This is an article from the New York Times, that we think our brides would like to read.
When Hurricane Irene made landfall on the East Coast, the rising and roiling East River threatened to wash out the wedding of Sara and Josh Kalish at Guastavino’s, an event space in Manhattan under the Queensboro Bridge. The rabbi had bailed, the maid of honor couldn’t get in from Chicago, and all told, 60 of the 240 people who had promised the couple they would attend couldn’t. But one person had vowed to be there, no matter what: the wedding photographer.
“Since the Wednesday before the wedding, he had said: ‘Don’t worry. If you’re there, I’m there,’ ” Mrs. Kalish said about her photographer, Brian Dorsey, recounting that night, Aug. 27, 2011.
Mr. Dorsey, who had bought a Land Rover for just such occasions, was humble about the praise. “I am holding their hands through one of the most exciting but trying and confusing days of their lives,” he said. “The art has to be there, but customer service has to be there, too.”
Stories of wedding photographers who are heroes, and others who are horrors, abound. There are the wedding photographers who stopped calling clients back, who appeared at the wedding but were clearly inexperienced, or who were a relative and abandoned photography duties to dance, drink and dine. Enthusiasm is fine, pros say, but dependability, talent and experience are even better.
Wedding photography has changed significantly from 30 years ago, when photographers used medium-format film and there was only one precious negative per shot. Then came 35-millimeter photography, a simpler format. With improvements in technology and ease of camera use, along with a decrease in prices for cameras, more enthusiasts moved into the business.
But the game changer?
“Digital came along, and everybody became a wedding photographer,” said Jason Groupp, the director of the trade group Wedding & Portrait Photographers International and a columnist for Rangefinder magazine. “Is it easier? Yes, it is. But the experience of a wedding photographer — knowing what you’re doing, knowing the traditions, knowing the people — creates wedding photos that last over the years.”
Here are some tips to help avoid a variety of issues that could arise (and when your gut tells you something is not right about a photographer, listen to it):
Get a recommendation. When Ann Woodhull of Southold, N.Y., decided to marry in July 2013, she asked friends on Facebook for help. Recommendations came in for Mary Latham, a destination photographer. “I talk up Mary’s work all the time now,” Mrs. Woodhull said. “She was amazing, and she captured moments we’ll always remember.”
Or ask other photographers. “Referrals, reviews, relationships,” said Ken Hild, of Ken Hild Photography, who recently photographed a wedding in Bay Shore, N.Y., with two other photographers in tow, after receiving a recommendation from another photographer who wasn’t available.
Check a photographer’s name on the Internet to see what comes up. Mr. Groupp said, “If they’ve done something wrong, somebody is going to be talking about them.” Read all the reviews, not just the most recent.
If you want a documentary-style, photojournalistic approach, visit the website of the Wedding Photojournalist Association. Scores of photojournalists have posted their biographies and contact information. Remember to ask for recommendations, even if the biography is impressive.
Avoid hiring family. “Friends of the family tend to photograph people they know, not because they want to or realize it, but because they will tend toward people they are familiar with,” said Dan Loh, a Pulitzer-winning former Associated Press photographer turned wedding photographer. One photo studio in California, Lin & Jirsa, has a page related to this issue. Read “Hiring Uncle Joe” on the site and forever abandon any thought of asking a relative.
Avoid making a decision based heavily on website images. Scam artists have been known to either steal or purchase wedding photographs from other photographers for their own websites. If you’ve found a photographer you like from a source other than word of mouth or a wedding planner or caterer, check the Internet for reviews and ask other photographers.
Pin down pricing. Base wedding packages for a midpriced photographer and a second photographer or an associate may start at $3,000, but they can go up to $15,000 for destination or luxury weddings, in-demand photographers, higher-priced technology and other extras. Saving money by choosing unknown Internet-advertised purveyors prompts a caveat-emptor response: You get what you pay for, or not.
Photographers expect a retainer to reserve the day for the couple. Most expect the final payment in the days before, or if agreed upon, the day of the wedding.
Sign a contract before handing over that retainer. Clearly lay out your expectations in the contract. Mr. Loh approaches each wedding he shoots in documentary style, to avoid stopping the clients and having them pose during their wedding. But many couples want specific posed shots. “I discuss with the client what they want captured and how I will capture it,” he said. “Sometimes I’m given a list that they’ve gotten from a how-to book or website, and that’s fine. But I ask for those materials several weeks in advance so I can make sure their expectations are met.”
How many photographers will be present, and who? Make sure the photographer you specifically intended to hire is one of them.
If you are having a church wedding, contracts often state that the couple is responsible for finding out whether or not your church allows photography on the altar, or even during the ceremony. Many couples have been unpleasantly surprised to discover otherwise.
Typically, photographers maintain the copyright for the photos to enable them to use them for marketing purposes. They then provide discs, flash drives, a proof book or a password for a website where the couple may view the photos, or some combination. “They have everything we have,” said Mr. Dorsey, the photographer who didn’t let Hurricane Irene stop him. “I think you have a right to own every moment of your day.”
Mr. Dorsey embraces the philosophies of the storied photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, who said, “It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter,” and Ansel Adams (“A good photograph is knowing where to stand”).
“For me, probably the most important thing for the entire day is making sure the bride and groom are having a good time,” Mr. Dorsey said. “Because if they aren’t having a good time, I’m not getting the pictures I need to portray the day.
“The other part is the photojournalistic part. There’s a lot of psychology that goes on with where to be when, with knowing when a moment is going to come. Where is the best angle to capture a moment? I think in 3-D the entire day.”