This is a quick guide (for those newly shopping for a wedding photographer), to the 4 different types of wedding photographers, that you’re likely to come across.
1) Uncle Bob
Asking, or allowing a relative, girl friend etc, to take your wedding photos, would have to be one of the absolute worst, and most common, wedding mistakes possible.
It’s always Uncle Bob who forgot to put a memory card (film- in the old days) in his camera. It’s always Uncle Bob who had the sun shining into his lens, forgot to swith off/on the camera flash, and who didn’t know what to do when the weather changed. It’s always Uncle Bob who didn’t realise one of his lenses wasn’t quite calibrated to his new camera body.
Do you want to have a good relationship with Uncle Bob for the rest of your life? If so, don’t risk that relationship. The number of Uncle Bob disaster stories that continue to occur each year, is simply unforgivable.
Sure, Uncle Bob has lots of gear and some nice photos to show you, but the difference between this, and being able to depend on him to deliver the goods at a non-repeatable event, is like the difference between a lotto winner and a self made millionaire. Which one has the skills to do it again and again?
What To Expect: a photo lottery, with lottery style odds of getting great photos.
My Advice: Run away, very quickly.
2) Weekend Warriors
These are the guys/girls who fill the photography listings in every Yellow Pages. There are literally thousands of them.
“Weekend Warriors” is an industry term for people who have a regular weekday job, and offer a photography service on the weekends, as a hobby. Their numbers are exploding, partly due to the dropping “entry costs” of buying a digi-cam, a photography website template, etc. And partly because they are so needed!
These photographers perform an absolutely vital service for the wedding photography industry. They create a cost bridge between Uncle Bob, and a professional. Each year in Australia they save countless thousands of couples from making the mistake of using Uncle Bob. A HUGE thank you, goes out to these people.
What To Expect: Dependability, skill, and professionalism vary wildly, but because Weekend Warriors are shooting weddings regularly, they’ve probably made all of their Uncle Bob mistakes long before your wedding.
My Advice: Be sure to look at lots of “whole wedding” samples. DO NOT accept a collection of their best-ever-photos as a fair guide. As long as you shop carefully, these photographers can be a great choice. But as always, don’t just look at a website, meet the photographer, and try to evaluate how experienced they really are. Obviously, you also have to like their work!
3) Non-Specialist Professional Photographers.
OK, so now you’ve decided to look at photographers who have the skills to pay the bills.
There are two types. The first type, common in country areas, is the full time photographer who shoots commercial & product images, landscapes, school formals, pets, real estate, and weddings.
If they shoot enough weddings, this should be a big step up in both quality, and professionalism. If they don’t, you may be better off with a good part timer who shoots weddings every second weekend.
What To Expect: Better camera equipment, higher pricing, and someone who is much more likely to still be in business when your wedding day finally arrives. These people depend on their reputation to pay their morgage, so you should be treated well.
My Advice: look at “whole wedding” sample albums. Do they have the photography style you’re looking for? Try to assess how experienced they are at wedding photography. Don’t just look at a website, take the trouble to drop in and see their albums.
4) Professional Wedding & Portrait Photographers.
Instead of having a yarn about the pain in your side with your neighbour over the fence, or visiting your GP, now you’re seeing a medical specialist.
Whether or not you need a specialist wedding photographer depends on how important your wedding photos are to you. If you simply want some “clear” photos, don’t waste your money.
On the other hand, I’d want a specialist if I was having brain surgery. For some people, capturing the emotional story of their wedding day with stunning, candid, still imagery, is important enough to see a specialist.
What To Expect: A combination of more experience & skill, than any of the other categories. This translates into more artistry, and higher image quality (regardless of the weather, etc). Also, someone whose entire livelihood rides on their reputation doing this one thing. If a part timer stuffs up, it’s still back to work on Monday, but there’s more at stake for a pro specalist. Expect higher pricing (though specialists sometimes have lower cost, non-album packages, that include the same image quality, dependability, and style).
My Advice: You get what you pay for, but don’t pay for something if it isn’t (and will never have been), important to you.