It's about time I posted my thoughts on wedding photography, specifically those individuals who call themselves "photographers" yet have no business in asking to be paid to shoot weddings.
In our current economy many couples are on a tight budget and fall victim to the person offering to shoot the entire day for a few hundred dollars and provide all the photos on disc. The trouble is the photos are not professionally produced and many times look like snapshots, not what the bride & groom expect or deserve from their wedding. If the cost appears almost to good to be true then it is. Saving a few hundred dollars up front can become a huge regret after the wedding is over. I have had couples approach me months after their wedding was over asking if I can "fix" their photos because they are too dark or have red-eye or are poorly framed.
I have reviewed many of these so-called photographers and still see an alarming trend. Much of their work is amateur at best. There are so many elements that go into being a qualified wedding photographer from skill, experience, planning and investment. Just because someone owns a nice digital slr camera with a zoom lens and flash does not mean they can take great photos, especially wedding photos.
Skill: Before anyone decides to venture into shooting weddings they need to learn the basics: ISO, aperature and shutter speed. Knowing how to set up the camera for each shot is very important. The next step is how to use natural light and flash as well as how to balance the two. Shooting outside under cloudy skies and inside a dimly lit church or hall are very different. One must also understand framing and watching the background. Nothing worse than a nicely framed shot with a distracting background that pulls your eye away from the subject in the finished photo.
Equipment: You need at least two of EVERYTHING in order to shoot weddings. That means investing in 2 camera bodies, 2 lenses, 2 flash units, extra batteries, several memory cards. If you think you can get away with only 1 lens or flash your nuts. Every professional will tell you to plan for the unexpected because it WILL happen. I had this happen to me a couple of years ago when I was hit from behind while taking a group photo. I fell over and as I went down the flash hit my knee and broke off at the hot shoe. I quickly excused myself and grabbed my backup unit. In less than a minute I was back in action. If I did not have the extra flash I would have been as they say "up a creak without a paddle".
Experience: Nothing counts as much as knowing what to shoot, where to position yourself for a great shot and when to pull the trigger. Remember there is no do-over for weddings. If you miss the shot it's gone forever. If I'm in an unfamiliar location first I look around to see where I can set up without being in the way. I try not to be the center of attention, that's reserved for the bride & groom.
Planning: Professionals are always thinking ahead, what locations they will use to create great images of the bride & groom, what special shots they want to take, what if it's raining and they are prohibited to shooting in the beautiful garden at the country club, etc. There is no down time at a wedding, you have to be on your feet and ready for anything. Planning saves headaches and confusion. Brides have enough stress planning the wedding and it's your job to make them feel relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. The end results will reflect this.
If you are planning a wedding, ask yourself this question: would I hire a mechanic to fix my car when it breaks down or ask the guy next door to fix it? A professional photographer is experienced and equipped to ensure your wedding photos come out great and will be enjoyed for years to come. After all, only your wedding photos remain long after the day is over.
Personally I have photographed over 300 weddings in the last 20+ years. I started shooting film then moved to digital a few years ago. My experience comes into play at every wedding. There are plenty of well qualified photographers out there, just be sure to think with your head and not with your wallet. Many photographers will work with you when money is an issue.
David Wornham Photography