Sunday, September 14, 2008

Family Photographer

!!!We often hear about the Bride who has a "cousin/friend/uncle" with a camera who is going to photograph the wedding. They are just starting out and have great pictures - but are they really ready to photography a wedding? It depends on a number of factors: what equipment they have, their experience working with people, comfort with their camera functionality and how they work under pressure -
Lets address each issue.

Equipment: The camera lens, in our option is the most critical tool a photographer can have. Is it a FAST lens? - What is the focal length range, does it support image stabilization? The reason the lens may be more important than the camera or mega pixel size is that ALL images MUST pass through this glass before the camera can do its job. If the wedding is in a church or low light wedding venue, the size of the aperture (speed of lens) will make or break the quality of the images. Low light requires several elements coming together - Shutter speed, stability of camera and how much light will the lens allow. This is where the Pro often outshines the hobbyist(or beginner) photographer. An aperture of f/2.8 or better is considered a FAST lens, most non-professional photographers or those just starting out can only afford a basic lens in the f/4.0 to f/5.6 range - what this means is that they can not let in enough light and have to use slower shutter speeds to compensate, limiting their ability stop motion and end up with blurry images in a low light environment. Or they might have to use a Flash/Strobe -please note most churches do not allow flash photography. Also, a flash during a wedding ceremony tends to be distracting and is not well received by most. So, ask your friend/family member how fast their lens is. While still on the subject of the lens - lets look at focal length or zoom. Three critical lens are needed for a wedding: a Wide angle, a Normal(mid -range), and a Telephoto - These can all be zoom lens (wide 16mm - 35 mm) (normal 35mm - 70mm) (telephoto 70mm - 200mm) and it helps if all are FAST (low light). The bigger the lens (higher the magnification), the higher the shutter speed will need to be to compensate for the magnification of subject and motion. Sometimes even a 200 mm will not get close enough (that's when it time to pull out the biggie - 300mm or 400mm lens). A Wide angle lens (16mm to 35mm) will often be used for group photos of 10 or more people, reception overall room images, cake cutting, and dancing etc... Normal lens (35mm to 70mm) might be used for couples photos, cake cutting, general candid images... 70 mm - 200 mm Telephoto/Zoom - this is the prime lens for the close up altar images, dance images, plus those wonderful "soft focus" backgrounds where the subject is sharp and isolated from the background. These 3 prime lens represent a substantial investment to the professional photographer (and this does not include the cost of the camera or lighting equipment).

Camera bodies - Most modern Canon/Nikon bodies will be more than enough for the average Joe or Jane photographer - Stick with these two major brands as you can always "rent" a pro lens at almost any high end camera retailer (but just try to rent a Sony, Olympus, Fuji etc lens...) all good cameras - but the pros use Canon or Nikon for service, reliability, renting. Does your photographer have a back up camera? Yes, cameras do fail! It might be as simple as a battery recharge issue - or something else - Please make sure the family photographer brings back up equipment. Note: having a camera with the highest mega pixel doesn't mean you will get great photos....let's face it some cell phones have up to 8 mega pixels but you don't want your photographers taking your wedding photos with a cell phone just because it has an 8 mega pixel censor.

Tripods, MonoPods and cable releases- Its amazing that many new photographers and even some pros do not take advantage of this basic equipment which offers such stability. They find working with a MonoPod or Tripod restrictive - With experience and training this equipment becomes "second nature" and natural for the photographer to use and results in better photos. Most weddings do offer several low light "ambiance" situations and a tripod or monopod combined with a fast lens will save the day. If your looking for that evening glow after sunset, dark blue sky, or night photography without a the "flash look" - this equipment is a must!

The Experience Factor: What style of photos does your potential photographer take? If they are beautiful landscapes, sunsets, flowers, trees or still subjects - caution! None of the aforementioned imagery includes people. Even if your friend takes great photos of their child at play... Weddings are all about people and a LOT is going on. Humans move about and do unexpected things. A landscape or flower is a much more controllable situation than when the groom tosses the garter before the count of three! An experienced photographer is ready for unexpected moments.Working with people and large groups is another skill many new and hobbyist photographers just don't have under their belt. This experience often comes from working with a professional as an assistant for several events. Arranging groups, tall to short, placement of colorful clothing - the 3 to 5 year old family member that does not want his/her picture taken all come into play when it time for the family photos. All of it takes experience to bring out the best.

Desire: Does the new/hobbyist photographer want a job in photography or a career in photography or just to take pretty pictures? How many photo magazine subscriptions and books about photography they have can be a clue as to how passionate the photographer is? Almost anyone can take a class in photography, but those that hunger for more knowledge beyond the classroom are the career driven photographers and the ones you want at your wedding. They will have the magazines, blog subscriptions - Self help photography DVD's - continuing education is the mark of a professional in any profession.

Gender/Experience:. My wife and I have been photographing weddings together for over 8 years. I can't tell you how many times during the first few years of wedding photography that my Debra photographed a detail image I might have missed. Many detail images a woman frequently looks for will be a a learned effort for some male photographers or even ignored as unnecessary. Most guys just don't think about the importance of the shoes (men tend to rent those black patent leather ones with their tux). Ladies can spend weeks or months just shopping for shoes. How about Grandma's pearl necklace? Or, the fun toast photo in the bride's room? There is a definite value to having a female photographer in the brides room if the bride is in a state of undress... a man in the room just won't do! This is when the male photographer is with the groom. Experience is also important - Even though Debra and I have years of photography experience with studio, corporate, magazines, newspapers etc before we ventured into wedding photography... we both assisted professional wedding photographers before we took on our first job as a "wedding photographer"... There IS a difference! So, when you are ready to have Uncle Bob or best friend Sue take your wedding photos - please consider what results you are looking for. Many advanced amateur photographers would do a wonderful job as an assistant or 2nd shooter - but might not be ready for the big show. We often make a "photo friend" at the wedding, most often during the reception when someone starts asking questions about our "big lens" - remote equipment, or the what not - These photo friends often follow up later and become assistants. We remember when we were just starting out - and learned from the Pros before asking brides and grooms to consider us as their primary photographers. So please choose wisely and have a great wedding... remember you will have these photos for the rest of your lives.


DCM Photography said...

Well Said!

Dream Images Photography said...

I could't have said it better myself, Ray. Thanks for posting this blog. All of these bullets are important details that brides/grooms really need to focus on.