Ok, before you get all excited here’s the “rest of the story” for you to ponder.
We attended a wedding this summer, where I was not doing the photography (I believe this is only the third time that has ever happened) of a daughter of close friends. A wedding photographer makes for a stir crazy guest (as I watched the 2 photographers roam about during the ceremony, watching what they were doing, wondering why, hearing every shutter trip…).
From our front row seats, I took a few shots as a random act of kindness for the parents of the bride. My images are now being requested to “supplement” the work of the hired shooters, and I’ll of course gladly give them what I have from my iPhone.
What is interesting is that in this day and age where so many photographers now shoot thousands of images at weddings, how often brides and or their parents find themselves wanting more. Wait a minute, “wanting more”, how is this possible with the thousands and thousands of digital pictures being shot at most weddings? Sadly, the disappointment level is running pretty high resulting from a lack of the right shots. The 350 pictures of the wedding party jumping in the field are fun, but how did we miss getting a picture with Grandma?
When asked to critique work of young, new wedding photographers, the body of my critique is almost always the same. I typically see some nice images, very relaxed and natural, great expressions and fun. What I rarely see is a cohesive story and well planned, organized group shots, and relationship combinations that are so vital to tell the complete story of the day, AND capturing images with the important people in a couples life.
It’s great that so many photographers have such a great time at weddings. It’s great that technology has allowed creativity to soar in some cases, without any real knowledge of proper exposure. It’s great that DSLR gear, and now mirrorless cameras have gotten so affordable.
What’s not great is that far too many brides and grooms experience disappointment in the final results of their wedding photography. Photojournalism is great, but I will always use it in balance with striking portraits, touching family groupings, balanced, comfortable group portraits that befit the formal occasion of a wedding, and a few images from every wedding that leave everyone saying, “wow”. I am blessed with an internal wedding day meter that allows me to adjust my plan on the fly to fit what needs to be done, in the time allowed, every time. When a bride is an hour late, something has to give and the plan needs to be adjusted. It is never an excuse that you ran out of time, and that’s why you missed the shot with the bride’s 94 year old grandmother.
As I was thinking about this blog content, I had another conversation with the mother of the groom (while I was photographing her last senior of 5 kids in recent years) this weekend. I was asked to do engagement pictures for this couple last fall. We got some awesome images, and they loved them. But, as is so often the case, “a friend” of theirs started doing weddings, so they went with this creative new shooter. The mother shared with me the frustration, and sad (bordering on angry) feelings about horrible group shots, poorly posed, shadows, dark backgrounds… and no pictures with parents, siblings and grandparents. They were told by the photographer the church was too dark to get good ceremony pictures (which were all blurry), and were surprised that this photographer charged only about $500 less than I would have, and didn’t even use a tripod, or any external lighting of any kind. As the mom put it “when spending this kind of money, I thought we were hiring a pro”. Photographers are often stereotyped as gearheads with far too much gear with them at any time. Guilty as charged, but I can’t imagine shooting a wedding will less than 2 or 3 cameras and 7-10 lenses. On the upside, I don’t need a gym membership lugging all this stuff around…
I’ve been told by some wedding planners that brides are starting to figure it out, and are doing a better job vetting their photographers. I hope this is the case. It is damaging to the entire profession to have these kinds of experiences occurring so frequently. We all had to start somewhere, and all I ask is that new photographers be a little more patient before labeling themselves an expert, and that established photographers listen to what the clients want and deliver a great experience.
I was awarded the top wedding album in the state of Minnesota for a reason. I know what I’m talking about.
Can’t wait for my next wedding in December.