Choosing a Photographer – Marmite or Marmalade?
We would like to thank Stacey-Marie of Cherry Topped for submitting this post and Galloway Photography for writing it and for the beautiful images. When I first glanced at the post and saw ‘Art is Marmite’ I just had to read on………
Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ and Damian Hirst’s ‘Mother and Child Divided’ (the famous cows in formaldehyde). Is it art? When these two iconic works were exhibited at the Tate and the Venice Biennale respectively, you can guarantee that an awful lot of critics and gawpers alike asked that very question. People still talk about it today, almost two decades later. The real answer is not ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but ‘Does it matter?’ Art is subjective. Always has been. Art is Marmite.
So isn’t it safe to assume that any creative work is subject to a mixture of opinions? Whether it’s architecture or animation, comedy or cuisine, some people just prefer marmalade to Marmite. Somewhere Wedding Photography fits snugly into this elaborate metaphor. There is not just one style of wedding photography. So, how do you find the right fit, the photographer whose style mirrors your own taste? Now unfortunately, there are literally thousands of wedding photographers and finding the right one can take some time. It’s like buying a house, you need to search and search…and search some more. Then sooner or later you’ll have that ‘hallway moment’. You haven’t even seen the whole house, but in the first 30 seconds, you’ll see yourself in a hallway mirror grinning from ear to ear and you’ll know, the short list just got a lot shorter.
Now with commissioning a photographer, (or anything else to do with your wedding for that matter), you can do it one of two ways; you can go blind on Google sifting through hundreds of websites, or you can go through a wedding planner. A good wedding planner will have gone to the trouble of collecting a relatively small but perfectly formed list of suppliers. They’re not just there on the day for keeping things together, their very taste is an asset from the start, when the wedding is merely embryonic, building the day from the ground up. A character in a film once said ‘taste and style are commodities that people desire’; pick a wedding a planner with an abundance of both and indeed you’re making the short list a lot shorter.
So how do you know what you’re into? Bridal magazines will tell you a whole load of things about how to find the right person for the job. Some of which I think are appropriate, some not so much. So take a large pinch of salt when taking advice from a monthly special on photography, no one can tell you what you’re into apart from you. Here’s my take on what to look for in a photographer.
I reckon the most important thing is the pictures. Kind of obvious when you think about it, but there are a lot of packages out there offering you all sorts of things from Thank You cards to extra albums. But before you start comparing photographers to see who gives you ‘more for your money’ (a term many wedding photographers dislike), just think about the sort of work that really flicks your switch. Because after all, once the dust has settled and you’re looking at the one album that you have in your living room, the only thing that matters is that you love the pictures. It probably helps to think of it as commissioning a photographer rather than hiring one, it places the emphasis on the style that comes with him/her rather than the extras that come with the package. Now I can’t tell you what sort of style you should like but I can say that since the introduction of digital, there has been an explosion of styles in wedding photography. Whether you choose a posed specialist who makes you a Hollywood couple for the day, or a reportage expert who will aim to document the day discreetly and be almost invisible, it’s important that you choose someone who gives an accurate account of the day. In other words, someone who won’t just take 500 beautiful close ups but also give a real sense of atmosphere and surroundings. More often than not, that will mean a photographer who is skilled with a wide angle lens and is not just dependent on huge zoom lenses.
Job two, pick someone you see eye to eye with. You don’t have to come away from the whole experience thinking that the photographer is at the top of your Christmas card list from now on, but it’s important that you understand how he/she works, and that you have an ability to communicate with each other both on the day and afterwards too. If you don’t feel comfortable with your photographer, then things can get lost in translation. And when it’s too late, it’s too late. The best thing to do is to get your requirements across the table before you commission them. In the initial meeting you should see at least 2 to 3 complete weddings. Make sure their consistency matches their talent. It’s also handy to ask how many weddings your photographer has shot. It’s not the be all and end all because if there’s talent there, then it’s there; but it’s useful to know how much experience there is dealing with things that inevitably don’t go according to plan.
Now back to that pinch of salt. Magazines will tell you that you should come at a photographer with a checklist of pictures you’re after. My advice is TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER or don’t hire them in the first place. The longer the list, the less freedom a photographer will have to be creative. Some of my favourite shots aren’t necessarily the kind of scene that you could put a label on (eg bride getting out of car, couple cutting the cake), but the light was perfect, the atmosphere was emotionally charged, everything fell into place and a simple moment resulted in a magical image.
With that said, the most important thing is to enjoy the build up to your wedding. It can simultaneously feel like it’s right around the corner or a decade from now. When choosing any supplier, going with gut instinct is often a good tactic, so long as you’ve looked at all they have to offer. And with regards to wedding photography, an even combination of art and professionalism is probably the best way to slice your toast, whether you’re into Marmite or marmalade.