are not taken in the formal, traditional style. Nevertheless, there are some “shot list” photographs that can only be taken in the traditional style. These include shots of the bride and groom separately and together, with family members, with classmates, and the like. Why these photographs can not be taken in any other way will be explained in detail in the formal photography section. When taken by a talented and creative photographer these portraits are very beautiful, however.
Having said this, it must to be pointed out that traditional photography is a slow process that some temperaments may find awkward, cumbersome, and objectionable. It requires the subjects’ attention to posing and setting up the images. It also requires the setting up of lighting systems that are expensive and need to be secured. They may be called portable lights, but they are not especially mobile; that is to say, if you plan to conduct your entire wedding under studio lighting, plan on hiring a photographer with a crew. I recently spoke with someone from a photo-studio where studio lighting is used to photograph dancing at the reception. The addition of studio lighting helps to ensure that from up close to far away is well lighted. The downside of having studio lighting is that your wedding looks like a set and looses its natural ambience. Nevertheless, this style provides the photographer with optimum control over all aspects of the photographic process. Lighting can be fully controlled resulting in the finest details, depth, and flattering results. When taking photographs of the bride and groom and other portraits with careful close attention to visual details and lighting, the results can be classic, impressive, and well worth the effort and attention.
We all enjoy the beautiful classic, posed portraits that the traditional, formal style can provide us. On the other hand, many of us also want photographs that show spontaneity, anticipation, emotion, creative impulses and freedom. These are a visual record of the moments and things that makes each wedding special and unique, and are not possible if you, your family, friends, and guests are posing throughout the event and your photographer is constantly busy monitoring equipment and the set.
Then try a journalistic approach.
Without a doubt, every bride and groom is certain to like lots of spontaneous and creative, informal photographic coverage of their wedding (and events) in addition to a few, select traditional photographs. The ability and freedom to take on-the-spot, action type shots is made possible by technical advances over the years, that have made photographic equipment and materials more portable and versatile. These advances gave rise to the journalistic style of photography, which can be said to have existed (in a formal way) since Matthew Brady photographed the Civil War, but really did not enter into its own until the 1950’s.
The journalistic style is synonymous with the documentary as well as the ‘candid’ approach. It is informal, not posed or staged! People and their activities are captured as they come and go, and flow. The photographer is a fly on the wall, if you will, or a prowler looking for his next image. Some think it allows for capturing the “moment”, and it is therefor viewed as being honest and realistic. To me this is a bit of ideal flattery. It is possible to capture the “moment”, but that moment is likely selected from many “moments” that might have been captured. In most cases, a photo journalists needs one good photograph per assignment to compliment a story; i.e., a single photograph, that best fits the story. A truly great photograph could earn a Pulitzer; chances are, however, it isn’t going to be a truly great wedding photograph. The photograph may or may not be flattering; the latter is more likely. It might capture a disaster, and so on and so forth, depending on the photographer’s inclination and point of view. It is this subjectivity that puts into question the honesty and reality of the “moment” (long before the advent of digital manipulation). The closest any photographs come to simply recording a “straight” reflection of reality is by means of time-lapse (security) photography. Although photojournalism, a noble profession, in practice has limits on freedom to create, it thrives on spontaneity; in this respect it is wonderful in capturing natural sequences, anticipation and other emotions.
Another point to be made about journalistic photography is that the selected image meant for the story of the day is to provide a low quality halftone print; the standard for newspapers. This is made possible by 35mm cameras and high-speed films. Success of the final outcome, however, may have more to do with persistence than technical photographic expertise. Some even believe anything technical to be a handicap, when simplicity rules. I hope you don’t misinterpret the points I seek to convey . I’m not suggesting that photojournalists lack photographic know-how or expertise. Performed at its best, photojournalism certainly requires persistance, great dedication, courage, and a quick eye. What I want to convey to you is that the objectives and expectations for photojournalist (on assignment for their media) are not the same as those desired and expected of a photographer covering a wedding and similar event.
The photojournalistic style, even when performed with talent, does not offer all of the ingredients expected of wedding photographs. Its true objective is to record or document “what is” without any enhancement. Even executed at an exceptional level it does not require training in advanced photographic techniques, experience with the full range of professional equipment, extensive skills with lighting techniques, and close attention to details. Photojournalism requires basic photographic skills and abilities of a different kind. Where the traditional style misses a natural, fluid, spontaneous and candid, informal appearance, the journalistic style fails to deliver classic refinement in capturing all the aesthetic photographic possibilities a wedding provides.
You are likely at a point now where you are visually impaired, i.e., perplexed. If an all traditional or formal approach is too static (unless you are happy having a sequence of portraits) and an all photojournalistic style, with its laissez-faire, hands off, as it flows “candid” approach is too informal, it seems that your best option would be to use a combination of these two styles.
Third option, the cinematic approach, is the charm.
The cinematic approach, what’s that? The third option I use for my own personal style, I call the “cinematic” style. I like the word “cinematic”. First, it means the intermittent succession, i.e., a sequence of photographs producing the illusion of a single moving event; in this case your wedding. More importantly, “cinematic” implies an art form. A wedding is a staged event after all, conducted in (customarily) several settings. The grander it is, the more it is staged. Both the staging and capturing, i.e. photographing, must be accomplished as an art form. Staged does not mean static or formal, requiring a traditional approach. At the same time you are not looking for your wedding photographer and videographer to be journalists, impartial and removed from the event. In fact, they are players in staging the event, and I view their (unobtrusive) participation similar as I would for still and movie-film work.
Prior to directing my education, training, and business to professional freelance photography, I studied and obtained a degree in film production. Film is made up of a stream of stills, that in sequential order tells a story. Film production is a creative process that has influenced my style of wedding photography. If you are film buff you know that an integral part of making a film is the storyboard. This is a visual representation of each scene. In photographing a wedding you are telling a story by creating a photographic storyboard. I view the process as filming, i.e., preparing a sequential photographic storyboard that is cinematic in telling a beautiful visual story.
There are many facets in filming a good story both in terms of photography and video. One fundamental film technique is to establish every major scene with broad descriptive location shots, and then moving the camera in to focus on the principal characters. In a wedding story there are the bride and groom. Establishing location shots offers wonderful opportunities for majestic vistas, creative angles and perspectives. Close ups are intimate, personal, expressive, and offer unlimited opportunities to capture all the emotion and special moments of a wedding. Another standard technique at the beginning and end of a film is to identify and introduce the principal characters in the story by scrolling credits, and establishing the main characters. All of these general movie-making techniques can be applied to shooting a wedding or other event.
Characters in films never play to the camera (unless for the occasional comic, tragic, or combined effect). For actors to look at, or pay notice to the camera, would disrupt the natural flow of storytelling. The same applies also to wedding photography and video. A wonderful wedding story evolves from the interaction between people; genuine displays of happiness, joy and other emotions result from the undisturbed evolution of this interaction. Like actors in a film, the bride and groom should neither pay notice to nor ignore the camera as the wedding day evolves and progresses.
In the end, a film is always made to visually look its best whatever the story being told. This is especially true of love stories and romantic comedies, where characters are (customarily) shown in the best light. The clothing is flattering, the sets are sumptuous or majestic, and the main characters look radiant. Showing everything in the best light means achieving the best lighting, having an elegant wardrobe, the right make-up, paying close attention to details and changing details for the best, taking everything at the best angles, and using the best equipment to achieve these desired results. In final analysis, photographing a wedding needs the same attention to details, etc. as that extended to filming a movie.
A wedding is more a cinematic than journalistic event. Weddings do have a certain scripting, a story sequence, a plot. Weddings even have the opportunity for rehearsal. The rehearsal dinner celebrates rehearsing the ceremony. This book in a way is a form of rehearsal to enable you to get the optimum visual results from your wedding photography. Wedding photographs are neither journalistically spontaneous nor starkly realistic. Wedding photographs must be pleasing and beautiful. They are meant to be refined and as well as creative; as such they are created images, finely printed and displayed in a long-held album.
Weddings photography can benefit from many of the techniques used in cinematic film making. It involves using the camera to tell a story, as an unobtrusive observer, while at the same time directing all efforts and attention to obtaining the most flattering and beautiful results. Although unobtrusive these directed efforts and attention that separates the cinematic style from documentary film making, which is equivalent to the photojournalistic style. Throughout a wedding I pay attention to the best angles, lighting, the setting, the bride’s make-up, etc. I don’t do set shots, accept during “formal time”, nevertheless I do take many subtle steps to make any set the bride and groom occupy look its best. In every setting I do a casual clean up. A good example is when taking photographs as the bride is getting ready. Often, when I arrive at a home or hotel at the time when the bride and bridesmaids are getting their hair and make up done, the place can be in a bit of upheaval. Visually I feel there has to be a balance in what is captured or shown (and what is not). So I will go around casually without being obvious and remove any eye soars from the setting or scenes I know I want to photograph. So I may remove soda cans or a left-over sandwich, but leave the wedding shoe box with its ruffled paper and shoes. This is one example in how I differentiate between my “cinematic” vs. the journalistic style. The latter would have left the soda cans or the left-over sandwich, and likely not even have thought of removing them, to provide an exact or documentary record. My cinematic approach does not artificially create the setting; it keeps the essence of the setting, but makes sure the final photograph is taken at the best angle, under the best light, and with close attention to details necessary to ensure that the photograph taken will look its best.
Although weddings share many similarities with cinematic events, their relationship is not an exact or perfect one. You have to keep things in perspective. Brides and grooms are not actors, their lines are not scripted (with the exception of the wedding vows), nor are the wedding scenes. The sounds of a wedding are difficult to control, there is no such thing as a weather postponement, or a director shouting ‘action’ and ‘cut’, or time to do another ‘take’. For these reasons, it is my view that despite certain similarities, especially in terms of video, you should not expect your wedding visuals to be aHollywoodmovie. The two can’t be compared, or you’ll go over budget. Again, they share similarities, but they are not the same. In addition, unlike movies, there is in the wedding sequence a time devoted to taking traditional, formal photographs, mentioned and described earlier as a time for portraits.
In these respects shooting a wedding event and a movie can not be compared, which leads me to my personal preference of photographing a wedding day. For me photography remains the best, most natural and romantic medium for capturing wedding memories. It allows you to fully focus on the best aspects of a wedding. It can avoid circumstances beyond everyone’s control, including poor sound quality. Photographs allow you, the bride and groom, to re-visit your wedding with the perception of your memories and imagination, at your own pace, in your own time.
Now that you have a better understanding of the styles of photography you will likely agree with me that a combination of the traditional-formal and journalistic-candid styles, which I term “cinematic style”, provides the best of both worlds and is what you would like to see used. Now, how do you best identify if the photographers you interview provide this cinematic style you are looking for?
Making the right choices.
In the chapter on Wedding Consultants – Coordinators I emphasized two things you must do. One, you have to decide what services and which vendors are best for you. Others should only guide you, make suggestions and recommendations. Second, try to look for vendors recommended by several sources, and make your screening and selection experience fun.
