Disclaimer Note: I’m not a professional photographer for weddings. I’ve never been or claimed to be one at any time, and it’s not likely to be in the near future. Therefore, take this post with a cautionary tale as it is written from the perspective of an outside observer. The images that accompany this post were taken as guests at various weddings I’ve been to.
It is apparent that in the last 20 or so years, perhaps maybe less – wedding photography has evolved from simply capturing a few moments that you will cherish for a (hopefully) once every-so-several-year celebration with friends and family and creating a pixelated Hollywood-style epic consisting of thousands of images featuring you and your partner in bizarre, difficult and out-of-character poses where no one in the group even resemble one another in any way!’. How? When? Why? And, more importantly, does anyone who actually pays for the images know that in twenty years’ time when you go back to the photos again the first thought that pops into your head will be “ugh is that what I was considering?’
This piece of opinion aims to dissect the current wedding photography industry and determine if there’s still a place for someone who would like to be professional – the most appropriate word I could employ is truthful.
I’ve shot several weddings through the years, once or twice as the primary photographer. Now, under the circumstance that the couple employs someone else, I’ll bring my camera along to events I go to and shoot the same way as I normally would. Typically, the printed album and images they post end up in my portfolio as the ones I take, not the ones they bought. What is the reason for this?
What really bothers me is the lack of honesty regarding this whole thing. I know that many couples opt for this because it’s accepted in society or because they don’t understand more (and it’s certainly not in the best interests of photographers to instruct them on the contrary). What used to be a small expense in the overall scope of things has transformed into something that could be a significant portion of the wedding budget. It’s not clear the percentage of couples who are actually content with their wedding photos and the results. Asians aren’t known for complaining when something goes horribly wrong. However, I do know that many wedding photographers don’t really take a lot of notice since repeat customers typically don’t have a problem because there’s always another couple who is getting married.
One of the most serious sins that wedding photographers make is getting behind. At an event I was at, the photographer, along with his two assistants, were constantly on the wedding couple’s side and gyrating away with flashes. The issue here is that) the quarters were a bit cramped in comparison to Asian weddings, where a large portion of the ceremony usually takes place at home, and the majority of homes aren’t big enough to control the hundreds of guests. Also,) as an individual or guest, it’s impossible to see anything. This can be a big turnoff off your family, and it can be a bit overwhelming to feel as though paparazzi are harassing you. As a couple, you should ask yourself, what is the purpose of this wedding? Is it intended for us, our family, or for photographers? Since, as an outsider, this seems like the former.
It’s not the only offense. Over-the-top airbrushing or the use of ghastly filters – like applying the whole Instapop as well as Hipstagram or whatever collection for every photo – to cover up compositional errors or to hide focusing mistakes at critical times – is a common practice. Actually, I’ve never seen one wedding-related slideshow with anything remotely natural-looking image. I’ve also attended many weddings over the past couple of years. Do you really require hundreds of poor-quality photographs instead of perhaps fifty or 100 perfect, well-timed, natural, emotional images?
No! It’s just not easy to make and, as a result, makes for an extremely poor business model, which is why no one would ever. It’s a pity: The ideal photographer for weddings might exist and, with a bit of knowledge of the customer, perform pretty well. What characteristics should this mythological creature possess?
1. Do not interfere with the ceremony. The wedding is only for the couple and their families, not the photographer and his assistants.
2. Do not miss important moments. You don’t require 20 cake-cutting photos, Just a couple of well-timed shots.
3. Find emotion, and then capture only emotions. Keep the mood and emotion. Humans are human. Your target audience is human. Your clients are also human. They’ll glance at the photos and immediately feel a feeling of connection to the subject, viewing the images later.
4. Less is more: spend some time curating, and you’ll find that you now have time to process each image individually instead of running them all through the SuperSoft-Crayolamatic-HDR filter.
5. Be aware of who the most important participants are. You don’t need to have headshots taken of every person; however, if you’re missing the bridal mother who was hugging her daughter as if that might be her Kindergarten teacher, your customers aren’t likely to be thrilled.