An open letter from a photographer

Happy Monday everyone! Today I have a special treat for you. My own wedding photographer and good friend Rick Bronks of Satureyes has shared this with me. I thought it was so apt I wanted to share it with everyone (with his permission of course). It’s an actual email from Rick to a client who decided to have a friend, rather than a professional photographer, shoot her wedding (edited, of course, to protect the client’s anonymity). I thought I’d open it up to the floor and see what you guys think! Do you agree with the points Rick’s making?  

All images in this post © Satureyes

Photographers are a bit pricey – can’t I just get a friend to do it?

Thank you for the compliments- It means a lot to me to hear nice things about my work. I thought I’d jot some thoughts down for you and see what you think.

Firstly, a caution: Your friend who will shoot the wedding – are they a professional photographer? I really would suggest you don’t rely on an amateur to capture the day. Whoever you choose in the end please make sure they are a proper, and preferably experienced, photographer. I hear so many stories about people who went down the cheap, alternative friend route, and ended up being disappointed. It’s all about what you expect from your shots. If you are fine with the possibility of them being just ‘OK’ then of course it’s fine – but from experience most people are not fine with it once they’ve seen the results. If you’re lucky, the results will be mediocre, if you’re unlucky, you could end up seriously regretting your decision, like this bride-turned-photographer whose cautionary tale was featured recently on Rockn’Roll Bride.

I don’t want this to sound like an advert for wedding photographers, and I’m sure you will read plenty of propaganda and sales talk on most photographers’ websites about how important the day is, but you do need to bear in mind a few things.

I would say that when you look back on your wedding day in years to come, or even 10 minutes after it has finished, there’s very little to take away (apart from the marriage, obviously!) While your guests will have had a fab time, your occasion is probably one of many that they’re attending – and they won’t necessarily remember or fully absorb all the detail and the hard work you will have put into your outfit, styling the venue etc. So I guess what I mean is that once the food has gone, and the wine has been drunk, the only thing you have to remember your day is the photos (and a video if you’re having that) and that’s about it.

While a friend may have the best of intentions, they won’t necessarily understand the lighting of your venue, the speed at which those very special moments are gone forever and the attention to detail that’s needed to really capture the best of your wedding day.

I think that lots of couples start of the same way – looking for a photographer that fits their budget and then make concessions about who they pick because of budget – which is totally acceptable – BUT there are trained photographers out there who are certainly excellent who will fit your budget you just have to ask and spend some time looking. It’s worth it – because those are the memories you will have and keep. All you need to do is take a peek on Twitter to find a resource of talented photographers looking to build their portfolios.

So how do you tell the photographers who can capture your wedding beautifully from the ones that will leave you with photos like these?

Unless you really know the photographer well or their work, ask to see a few of their real weddings from start to finish. This will give you a good idea of their talent and range.

Lookout for tell-tale signs of bad photos, for example red eye, wonky photos, unnecessary Photoshop filters, overexposure, underexposure, blurriness and (yes, this actually happens) thumbs in front of the lens!

If you fall in love with a photographer but they’re out of budget, see if they might have a more affordable package for you, or if they can recommend somebody with talent who fits your budget better.

Don’t be afraid to grill them (politely) about timings, techniques and equipment.

Check their style of photography – do you want to tell a story, pose your shots, have something a little more original? Once you’ve worked out what you want you can start looking at photographers who know how to deliver.

Get a few quotes and compare / contrast the quotes, pictures and chemistry. Don’t just book the first photographer you speak to.

 Finally, check the ‘tog you want to use has insurance. It’s pretty important for both your sakes. If someone falls over, or there’s an issue with something they will be covered – and so will you. It’s all something that  a pro will have so just make sure you check. They won’t be offended if you ask. If they are offended then I’d say they aren’t professional enough.

In short – do a little research and it will save you a lot of possible heartache. The last thing you want is a crap photographer who just gets on your nerves throughout the day. Again – it depends on your style. I’m very much into storytelling and watching a scene unfold and documenting it with a narrative. I tend not to machine gun 3000 photos and then present you with them all in colour and black and white on a disk. There are some people who want 6000 images but the chances are there are few really good shots. They work on the premise that they’ll nail a few good shots in the load they give to you – and you’ll be really impressed with thousands on a disk. Quality over quantity– always!

In defence of professional photographers who shoot weddings – I would stand by their fees to a degree. There is a lot more work involved with shooting a wedding than just an event for a day. I always do my research and work with the wedding planner (if there is one) on timings, areas that need to be captured and getting people into the right spots. If there is no wedding planner – then I tend to assume that roll and become one. It’s needed. You’re too busy on the day to worry about certain things – but a good wedding photographer will take initiative and organise and if the need be (as has happened to me time and time again) move things on to keep on schedule.

Then there’s days of editing and making sure your photos are the very best they can be, plus paying for the best equipment and insurance to make sure you’re covered from all angles (no pun intended!)

So even if it’s not me that you go with, I’d highly recommend taking your time to choose the right professional, whatever your budget, and avoid handing this huge responsibility over to a potentially unqualified friend. Good luck!

Rick Bronks – Satureyes

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