When it comes to finding a photographer, you have to find one you like, not a best friend or a friend of a friend, but one that is most likely to get you great results, whatever style you are looking for. Do yourself a favor if you care about your wedding photographs; Don’t hire a friend who owns a good camera. I’ve heard many horror stories from the brides and grooms who hired a friend to shoot their wedding and were disappointed by the poor results.
You will get a good idea of a photographer’s style by looking at his or her work. I’ll give you several good tips as to what to look for. A display of large wall-prints can be beautiful, impressive, and give you ideas! Yes, now is a good time to mention that it will be fun to look at other wedding story photographs to give you ideas on how things can look; things you may want to consider doing, and things you may not have thought of or considered. Don’t worry about using other people’s wedding ideas. You and your future spouse might even get an idea with which to surprise each other. Given all these possibilities it is worth your time to look at a lot of photographs, the large wall photographs, impressive as large as they might be, are only the tip of the photoiceberg (my new word). You have to see what’s underneath the surface at its base. The wall enlargements are likely to represent the best out of thousands of photographs. The question is, however, are these select few the best of thousands of great choices or not?
Looking at albums is useful. It gives you an opportunity to look at the photographer’s finished results and the overall presentation of the album. I will discuss the latter subject in greater detail in another chapter. Looking at these final photographs you can, e.g., check to see how well the photographer does his or her cropping. Here is a good example, and is something you should learn in film school – leave extra space ahead of the subject in the direction the subject is moving, i.e., ahead of the subject. A subject needs extra space to move into. Visualize this, you’re the bride coming down the isle, walking from the upper right of the photograph down the isle towards the lower left. In this case, the photograph should be cropped so you are not in the center of the photograph but slightly right of center walking into a larger space to the left. If you look at the cropping, you will soon realize that there’s a lot to the art of cropping.
Other things to pick up on when looking at finished photographs is the quality of the print. Are the colors saturated, low in density (dull), or over saturated (clownish)? Do the photographs have blinding highlights and large areas of shadow, or people standing in sunlight with half a face bright and clear and the other half lost in the shadows? This will tell you things about the equipment being used, which will be discussed in another chapter. Do the photographs look grainy or specked? Talking about film and digital photography we’ll explore this subject. Just look for these things. They will all be discussed in straight layman’s talk as we move along, with as little theoretical or technical jargon as possible. For the moment, however, let me simply say this: Looking at albums is like looking at the middle of the photoiceberg. In making these albums for you to review, the photographer makes a significant investment, and as I do, he or she only puts the best of the best photographs in his or her show albums.
So, where do you go from here if impressive large wall-photographs and finished albums do not provide you with enough clues as to the photographer’s expertise and style. The answer is, you go to the proofs, or what are often called the previews, the small samples of all the photographs taken at your wedding. There should be hundreds. What you need to see are complete preview books of individual weddings. What I call the A to Z of a wedding. Why? In addition to the fun of looking and getting ideas, and checking the cropping, highlights and shadows, looking at all the photographs, even in smaller proof size, is the best way to review the style and overall quality of the results. One thing we used to say, that still holds true today, although may be less so in this digital age, is that a good print starts with a good negative.
When looking at the proofs you will see how the photographer approaches photographing a wedding. All previews should be presented to you in the order they were taken. Ideally you will find that a majority of the photographs are of the spontaneous, informal variety. Look for eighty percent or more to be of this type and twenty percent or less to be formal. See how the spontaneous, informal photographs appear from a “cinematic” point of view. As you review the proofs do they convey to you the story of the wedding day. Do they show refinement and quality? That is, do they show attention to details and the best possible angles, lighting, etc. You may feel you do not have the experience necessary to make good judgments; but, you do. This book is here to teach you how, and to guide you in how to look at and what to look for in photographs. Previewing the pre-ceremony shots, when the a bride and her bridesmaids are getting ready usually involves looking at a half dozen or more photographs. These photographs will likely be taken from several angles, some with pleasing background views and some not. Do the majority of the pre-ceremony shots fall in the pleasing category or not? Certainly, circumstances can arise that are beyond the photographers control, but if the majority of these shots fall in the disturbing category, it should raise a red flag. By way of example, there was a rare occasion when I was shooting a wedding video, while a photographer who I understood to be talented was doing stills. We were in a house with many windows and mirrors, which require a careful eye with respect to reflections and flash photography. I was surprised to see this photographer take many photographs head on with the glass and mirrors, and knew instinctively that each of these photographs would include a disturbing bright reflection. In such situations, a photographer always needs always to take photographs at an angle to the reflective surface. As a customer I would not have been happy with these photographs with their blinding reflections behind the subject. Not everything will be as obvious, but play detective and hopefully you will see a sequence of good results.
A common error often made by many amateurs who photographing people and events is that they allow for far too much sky and head room above the subject(s). In other words, the subject occupies the lower bottom half of the photograph and the is ceiling of a room, chamber, church, tent or otherwise sky in the upper half. A friend of mine in the advertising business had access to his assistant’s wedding previews, and I recall when looking at them that every photograph had a tremendous amount of empty space surrounding the principal subjects. The settings in which these wedding previews were shot neither had a moat nor some other barrier keeping the photographer from getting closer. An experienced professional does in-camera cropping, i.e., he or she eliminates unnecessary space below or above the subject(s) while taking the photograph. Keep an eye out for this common error. It is true, however, that you can always crop in, but never out, after the photograph has been taken. There could be a reason for a photographer leaving extra space when shooting some images; however, but if empty space is prevalent in the previews, there is a problem. Ask for clarification if you are not sure about what you see in this regard; you should ask.
You can pick up a few things about the equipment being used as well when you look over the previews. Lots of milky sky in photographs is one sign that lets you know that the photographer in question uses 35 mm cameras. Look for the extremes in highlights and shadows. If the previews comprise such extremes, you could be interviewing a photojournalist who does not have much use for flash fill, which is a technique to reduce the extremes between highlights and shadows. We will get into the basics of photographic equipment in a following section, and you can apply what tips you pick up there to what to look for when looking at previews.
Today, actual paper previews are becoming less common due to the transition from film to digital, so you may end up looking at previews on a disk via computer or TV screen. We all have to adjust, but this will work for you in doing your interview. Paper previews are tangible and therefor better at providing an idea, lore or less, of what you will have when the image is enlarged for an album or framing. This is based on the fact that both the paper previews and final enlargements are seen as a reflective media, i.e., photographic paper. In basic color theory they are called subtractive media. Colors are absorbed, that is subtracted or otherwise reflected to be seen. In plain terms, the final prints will look a lot like the previews in terms of color reproduction and highlight and shadow details. Photographic papers, the traditional variety and new types designed for ink jet printers, etc., do not have the color gamut you see from viewing positive film, such as slides, or the additive colors seen on your computer or TV screen, which combines red, green and blue (RGB) to create a variety of hues, and white if they combine in equal amounts. This system projects light to your eyes and its colors are far more vivid than those in any print. Paper simply is not capable of reproducing colors with the same latitude, brightness and saturation. Nevertheless, printed photographs are certainly beautiful. No doubt, plasma or liquid crystal frames will change how we look at photographs in the future, but at this time you will either review previews as actual small prints or on a computer or TV screen. Looking at previews is important in selecting in selecting the best photographer for your wedding.
My preview books that I present to future brides and grooms hold nearly all of the photographs I have taken. I may have edited out about 5%, pulling shots where eyes are closed, especially in portraits of the couple and their families, and others that are unflattering or that simply missed the mark. Obviously, I try to make every shot count. This saves on film and processing costs when film is used, or saves on processing time (conversions, etc.) when digital photography is used, and time is money. More importantly, and I have been fortunate enough to have many a bride tell me “there are so many beautiful photographs, it’s difficult to make a selection.” With pride in my work and the need to make a living, this is music to my ears. Once the mother of a bride, phoned to tell me “I love them so much, I want them all.” She wanted a reprint of every preview; a pricey proposition!
So how many previews might there be? For an average wedding with eighty guests and a duration of six hours, you can plan on having over three hundred medium-format shots taken with film. Going digital, more images will likely be captured. I will talk about equipment in the following section. What you need to ask now is how many previews are being shown from a single wedding. If only two hundred, you may consider the selection you are viewing as having been heavily edited. I display in the bride and groom’s preview album any image which is technically perfect, flattering, and where everyone has their eyes open. Summing it up, look at a lot of previews, if they look good you can feel confident that your final album will look great.
Consider a photographers’ talent, experience, and skill, but don’t overlook the personality. As it is important to consider with other vendors, especially your wedding consultant, concerning the visual aspects your photographer has to have the right personality. I noted in the section on wedding consultants – coordinators to avoid hiring one that is either inexperienced or has a need for attention.
The most common complaints about photographers, apart from reflecting on the quality of their work, is about how they perform their services. I tell my customers I dress appropriately in my Elvis type jump suit that has my name brightly and boldly printed on my cape. Just joking, but being appropriately dressed for a wedding-event is important. I’ve seen “professionals” come in sweat pants and sneakers to do a wedding. My opinion is for a photographer to dress neatly, preferably in black slacks, dark shirt and a jacket. I my case I wear a vest. The Jacket and vest are mandatory during the ceremony, accept when instructed otherwise by the bride and groom. If it is to be a beach wedding and everyone can come in shorts, then you know it is an exception to the rule. Even for a beach wedding I have more often witnessed more formal wear.
It will not be much good for you to have a photographer impeded by his or her dress either. A tuxedo or short tight skirt are not free wear or appropriate in my view. Photographers should look clean and neat, but to do an active job and not to be models. In summer or in warmer climates tuxedos can result in your male photographer to faint from heat stroke. Doing a photographers job right takes quick physical work, which can quickly raise a sweat. A heat exhausted photographer will not do you much good. The dress can be neat, complete and versatile.
One last detail on dress, I use to work with a talented lady videographer for many weddings. Early in our collaboration she came to a wedding wearing checkered pants. They were neat, they were versatile and I had to plan my shots to minimize the checkered flags she was wearing on each leg (her pants i.e.). During the ceremony I recall being lucky to be able to us two porch posts to block her out in my framing, and it’s a good photographer that will find a way to overcome visual problems. But it is best for you and your Consultant to realize dress is an important consideration, not only for the bride, groom and attendants, but also for people that serve your wedding. In other words do tell your photographer, videographer, consultant and other vendors that are in contact with you and your guests to dress appropriately.
Another major complaint is the “in your face” photographer, that photographer that is always in the way barking instructions. Those photographers ruin it for the rest of us discreet photographers.
