"Wait, What Happened To All The Amazing Pictures?"

by Ivan Apfel

So, it is time to decide on your wedding photographer. You search all the wedding sites; you check out all the photographer's listings. You look at their sites and all the beautiful pictures and all the not so beautiful pictures. You contact the photographers that you were impressed with. You meet with them and decide on one that not only makes you feel comfortable, but also offers you the package you want for the budget you need.

Fast forward to one to three weeks (depending on photographer) after your wedding. You log into your proofing page and exclaim "Wait, what happened to all the amazing pictures?"

Very few couples go into their wedding knowing the realities of photography in general and wedding photography in particular. In truth, why should you be expected to? You have to deal with florists and learning flower names, looks, colors, how they do in heat and cold, etc. You have to learn about cooking and catering. You have to learn about ceremony planning and legal documents -- all in a relatively short period of time.

The point of this article is to let you know what to expect and what to look for before you hire your photographer. Let's begin.

Myth versus reality: You look at all the beautiful pictures in the wedding magazines longing for your wedding pictures to look the same. Guess what? If you choose the right photographer, your pictures will come very close. However, keep in mind those wonderful pictures that you saw in the magazine included a professional editorial photographer, a set coordinator, a stylist, full time make-up artists, a hairstylist on set and, of course, professional models. They then spend hours setting up and shooting each look. In the end they narrow down from 300 images to the 10 beautiful shots you are now looking at adoringly. A good final product might include the following: 30 percent are as good as the best shot "Uncle Joe" took with his point and shoot. 50 percent should be better than the shots taken by "Uncle Joe" and his point and shoot. 20 percent should be beautiful images that you want to frame for your mantle and office desk.

Things to keep in mind. When you create what you want your photographs to look like, you have to take into consideration what is feasible with your budget. I have had brides who wanted me to shoot them getting ready at their hotel, pictures of the groom getting ready at the church, beautiful photographs of the cake that look like a magazine shoot as well as the family images at the church, pictures of the guests enjoying cocktail hour, the wedding, the reception, etc. If this is what you want, please note that this will require more than one photographer. Why? Because many of all these things are happening at the same time but in two different places.

Things to help ensure these results. First off, you have to make a choice. Do you want your pictures to look like your standard wedding pictures or do you want them to resemble the images in the magazines? Like I mentioned above, most of the magazine layouts were shot by an editorial photographer. If this is what you want, look for a photographer who shoots both commercial photography and wedding photography. Why? They will tend to bring more of a commercial look and perspective to your wedding assignment. Look at both their work and see if the commercial images match what you would expect from a magazine. Next, stay away from photographers who show you their sample book and state that they will make every one of your pictures look as good as these. Some of the best photographers I have met who shoot for some of the biggest names in advertising and fashion can not even make that promise. This is especially true with wedding photography, where light sources, temperature, and angles continuously change.

Finally, you really do get what you pay for. If you go for the lowest bidder, you will most likely end up with the lowest percentage of great shots when your wedding day is done. On average in most metropolitan areas, you should plan on at least $1,200.00 for a good photographer's package including only one photographer and no album. Prices can then go up depending on the type of book you want (leather, cloth, prints versus coffee table style, etc) and if more than one photographer is needed -- and, in some cases, if you insist on the use of professional studio lighting for certain shots.

Here is my golden piece of advice to you when looking for your photographer -- it is what I did when looking for our wedding. When you look at your potential photographer's images, look for a variety of styles (commercial, fashion, editorial, wedding, etc.) The more styles they tend to shoot, the better they can handle variable shooting conditions. Next, look at the composition and creativity of their composition. A great image is 50 percent technical skill and 50 percent creative eye. If they have a creative eye and good technical skills, you stand a very good chance of walking away with some great images that you can look at lovingly for years to come and might even make your friends envious.

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