Back in January (is it really February already?) Vogue unleashed a storm of anger in the photography blogosphere by claiming that you don’t need to actually hire a professional wedding photographer for your wedding (ironically, with a professionally taken studio image to accompany the article!). This was followed by a response from an Australian bride via the medium of Instagram, and it got me thinking about the issue at hand. Ok, right at the start, it’s obvious that I have a vested interest in the answer to this question, and as a wedding photographer, you should feel free to consider me extremely biased. However, when it comes to wedding photography, there are important issues to consider if you find yourself unsure as to whether you should invest in the services of a professional photographer.
How important is photography to you? Depending on how important photographs are to you as art, or as a visual reminder or journal of your life, you will either highly value good photography or consider it passé. If you are the kind of person who likes to look back at old pictures of you to prompt memories, or if you like looking back at old pictures of parents or other family members, then having timeless images that tell a visual story can be a powerful and evocative memento of the day. It’s also something that future generations of the family can appreciate. Some people aren’t as visually orientated, and may also be on a tight budget; in that instance, it can seem wasteful to spend part of your budget on a photographer. This is something that only you can answer – some feel that photography is one of the things they are happy to spend the most on, after venue and the dress, others are happy to go down the route of putting disposable cameras on the tables at the reception.
Should you just have disposable cameras or guests use their smartphones instead? This is something that a sizeable minority of brides and grooms decide to do instead of hiring a photographer. The theory goes that there will be a lot of coverage from all sorts of different angles, and how bad can they be, compared to a photographer’s work after all? It’s all photography, right? Well, it’s understandable to feel this way, but often there is a noticeable difference between a professional wedding photographer and an amateur. Knowing how to compose pictures to get the most beautiful results, how to deal with different lighting conditions, and how to ensure the subjects of the photo are in focus, in addition to post processing and beautiful presentation are just some of the benefits a professional photographer can bring. Unfortunately, when I have been at weddings with disposable cameras on the tables, the cameras often go unused, due to everyone having too much fun!
What type of photography do you think of when you hear the term ‘wedding photographer’? In the Vogue article, the way they talk about wedding photography, you’d think that it was the days when people used cameras bigger than their head, and had to hide under a curtain to look through the viewfinder. Photography has come a long way, technologically, and artistically in its lifetime as an art form. This means that there is a veritable cornucopia of photographic styles out there, and most of these are incorporated into modern wedding photography. Like high fashion, editorial style photography? That’s right, there are photographers for that. You want classic, vintage style film photography? That’s right – there are photographers out there who can cater to your needs. A fan of artful, photojournalistic photographers? Ahem, there are a few of those around. There are even photographers who focus on the kind of posing and group pictures that are traditionally considered to be the style of wedding photography. These styles barely scratch the service of what is out there, if you think you don’t want a wedding photographer because you think the whole thing is a bit clichéd, maybe have another look at what’s out there, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to have a wedding photographer or not is a highly personal one. With a highly complex decision making process that involves your level of appreciation for the art form itself, your budget, your taste, and the way you see the world. I’ve been fortunate to work with couples so far who truly appreciated the beauty of photography done well, and when I meet a couple who love good photography, it’s always a great feeling. Whatever you decide, as long as you make a decision that balances all those reasons, you’ll have made the right choice. Good luck!