I most often dress in black and I like to think that I’m on the prowl like a black leopard. I think of myself as always watchful, always moving deliberately, anticipating when then next special moment comes along to be captured, without my ever being noticed. It must work as many people have told me after “you took great photos, but I never knew you were there.” What a perfect compliment. Unfortunately, there are a few photographers that may view this as an insult. I know there are because in my interviews I hear this all the time. These photographers seem to be everywhere and you can’t help but noticed them by their constant “hold that, do this, stand here” or otherwise always jockeying for position to always be on top of you. At the ceremony they are right over the officiates shoulder, and therefor many of them have made rules that limit where photographers can go. So the bride and groom will miss some beautiful photographs a discreet, yet restricted photographer would get with little notice. When it comes to the actual ceremony the officiate rules. Photographers need to be equipped to meet whatever circumstances they face, such as strict rules for photographers and videographers. This is discussed in greater detail in the section covering the ceremony.
You can also be surprised to face the opposite problem. There was one photographer I knew who was born to wealth and connections. He photographed many wedding, although he was not particularly known for talent or skill. His reputation had more to do with service. I would on occasion cross paths on a wedding day, and he would always let me know he had more important things to do than shoot this wedding, so he was going to tell the couple to cut the cake, because he had to be somewhere else. My neighbor, who hired him as I was already booked, was not as lucky. He had then hired this photographer and was livid that his photographer could not be found during the latter part of the wedding, the cake cutting, etc. On another occasion he was found asleep in his car which was surrounded by a peculiar odor. So you can face a problem were your photographer fails to be there for you, either physically or mentally, to the end of your wedding.
Make sure your photographer and videographer have good habits, that they don’t get involved with spirits during your wedding and that they are not too important to properly service your wedding. I heard many complain after the fact, but then it’s too late.
Having such a reputation you may be curious how this person managed to stay busy. Well, some people no doubt are enamored by wealth and connections and will forsake the outcome of their own memories. But this area, which can be called a weddingMecca, attracted many outsiders who simply did not know the local scene and didn’t consider these possibilities. That’s another reason why I am writing this book. It is not to speak badly of my associates: it is to keep you from being poorly served. Find a photographer (and videographer) that is professional, dedicated, who loves what he or she does, that performs in a secure, confident and calm manners.
At every wedding I’ll have Uncle Joe or some guest come up to me and say, “you must be bored, having seen hundred of these weddings).” “No way,” is my reply. I will not even begin to be negative in my work. I won’t entertain the thought. I always tell this person that if I ever begin to feel this way – “bored” then I will stop photographing weddings. Attitude is important. You can’t feel too important, you can’t feel bored. A photographer with these feelings will not provide you quality results. Besides weddings are wonderful joyous occasions full of creative challenges. No doubt there are photographers who work weddings and belittle them at the same time. They do it only to make money while pursuing what they believe are higher photographic aspirations, such as their “art,” a fashion shoot or other commercial assignment. Weddings, they express to me, are a trite or boring, and not important. Wrong attitude and incorrect perception. Like any other pursuit in photography, weddings involve wonderful opportunities for creative thinking, for an open minded photographer. It’s really great fun to capture a photograph nearly perfectly. (It can never be perfect; if you reach the top, then there is nowhere upward left to go.) A wise man once told me “perfection is hard to achieve.” In a wedding it is impossible, because a photographer never has full control, so he or she has to develop and rely on a sixth sense to be able to get those really great near perfect shots. What are the best angles? What can I encourage or suggest to capture certain emotions, without disturbing the flow of the event? How do I best deal with the wind? This is the creative thinking that needs to take place. There are numerous creative decisions to be made at every wedding. A skilled photographer needs to pre-visualize. This makes for good photography in general, including ‘art.” It is the ability to see a great photograph before it is actually taken. “Anticipation” the word somehow reminds me of this photographer I mentioned earlier who was very important. In any case, anyone who fails to see this aspect, is simply a shortsighted person, and not someone you want as your photographer.
A local vs. an outsider?
There are resorts, towns, and cities that are somewhat transient in their nature, but were weddings are very popular. Martha’s VineyardandLas Vegasquickly come to mind. No doubt The Hampton’s onLong Island,N.Y.andAspen,Coloradoare among many other such places. These places all have their stable of local photographers, but some Wedding Parties may bring their own photographer. Either way let me pass along my experiences. Both options have their considerations.
If you are inclined not to hire a local photographer in preference to bring in someone from outside the area of your wedding, I’d like to assume that it is someone that has worked for other members of your immediate family. That is, you are familiar with this photographers personality and the quality of his or her results. You may be unable in any way to interview local photographers for consideration. On the other hand, if you are engaging someone from outside based on their media reputation, because you feel the locals are not up to par, you may be making a vain error.
There is one big advantage a local photographer will have that is important to you getting the best results. A local photographer will know how to get around their town. He or she will know those special “secret” spots for photography. If there is road construction, they will know about it and the best way to avoid it. They will better understand the environment, the way the sun moves when they are considering locations or otherwise planning their shots with respect to wind and weather on your wedding day.
Again, if you are hiring a local you have to interview several as I have explained earlier. Most local photographers on the Vineyard, were I worked for many years, had equipment, but not necessarily the experience or the talent. At the same time I have often been disappointed looking at the work of photographers hyped in “big time” Wedding Magazines for not showing much in the way of experience or talent. You have to be an investigator in life. You’ll find that hype is sometimes earned, sometimes it comes by luck, but most often it results from some connection or ability to connect. One out four possibilities to get a great photographer are not very good odds. So, if your true concern is having the best wedding photographs do your homework. If you do find a talented outsider you must still find out how early will he travel to the location of your wedding. If he or she plans to be there an hour of two before your wedding then hope at least the plane is not late, and know for sure they will not have had time to look over the venues of your wedding day. What is worse, if they tell you such plans they are not someone I would want to photograph my special day. A truly good photographer knows he or she must be familiar with the various locations, ceremony and reception, and has to arrive well in advance to check things out.
Before offering your outside photographer lodging for the day before your wedding, investigate their views on when they plan to arrive. If they are thinking about a last minute arrival you are getting someone with the wrong attitude. On the other hand, if your photographer expresses some concern about being early enough to inspect locations and logistics in between, or even if it’s just one location, then you have someone who understands this is an important part of performance. And in this case, it would be wise to offer your photographer at least expenses for lodging, meals, and transportation so he or she will have ample time to look things over in unfamiliar territory. Or, if you want to avoid the extra expense find an experienced and talented local.
Let’s move on to learning about equipment and material options and how these might effect the end result, your beautiful wedding album that you plan to forever to help remember and relive your wedding day.
Is it medium-format or 35mm, digital cards or film?
Before the 35mm came on the scene in the 1950’s, photographs were taken by medium and large- format cameras. The popular, professional press-camera with a bellows used large format 4X5 sheet film. These are the three camera types used for professional purposes: 35mm, medium- and large-format. Long ago, large-format cameras were used to take weddings photographs; in recent decades, however, all weddings are shot in medium-format and 35mm. Today, we have added digital cameras to the mix. They come in medium-format and 35mm varieties. What’s best for you and your wedding? At this time there is no agreement among professionals on what is the best way to go. I’ll give you a hint of my opinion, which is “keep up with the times.” But it won’t hurt your search for a perfect wedding to gain some sense of all of the possibilities.
For photographing weddings and many important events I have always favored the use of medium-format over 35mm cameras. In the previous section, I mentioned that if you see a lot of milky skies the previews that appear to have been taken on an otherwise sunny looking day and exhibit balanced exposures with no extreme highlights or shadows, I know a 35mm camera was used. Now you do also. This is not a technical book, but I should provide you with some explanation and a few (of many) examples of how cameras differ, if only to make you aware that there are differences. Hopefully you are also a photography enthusiast and enjoy exploring some of the basics.
A sunny days makes for extreme lighting between highlights and shadows. With the sun shining from on one side, your face will be bright and the other dark. On the shady side it will be difficult to recognize your eye color, it is hidden by the shadows………… (……….more to follow……….) These extremes are not that noticeable in normal human vision, which is has great latitude and sensitivity, many times greater than film, a digital capture devices, or any paper photographs are printed on. They are all are unable, not capable to reproduce what we see with the same power. Such extremes are expectable for a journalistic shots, but not for a wedding/event photograph, which need more balance to be flattering. To accomplish this wedding photographers use “flash fill.” We are all familiar with what a flash is on a camera. Even throw-away cameras have a flash. Flash fill is a technique were the light burst from a camera flash adds light to a shadow. When shooting under a bright shiny Sun, the flash will help add some light to the shady side. Now the sun is the most powerful light source in our world, but the flash is a lot closer to us, thereby making it capable of adding enough light for you to see the subjects eye color. You can recognize good flash fill technique if the shadows still exists, but in a subdued fashion. The Sun still gives us highlights, but the shadows are no longer harsh and the results are far more flattering. So what does all this have to do with milky skies on sunny days using 35 mm cameras.
This is what I love about photography; it may be a right brain hobby, but it’s a full brain profession. This is not universally accepted point of view. There are many in the art world that are wired as right brain only thinkers. For them emotions rule photographic creation and art. Photographs are evaluated by feelings and judgement are made subjectively. Art is in the eye of the beholder, but should it exclude objective thinking and part of the creative process? This view makes the photographic world rather flat, literally two dimensional. A refusal to accept or otherwise the inability to even recognize a third dimension, the one that science fulfills, denies part of the photographer’s creative process. It helps a photographer (or videographer) to understand this third dimension and know a little about chemistry, electronics, and mechanics in pursuing the creativity of visual aspects. The origins of photography are founded in the Industrial Revolution and have continued to expand in the Digital Revolution, and its creativity is best displayed as an embrace between science and art. It is beholding a photographer to know his or her craft, and you have to know how to recognize the photographer who is.
With this in mind, let me go back to those seemingly elusive (or obscure?) milky 35 mm camera skies. Mechanically (in a 35mm camera) the picture taking (mechanical) shutter speed can only capture the speed of light from a flash within restrictive physical, that is scientific limitations. And these limitations are slower shutter speeds needed to work properly with flash untis that conflict with the power of the sun. The incredible power of the sun, even from 80 million miles away, shines in excess of those limitations. The result is that sun’s strong light appears turns blue skies white as far as the 35 mm films capturing capability is concerned. Keep in mind that our eyes are far more successful in dealing with light intensity variances when compared with film. This is especially true with slide (transparency) films, and why event photographers prefer the greater latitude of negative film. But even compared to negative film the human eye deals with light variations between highlights and shadows twenty times better than film.
There are ways to resolve this issue, but from my experience I find many photographs do not show a consideration of the issue. In any case, it’s not necessary to know the technical issues. What is important is to accept that are differences in the tools and materials a photographer uses to provide services to you. Let me provide you with a basic understanding of those differences so important to the visual aspects.
With respect to the tools of photography, let’s begin with a look at cameras. There are large format View cameras, and small point and shoot cameras, but there are only two types to consider in wedding/event photography . These two are 35mm and Medium format. I will compare their basic differences for you.
