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July 17, 2019

Beyond the pretty pictures: A guide to choosing a wedding photographer.

It is not always an easy task to choose the person you’ll trust with some of the most precious memories of your life thus far. There is endless advice in magazines and blogs of what couples should look for in their wedding photographer; some good, some honestly horrible. Instead of focusing on the more obvious inquiries one should ask their potential photographer (maybe I’ll save this for a later post?) this guide will dive a bit deeper into three aspects of wedding photography for those who are looking beyond the basics, and especially for those who appreciate and value a documentary style of wedding photography.

1. Look for a wedding photographer who is comfortable solving problems (quickly!) and can think on their feet.

Does the wedding photographer have the experience, knowledge, and are they level headed enough to handle unforeseen circumstances, tricky location and lighting situations? You’ll want to trust the person telling your story to have the know-how to think on his or her feet and solve issues that might come up, all whilst remaining cool headed and calm, and telling the whole story the way it deserves to be told. In your initial meeting, don’t be afraid to ask to see or hear about examples!

Bride twirls in wedding dress
Styling took longer than expected (a very common occurrence on wedding days), we had very limited time for Michaela to get ready. We had about 10 minutes before she was set to walk down the aisle, and we were in a pepto-pink colored church basement cafeteria. I quickly instructed my assistant to set up lighting outside the doors, and we were able to capture a few gorgeous portraits of her, while cutting out the block concrete walls on all sides, all within minutes.
Prayer moment during christmas wedding ceremony
Some locations call for a little bit of extra finesse. Because this venue was extremely dark, we used flash to create a dramatic, now framable photograph of their intimate, beautiful Christmas wedding.

Newlyweds walk down the aisle after being married
Photographers should be able to handle tricky lighting, and make it look effortless. As you can tell by the light on the curtain behind the couple, the light at Union Station in Kansas City was extremely bright shining through the windows on my right. Due to the difference in exposures between when they stepped into shadow vs. direct light was quite harsh. I had to quickly make a decision to capture them in the light and expose the frame correctly within seconds as they walked back down the aisle after being married. The end result was as planned. Beautiful and dynamic, just like the couple.
Bride and groom getting married in front of stained glass
Another darker church in Kansas City, and another need for problem solving. Instead of leaving my couple with a bunch of dark, grainy images, I brought it lighting and captured their beautiful ceremony whilst simultaneously highlighting the beautiful stained glass behind them.

2. Look for examples in photographer portfolio’s of creativity, and thinking outside the box.

Are you a couple that values creativity, or wants their images to be replicas of others? Life does not fit into a perfectly crafted box. It’s wild and crazy, emotional and unique. Your engagement & wedding story, even if it goes perfectly to plan, will be too. You should still be able to trust your photographer to bring out their creativity while remaining true to their style.

To be a bit more creative during their portrait time, I decided to use the lace parasol Katie was carrying, to create a personal and unique silhouette of the couple.
bridal party running into waves after beach wedding
During this Dominican Republic destination wedding, I stood waist deep in the ocean to capture this fun photograph of Ravyn and Quincy’s amazingly fun wedding party.
engaged couple silhouette in front of kansas sunset
Lighting is everything! While I could try to create this image again, there’s no way I could, and I love that. This exact image will only be theirs, forever. Everything came together to be completely unique and beautiful for Castlen & Cory’s engagement session.
girlfriends hold hands after holi powder fight
I had a few ideas I wanted to play with, so I invited my friend Erin & girlfriend Victoria out to play with some different concepts. By using creative lighting, we took this holi powder fight up a notch or ten.

3. Make sure you truly understand different approaches to wedding photography.

Does the wedding photographer’s shooting style align with how you envision your day being remembered years down the road? Will those images stand the test of time? There’s quite a difference between wedding photography styles, beyond simple editing style or equipment used. In the very basic sense, a traditional/editorial wedding photographer is going to be someone who directs, poses, and perfects what is being photographed. A pure photojournalistic approach is precisely opposite – little to no direction; the wedding is photographed as is, with no intrusion from the photographer.

Most photographers – including myself – are somewhere on a spectrum between the two. The difference lies in the emphasis of the approach. Take a look at the photographer’s immediate, online portfolios (website, social media, and advertising images). If they advertise mostly carefully posed photographs and detail images, their emphasis is a traditional style. If the portfolio shows candid, unscripted images that may invoke strong feelings or otherwise tell the story in a unique manner, they are likely to focus more on candid moments and photojournalism. There are nuances to everything, and it’s an extremely important topic of conversation with your prospective photographer to guarantee the perfect fit for your personality and wedding day.

Wedding photojournalists generally aren’t afraid to get close to tell the story, Many times, it’s where the emotion and meaning lies within the story.
black and white portrait of newlyweds having fun
As previously mentioned, most photographers’ styles lie on a spectrum between purely photojournalistic and traditional. Posed photographs are important to most clients, even if only a few. Will the photographer be able to keep that feeling of the unposed, candid moment, even when photographing an otherwise posed moment?
ring bearer throws tantrum during wedding ceremony
A photojournalist commonly tells a story within a story. Here, during the larger picture of the wedding ceremony, Cory and Cassie’s little boy Rhett has had enough.

Choosing a wedding photographer that fits your ideal style, personalities, and goals is not always easy, but comes down to trust. Nearly anyone can prove a wedding happened, especially when the stars align and its a straight forward day. However, when couples value creativity and the ability to solve problems and think quickly, it’s vital to ask the hard questions of a photographer, and dive deep into their approach and experience.

Questions about this advice, or looking to inquire about your own wedding? CLICK HERE and we’ll chat!

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