3 things you should not ask a wedding photographer
Chances are, you read them in the top ten questions to ask a photographer blog from a bridal magazine. You wrote them down. Then, as you're having your one on one chit chat with that prospective photographer, you start going down the list and one at a time ask them the questions, and then try to pencil in their responses so you can compare them to the other prospects.
This series is going to dive into those burning questions that all the hip bridal magazines and blogs are telling brides to ask wedding photographers. While I am an absolute enthusiast for getting to know as much as possible about your wedding photographer during the hiring process, I am also a huge opponent of vague questions that leave a photographer to either be completely stumped, or spiel off some prefabricated auto response that has no bearing on who they are!
There is a better way! And I'm going to dive into helping brides discover the root of what they really want to know, so that they can get honest applicable responses from the photographers in question.
What Style of Wedding Photographer Are You?
While telling brides that they should find out a photographers' style definitely makes for a good article, it is of little, if any, real use to brides in their search for the perfect wedding photographer.
So you read a blog, and this blog probably gave you a list of 3 or 4 different style types and then a 2 or 3 sentence explanation of each. But they forgot something... they forgot to actually take the perspective of wedding photographers and find out how this will help brides make a decision. They needed to fill some space and came up with things that sounded kind of like styles and stuck them in there. That's why almost every single blog has completely different things on their list!
Let's say you are looking to hire someone who is new to wedding photography, chances are, they read the same article you did and tried to figure out which style(s) they are... But how would they know? They haven't been a wedding photographer long enough to have a style, they are just showing up and shooting as much as they can, and praying it's good! Maybe you're looking for a seasoned professional. This probably means you are doing real research and trying to get to know as much as you can about the photographers before picking a select few to begin courting. But what would their answers actually tell you?
See, every article has a slightly different definition and sometimes name for the different so called "styles" of wedding photographers. When you ask a photographer their style, they are trying to put themselves in a box that doesn't really have a clear definition. Also, what if they feel like they shoot multiple styles, or that they don't have a style, or they haven't even thought about it.
Well, I'm going to get you to the real problem with this question, and then give you some real life alternative questions that will actually help you discover what you really wanted to know about your prospective image taker!
Wedding Photographers don't have a style!
That's right... well, at least not in the sense of what you are asking. You see, those four types you read about in those blogs are not really different "styles" of wedding photography.
First: Photojournalistic isn't a style with which one chooses to shoot a wedding. A wedding is an event that is unfolding in real time, therefore, all weddings require photojournalism of some form. If the photographer doesn't shoot photojournalism at all, and only waits throughout the wedding day for something they can pose and setup, then they aren't really a wedding photographer, they are just shooting portraits and products. But that doesn't mean that every wedding photographer you ask is going to tell you they are photojournalistic. Some assume it's implied, while others feel they have to say it.
Second: In every article there is usually one about commercial editorial, or "magazine" style... If a photographer is trying to shoot to get into magazines, but hasn't been in them, they aren't going to try to sell their services that way. If the photographer is already in magazines, it's probably posted on their website. But no one is going to answer a bride with "my work isn't for magazines, and I strive to keep my weddings from being in them."
Third: Digital and film are NOT styles of photography. Yes, it may be in the top of a very popular wedding magazine blog, but they're idiots and not photographers. If I asked you what style of painter you are, you answer with contemporary or realism or hyperrealism (that stuff gives me chills, I love it!) or something like that. You don't say my style is chalk...that is the medium you use! If someone asked Gordon Ramsey what style of chef he was, would he say Royal Doulton pans...? Well, maybe as a plug, but no, he would not say I use stainless steel instead of cast iron if someone asked him to describe his style of cooking!
Last but certainly not least... "Natural Light" is not a style! Yes, popular bridal blogs tell you to ask your photographer what type of style wedding photographer they are, and then proceeds to tell you natural light is a style. First, if all they can shoot is natural light, then you better have a morning or midday ceremony and reception outside. Second, this goes back to the same thing as before... if I use a light to take a shot, it is a tool... like chalk is a tool for drawing... my "style" is not a "light user", one of my tools for getting my "style" is light (sometimes natural, sometimes artificial). People often confuse "natural light" photography with a look, but natural light is just a part of how they shoot.
What are you really wanting to know?
Now we can turn away from the annoying ravings of a wedding photographer and turn to you, the bride, and really dig into what you are here for; help discovering who will best suit your wedding day photographic needs! So if natural and film are not styles, and photojournalistic is actually a necessity, what you need to break down is what you're actually hoping to attain in your quest for a definitive style.
If you want the natural light look, ask them if they can do that if you like their images but don't see a lot of that particular look on their page! If you are looking for someone who shoots film, do some research and find them. This is definitely something they would put on the forefront of their website, so it shouldn't be difficult to find. But if your search for a discovery of style within your wedding photographer lies deeper than those simple questions, here are three things you may actually be thinking about when wanting to know a style.
Are you asking how the photographer will handle certain things?
Ah, this is a good one! Maybe you have heard horror stories of rainy day woes... Maybe you have seen friends' reception photos so dark and grainy you can't tell it's them... Maybe you have some things during your wedding day that aren't typical. These are legitimate questions to ask your potential photographer.
Perhaps you want to know how much they try to pose or arrange things throughout the day to get their shots. This is something you should want to know because it affects you, and the photographer should be able to actually answer that question with some fervency.
Are you asking what type of images the wedding photographer creates?
Though they should obviously make this clear on their website, I will say that if you only see about 20 images on their site, and you love them, but maybe didn't really go digging before sending them a message, you are a little entitled to be curious about how they shoot certain things that might not necessarily be on their main portfolio. I.e. reception dance, candid stuff, ceremony pictures, or family formals. But if you can't tell if they are fashion vs. romantic oriented, or if their work is editorial or indie vintage (what some confuse with the words natural light) then them telling you isn't going to clarify anything!
Are you asking how the wedding photographer shoots?
As in are we crazy and all over the place? Or discrete and ninja-like? Are you afraid of a photographer offending Aunt Margaret with their crazy war hero-esque antics that they use to get shots? Or do you fear that an inherent shyness will keep them from pushing Aunt Margaret out of the way when she is blocking the center isle during the ceremony?
You may be wondering if we are going to take time to set up locations, lighting, and poses, or just fly by the seat of our pants the whole day. Any of this is fine, but if you don't have the time for setups, you need to know the photographer can handle it.
So it all boils down to trying to figure out what you are really trying to learn about the photographer, which is extremely important! Once you know what you are trying to learn, you can ask the right questions and their answers should help give you more clarity in your decision on who to hire!