35mm using film compared to medium format using film
smaller film larger film
smaller camera larger camera
less lighting control more lighting control
equipment less costly equipment more costly
35mm using digital medium format using digital
versatile field high end studio
Soft, blurred, or sharp:
This topic is a response to Jan, who asked me during her interview about what could make pictures soft. There is no abbreviated quick answer. Many factors at the time of exposure can have an effect on both sharpness and softness of a photograph, so I felt compelled to spell it out.
“Differences between lenses, filters, film or size of digital files, lighting, shutter speeds, depth of field, all can at the time of exposure all affect the look of a photograph.
The quality and performance of a lens affect sharpness. Lenses are expressed to be wide, normal, or long lenses. Many photographers prefer a zoom lenses because it performs the combination of those three through complicated lens design. These lenses can be made from groups of glass or plastic lenses, and these can be coated or not. Any of these factors the resolution or sharpness. Final printed photographs with a muddy appearance, are soft, but not pleasantly so. On the other hand, soft focus lenses are manufactured to be pleasantly soft. Poor materials and production will result in lenses fraught with distortions. The best glass and technical expertise will produce lenses making exceptionally sharp photographs. You always want sharpness.
But there will be times when you wish things were not as sharp, let’s say your not as young as you used to be, or an allergic reaction has taken hold of your appearance. Then you may want to soften or diffuse the photograph for aesthetic reasons. One way of accomplishing this, at will, is through the use of a filter. Filters come in different qualities and intensities. The best, pleasant results are when good filters are used with good, sharp lenses. Do remember whatever the filter effect is used at the time of exposure, affects the entire photographs, permanently. For weddings I prefer to avoid filters. Their use takes up time, can interfere with spontaneity, and I think most people like things simple, unaltered, sharp. Should you want a filter effect, such as diffusion or sepia tone, I think this is much better applied after exposure by conventional darkroom techniques or on the computer using Adobe PhotoShop (TM). There are few exceptions, such as a cross filter. This filter creates a star pattern from candle and lights, which would be nearly impossible to do conventionally, and certainly difficult using digital techniques. In general, my position is expose sharp, and make any desired filter effects in post production.
The film used affects the appearance of sharpness, even using the best lens optics. Most films are fairly consistent in quality from different manufacturers. The most noticeable difference may be color reproduction. The degradation in appearance, viewed as a soft murky photograph, can be affected by the film format, that is APS vs. 35mm vs. 2 1/4 vs. 4×5 film in conventional terms or a 2-megabyte file vs. an 18-megabyte file vs. a 72-megabyte file in digital terms. The likely format for weddings is 35mm vs. 2 1/4 and 2 megabytes vs. 18 megabytes. In both, conventional and digital formats, when printing to 8X10 the larger film, 2 1/4, and larger file, 18-megabyte will give a sharper, clearer appearance. The sensitivity of film is another factor in final appearance. Higher speed films are more sensitive to light. They may be an advantage in low natural light situations, but printed photographs from these higher speed films can appear to be less sharp. It’s a trade off in technology, sensitivity (to low light) trading on the appearance of sharpness. A higher speed conventional film speed, say 400 ISO vs. 160 ISO, or lower pixel CCD (CMOS) sensor, say a 2 megabyte vs. an 18 megabyte, will not look as sharp or perform as well in difficult lighting situations (as explained in the next paragraph). Another twist to these facts is photographs produced with higher speed film and larger CCD’s (CMOS) digital sensors will produce better results if taken with larger formats. That is 2 1/4 400 ISO film produces better results than the same film in a 35mm format. In this respect, higher quality 35mm digital cameras can handle most any job very well. The medium format camera still is able to have more control over light.
Lighting plays its part. Light makes photography possible either through changing electrical charges on digital CCD (CMOS) sensors, or similar charges from the chemical reactions to silver halides in film. In the previous paragraph it was already noted that low/poor light required more sensitive recording material, film and CCD’s, and that to work in less than ideal conditions will effect the look of the end result. Photographs taken with too little light or washed out with too much light have a murky less sharp appearance. Turning a lens into the light source will increase effects of optical aberrations, which will degrade the final exposure. The quality of light has an effect. Sunlight and Flash light are direct single light sources that cast a strong shadow, and are considered hard. Sunlight scattered by a cloud cover, a flash bounced off a large reflector, or a carefully balanced multiple set of lights, provide softer shadow, and are considered more flattering. Multiple lights, carefully used, provides the greatest control and most interesting and variable results, but it’s not practical for weddings and event photography. I find flat lighting from overcast skies very even, and boring. A small reflector on flash equipment is ineffectual, and large reflectors for a flash unit during a fast paced wedding is impractical. To find the best balance, I like to work with multiple light sources, that is the sun as a key light, and a flash unit for fill, or any light reflective into the shadow areas. On an overcast day I use flash, but its roll is reversed as it now becomes the key light, the sunlight dispersed and scattered by overcast skies now takes on the roll of fill. Inside, flash is always key (and needed), and ambient lighting will hopefully be strong enough to add interest. I’m sure any photographer has noticed backgrounds (behind the main subject) are dark, if not black in indoor flash photographs. A simple explanation is that the flash unit output is a stronger light than a household light, making any such light ineffective light for film or digital sensor, but the flash unit light is not strong enough to light the background. This is a good time for a photographer’s assistant with a second light source to help light the background. It’s a really nice touch.
Shutter speed has an important roll in keeping sharpness. What’s a shutter speed? Think about blinking. If you blink very fast, you can stop or freeze the action. Blink slowly and by the time your eyes open again, the scene has moved on, the interim is a blur. A camera lens exposes somewhat like a blink. The shutter is the camera blinking. The shorter the time it blinks, the less chance for blur, the sharper the resulting photograph. Got it? And this is directly affected by light intensity and film sensitivity. The more light there is the shorter time the lens needs to blink, or the faster it is. Using fast film, more light sensitive film, is similar to turning up the light in that it allows the use of faster shutter speeds (shorter blink). This is the upside of faster film. Earlier, in discussing both conventional and digital film, the downside was reported. A faster lens, explained next, also allows a faster shutter speeds. Again fast shutter speed assures sharper results, especially with the fast, continually evolving pace of weddings.
The previous paragraph compared shutter speed to a blinking eye. We can compare the opening and closing of the iris of the eye to the opening and closing of the lens, known as the aperture and represented by numerical f-stops. The lower this number the faster the lens, the more light it allows to reach the film. What this means is you can take photographs in lower light using higher shutter speed, which in turn aids in keeping sharpness. This iris control, the aperture, also effects the depth of field, or the front to back distance were things remain sharp. Therefor ‘depth of field’ contributes to the perception of sharpness. At higher the aperture, the smaller the lens iris, the greater the range of sharpness. It was not mentioned several paragraphs back, in discussing lenses, that longer focal length or telephoto lenses have less depth of field, when compared to shorter focal length or wider lenses. Both the focal length and the aperture affect depth of field, and it in turn can effect the perceived clarity of a photograph.
Up to this point, only technical issues dealing with optics, chemistry, electronics, and light have been talked about with respect to taking soft, sharp, or blurry – not crisp, sharp, photographs. Complete awareness and detailed knowledge of these issues, how to control them and apply the right techniques at the time of exposure, is in the hands the photographer you’ve engaged for your wedding. The photographer’s creativity and experience will determine the effective use of the tools of the craft to get the desired, beautiful results, under the given circumstances of the wedding day. Varying circumstances, such as locations, weather, time of day, also affect the illusion of sharpness, and all factor in to photographers’ decisions. A given space, even the actions of the guests determine the extend of control, and the outcome of results. For instance, in very tight spaces with a very boisterous, the odds of a photographer being bumped or jarred at the time of exposure increase, and this can increase the percentage of exposures that are blurred. A seasoned professional will nevertheless know how to maximize quality.
Beyond the photographer’s control, the weather can have an effect on the appearance of clarity. Foggy weather, especially with a long lens, can add dimensions of softness. Raindrops on a lens (hopefully protected by a skylight filter) will actually create a soft effect. Quick changes in temperature, from cold outside to warm inside (or in reverse with air conditioning) can cause condensation, which will also diffuse photographs taken until it clears. This can be a real problem going from cold temperatures to warm. The condensation can make for delays or murky, flat looking photographs.
A final note that needs mentioning is the differences between murky-blurry, soft and sharp. The latter two, soft and sharp, can both be desirable. Soft is often desirable for a more portrait like affect. It reduces blemishes and wrinkles. So long as the photograph does not appear to be murky or blurry. To get the best benefits requires using lenses specifically design for soft focus or special filters.
I tried in answering Jan’s question to keep it to basics and simple, but it may nevertheless seem complicated to you. At this point you might be completely confused and wondering why you were subjected to this information on picture sharpness. Isn’t this something the photographer should worry about? Right you are, but it is worth this lesson to understand many factors exist that will affect the outcome of your wedding photographs. The final results you control by knowing enough to realize you need a thinking, experienced photographer to get you the best results. You do not have to understand everything I’m writing about, but you have to know what you expect your photographer to understand, and what is beyond his control, like weather.
One important step to getting the photography you want is by engaging a professional photographer. Another is knowing what you, the client, wants. If you have a specific feeling or look you wish your photographs to have, make clear to your photographer. Do you want your photographs to have a (quality, not blurry) softness, or be tack sharp? Do you like a strong focus on you where the background is always somewhat out of focus or do you like some or lots of depth of field, were things are sharp from close to far away? Remember as you go shopping for your wedding dress, and learn things in the process to find the dress that is perfect, you also have to shop for your photographs for them to be perfect for you. You may consider, if you are wondering how to get your fiancé involved in making your wedding plans that helping you make decisions about photography and video would be of great help.
A closing reminder, all the information that I provided under this heading discusses different things that will effect the clarity of a photograph up to the point of exposure. After exposure anything is still possible, especially in the digital age, except making a blurry photograph sharp.
Digital enhancements can make improvements, but it is still best to expose a proper soft or sharp photograph. And whatever you wish to do after exposure will add to cost; significantly if you wish to do a lot of enhancements. In general, I believe there’s beauty in actuality and reality. We all want to and should look our best, but excessive vanity will simply create a fake world. Ultimately, how photographs are viewed also depends on the clarity of perception of the viewer.
Have Broom and will Travel Up The Ladder
on Your Wedding Day
There’s an odd little tackle box in the gear of photographer James Schot. It’s
the answer to the proverbial Murphy’s Law.
It might just save your day if you’re a bride with an unexpected glitch.
Imagine, if you will, a modest wind, and your train is dancing about. Out
of Jim’s tackle box, turned wedding kit, come two fishing weights to hold
down your train.
Your veil, which wants to sail gets a touch of Velcro. The Velcro also holds
in place parts of the groom’s suit and the bride’s gown. The needle and
black and white thread, sew on the Velcro, buttons, rips, whatever.
What else is in this handy dandy panacea of a wedding kit, the cure-all for
would-be catastrophes? After shooting 500 weddings, James has more than
enough experience to know what to take along on the Big Day.
Double sided tape — to hold down suit coat lapels, other flaps in the wind.
Tweezers —for plucking whatever need to be.
