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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
I wouldn't pay big money for a solitary wedding photographer that only has one camera and doesn't use a second photographer. They will only give you a very one-dimensional, boring documentary view of your wedding. (I say leave the documentary photography to governmental evidence technicians and if you need those at your event you are in real trouble!) I prefer thorough artistic coverage of the distinguishing highlights of your unique event. Find a photographer that doesn't limit the amount of pictures taken and is shooting for an album, not one who is only shooting for a CD. When the photographer is only shooting to fill a CD they won't shoot with as much care as a photographer who is shooting for a quality-guaranteed album. Be sure your photographer gets your wedding covered thoroughly and be sure thay understand the important details you want highlighted that you worked so hard on.
Don't pay for a photographer if their photos look the same as what uncle 'Bill' might take. Professional medium-format is what professional photographers have used for nearly 80 years, why would you settle for a photographer who only has 35mm cameras! Professional high-definition digital cameras with 12+ megapixels should be the minimum requirement, anything less is a compromise of quality. What about backup equipment? Consumer-quality equipment brings consumer-quality results. What kind of commitment is shown by one who is amateurishly prepared? Equipment will eventually break, what if their one camera breaks at your wedding? We covered a rainy outdoor wedding once that caused 4 of our water-logged cameras to stop working, good thing we had 2 cameras that still worked! We didn't miss anything!
You hire a professional to insure professional quality and services, don't settle for less. We insure a unique variety of coverage and backup equipment through the use of two photographers with up to 6 cameras, 10 lens and upto 8 light units. We only use professional top-of-the-line quality equipment, suppliers and products. This combination along with our artistic eye, experience and know-how just begin to make our work stand-out among professionals. Add to that our personality, philosophy, talent and ability, along with our experienced partner/backup photographer/assistant and you have a uniquely incomparable combination at any price.
I have recently seen a lot of photographers taking my advice and using a greater variety of lenses and cameras at their weddings. The sad part is many don't understand when to use what lens or camera. Fisheye and cheap wide-angle lenses really distort the image especially on the edges and corners. This can be a cool effect when used appropriately but these types of lenses should NEVER be used for group or people photos unless there are only a few people dead center in the photo otherwise the people near the edges end up looking fat, squatty, leaning and distorted.
No two photographers are exactly alike, just like no two weddings are alike. The way in which the photographers artistic eye sees a moment and captures it with his camera, that unique moment that we call a photograph, communicates something about the way he sees the event. If the photographer can see your wedding the way you do, he will better be able to capture the most important and meaningful moments for you. The photographers vision and the way it is captured (his style) is the most critical connection to insuring you a successful photographic experience. A photographic style that you don't like isn't worth any amount of money! (Even if the photographer offers you lots and lots of it for a really low price!)
You will know you have found YOUR photographer when you have seen from their EVERYDAY work that they are truly capable of giving you what YOU want and your philosophies/ attitudes mesh. Find a photographer that is easy for you to work with. Some photographers believe they are also the MC/ Coordinator/ Dictator of Events and impose their schedule and wedding day plans on you. Some photographers have developed a reputation of upsetting the whole wedding day by being control freaks with lots of demands.
If you believe it's your day and should be handled your way, then don't hire a staunch traditionalist that believes he is the most important person at your wedding! Find one who is willing to take the pictures that will make you happy and not just the pictures that makes the photographer happy! If you want your photography experience to be fun, you shouldn't hire a 'stick-in-the-mud' even if you like their photos! On the other hand don't hire a 'center of attention' boisterous 'know-it-all' personality type who wants to be the center of attention on your day! (sometimes they can be easily identified as the one wearing hot pink!)
If the photography is important to you --don't skimp-- take the time and budget the money to get it done right! Ask yourself and your potential photographer, have I budgeted enough money so you can really do the kind of job my wedding deserves? If you take short-cuts on the things that are important to you, you will regret it later. A full-time professional who charges top dollar for their services will also be able to fix an unforseen problem without any effort. A cheap vendor will cut corners just to make ends meet, will nickle and dime you to death every step of the way and will blame you for their errors or problems and will refuse to pay to fix them.
Once you have determined who offers a wedding photography style you like then re-visit their photos and pay close attention to the ones that will closely match your lighting conditions; dark indoors, bright windowed indoors, outdoors at evening, on the sunlit beach, at night, or cloudy, etc. (Since photography is the art of capturing light, an experienced photographer that is capable of handling assorted lighting conditions can perform well even if the location is unfamiliar to them.) Some photographers take nice photos in the late afternoon daylight but poor photos at night or indoors. Also look for consistency in style, there's a big difference between a once-in-a-lifetime 'lucky' award-wining shot and consistently great wedding photography.
Today there are a lot of digital 'tricks' applied to photographs to disguise poor quality. Often the 'smoke and mirrors' are an attempt to distract you from the real problems. Sometimes 'blown-out' images or improperly color-balanced images are converted to Black and White as an after-thought to attempt to save a bad photo. Improper color balance can result in a blue wedding dress. Very bright and pretty colors alone don’t make a great photograph. In photography school often the instructor will test the quality of an image by removing the color and then seeing if the image still has good composition, toneality, subject and interest, the use of color is only a small part of the whole equation.
