How to Pick a Wedding Photographer (part 3)
What is the basic equipment a professional wedding photographer should have in order to produce professional quality images? (Cameras, lenses, lighting) Is there any way for a potential client to ascertain the preparedness of the wedding photographer in terms of equipment without asking for an equipment list?
A professional needs a lot of everything. Most wedding photographers sadly only have one camera and one flash, and even one small computer to do all thier work. Sadly many even borrow or rent their one camera when they need it. Do not hire this person!
It’s not your job to turn your once-in-a-lifetime wedding day into a service project to help a new and broke photographer. You need a pro who knows what they are doing and has the equipment to accomplish anything that may happen on your day.
A real pro who takes their profession seriously should have adequate gear, and lots of it. That means professional-grade gear and multiples of everything. They should have plenty of cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment big and small.
You really can’t ask for an equipment list because most people wouldn’t even know what to compare it against, but you should ask if your photographer has plenty of backup equipment. That means no less than three cameras per photographer, plus lots of lighting and other gear.
And specifically ask if your photographer has indemnity insurance. That is there to cover you and them for the expenses needed to re-shoot in the horrible case where there are lost images due to equipment failure or error. With redundant equipment, you shouldn’t need this, but you should always hire a photographer who has it and takes your day that seriously.
How are most brides-to-be and families finding their weddings photographers? How have most found you? (Web searches, word of mouth, advertisements, publications)
Some say from web or ads, but most are repeat customers or referrals from my repeat customers. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
The photographer should of course, work for his or her client to maximum satisfaction, but are there times when clients overstep their boundaries and ask for unreasonable things?
Clients should feel free to ask me for anything. I don’t see any request as being taboo or as overstepping their bounds. However, I know that I’m not the perfect fit for everyone and I’m not trying to be. I have my set of boundaries. I know how I work and what I’m willing and not willing to do, and that does not change.
People can ask for anything they want, but it does not mean that I will do it. It does mean that we will have a discussion as to why I do what I do. Sometimes clients see it my way, and sometimes they don’t. Again, I’m not out to get every single job out there. There are plenty of other options for the client if they don’t see me as a good fit.
Some requests are just fine and perhaps I do those things all the time and don’t advertise them. Others I won’t do under any circumstance (like work on Sunday for instance). And other requests really just need some explaining for the client to understand how I work.
As an example, perhaps someone asks me to photograph their baby, and they bring me a photo and want me to copy it, doing the same thing but with their baby. Though I have the ability to technically copy any image, I don’t do that. So this is best solved with a discussion as to what they like about the image, and how my style is much different. When they realize that I’ll create something unique and fun that others will want to copy, they’re okay to move forward.
Tell us if this has happened to you or your colleagues in your profession and how you handled this.
Of course these kinds of things happen all the time, and most huge requests are solved with price. As an example, when I was younger, I found myself working a couple Thanksgivings in a row. This was because I would inevitably get a call from someone begging and pleading with me to work for them on Thanksgiving day, saying it was the only day their entire family would all be together.
Hoping for a great order, I would miss my own family dinner to go off and shoot these family groups, and in the end they never ordered much at all. The people that ask the most of you, usually will spend the least.
As a result, I changed my pricing and I began to charge a huge session fee for holidays. I realized that I was still willing to work on a holiday, but only if I got paid quite a bit to make it worth it. If a family didn’t like that price, they could always make arrangements to come in the day before or after at the regular price.
Sure enough, as the next Thanksgiving came around, I got a request to photograph a family on location in their home. It was the only day they would all be in town and it just had to be that day. When they found out that it would cost an extra thousand dollars just for the session fee, their schedule suddenly opened up the day before. I was happy to do it then at the normal lower price, just as I would have been happy to skip my family time on Thanksgiving for an extra thousand dollars.
Wedding photography must be a crazy situation with a lot of pressure and emotion. Do you have a “best” or outrageous situation you found yourself in during your career?
I have a lot of outrageous stories, particularly from weddings. As a photographer, I get to see into people’s private lives and are privy to family dynamics and secrets. It’s a big honor to be at people’s big events in life, and it’s wonderful to get to know people on such a close level. But being there during their stressful situations also means that I’m present when crazy things happen.
I’ve seen weddings called off sometimes even during the ceremony, I’ve seen brides dance and crash right into their cake, and I’ve seen grandmas say inappropriate things in a loud voice during the ceremony. Sometimes people are in fights or are holding grudges, and sometimes people have a crazy uncle that wants to talk about his conspiracy theory with someone new.
After almost two decades of being a professional photographer, I’ve come to see that everyone is doing the best they can, every family is crazy and dysfunctional in some way, and everyone is trying to handle difficult problems.
I’m not there to get in the middle of it, but rather I’m there to observe, tell the story, and do so in a way that is emotional and heartfelt so that generations later, people will still be cherishing the work I did.
What are people looking for when they come to the Bry Cox brand? You have tried to differentiate yourself by focusing on quality and personal attention to detail. Is this working? How are you letting your potential customers know this?
Yes, you’re right. People come to me usually looking for quality and my personal attention to detail. The people who hire me are usually those with discerning tastes and they just love what I do.
I don’t feel the need to try to book everyone that calls. I simply don’t have the time too take on every job, and I’m not the right fit for everybody. Those that like me will hire me and those that don’t will hire someone else.
Not everyone can see or even understand the difference between a great photograph and an average photograph, in fact not even some photographers can see the difference, so I can’t expect every prospect to be able to see it. Preferring a particular style is one thing, but being able to discern a great image regardless of style is another thing all together.
As a Master photographer, I judge images all over the country for different states. The images entered don’t have names on them so no one knows who the creator is. They are judged solely on technical and creative merit, without preference to style. After the completion of the judging, photographers with low or average scores will come and ask me or another judge why they didn’t get a higher score. They don’t understand why the images they created and love so much, scored so low. I’ll always take time to talk about their print in detail to help them do better next time. This is what is good about the system of critiquing. It allows an artist to get an objective view of their work by a panel of out-of-state Masters.
But the point of this is that many professional photographers are still training their eye and working on their ability. If they are unable to really see and understand the difference between a great print and an average print, I can’t expect every prospect that calls me to immediately see that either.
Tell more about how couples are picking their wedding photographers. Is there anything they don’t know about and should?
I’ve talked about what to look for in a wedding photographer in the first question. But as a side note, I have noticed that the people who don’t hire me lately have been telling me that they are instead hiring their neighbor, or sister-in-law. It is usually someone who has known the bride or groom for years, is new in the business, and insists that they shoot the wedding out of family “obligation.”
Remember that you should NEVER feel obligated to have someone do your wedding photography. If someone wanted to make your wedding dress for you simply because they have a sewing machine and needed more practice in learning how to make a dress, you’d say NO.
Without me having to explain it, you understand that there are times in life when wearing a dumb dress isn’t your job as a “good friend” to them. Having dumb photographs for the rest of your life isn’t being a good friend either, neither is the photographer being a good friend to you in making you feel obligated to help them build their business and portfolio.
Don’t accept the excuse that they will do a decent job because they have a good camera. Someone with good tools isn’t a carpenter, someone with good pots may not be a good cook, someone with a good computer isn’t a great author, and someone with a great guitar isn’t an automatically an award-winning song-writer.
Use the criteria I gave above in the first question to help you in your search for a great wedding photographer. Don’t learn the hard way that bad photography can cause you life-long regret.