Rubber bands —for quick gathering and binding.
Bobbie pins —for veil, hair adjustments.
Safety pins — toy hold things up or together.
Flashlight batteries— to quickly fix glasses.
Scissors — toy snip lose ends.
Yarmulke —for Jewish groom.
Comb, hairbrush —for looking. good in seashore breezes.
Hairspray — to combat stronger winds.
Clear nail polish — to stop hosiery runs.
Condoms —for obvious reason’s.
Shoe horn —for getting on those new shoes.
Mirror —far taking a good look.
Breath mints— to make you more kiss-able.
Deodorant –for all those wedding dances.
This was another journalist’s view on the usage of my wedding kit. I think I had a few additional items and some other uses. The scissors and the thread was the most popular. But these are not the essential tools that make up a photographers kit.
Beach wedding and family portraits are very popular, and one thing I have noticed in just about every portrait of this type is lots of footprints around the subjects. This bothers me and I don’t like to see it in my photographs. From my point of view a bride and groom or a family deserve their very own beach, exclusive to them, free of footsteps from others. At least for the day it is theirs and theirs alone. The beaches (or dunes) are a smooth untouched foreground and background. Not only does it appear to give the subjects their privacy it helps to focus them, by not adding disturbances from the impressions of footprints. To achieve this look there has to be a broom; a broom with a long handle is best. After setting my subjects to be photographed, which will add my footsteps to the unnatural mix, I grab the broom close at hand and quickly sweep around them, especially the foreground. I make things appear more pristine and fresh.
We can all remember the feeling of elation waking on the morning of our wedding. Some of us may even be a bit pensive, apprehensive, or nervous. A few of us down right frightened wondering if clouds will bring rain or if the sun will shine. Relax, you will have a beautiful wedding day irrespective of the weather.
Weather is usually always noticed and a topic of conversation on the wedding day. If it has been raining the question is will it clear. If it’s about to rain we wonder if it will hold off until after the ceremony. One thing is certain, the weather will be what it will be. It’s not a big concern if the ceremony and reception have an indoor venue. On the other hand, if the ceremony is under a gazebo and the reception under a tent it can be more of a problem. With a chilly rain and a gusty wind, even a porch and gazebo do not provide much comfort if back up preparations, such as having portable heaters and rain protection, have not been made.
Storms prior to the actual wedding day can have an affect the wedding day. If a tent is planned for but for two days prior there are storms with gusting winds, there is a good chance a tent can not be set up. I got a wonderful sequence of photographs at one wedding so affected, where storms in days leading up to the wedding day made it impossible to set a tent. Fortunately the day of the wedding was sublime, mildly warm with no wind, and the family had a home with a fairly large living area with wood paneled flooring opening to multiple doors leading to a rap around porch. There was just enough space to set all the tables for the sit down style dinner for over a hundred guests if the couches, tables, chairs, bookshelves that were occupying the room were removed. With the help of groomsmen and bridesmaids the caterer was able to get the job done quickly and I was able to photograph the wonderful sequence of the process. I mixed in shots of the bride having her make up finished and trying on her vial, and her father roaming the house in shirt and tie and boxer shorts, and a young little girl and boy helping in the main room by vacuuming and sweeping up dust. The final shot in this sequence, by the way, was a photograph taken outside, at the back of the house, showing a neat pile of coaches, tables, chairs, bookcases, etc., which had been removed. Did I mention this house was on the water? Anyway this turned out to be a perfect day and with the waterfront location it was a super wedding.
The real trick to having a super wedding, when it gets down to weather, is to accept whatever weather you have and enjoy yourself. It’s the only choice you have! Weather is unpredictable. However it turns out to be, it is a beautiful day. Only you can spoil it by having expectations about it. No matter what the weather circumstances of your event, it will all work out fine. People will adjust and make adjustments. Your particular circumstances are what make your wedding unique. Best of all you, as the wedding couple, will be treated like a prince and princess like you are on this day, so everyone close to you will make sure you stay comfortable.
The most affected by weather are the people provided wedding services, so as a photographer this would be my problem and I should be prepared for it, so should the caterer, the band, etc. I prepare for it personally and professionally. For myself I make sure I wear waterproof shoes and have a parka (or sweater when it can get cold). I always bring an umbrella. Not for me! I have to protect my equipment. It is expensive and more important to you it works better dry, therefor I better have one handy. I also have to plan alternative locations for photography, especially family portraits. So if it is raining on your wedding day, remember rain brings luck.
If it becomes stormy on your wedding day, then it will add eventfulness to your wedding that people will not quickly forget. At one wedding the reception, that took place under a tent in a field of this beautiful farm a severe storm developed. There was lightning and such a heavy downpour it was impossible to reach alternative shelters. Lower areas under the tent quickly flooded from the relentless rain. I remember looking at the bride and groom. At first they seemed to be in mild shock, as did the guests. But nothing could change the weather, and so it was obvious to my fellow vendors and I that something had to be done, and with the motivational power of the band, we inspired everyone to party on. It was a large wedding with plenty of covered-tented area. Guests got back into the celebration and helped to move tables to higher ground that remained dry. I could see the bride and groom smiling and again enjoying themselves. There was plenty to drink and eat, the band was great, the bride and groom accepted this is how it was, and it ended up being an exciting action packed reception. A good time was had by all. I remember the bridesmaids had blue dyed high heels, which began to run. I took some fun shots of their blue stained feet and lower legs. When things let up a bit many of the girls switched to sneakers and danced on.
I recall another bride a bit more mature and in her early to mid thirties. She loved children. All her bridesmaids were young girls wearing pink dresses. The outer tulle layer of their dresses was filled with rose pedals. At one point after the formal photographs the six of them climbed an apple tree together and did ballerina poses for a photograph. Anyway, this bride told me days before the wedding she hoped the weather would not be good. She felt it would keep quests more together and more intimate. And she is right it has this effect.
The moral of these stories is that no matter what the conditions, at least concerning the weather, there are always positive benefits. It is simply best to remain positive in your attitude.
The weather naturally will have its affect on all your vendors, especially if it is an outdoor tented affair, and we vendors all have to be prepared for whatever circumstances we might face. As I have mentioned I wear water proof shoes, a parka, and bring an equipment umbrella. Much of the equipment used in photographing your wedding relies heavily on electronics. Damp weather alone without rain can start causing problems in electronic connections with flash equipment, or otherwise form condensation on a lens. The bottom line is the equipment has to stay dry or there will be trouble, delays and potentially displeasing results.
You can expect any photographer working for you, including myself, to pick up the pace making decisions, in giving directions, and taking the photographs when bad weather persists, especially during the formal time when various individual and group portraits are taken. People tend to huddle together in protected areas and this usually adds a bit of difficulty in having the desired space for taking formal photographs. With things a bit more cramped it gets more challenging to get those freeform reception shots also. And that’s how it has to be viewed, as challenging. Getting to the right angles can be difficult in tight quarters, and I would be relying on my sixth sense from years of experience to be in the right place at the right time. More of the photographs taken will be tight close-ups. If outdoor photographs are possible, it is still likely the more dense foul weather air will reduce background visibility.
Similar to other aspects of your wedding, it helps to know what you could and should happen on your wedding day and how your photographer can be expected to deal with it. With respect to weather it is a good idea to bring up the subject in your interviews with photographers (and other vendors) to hear their feedback. Writing about this subject in this book I have mentioned what gear that I bring for foul weather protection. I’ve discussed my concerns and how it would affect my actions. I have related some stories about my experiences providing photography during bad weather days. I would also, with respect to the location of a wedding, discuss alternative plans and locations should the weather take an unexpected bad turn. You should walk away from an interview getting this type of feedback as a small part of the information you obtain.
Patience from everyone with everyone may be the most important ingredient to a happy successful event, especially when the weather is not at it’s best. It can do funny and unexpected things. A photographer may have a flash connection problem or a lens with condensation and with respect to photography everyone has to be patient for these temporary setbacks to be resolved. Other vendors will have their challenges to face in inclement weather.
I have one final word for the bride and groom with respect to patience and flexibility. It seldom rains on the wedding. Should it rain, it seldom does so for the entire duration of the wedding, and so with patience you are likely to see the weather clear during your wedding. If you can also be a little flexible, you might be willing to consider taking some of your wedding portrait photographs with more ideal conditions and surroundings when it clears. What ever you decide make sure you have fun.
Own a camera? Now you’re a photographer:
Professional photography is a difficult occupation. Nearly everyone owns a camera, and everyone takes wonderful photographs, but that does not make anyone a professional photographer. This section is about too many cooks in the kitchen. Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many photographers at a wedding event can ruin the photography.
It is difficult issue to discuss, as it may offend certain sensitivities. Let me begin by telling you I’m not covering this topic for reasons of my own egoism. And I’m not raising it for monetary reasons, meaning that I believe on the hired photographer should be able to take photographs so he or she has a monopoly on print order sales.
With respect to the former there have been times when I find photography enthusiastic guests trying to compete with me for the best shot. I don’t worry about this. I am confident in my work and know I will most often get the best shot. My problem with this competition is often spoils opportunities I’m pursuing to capture a special emotional moment. It may happen after the ceremony is complete. A tearful Mom is about to embrace her new ecstatically happy son-in-law, and I’m waiting for that moment of contact. Then suddenly a guest with a camera calls out “Nancy” (the Mom), look this way, let me get you and Frank (the son-in-law).” There goes that potentially terrific moment, and in my mind I know it will never come to pass again.
And to tell you the truth there are other times I do sense when picture taking by others seems solely for the purpose of saving on the purchase of photographs from the photographer. I had one wedding where the Mother of the bride had to take every formal photograph I had set up and taken with her point and shoot. What could I say? I couldn’t understand any other reason why this was necessary, unless the family had a bad experience with a previous photographer, which is another story I will cover in “False economy.”
So, if an amateur wants to take every photograph I take, what’s the problem? A minor problem in case of the example with the photographing Mom was that she was to be included in many of the family photographs, and there was always a delay for her to join the family group to be photographed. I think she gave her camera to another relative to take those. Anyway, this fits into the main problem, that is whether it is a Mom or other guest taking photographs, it takes up a lot of extra time. It could be the weather is steamy and humid or chilly cold and uncomfortable for the bride and groom. It could be it is windy or the photographs have to be taken in a confined area that is busy with people traffic, such as a hotel lobby. In these situations moving photography along is essential. A photographer will want to work quickly to get the bride and groom from any environmental discomfort. Smiles can quickly turn to frowns. Subjects will have a limited amount of patience before getting cranky. All this can show in the expressions captured, and this is not the desired result. Let’s face it, under these circumstances other photographers, those that are amateurs or have not been hired, can become a nuisance for the bride and groom.
