Lately in my market here in Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding areas, I have been gaining the reputation of being a “strict, stern and mean wedding photographer.” Surprisingly this is not from the mouths of the Bride and Groom themselves, but that of their wedding guests. In a business that works best from 80% word of mouth, you find yourself asking why I am not only smiling about this, but why I am gleeful about this! I’m going to break down why this makes me so happy to hear, and it will surprise you as well that it’s not my professionalism, nor my abilities, but the way I approach a wedding.
First of all, I approach weddings as if they are some what traditional; before the big bad boom of technology. When I first started doing weddings, cell phones did not even have cameras on them. Digital photography was about to break through in a big way, but NOT yet, FILM was still in the height of it’s glory days! People RESPECTED wedding photographers, knowing that film was NOT cheap and sometimes you only got one chance to get a candid shot. People went out of their way to avoid getting into the cameras view. Wedding guests were there to ENJOY the wedding, and not trying to capture, “work” or prove to the bride and groom that they didn’t need to pay for this “ultra expensive” wedding photographer.
These days, post digital and technology boom, wedding photography has hit it’s all time low. Wedding guests NO LONGER respect the wedding photographer, wedding guests want to sometimes up show the wedding photographer up, by attempting to do their job. People in general are so instant gratified these days that they want their ceremony shots up on a slide show during the reception now! What? back up, what did I just say? Yep, you got it. It’s the new “fad” in wedding photography. Now some might argue that I just refuse to get with the times, or that I just can’t or don’t want to do this. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much “up with the times” and I very much HAVE done this at a few weddings. However, I no longer offer this. Why? Easy, it takes the MAGIC of my job away! It puts stress on me and my second shooter and we MISS, yep, we MISS candid shots from between the ceremony to the reception! No, you are not PAYING me to make a slide show for the reception, you are paying me for pictures of your big day and everything that involves! I am a traditionalist in that sense, and I will hold fast to that. No, you can not see the shots NOR the back of my camera until I present your photos to you, which in most cases is AFTER your honeymoon!
Brides, stop stressing, and enjoy YOUR day! You ONLY get ONE wedding day! That’s why I am there! That’s WHY you are PAYING ME, to capture these images, and I can’t do that if you are constantly worried about what I am doing! Don’t worry, I’ve already showed you my portfolio, we have already had a consultation about what you wanted, what you didn’t want, and what style/s you want! Trust me, since you already hired me! (And if you have hired me, you KNOW I NEVER disappoint! My work speaks for itself!)
Below you will find examples of why I do what I do. Some of these images are mine from weddings I have shot, and some of them are from photographer friends of mine, that they are allowing me to use. See, we as wedding photographers, we share and talk, so keep that in mind.
This first shot shows the most obvious! See that GLARING white flash? Yep, that one, now look at the face of the bride and her father walking her down the aisle. Washed out, almost to nearly IMPOSSIBLE to fix, further more if I even CHOSE to crop in to get rid of that flash, and fix the coloring of the faces post processing, wouldn’t be able to, because flash does this ugly warp thing, where it distorts things really nasty. No bride will want that photo, nor should any bride pay for that photo. Now look at the color all around, look at her dress, it looks yellow doesn’t it? Well that’s because my camera was set up to white balance for the ambient light. That flash through the color balance off, since I do not use flash photography, being that I know how to properly take a photo out of auto without a flash. The next this I would like to point out, you see how people look blurred? Well when panning, it’s IMPORTANT to keep a constant light, to avoid distorted blurring, this sort of blurring as you can see is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye. That flash ruined the affect by changing the light source, the camera got confused as to what it was suppose to be doing. This is a hard blur, at a wedding you want a soft blur when doing a pan of the bride walking down. The last thing wrong with this photo, is look right past the nose of the father walking his daughter down the aisle. Yep, see her? With her CAMERA PHONE! She not only stood up, but she is not awkwardly placed in the photo and if your eye is not already distracted by the camera flash, or the bad blur, or the nasty white flash cast on the faces of the two most important at the moment, you are distracted by this women in the background! Thus the photo is now more about her, and not the bride! Just stay seated and enjoy the wedding, I promise you there will be pictures later, amazing, beautifully DONE pictures. Yes, a LOT of this can be fixed post production in LR and in PS, however, once you start manipulating a photo, you start messing with it’s data, and when you do that, you start losing clarity and crispness, which means the end result is a poorly executed looking image.
One might ask what is wrong with this image. You see, my friend had to turn this image black and white just to save it. The flashes going off completely ruined it in color. If you continue to look at this image you suddenly become distracted by the women holding the phone then further down the line, by the other women, (ps she’s not the wedding photographer, just a friend with a “fancy” camera) and her dslr. I’m not trying to be rude, and maybe this women is a professional photographer, although I doubt it, because professional photographers RESPECT other working photographers, and wouldn’t do this sort of thing, unless they were hired to do so. That being said, it becomes distracting. It takes away from the over all mood of the picture. The bride WANTS TO SEE pictures of EVERYONE looking at HER, their faces lighting up at seeing her beautiful dress, make up and hair! She doesn’t want to see people taking her picture, she wants to see you admiring her as the most beautiful bride to have walked down the aisle! Me personally? I would have just chucked this photo, or done some post production magic to get rid of the two distractions. Nothing I would have done though, would have fixed the color balance issue with all of the flashing going off. Just can’t do it.
This one is obvious, right? I hope so. See, when I’m at the end of an aisle (ps I was the second shooter for this photog, so yes, this is their image they own, but this happens to be one I shot) I’m trying to shoot the bride and her father walking down and the expressions on the grooms face as well as that of the bridal party. I’m attempting to get some key shots, like wedding vow exchanges, and the BIG kiss! This more times than not, is what happens. You step into the aisle, or someone pokes an arm out with a bright LCD screen as I’m snapping the shot, and guess what…. the camera re focuses on that as I’m snapping! Now, I’ve got a blaring obvious photo of you being impatient, and not the big moments going on. Guests, the wedding is about the BRIDE and her GROOM! Not you.
