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Uncompromised Quality Photography
By Photographer Dan Harris
A home-studio photography business in Jacksonville, FL
1124 Riviera St. Jacksonville, FL 32207 (904) 398-7668
In your search you will find many photographers all on different levels and price points, with different skill sets, equipment, abilities, styles and motivations. There is a lot of false advertising out there, too often you are shown one thing but delivered another. Some are using photos in their advertising, albums and business cards that they didn't take. Some are attending photo classes in another state where they hire in 'fake' brides and grooms (models) and then edit and post their 'fake' photos on their websites as though they shot that models wedding on the beaches of California. Others are hiring models to create 'fake' wedding photos and then paying a designer to spend hours 'photoshopping' the images to look nothing like any images you will ever get from that photographer. Some don't quite have the gift for great photography, others over-promise and under-deliver. Some are well meaning, good-hearted people that have minimal formal training in photography and simply don't yet have the experience or skills required to do your wedding justice. Some are only good at one of the necissary skills: ART, SCIENCE & BUSINESS.. Some are unwilling to work with you and your ideas, others agree to the impossible and make promises they can't keep. Some photographers put a lot of emotional emphasis on their 'extra services' and sugar-coat everything in a feel-good attempt to get you to book them but then later fall short of your expectations. Some have put a 'gloss' coating on everything and gone way out of their way to impress you with everything other than their photography (lipstick on a pig). It takes at least 6-years of study and practise to begin to really master the art of photography.
Wedding Photography takes some extra special skills that not all photographers possess. First (the obvious), they need to be able to take GREAT photographs no matter the circumstances, second, they have to know what to do with those images after-the-fact so they will look their best, third, they need to offer top-quality heirloom products that will preserve your images for generations and fourth, they need to do all this at the original price they quoted you with a pleasant easy-going personality without becoming a disruption of your wedding-day plans. (not an easy job)
It takes a bit of homework and research to find the type of wedding photographer who you can trust your memories to, the one you will be glad was an important part of your special day; the one who will be able to unobtrusively capture the true essence of your wedding day, those distinguishing and fleeting memorable moments (not just the contrived, posed photographs); the photographer who will really give you what you want instead of the same old cookie-cutter approach that all the other brides got.
Too many brides end up manipulated into following the herd and later regret having a photographer who forced them into doing things they never planned to do on their wedding day. (Like being taken away from their family and friends for 'posed' photos, being late to their own party, being made to lay on the floor with the bridal party in a frumpy and unattractive fashion -- did someone yell 'dog pile on the bride'?, spending all their wedding day doing what the photographer wanted instead of what they wanted, etc.) Planning a wedding is a very emotional experience, don't go into it blindly, do a little homework up front so you can make an informed decision that you won't regret later. (Beware your amateur wedding photographer relative.)
Every day another photographer invents another 'fluff term' to describe their photography style and no two are alike! i.e.: Classical, Contemporary, Romantic, Photojournalistic, Documentary, Emotional, Fashionable, Eclectic, Dramatic, Environmental, Magazine-Style, Artistic, Story-Telling, or some other made-up word, etc. With so many undefined terms it just creates confusion in the marketplace. Ask any of today's wedding photographers if they do photojournalistic photography and they will say yes because it is the popular thing to say, but what they classify as photojournalistic may not be what you mean.
Probably the most important thing for a bride & groom to do before they spend any time looking at photographers is to determine their own style. Look at magazines, websites, your friends wedding photos, referrals from quality sources - (with similar needs and tastes as yours), etc. Look at lots of photos and put together a collection of the ones you like. Then separate your favorite photos into 2 classifications: those that are setup, posed, arraigned and require scheduled time away from (or an interruption of) your event (I call those traditional) and those that are produced during the natural course of your event without any change in the natural flow of the event (I call those photojournalistic). You may have a mix of both types at your wedding. (The style you prefer will determine how much time you spend on your wedding day 'posing' for pictures.)
Discuss with your fiancé what is really important to you and estimate your initial photography budget*. Don't let initial pricing scare you, determine specifically what is important to you and then get specific pricing for EVERYTHING. Too often the one that 'looks expensive' upfront may actually just be the most honest. Most brides are happiest with the professional wedding photographer who they like and trust, the one who has proven in their work that they can consistently 'deliver the goods' and who has the expertise, equipment and know-how to get the job done right and really take care of them --not the fast-talking, deal-making, smoke and mirrors, flimflam sales trickster. (Beware the ol' Razzle Dazzle, some vendors promise "everything will be PERFECT". They will tell you just what you want to hear, so you will book them, instead of what they should be telling you to insure your wedding-day success! Good vendors can make or break your day ...choose yours carefully!)
Weddings are very photographically challenging and non-wedding photographers usually don't have enough wedding-day experience to do the job right. The best wedding photographers are in demand and book at premium prices. The ones hurting for business are quick to 'cut you a deal' and are known for trying to preasure you into booking them quickly. If the photography is important to you, don't delay, determine what is important to you and do some research and find the wedding photographer who can best give you what you really want, before another bride books them for your date.
Having narrowed the search only to 'reputable photographers' that meet the above criteria then I would start with the photos... not just the few carefully chosen 'once-in-a-lifetime' display or 'award-winning' photos on thier website but view several actual real-life customer albums from beginning to end from several REAL weddings (similar to yours) (view our albums at: www.onlineweddingphotograhy.com)and lots of images by the same potential photographer (not the contracted assistant or a former employee) the one who will actually be photographing your wedding so you get a real good feel for their style and capability --this will also give you a realistic expectation of what they can really do for you, because when the smoke clears and the salesmanship razzle dazzle is over the photographs (preserved in albums or frames) are what will remain and no amount of sales-hype can make-up for poor-quality.
When viewing the images ask yourself; does this photo look natural or contrived, real or fake? Is this picture of what was really happening or what the photographer made happen? You will find over time that the realistic and natural looking photographs will become your favorites and that the contrived ones (although they may catch your eye initially) will over time become nauseating.
A great photograph is a split second slice of time, that distinctive moment, when the photographers artistic eye triggers an electromechanical event creating the harmonious convergence of art and science which stirs an everlasting, emotional impression upon its viewers. Unlike the cook that's being trained by the head-chef at a restaurant, all the best supervision, training, coaching and editing won't make-up for a photographer that doesn't have that natural talent, the artistic eye, sensitive heart and technical skills required for great wedding photography. It's a gift that not every photographer possesses!
Don't base your decision on their 'one-chance-in-a-million', top-10 photos of all time (one from each year?) Or the 15 BEST 'award-winning' pictures on their website as these may represent less than 1% of the photos they have ever taken, you may end up disappointed when only 1% of your photos are as good as the ones they showed you!
You don't hire other vendors without seeing, tasting, hearing, feeling what they offer, expect the same from your potential photographer. You need to get beyond their 'specially chosen for advertising purposes' photos and into their realistic everyday wedding photos. If you chance upon a photo that you absolutely love ask enough questions of the photographer about that specific photo to see if there is a remote chance of getting a similar one on your wedding day. (Many once-in-a-lifetime images are unrepeatable.)
Some photographers don't want you to see too much of their work as they want you to think they never take a 'bad picture'. I want you to see the good, the bad and the ugly because I want you to understand the reality of photojournalistic photography, we aren't going to get the great shots you want without taking a few 'bad' ones! Photographers that pose and contrive every shot take a lot less pictures. I will take plenty of photos at your wedding so you have lots of choices for your album. If your potential photographer has any excuse for not showing you HUNDREDS of images from recent weddings or several actual complete albums or if you don't like their style --move on.