Otherwise the timing of photography becomes critical, to photograph the bride before the train blows into a bundle by the wind, or to get that shot when the coast is clear in the lobby. If other guest are there with cameras in hand going “hold it, let me get that too” it really can slow things down. If the bride and groom, in the meantime, are feeling the discomfort of heat or cold, it will start to show in their faces, and they will rightfully get cranky. Besides, there may be a cocktail party happening at the same time, and every delay keeps them from joining the party. The bottom line is that the added photography demanded by guests is really not fair or thoughtful to the feelings of the bride and groom. One resolution to this situation is the take formal photography before the wedding, but this is not always possible or desired, and this will be considered when discussing “formal photography.”
There are times when wedding events can seem more like media events, if in addition to the paid photographer and videographer there are another twelve or twenty four paparazzi pushing there way to get their shot. It can ruin some potentially really special and beautiful photographs. I’ve always enjoyed taking the sequence of shots that occur at the very end of the wedding ceremony, This usually begins with a kiss, then the bride and groom leaving down the isle, and at times ends with another kiss exciting the doorway. The one constant in taking these photographs is that the isle provides single point of view on a narrow path for the photographer. It is always a beautiful, highly emotional photograph if the conditions are right. I have my pet peeves on certain conditions. Sometimes the pews have little doors at the ends, and I always hope and wish guest would close them all. Sometimes right before a ceremony begins I might try to nonchalantly close as many of the doors as possible (this is part of my casual policing that I perform throughout the wedding). Another condition over which I have little control is the free paparazzo shooters. They will lean well into the isle to get a shot. What’s even worse is when amateur photographers Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty step out into the isle. They can often look a bit disheveled or be tall or large. And then they put themselves between a joyous bride and groom and me, not only the hired photographer, but the person with the most experience and the right equipment to get the best shot. They are not a pretty sight in my photographs and they interfere with the ability to time the shots to perfection. Do you know when you, the bride and groom, walk down that isle the emotions you radiate are perfect perfection … simply lovely. It’s too bad when Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty block that single point of view. Are you beginning to get the picture on what I’m talking about in this section? Like too many cooks in the kitchen, too many photographers spoil the photographs. Instead of getting a nice clean shot of a happy bride and groom exciting the ceremony, with only happy well wishing guests on both sides of the isle, you end up with others in the isle with arms up holding cameras that the bride and groom are avoiding to walk into. I seen it get to be a real mess at times. In this way I understand some photographers have it in their contract that they are the only one’s to take pictures when hired for a wedding event.
I have mixed feelings about such a contract clause. I agree with the sentiment of not orchestrating the event and also believe a professional is what he/she is in part for their ability to handle or work around various unplanned or unforeseeable circumstances. This is true. With the isle scenario I get firm with Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty, that they is definitely in the way. But there are times when there are Aunts, Uncles and a host of other guests too, so what am I to do? I can then only feel bad, especially for the bride who would have loved having this great photograph. There are the unplanned and unforeseeable, and a real pro will know how to go about getting another angle, but a media frenzy can get out of control to a point were as a professional you simply have to accept there is nothing you can do.
What would I recommend as a possible solution. It’s simple, in the invitation I would include a note that would say, “I have hired a professional photographer to take our wedding pictures and would like him or her to have unobstructed creative freedom in their work. I would also like to fully enjoy your company and wish you to have a really good time. With this in mind I request you kindly leave your cameras at home, we would appreciate it. If you enjoy having one of the photographs taken by our photographer, please do let us know.” This sounds nice does it not? At the same time, if you are having your ceremony in a house of worship were the pews have little doors, you may consider a little business card size insert. It should say there are doors on pews at your ceremony location and asking guests closets to the pew door to please keep them closed when the ceremony is about to begin. Or this is a good time to enlist the groomsmen to take care of this finishing touch as they help seat the last arriving guests. Why not, everyone can feel like they are making a positive contribution to the visual beauty of your wedding event. I’d like to add to this section my observation that weddings with few or no shutterbugs always seem to be the most elegant.
Outdoor weddings would also benefit from such a request and some of the problems caused by too many cooks in the kitchen so to speak do exist outdoors. But outdoor weddings do offer a professional photographer a bit more freedom of movement, at least I have usually seems to be true. So with outdoor weddings it may be considered a bit less of an issue.
During the reception, after the ceremony and the taking of the formal individual and family portraits, it is again less of an issue.
This would be a good time to mention these little throwaway cameras that are sometimes popular. Weddings will have a basket full of them on a counter, or every guest will find one at their dining table seating. The idea is everyone can take photographs then leave the cameras for the bride and groom, but not with a check. The bride and groom pick up the tab on processing these snapshots full of Kodak moments you pay Kodak. Kodak andFujiwill not likely want to sponsor this book, but this book is looking out for you, the bride and groom and I have to tell you everyone who has handed out these cameras has told me what a waste of money it was. There is hardly ever enough good photographs to justify the expense, but as they are most often only given out at the reception, which I consider a more flexible time, I say if it works for you then do it.
Attitude, a most important ingredient:
A good attitude makes the biggest difference in the final results. Getting flustered and irritated would show in my work. It makes it more difficult to make quick and good decisions. Without doubt if the caterer has a personality problem it would noticed in the presentation and taste of the food. Nearly every wedding seems to bring forth a guest who makes some negative comment, such as “you must get tired (or bored) doing these,” or “these people must be driving you crazy.” I strongly dismiss the negative with the positive. Weddings and events are always fun events. People are most often happy and pleasant, the food most often tasty, and the music upbeat. They are a challenge, and you have to make them challenging. As a photographer I challenge myself at each event to capture the most emotional photographs with just the right timing. This challenge keeps me positive and makes the results better. Make sure when you select your photographer, and I would think all your vendors, to look into their work attitude and how they feel about challenges.
If you meet a photographer that knows everything, who can no longer be challenged, and could use an attitude adjustment, I would think twice on hiring that person. There are photographers who do not like crowds, there are photographers who feel event photography is really beneath their calling, and there are some who have better things to do on your wedding day. There was one competitor, I would occasionally run into, and every time he would always say at the end of any brief conversation we had, “well, I have to tell these people to cut the cake. I have to go to an (art) showing.” From firsthand sources I was told he could not be found for important parts of the event, or would be found stoned in his car and napping. He simply thought he was too important to be truly professional. I often wondered then why people would hire him. (His sister was a well known singer, and a vendor told me one bride was stupid enough to consider that by hiring him, this sister might come to sing at her wedding. In other words you get what you pay for, so to speak). If you want someone considerate, qualified, and reliable, you the employer have to do your homework.
It is best to engage a person who is experienced, knowledgeable, and confident that has the right attitude. Demeanor is also important. I have been told I have a comforting calming effect. I feel like the cool Donald Sutherland in that movie with Clint Eastwood called ….. Harry’s Army(???). You have to stay cool and be positive. I really do believe you should enjoy your day, consider all the serious planning is over, now you leave it to your team. Parts of your team are hired professionals and some are your friends. You have to let the professionals handle their end and hope your friends do whatever you’ve asked them to do. All you should be doing on your wedding day is enjoy every moment.
So I have a good attitude, but if the weather is bad I’m faced with different challenges. In my work the primary considerations are keeping my equipment dry, keep the bride and groom dry and happy, work faster, be very decisive and a bit firmer in my directions. Guests will gather more in protected areas and it can get a bit cramped and more difficult to get the right angle to shoot, especially quickly. I like the opportunities for tight close-ups, and using my instincts to be a the right place at the right time. It’s essential to keep a close eye on the entire goings on, particularly with the main characters of the wedding party. And do it out of the corner of my eye. I don’t want the bride and groom to feel pursued by me and constantly stared at. It would not be fun for them. I become the secret agent man. As a professional you have to develop finesse; as a bride and groom you have to recognize professionalism
On a good weather day the activities of people can really spread people out into their own little pockets. It can sometimes lead to detachment in the celebration. Do you know what I mean. You have to keep it a gathering of family and friends. A good band will take care of this or an animated DJ with a bag of tricks will keep the party going and have everyone excited – involved. Good weather does make it all somewhat easier, but enjoy however it’s handed to you.
Personal grooming for the big day.
Having worked with many brides and grooms helps me point out to you what I’ve found out to be the common things that have an affect on the out come on the photographs being taken.
The last stop for a bride before dressing is a visit with the hair dresser and make-up artist. You may be going to their shop or they may come to the location where you are getting ready. It should be whatever is most comfortable for you.
I overheard many brides saying they would like to keep a more natural look, and some bride’s naturally look very pale. You may have noticed with fashion and glamour shots that models are heavily made up. The reason for this is that the photographic process has a way of reducing makeup, or to put it another way extra makeup is required to offset the affect of the makeup being absorbed in the photographic process. Therefor when a bride asks for little make-up to keep a natural look, it may actually give a less than natural outcome in photographs leaving you looking gaunt and excessively pale. My advice is to actually have a little extra make-up applied compared to what you will normally apply on a regular day.
It is also important to have a good foundation for you make-up. Often formal photographs are best taken in beautiful outdoor settings and it may be a hot day. A good foundation will keep you from shining. As needed “flash” lighting indoors will cause a highlight reflection off shiny skin, the single light source of the Sun will do the same. Proper make-up will keep this from being a problem, and a good make-up artist is a blessing for a photographer and the photographs
Hairstyles are a personal choice. Most often stylists put a bride’s hair up. Providing it is well pinned and given some hair spray this also works well for photographs. Again, the outdoors often provide the best settings for portraits, and if there is a wind blowing having the hair up makes it a bit easier. Long loose hair blowing about gets unpredictable and wild. This is fine, but it will require more patience and exposures to make sure the best moment is captured.
One thing that has been popular and is a bit of a pet peeve for me is that curly strand hairdressers often include before the ear in an overall style. This is always blowing across the lips, over the grooms face or causing some other awkward complication while taking the photographs. It’s cute, but professionally I could do without it.
Another thing bride’s like to do before their big day is get a tan. This you may think makes you look healthier and sexier, but this is debatable matter of taste. Definitely if it’s a burn you will look neither, but only very red, with some tan-less lines running across your shoulders and back. Tans can tend to emphasis any wrinkles you may have, but of course we do not have any. Nevertheless my advice is to tell you to not go in the Sun a day or two before the wedding. If you like the tanned look do it several days in advance of you wedding to leave a few days for the tan to take hold and look more natural and watch the tan lines especially if you are wearing an open shoulder strapless gown.
Men need to be sure to give themselves a good shave, unless they are sporting a beard. And something even more unpleasant to see is dirty hands and fingernails. If it is an event with outdoor photography potential a little hair spray may even be in order. It depends on the hair. Other than this men have it easy. Do take a handkerchief for those hot steamy days, unless you plan to put on some make up, which in our time is perfectly acceptable..
What to wear?
The wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, whether the men wear tuxedos or sports jackets and slacks is all a matter of personal choice. These choices and the color of the garments have no consequences I can think of technically for color photography.
For black and white photography it is more difficult. Following Ansel Adams’ ZONE SYSTEM offering 9 shades of gray, we are dealing with the extremes, Zone 1 and Zone 9, black and white. At the maximum tonal range, it’s most difficult to hold good detail in both extremes, but what are you going to do except give it you best exposure, because customarily brides wear white and grooms something dark, usually black.
