Are you planning a short-notice, small wedding or elopement?

Many couples don’t want to wait. They are planning to get married in the very near future, eloping, or rushing a small ceremony with their photographer, some close friends, and family but dispensing with or postponing the reception party. 

View WPJA photo stories from smaller weddings - WedElope | Choose love, not fear!

6 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Creative Professional Photographer for Your Wedding

July 21, 2019
Creative and Professional Wedding Photography from the Reception

Photo by: Andrew Billington, Staffordshire, United Kingdom

Like many brides and grooms, your wedding could be the first time you’ll be hiring a creative professional. You might think the ins and outs of working with a wedding photographer are as simple as writing a check. What could be so difficult, right? But just ask any talented pro, and you’ll get a grateful explanation as to why it’s so important to truly understand their creative process.

How you manage your relationship with a wedding photographer can have just as profound an impact on the photographs as the day unfolding before the camera. Luckily, you and your photographer both want the same outcome: amazing photos that capture the feeling of the wedding day. Award-winning WPJA members have noted that one of the privileges of wedding photojournalists is that they are able to capture authentic, real-life, often fleeting moments that, with their help, will never be forgotten. Learn how to be one of those couples who are truly grateful for the services their photographer can offer.  

1. FOCUS ON THE CREATIVITY, NOT THE BUSINESS

Some of our wedding photographers suggest that it is more important to focus on the creative process rather than only the business side of things when you’re going to work with a wedding photojournalist. Of course, you’ll both sign a contract, and ultimately there will be details relating to the types of packages purchased, the number and format of proofs, schedule, costs, and possibly album design, but that should all be secondary when it comes to selecting and working with your creative professional.

However, even when comparing the various packages, our members advise not to get too caught up in the details, noting that the number of pictures you receive won’t matter if you don’t have a good understanding of your potential photographer’s style. Ultimately, it won’t matter how many proofs you get if you are not in love with the photographs.

Once you’ve made your decision, remember to take care of all those pesky business details before the wedding day arrives. Your photographer needs to be truly present, prepared to capture your moments, and not preoccupied with tracking the types of photographs he’s taking or worrying about collecting payment.

2. DON’T DIRECT

This is the biggest pet peeve of wedding photojournalists far and wide: brides, grooms, parents, reception coordinators, bridesmaids, DJs and various other guests who give constant direction about what, when and how to photograph the wedding. As our members have pointed out, they know that you want them to photograph elements such as the flowers or a beautiful moment with a backdrop of a sunset as this is their job and they know what they’re doing.

No photographer likes to be given constant art direction. Remember: you’ve hired a wedding photojournalist because they don’t style photographs. Not only is it annoying, but perpetual third-party direction also takes away from the creative element of documentary-style wedding photography. Directing is the antithesis of the natural, unscripted moment. And, as members have added, the more time you spend giving direction, the less you are spending doing what you should be; enjoying your wedding and thereby providing those natural moments that you’ve hired your wedding photojournalist to capture.

Members have further added that when there is too much direction and distraction, the wedding photojournalist actually ends up missing the exceptional moments you hired them to capture. They aim to enter the wedding fresh with no pre-staged concepts in order to allow their lens to record the events of the day as they unfold. If your wedding photographer is constantly getting backed up with one portrait after another, they are not capturing what they are there to capture and end up being unable to photograph the natural, real images occurring around them. The reason you hired a documentary-style wedding photographer was specifically to capture those kinds of moments, so be sure not to make your photographer miss those by bogging them down with every possible portrait request.  

3. COORDINATE WITH OTHER CREATIVE VENDORS

Often times, brides and grooms don’t think about coordinating the styles of all of the other creative pros they’ve hired to cover their wedding. Our members suggest, in order to avoid any pitfalls, you make sure that all of the creative individuals you decide to employ are going to work well together based on their styles. If you hire your wedding photographer because you like a certain element of their style, in particular, it’s a good idea to make sure that the same stylistic approach will mesh well with the style of your videographer.

For instance, if the videographer has a style that involves a lot of direction (like making you put on your dress five times), that may not create the best situation for a wedding photojournalist who doesn’t take any staged shots. Our members have gone on to clarify that what they mean by ‘working well together’ is not necessarily that all of your creative employees must be able to work together in a literal sense, but that they should all be on the same page regarding how the day will go. One thing you can do to aid in their understanding is to ask your vendors specific questions regarding their processes. Additionally, you might consider talking to your other vendors about your photographer’s style, which will help them to avoid unproductive interruptions or unnecessary assistance.  

4. TRUST YOUR WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALIST

If you’re constantly worrying about the photographers—are they getting good shots; taking enough pics; Do I look good? —then you’re not living in the present. According to our top wedding photojournalists, rather than being a product, their services should be thought of as a promise, making trust a key ingredient in the client-photographer relationship. Surely you chose them in the first place because you trusted them, so allow them to do what you hired them to do. Additionally, if you are constantly worrying and prompting them, you will not be able to enjoy your day or, likely, the resulting photographs. On the other hand, your confidence in them will reflect in the images they capture.

In fact, it is infinitely more important to be comfortable enough to experience strong emotion, cry even, in front of your photographer than it is to micromanage them. Our members say that beyond trying to pose or constantly look your best in every shot, the best way to get the wedding photos you want is by remembering that wedding photojournalists have keen, artistic eyes and therefore are fully capable of developing a vision for your day.

5. YOU CAN’T CONTROL EVERYTHING: ACCEPT IT

Trust is also closely related to giving up control. Part of trusting your photographer is being able to hand over the reins. Accept that you cannot control everything; that’s why you hire professionals to carry out a shared creative vision. Realize that when you try to control too much, you’re actually hijacking the creative process.

For example, one element that our members note is particularly ineffective and hindering is the list. This is not to say that a list of the family is unnecessary but rather lists noting every specific moment the client wants to be photographed (e.g., the centerpieces, the bride and groom’s kiss during the ceremony, the bouquet toss, and even minutia such as the place settings). Instead of worrying about checking off a list and fulfilling so many specific expectations, what your photographer wants most is to be able to tell the story of your day.

If you give a wedding photojournalist too long of a to-do list, it distracts them from what you hired them to do in the first place: shoot spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime moments that can’t be predicted, and therefore, could never be included on a list.

6. FEED YOUR WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALIST WELL

Even the hardest-working photographers need to eat. You know that woozy-can’t-think-straight-lightheaded feeling you get when you haven't eaten, and you’re on your feet all day? One of the last people you want feeling this way at your wedding is the person with the responsibility of capturing your most special moments for posterity.

Of course, you’re busy with all of the planning, but remember that your photographer will be with you all day, capturing every graceful move, and unless you think ahead to arrange a hot meal, he or she, or an assistant, may have to physically leave the premises in order to eat. It’s just another tiny detail among hundreds, but this one is worth remembering.

Our WPJA members have concurred, with some of them saying that they have even designated time to eat in their contracts. Your photographer will be with you the entire day, so it is beneficial to both of you that he or she eats something substantial.