When viewing images be careful not to judge the photos by the 'sizzle'. A beautiful photo of the inside of that centuries-old church in the south of France may not look quite the same as your wedding location. When looking at photos pay special attention to quality details: Does the image look too dark?, Too light? Do the colors look good?/ Realistic? or is the grass a weird fake lime-green color? Or are the faces too red, too blue or orange? Do the people in the photos have 'raccoon eyes' due to improper lighting? Are there details in both the dark and light areas of the photograph? Can you see details both in the white dress and the black tux? Or is it washed out? Does the bride's white dress have tints of blue, red or pinkish cast? Is the persons face too bright --burned-out by too much flash? How about cropping? Is the bottom of the brides dress inappropriately cut out of every photo? Does the photo look too bright where all the background details are washed out? Did they shoot into the sun with a poor-quality lens making the picture very washy with minimal contrast and details? Where is the point of focus? Is it somewhere other than the most important element of the picture?
Compare the quality of the group photos. Does it look like the people are standing in total darkness? Is the one-flash on camera obvious because there's a bright flash of light in the center of the photo and the background and edges are dark. Or is it unrealistically bright for the time of day? Can you see background and does it give you good visual information that adds to the continuity of the photograph? Did they capture the 'right' moment? Do the photos look natural and spontaneous? On the group shots can you see everyone's face with correct detail? Do the people on the sides look extra wide or like they are leaning out due to the photographer using a wide-angle lens? Does the background look good or is it too dark? Do you get the feeling of how the event really was or do the photographs look cheesy, forced, unnatural or contrived?
Are the pictures you are looking at actually taken by the same photographer that will be photographing your wedding? Or a sub-contractor or assistant or the previous owner who is now retired? Is the studio going to 'contract-out' your wedding to someone else? Were they taken with professional medium format equipment and high-definition professional digital camera equipment? Or small digital photography files and consumer-quality equipment? How much re-touching was done on the large photo you are looking at and when all was said and done what would this photo really cost you if you required the same amount of re-touching, etc.?
Are the reprints on top-quality professional paper (Kodak Endura) by a professional lab OR printed on cheap consumer injet paper at home? OR sam's wholesale club (look at the imprint on the back) Are they cropped & color-corrected? Or does it look like the corner drugstore developed them? Are your reprints unmarked and useable? Or stamped COPYRIGHT PROOF across the front. Does the finish add-to or distract-from the image? Are the smooth round parts of the image really smooth or does it have those digital jaggie edges? Is there a good variety of interesting photos from different perspectives or just one boring picture after another? What is the overall feeling you get from the photos you've been shown? Is that what you want captured on your wedding day?
Stiffly posed photographs may not effectively capture the true memories of your wedding day. When you look back years from now your most cherished wedding photos will be the ones that captured the memories of what really happened that day instead of what the photographer made happen. Nobody wants to feel awkward, silly & uncomfortable or be bossed around by the photographer on their wedding day. If you want them, we will create 'group portraits' that are natural, fun and relaxed in the quickest time possible according to your schedule so you can enjoy your day ...your way.
When viewing another persons wedding photos don't just look at the type of dress they wore or the color of their flowers, etc. actually put yourself in the photo, if this picture were taken of you on your wedding day would it be what you want for your memories? The photos that are 'true to you' will have the most lasting value and become more cherished over the years! Photos where you are made to look like 'somebody else' eventually become nauseatingly tiresome. (Cut to me saying: Isn't that 'special': GlamQueen?)
Next look at the quality of the workmanship in all their finished products --albums, frames, reprints, etc. A philosophy of quality is often reflected in many aspects of ones life. A quality-conscious person won't compromise that quality. A disturbing trend in business today is the cutting of every corner and skimping on quality materials and workmanship. When we meet I will show you some major quality differences in my products. Will the finished products last for several generations? What are the products actually made of? Faux finishes or the real thing? Quality 'wedding photography guarantees' are only as good as the people who stand behind them. How many times are you willing to return your album for 'repairs' and what happens to your 'guarantee' if the company goes out of business? --Inferior quality is a waste of money! Heirloom PhotoArt ®will bring generations of enjoyment!
Don't forget personality and temperament. Did you work with your actual photographer, or just a salesperson? Are you comfortable with this person? Do you feel you can work with them? Were they genuine or did you get the feeling they were being 'extra sweet' and 'kissing up' to you now to get you to book but may later turn unpleasant. Are they flexible enough to let you have your wedding your way? Are they the type of person that's content to be 'a fly on the wall' and do their job unobtrusively or does their ego demand that they be the center of attention? (will they wear hot pink at your wedding?) Are they going to impose their 'standard and required' photos on you and refuse to work with your ideas? Are they going to continually take you away from your guests and your party so they can create more photographs.
Do your personalities and wedding photography philosophies mesh? --An unpleasant photographer can ruin your whole wedding day, no matter how good their pictures might be. Nothing worse than the 'award-winning' husband/wife photography team arguing and fighting about how the bride should be posed in front of everyone in your wedding party! Or the bossy and controlling photographer that is rude to your family, friends and guests! Don't settle for someone else's version of what your wedding day should be ...make it your own!
If you aren't certain on the personality question, find out when and where the photographers next wedding will be and then show up (unannounced) at the end of the ceremony, sit in the back and see how the photographer handles the group photo session --when he doesn't have his salesman's face on! You could learn a lot! OR if you don't have the time to do that, call up some of the coordinators/videographers/DJ's/venues in town and ask them about specific photographers personalities they have worked with, they can tell you who is easy to work with and who gets nasty under the pressure of the wedding day.
I am a very straight forward realist and usually 'tell-it-like-it-is' so as to prevent any misunderstandings. I believe 'bad news' is better delivered sooner than later, if something isn't going to work I will tell you up front so we can make other plans that will work. I would rather lose your business initially by being honest than lie to you upfront and disappoint you later.