When it comes to dress, men again have it easier. To the men I say, just make sure you wear belts or suspenders and that your shoes are shined. If you do not wear a belt or suspenders, then do not worry about your shoes, as your pants will drop down to cover them. That’s a joke, but droopy pants are something for a photographer to watch for. Men’s garments are often rented and may not be an exact fit and a belt or suspenders will keep them up to where they are supposed to be and keep you looking sharp.
A wedding dress can be the most challenging. Vials and long trains, such as the dress of Princess Di, are lovely or in her case majestic. They can, however, be more of a challenge for the photographer and the bride. Yes, a bride has to deal with the weight, and people stepping on her train, and the outdoors the vial blowing every which way.
The photographers challenge is during the (customary) outdoor formal photography controlling the vial and train when it is a bit windy. There are some tricks of the trade to keep things under control. For instance, when photographing the bride an groom together, the groom always holds his bride and I will use his arm behind the bride to carefully, without pulling on the bride’s hair piece, secure the Vail. The train can act as a sail. But I have found the winds are seldom steady. They tend be gusty. The trick is patience; spreading and holding out the train until the wind pauses and then getting in a quick shot. It sure helps when a bridesmaid helps to do the holding. Note I did not add the spreading. Bridesmaids generally do no give it the right spread and at the right angle (with respect to framing the photograph). Anyway, more about the purpose of having a wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) later.
The important thing about your wedding dress is do you feel comfortable in it. You’re not hanging out of your dress half the time or having it trip you up. It makes you happy, that’s the important thing, is that it makes you feel happy. Let the photographer deal with what he has to deal with. But I did mention it so you know your choice has an affect on photography, so if your happy with an extra long train, keep in mind to also be a bit more patient with the photographer.
Other than this make your favorite choice. I certainly have mine favorite choices.
Take A Stand
In addition to how you look with make-up and in your dress, you can also take an interest in how you look posing for your photographs. A good photographer will offer good direction on your wedding day when it comes to making the best formal portraits. Nevertheless a bit of practice before the wedding day may make you feel more comfortable and confident. You can begin by studying models in fashion magazines. You will notice how they put one leg in front of another to make their shape thinner. With a pluming wedding dress this pose would not seem to be very
applicable, but it is a matter of overall presence. How you stand, one foot in front of another, keeping well balanced. This balance is very important. Never stand square into the camera angle. Always have your shoulders a bit diagonal to the camera plane. A photograph I like to take is with a bride turned three quarters away from the camera, so the back of the dress is in clear view. Then have the bride slowly turn towards the camera. It makes a very nice shot, but I always have to emphasize to the bride to hold her shoulder back as far as possible, like aHollywoodstarlet.
Again as much as I can learn about photography and lighting from looking at fashion magazines, it is a good place to also look for posing positions and ideas.
The men can do the same looking at GQ and elsewhere and use the same techniques suggested to the ladies. “Everyone likes a sharp dressed man” ZZ Top. And its fun to check into new ways to hold your lover. Hold her tight and close. One particular troublesome body part are the hands. On men not necessarily the most attractive part. If you want to keep it in mind, I always put a man’s hand under the bride’s hand or arm, and otherwise minimize how it shows in a photograph. I try to minimize a bride’s hand also, by making sure the fingers are fully spread apart, but regardless her hand will be more attractive to look at than the groom’s. Anyway you lucky guys, join the wedding parade, have a good time, and strike a pose.
By the way, how should my photographer look?
We’ve talked about “what to wear” and “personal grooming for the big day,” but what can you expect your vendors to wear. You can pretty well guess that a chef will wear a long white apron, and the servers will often wear black slacks with a white shirt and small serving apron. Your wedding coordinator, he would likely wear a suit or she a pants suit or suitable dress, unless it is a truly casual affair, which is rare. My advice for the dress of a photographer or videographer is to be neat, but functional.
In my photographic experience inNew England, specifically onMartha’s Vineyard, some photographers could dress a bit too casual in sneakers, even in bare feet, with baggy black sweat pants. Working inFloridayou can find examples of the other extreme, which are male photographers dressing in tuxedos. The only agreement I have with either extreme is that black is the right color, or should I say is the right absence of color. I wear black and people always say, at the risk of repeating myself in another section, “you took great photographs, but I hardly noticed you were there.” I guess I’m nearly absent in black. And should there also be a videographer, it would not be good to stand out by wearing loud or garish colored clothing. I’ve sometimes joked with customers that I wear an Elvis jumpsuit, hating not being noticed otherwise. Just joking! Being unobtrusive and inconspicuous is the key to successfully being a good photographer.
Though wearing a tuxedo will look implacable, this also does not make sense. The hired hand is supposed to create and perform, not be a fashion model making a statement. I find it particularly peculiar seeing this over dress in the suppressive humid heat ofFlorida. Photography require quick action and expenditure of energy. It’s easy to brake out in a sweat, and wearing a tuxedo in the performance of my photographic duties could easily brake anyone out into heat stroke, or otherwise lower their performance.
A photographer and videographer should look neat and presentable, but they must wear clothing that is not restrictive or suffocating. Their work requires quick action, lots of bending and other movements to perform well, and clothing must be comfortable to encourage the best visual results
A discussion on wedding consultants is of primary importance with regard to planning and designing a visually perfect wedding day, even have no plans to engage someone for this position, because then the perfect outcome of your wedding day will be up to you alone.
Having a wedding consultant can be very helpful, especially if you are planning a large wedding that requires the smooth coordination of all activities and events. For “out of town” couples planning to share their vows in a not so familiar, new place, hiring a wedding consultant to set up appointments for specific event locations and vendors can ease the burden of planning. Wedding consultants also should be able to answer most questions pertaining to wedding etiquette. I do have a word of caution, however; their position enables them to exercise considerable control over your wedding plans and wedding day. Thus make sure, you know and like the person you hire to help you. In keeping on the subject of your wedding’s visual aspects, wedding consultants and their actions on your behalf do affect them.
Wedding consultants are not chefs, florists, or photographers. A lot of what they offer you is determined by their own personal taste. I worked a number of times with one consultant who was a bit like a den mother. It seemed she knew a lot about hors d’oeuvres. At least she taste tested a lot of them, and it showed in her figure. She had her stable of vendors, whom she liked to work with. Now, there is a lot to be said for the approach of using people you find reliable and easy to work with. However, if your consultant hires only friends, you may not be getting the best and most talented people for hire. If you want to be assured of the happy outcome of your wedding day, you are best advised not to abdicate all control, and most certainly not the final decisions, to your coordinator.
I will say it again: Wedding coordinators are not photographers! Knowing what they like does not qualify them or give them the credentials necessary to discern exceptional or creative photography from simply good photography. If nothing else, they are not likely to fully appreciate your personal taste in any case.
Meeting and interviewing several photographers is important in your selection process and choosing the best one. You will educate yourself in the process, which will result in you getting the creative style and type of photographs you wish to keep, and treasure, as memories for a lifetime. I believe selecting the right photographer is a very important decision. Yes, you may well think I am biased in my opinion, but just think about it this way. Naturally, we want the freshest flowers and most delectable wedding cake, but should these fall short of our expectations, the memories associated with them will not linger. Not so with photographs, they last a lifetime; they can look so-so or wonderful year after year. At the end of the book, you will find my advice on how to find, i.e., select your best photographer. At this time, I suggest that after you have interviewed a number of photographers, usually two, recommended by your consultant, you meet one or two additional photographers from the local area who are considered to be talented. Remember photographs are the visual recordings of your memories meant to be your keepsakes.
Consultants become coordinators on the day of the wedding. Prior to the wedding, while serving as consultants, they only stand to affect the visual aspects of your wedding day by way of the recommendations they make. This is especially true with respect to your choice of a photographer. Take the time to make the right choice. On the day of the wedding, consultants take on the roll of coordinators.
Every wedding consultant/coordinator has his or her personal style. I love them all, especially those who like me keep calm, confident and fluid control. A hyper person should not be in the consulting – coordinating business. I have worked with some who will upset the natural tempo of an event by erratic actions and decisive uncertainty. They tend to spoil the timing of your events visual aspects by their busy-bee behavior. This stems from their lack of confidence or uncertainty in making decisions, which can render your wedding day visually impaired. This isn’t the way things should work
This however is how. Prior to the actual wedding day a consultant needs to do his or her homework, with the most important assignment for him or her being to get to know you. You have a lot of expectations for your wedding day, and why not! It’s your wedding and you want it to be perfect! Your consultant should be asking you a lot of questions to learn your likes, wants, needs, preferences and expectations. How would you feel if it rains? What would you want to change in your plans should this happen? What type of refreshments do you enjoy? How would you like the music to play into the tempo of the day? These are but a few of many very important questions. Having this information, and much more, will enable the consultant to be an effective coordinator with the ability to make the right decisions on your behalf. He or she will now be able to make contingency plans for rain, to insure the right refreshments come your way while you are posing for photographs, and to control the entire event from the sidelines. More importantly, you will feel assured you are in good hands with a person in charge who knows how your dream day is to unfold, leaving you free to fully enjoy the emotional interactions with all of your family and friends. These emotional interactions provide for the most beautiful images, which must be captured. Nothing must interfere with the emotional magic of the day! It is this magic that makes the visual aspects truly special, memorable and worthy of capturing. It is difficult to know for sure beforehand the level of performance of the person you hire as your wedding consultant/coordinator. Now, however, you know to tell the person you select how you expect him or her to perform; you simply tell your consultant/coordinator: “On the day of the wedding keep things running smoothly, and leave me free to have fun and enjoy my family and friends.”
There is one other type of consultant – coordinator I wish to point out: The one who wants or needs to be seen and noticed. Such consultants have a similar effect on the wedding day as ones that are uncertain, nervous, or incompetent. Actually, they are more troublesome. Why? Narcissism has no known cure. They may be wonderful, very knowledgeable and capable people. They mean no harm. They only want to be seen or noticed in the crowd, that’s all. They will hover around a bride and groom like a hummingbird, because they want to feel important. They may try to be your best friend, or so it seems when you see him or her in lots of photographs with you. Look, it’s the bride and groom and the coordinator! This will make for a treasured visual memory, I am sure; yeah, right! No, it won’t! A coordinator who needs to be seen or noticed is not what you want. It is your wedding day and the only important people that need to be noticed are the bride and groom, as they become wife and husband. You have to be able to recognize such needy coordinators. You must! By all means, do not hire one of these as your consultant -coordinator.