Now, I hope THIS one is obvious? See to my lower left side? Yeah, that’s NOT a wedding photographer, that’s the brides cousin with her “fancy” camera she bought three weeks before the wedding and decided to try her hand out at wedding photography! She thought it would be an easy buck! She stepped RIGHT into my shot. Every where I went that day, there she was. I think I have her in more shots than not. Now look right past the brides right shoulder (our left, her right). Do you see it? That guy’s flash through off the white balance the ENTIRE ceremony! I think his flashing was MORE obnoxious than the women getting into every shot.
Although I think you might be getting it by now, but just for arguments sake. Seems harmless right? Well, guess what, the Bride and Groom were TRYING to make their way DOWN the aisle when EVERYONE with whatever camera device they had, decided to step in their way to get some candid shots. Now mind you this is a friends image, he told me that he was at the respectful place down the aisle to get these shots, and this is what he got instead, every single shot down the aisle. Not a single good full body shot. Not a single shot he could use in color with all of the flashing going off. This is the best shot he got. Sad huh? Brides get mad about this! They do! Trust me I’ve had SEVERAL of them almost refuse to pay me, and have taken some to court because of non payment, in which then I was paid. That is why I have gone to explaining these things in great details to the wedding couple, and included these things with provisions in the contracts they sign with me.
Yes I have resorted to using signs like this! Silly me and my traditional views on weddings! As you can see, I have a reason for that!
You are likely wondering what is wrong with this last image. See the hard shadow? Brides don’t like those, I don’t like those, they are distracting and not at all pleasing in an image. See the harsh flash from someone elses camera? That is what is causing it. Along with throwing off the white balance of the image, as well as taken detail out of the faces, that can’t be fixed. Hints why the image is in black and white, highly contrasted, and darker in some areas than others. Thank you on camera flash of a guest.
Just don’t be that person that ruins someone’s wedding photos, re-frame from it. Respect your wedding photographer. Trust me when I say, when it comes time for you to marry, or for you to have a vow renewal, photographers, we talk, and we pass info along, including images to show off and tell about, you might not find someone willing to photograph your wedding without increasing their prices. Happens more than you think.
So, what do I do to over come these issues? Why am I known as the mean wedding photographer by the guests, at least until the images arrive?
1) I have a sign telling, not asking, but telling people to place ALL electronic devices with any sort of camera and or flash OFF. Yes, this is written in my contract with brides and grooms. They really do make their guests aware of this. In fact some brides take it a step further than I do, which I’m seriously thinking about doing permanently! I like it! They place cubbies, boxes, tubs, tables, OUTSIDE of the ceremony where people are instructed to place all electronic devices in/on, and if they do not comply they ushers do not let them in. (I don’t do this currently, however, I am seriously thinking of doing it! These brides were amazingly smart and got some amazing shots with NO issues!)
2) I instruct and write in the contract that brides and grooms need to make guest aware that they are not permitted to enter the aisle even with a pinky at any given point. If they want to go into the aisle, they must do so once the reception has started and the wedding party, ALL of the wedding party has made their way back down the aisle and to the TAPED off, yes, go to number three and read, taped off area for their professional session.
3) At my professional session away from ALL guests and distractions the wedding party and their parents are then taken to a TAPED off area, where no others have access to, and ushers are standing by the tape to keep visitors out. The ushers hold the buckets I take with ALL, yes ALL electronic devices FROM EVERYONE involved in the wedding party, in the formal professional session. I have taken my 30-45 min sessions from combating these issues down to all of 15 mins, and in those 15 mins I am able to get about 100 more creative fun shots in than ever before! Brides LOVE this! They don’t have to worry about awkward photos from family and friends attempting to photograph what I am doing, or poor images being instantly uploaded before they get to view them, and bonus! They don’t have to deal with the, yeah I saw that one already, from friends and family when they get their session CD’s and print images back! They get to re-live their fantasy day all over with friends and family once they get the images back, when done my way.
4) I stage things before they happen, away from family and friends. I have the cater take he cake to a private secluded place where I can get great shots of them “cutting” the cake. All of the beautiful glamor shots. I have dad step in and take the first dance shots (this all before guests are allowed into the reception, while they are doing the cocktail hour thing.) Don’t worry, just for good measure I do come back around during these events at the reception to get the candid shots.
5) I tell, notice I say tell, and not ask or just deal with it, I TELL people to move out of my shot. I have a second shooter, that I will silently message/gestter to get people out of my shot, and if my second shooter is busy, that’s what my assistant is for. In the time it takes me to be nice and ask if someone would be kind enough to get out of my shot, I lost that moment, I lost that photo, and Brides ask why it’s not there, well, you can thank Uncle Bob who was hard of hearing and wouldn’t move out of the shot.
So yes, I may be known as mean mean mean to the wedding guests, but that’s why Brides and Grooms pay me the big bucks. I know what will happen, and I have created work around’s to prevent them from happening and to cut down on production and post production time. I have made contracts that brides sign, which they love, and I have come up with creative solutions; which is what photography is all about.
Ask any Bride that I have had the pleasure to shoot at, NONE of them are disappointed with how I work, and NONE of them as disappointed in their images and final products! Which is why they refer me to all of their guests time after time, after time. Their guests warm up to me once they realize why I do what I do, and in return, hire me to photograph their wedding!
See, being a traditionalist is not such a BAD thing, you just have to have a little patience and PUT DOWN your technology and enjoy the hard work, and LOVE these couples go through in their weddings!