Hiring a wedding photographer

A friend wrote me:

I was curious if i could hire your photography skills for my wedding day Sept 12. My favorite photos of myself in the last couple years were taken by you at parties in SF. Do you do that sort of thing? Not traditional wedding posed photos, just good-time party photos.

While my friend was just looking for a primary photographer to shoot a party, this lead me to think what it must like to hire a wedding photographer? That’s a private trauma I never had to endure…

I need to descend again?
I need to descend again?
Mia and Ken’s Wedding, Rancho Santa Fe, California

Nikon D70, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR, UV filter
1/100sec @ f/2.8, iso 200, 82mm

My sister-in-law

I don’t photography professionally, I like to shoot nature when hiking and since I can rarely make time for that, I decided to bring my camera with me and shoot my friends. Because of my gear, I’m sometimes confused as a photographer.

Aunties
Aunties
Mia and Ken’s Rancho Santa Fe, California

Nikon D70, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR, SB-800
1/500 sec @ f/2.8, iso 200, 110mm (165mm)

I’m their nephew.

This means I like to shoot things, not people…

City Hall dome
City hall dome
City Hall, San Francisco, California

Nikon D200, 12-24mm f/4G
1/10 sec @ f/4, iso 400, 12mm (18mm)

A wedding, but all I could see was where I was.

For weddings, the most sought after photography style this decade is documentary photography. I’m sure there’s someone out there who fits almost any bill and requirement. The hard part is the prices are extremely high in San Francisco, and that the quality is all over the place.

“I see you,” Kathy and Mike’s wedding
“I see you”
Kathy and Mike’s Wedding, Foster City, California

Nikon D70, 50mm f/1.8D, SB-800, gel
1/25 sec @ f/1.8, iso 400, 50mm (75mm)

This may also be true for all areas, so you may not necessarily get what you pay for in wedding photography.

Some tips

Cheeky
Cheeky
Menaz and Jafer’s Wedding, City Hall, San Francisco, California

Nikon D200, 12-24mm f/4G
1/15 sec @ f/4, iso 800, 12mm (18mm)

This girl was the second or third photographer of five at a wedding I was at. We talked a lot about Nikon (the other photogs were shooting Canon.)

Since I’ve never hired a photographer, I can’t give good advice. But if it were me, I’d have to see their work and make a judgement if their style is what I was looking for.

(A lot of wedding photographers seem to think that if you tilt your camera a lot, that it somehow magically makes the shot good. As a nature photographer with two bubble levels on my tripod and a horrible sense of the horizon, I don’t approve.)

Another tip is to ask to see all a complete wedding so that they don’t just show their top selects. I believe photographers usually send over a 1000 shots either via website or a print book to the customer and they choose a number to add to the album and for other purposes which are then post-processed to the finish. You want to all their shots because the website is only going to contain the best.

The second thing I’d look for is someone who shoots a lot. The best photographers I know, photograph a whole lot. You want to be able to take a great shot even without thinking.

Another tip is a good photographer doesn’t make necessarily make a good wedding photographer. First of all, there’s the style difference (as my mediocre images show). But more importantly, a lot of people forget that wedding photography is a business first. A lot of photographers I know product great photos, but they’re unreliable and inconsistent. What’s the point in hiring a shooter if he doesn’t show to the event or she never delivers the finished product?

Can you suggest any other tips or share your experiences?

Images to inspire

Here are some of my favorite wedding photographers of all time.

I’m sure there are others, but I don’t work in wedding photography so I’m unfamiliar with the field. Which wedding photographers inspire you?

3 thoughts on “Hiring a wedding photographer

  1. I like that you included the link to some of your favorite wedding photographers; one should definitely look at different styles out there to determine which style best fits what they want.

    But yes, it’s a tedious process of sampling lots and lots of images.

    On top of your suggestions, I would add a meeting with a few of the photographers that are in the final running. You learn a lot by meeting in-person with someone.

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