To help you visualize how a wedding consultant – coordinator can spoil the visual aspects of a wedding, I’ll give you this example. This particular individual was either inexperienced or wanted to be seen and noticed. It happened during the processional with the bridesmaids and the bride with her father coming from a sun-lighted double doorway to walk down the center isle. To take these photographs I always position myself near the front to capture everyone walking down the isle. To assist in making it picture perfect procession an experienced consultant – coordinator will be at the starting point to make sure of proper spacing between members of the wedding party as they proceed down the isle. To accomplish this, the consultant – coordinator should remain behind the door, of to the sides, or otherwise out of sight, but for some reason this coordinator stood right in the doorway entrance. She became a distraction in the background of the photographs taken even though she was only 5’4” tall. Oh yes, but being somewhat over weight at 200 pounds, she was more noticeable. The right way for a consultant to do the job is by staying out of the background and by coordinating from the sidelines.
I should mention here also, that there could be others closer to you that may have this need to be seen or noticed. We all love our mothers, but there are some who may want to run things and be seen or noticed in the process. Fortunately, I have not encountered this situation often. More often, there is a bridesmaid or friend aiming for a bit of the spotlight. You have the bride and then there is the want-to-be bride. As a photographer, from my perspective I like any wild behavior and dancing that may result from a need for the spotlight. It can make for great expressive action shots.
I always try to let the consultant/coordinators I work with know what I want to see happen with respect to me doing my job, be it in timing the processional, or positioning the couple and wedding cake when it is ready to be cut. This increases the probability of me getting great photographs for you, and helps consultants become better coordinators. Since we are all working together, I am simply letting him or her know what will look best from a visual aspect. I must admit that the visual aspects are foremost on my mind. That’s why I wrote this book! In any case, an excellent consultant/ coordinator will know virtually everything about the services provided by the various vendors, and work with them throughout the wedding day to insure the best results. The more they know the better, as long as they don’t know too much. A micro-manager is likely to interfere with the wedding’s visual aspects, even if only by annoying the other vendors. A micro-managing photographer is not good either. Any vendor who micro manages is not likely to provide the best results or to be your best choice.
Some consultants do not want to have much to do with coordinating the wedding day. My ‘hors d’oeuvres’ consultant (mentioned earlier in this chapter), who was quite experienced, never wanted to stay on after the hors d’oeuvres were devoured. That was just fine with me. When the reception begins, things take on a life of their own, as they should, and there is little more a coordinator can contribute from then on. It is often best to let go and let the reception flow. On the day of the wedding consultants – coordinators can contribute much more to the beginning of the day then to the end, making sure all the vendors are set to go and that the intricacies of the ceremony go smoothly. But then again, I enjoy having a good coordinator stay on until the very end of the wedding day. There are the closing festivities and the departure of the newlyweds, family and friends. Also, you never know about some type of impending emergency. At an outdoor wedding, the weather might turn cold, rainy, or windy. Some band members might be late to arrive; and music is very important. The electricity could go out. These and any other unexpected emergencies require handling by a consultant – coordinator with good contingency plans. Blessed are weddings with talented wedding consultants –coordinators!
How do you find a talented, experienced wedding consultant? You will find one through the processes of research and interviews. Every vendor you engage for service at your wedding must be your personal choice, and the choices you make must be based on the information gained from your research and interviews. For a truly perfect day filled with emotion and romance the initial planning connected with the selection and putting together, i.e., creating, your wedding day dream- team requires your individual, personal attention. You should leave the execution of the details to others, but creating “The Team” is important, if you wish to avoid headaches and disappointments later. This does not diminish the role of a consultant – coordinator. Planning for a wedding often spans a period of months, sometimes even years. A consultant offers you recommendations and guidance tailored to your expectations.
I have worked with consultants whose performance ranged from excellent to poor. One of the latter, I have worked with, disappeared. He did a terrible job, by not doing it! Things did not progress smoothly and the bride was not happy by having to take over as the acting coordinator. I found out later that the person in question was a smooth talker, short on real credentials. Be sure to interview several candidates based on your research. Make sure your research is based on a variety of sources. Check credentials. If you start with the right team you will have few problems later on and can fully enjoy your day. Remember that planning for your wedding, like the wedding day itself, should also be fun and rewarding. This is the time when you lay the foundation for your weddings visual aspects and perfect visions.
Having a wedding consultant is very helpful in planning and coordinating your wedding plans and the day of your wedding, but it does not fit into every budget. If having one, even for the initial planning, is not possible, at least now you will be better prepared to manage on your own.
The Studio Experience
In planning for your party you may, especially in larger metropolitan areas, end up visiting Studios for photography and other wedding services.
When engaging a photographer or videographer it is good to have certain expectations about the quality of work and service. This book is meant to give you a basis and ideas on what you should look for and expect. You can expect a lot, but expectations have limitations and need to be realistic.
The first rule for well based realistic expectations is to differentiate between assumptions and expectations. People desiring to take a path of least resistance, who want to put in the least effort and plan for their special day by simply hoping for (and expecting) the best, like to move forward with assumptions. The assumptions begin with any photographer will do so why really explore the options. “This studio is the closest to home” or “offers the most cut rate pricing,” so we’ll go with them. We’ll assume they know and care about what they are doing. More assumptions follow these initial decisions not made. We’ll assume the photographer knows what we want and assume he or she is familiar with our wedding – event site. On and on the assumptions add up to a very disappointing outcome.
For any event to be fully successful requires your devoted input and attention throughout the planning stages. Even if you hire a wedding coordinator or a “Studio” you can not give them card blanc to the entire plan and schedule. If you do, you are assuming they know you better than you know yourself, and I will add that people making plans in this way are either somewhat lazy or otherwise unsure and indecisive. As with most everything, a hands-on approach will certainly have the best outcome.
What you can safely assume is that you will not get exactly what you want if you do not make everything crystal clear to the vendors you deal with, including your coordinator. You can assume they will take the path of least resistance and do what they like, if you do not make clear what you like and expect. You can assume that many photographers and videographers will not exert their best effort if you show little interest and knowledge about the quality results expected from them. It would be wrong to assume that ignorance is bliss if you have high expectations for a beautiful outcome. It is wrong to assume that all photographers and videographers are in essence the same, but they are not and the only way you will discover the differences is through research, which is doing your own homework by meeting and seeing the work of at least three of four photographers. Not Studios representing several photographers, but the actual photographer you may engage to photograph your wedding event.
Now that you’ve accepted the pitfalls of making false assumptions, let’s move on to discuss expectations. Just like you can’t assume things will magically happen without your effort and input, you should not expect much without it either. Here are a few examples, based on my experiences, about unrealistic customer expectations.
I recently photographed a Bar Mitzvah. It is an important religious, the ceremonial coming of age for a young Jewish boy entering into manhood. The ceremony is immediately followed by celebration. As I always do I go over all the details and wishes of the event with the principle person handling all the planning, which in this case is the Mother of the boy.
The religious ceremony is performed by the young man, but it is overseen by the Rabbi. I had heard from sources that this Rabbi, although very pleasant, also had his rules. They included no photography during the ceremony, and that the ceremony had to begin at5:00 PMand no later.
One of the reasons this starting time was firm had to do with the Rabbi had other obligations following this ceremony. The celebration was scheduled to begin at7 PMat another location
With this in mind the mother and I agreed to do all the formal photography ahead of the ceremony beginning at4 PM. This included all the various family photographs and staged ceremony shots. Just about all of them included the young, and many of them also were with his parents.
On the day of the assignment I arrived by3:30 PMat the synagogue. I always like to arrive early. It’s easier to park, I don’t feel rushed, I can check out the working areas and prepare my equipment. At around4 PMpeople did begin to arrive, including the Mother. She was attractive and looked stunning, so I began taking several photographs of her by herself, and with her sisters, and then with her daughter. I nicely and quickly completed all the photography with any family member that was available. The problem was the star of the event, the young man and his Dad were not among them. Time passed from4:15to4:20 PM, from4:25to4:30 PM. A major portion of the photography could not be done until they arrived, and this did not happen until4:35 PM.
I now had twenty-five minutes, instead of sixty to do my work. I worked feverishly. Fortunately my early arrival allowed me to plan my shots and set the stage so I could work quickly and still get the quality photographs I’d like to achieve. According to my mental checklist and by double checking with the Mother, we completed nearly all the planned photographs, leaving a couple of simpler ones I would pick up at the celebration. From there I went into the area were the actual ceremony would be held and managed to stage the necessary ceremonial photographs. The rabbi graciously seemed to give me a few extra minutes to insure I did get what was needed.
All the photographs of the ceremony and celebration came out really nice, but weeks later I heard from the Mother that I did not get all the photographs she had wanted. This is about all I heard about the entire event. I make it a policy not to challenge or argue with a customer. I always feel comfortable with the services I provide, because I know that I make every effort to do a great job in every possible way. Nevertheless in my mind I was screaming “what do you expect!” I was on time and ready to perform as promised, but I’m not responsible for your son and husband showing up thirty-five minutes late. If there were additional photographed you hoped for the circumstances that resulted in not getting them was out of my control. Not only that, I always made efforts to confer with her throughout the event to see if there was anything else she might want. She had expectations, but if she believed they had not been met, she should have considered taking personal responsibility, and acknowledged that it was due to her spouse and soon being late.
I think it is positive to have expectations. It is similar to having goals and objectives to making your event the best it can be. But your expectations should be realistic and fit within your budget.
At one wedding that had many decorative aspects centered on winter and skiing, the mother asked me to be sure to document the general theme by taking some set shots. I was doing this particular assignment through a Studio with set packages that included specified quantity of film to be included. Within the limitations of the customer’s budget and the Studio’s policy of providing only the set amount of film, I did as requested but limited the shots to a half dozen of the best presentations. Later I heard that there were not enough photographs of the decorative sets, but with a limited budget and limited supplied film, both the customer and the Studio have to take their respective responsibility. I used my long experience and made the best decision, unless, of course, they wanted set shots over photographs of the cutting of the cake, but then they should have let me know. (My wedding packages are set up more creatively to allow for flexibility when using film and this is discussed in the chapter “Working with a Studio.”)
Your expectations have to be realistic and be within your budget, and without exception the ultimate outcome is your responsibility. You have to research and go out to meet a variety of photographers to find the one you feel with best meet your expectations. If you go about selecting a photographer with the mind set that one is the same as the next, that is, as if they are all the same and you do not make the effort to search and learn (as by reading this book for guidance), expect significant probability of poor results. If you expect hiring a Coordinator or Studio will guarantee your expectations, you are again mistaken. This will only provide a way to spread the blame should things go wrong. A Wedding Coordinator can only provide advise and expedite your selection process by making a timely schedule for you to meet with the best of the best in photography, and simply hiring a Studio makes things easy for you, but not necessarily the best. You can get lucky, but in most cases to meet you expectations requires your responsibility to do the leg and mental work to find and know what you are looking for. For me, an educated customer was my best client.
Having a photography or visual consultant
Today if you looked in the Yellow Pages you would not find a photography or visual consultant. You could find a Wedding Consultant – Coordinator. As discussed in their chapter, they can be very helpful in pulling together the various aspects of your wedding to include the catering, decorations, music, photography, videography and so forth, but they are not fully trained visually. With this in mind