Wedding Photography Is About Commitment — on Both Sides

As a photographer, I make my living shooting subjects for magazines, advertising campaigns and large corporate clients. I’m generally given a brief, everyone involved knows what is required of them, and the aims and objectives are clear from the start.

From time to time, though, I find myself faced with a different type of job — a private commission. These can be family portraits, baby photos or weddings. And while I enjoy any job (I’m getting paid to take pictures, after all!), the client relationship can be very different, particularly in terms of matching expectations with the commitment required meet them.

A Tale of Two Weddings

To clarify what I mean, I’ll use the example of two weddings I photographed where the expectations of the couples were very different — and yet were a perfect match for the commitment they were willing to make to the photography.

In the first case, the happy couple wanted photographs of their day, but didn’t necessarily want to be photographed. They had heard stories of friends’ weddings where the photographer had been intrusive, distracting or generally “in the way.”

The couple didn’t want the day to be “staccatoed” by a photographer continually interrupting the events to get different shots, taking away from the proceedings and stopping them from letting their hair down.

A more low-key approach suited their aims (and my style) perfectly. Apart from the traditional line-up photographs of friends and family, they opted for the candid approach to wedding photography. Non-intrusive documentation of the day, with happy portraits of people conversing, enjoying themselves and celebrating their friends’ union.

A Greater Commitment

By contrast, another wedding I booked required a much greater commitment on the part of the bride and groom and their families.

They had seen the work of wedding photographers such as Jasmine Star and Ann Hamilton, and rather than just documenting proceedings, they were looking for something that captured the essence of their relationship and the love they felt for each other as well.

They wanted photographs that were a symbol of the day, rather than just a record of it. They understood that to achieve this would mean putting aside a period of time during the day just to pose for photographs.

With their input and efforts, the mission was accomplished and everyone was happy.

I’ve specifically mentioned Star and Hamilton (who also takes amazing photographs of dogs!) because I admire and respect their work in the field of wedding photography. They’re at the top of their game, and are two of a new breed of wedding photographers who are producing beautiful pictures that capture the romance, personalities and magic of the special day.

I see what they do as being a typically American approach to the art that requires dedication and skill, and is fast becoming popular on this side of the Atlantic, too.

But achieving photos of this quality and style requires input and work from all parties — not just the photographer. The bride and groom must be prepared to put some effort into helping the photographer create the images that everyone is looking for.

Matching Commitment to Expectations

Which brings me to the example of a third wedding I shot.

In this case, the couple had seen pictures in the style of Star and Hamilton, and wanted to create similar memories of their day. But in planning their day they hadn’t included time for photography.

Indeed, they didn’t like the idea of being asked to participate in photographs to this extent, reeling away (in true British style) from being asked to pose for such pictures.

Clearly, they weren’t aware of the interaction required, and the work expected of them to achieve their goals. So ultimately, after we discussed the pros and cons of different photographic styles, and with my advice, they opted for a more documentary style of coverage.

The lesson for clients here is that when you’re booking a photographer for your wedding, consider what might be expected of you in order to achieve the pictures you are looking for.

If you can’t set aside time for photography on the day or don’t want the photography to be too intrusive, you may be better advised to opt for the candid documentary approach. If you want something more atmospheric that will recreate a feeling of romance whenever you look at the photos, you may have to put more work into it than you expect.

Ultimately, you need to speak with your photographer, and listen to what he or she suggests. Remember — you don’t get married every day, so it’s worth putting in the effort to capture the images you really want.

6 Responses to “Wedding Photography Is About Commitment — on Both Sides”

  1. Too true, for all aspects of photography not just weddings. Many clients expect perfection as the result of calling a real photographer. They don't appreciate the time and effort that is required for some product and corporate shots.

  2. There is always an element of education involved in any wedding pre-consultation, not only to understand customer expectations but also to help develop them with the client.

    If after a pre-consultation I felt unable to meet their expectations in terms of the "results" and "method", I'll simply pass on the job. Fortunately this has never happened, the education element of the pre-consultation usually resolving any such conflicts.

    I do feel strongly that any job should remain enjoyable to the photographer, and maintain the essence of his/her own style, even at the cost of losing a client or two!

  3. Magic can't be made without the assistants.For a wedding, like it or not, the bride and groom are called on to be the assistants, and too few of them recognise that. I HAVE rejected clients who weren't able to accept that reality.

  4. Ya you just have to get on the same page with your clients so I make their first opportunity to meet with me (my website usually) fairly informative. That way it can entice the clients who get me and weed out the ones I don't. Its just better for both parties.

  5. There is no question that you have got to be on the same page as your client. In all the years of working as a creator I have found it is generally impossible to know the imagery that is in the other persons mind and there for e what you want to realize together. However if the spirit (commitment) is there things can work out magically.

  6. I'm going on my 2nd yr in the photography business & I'm discovering new things constantly, such as this posting - thanks for this blog. Jen

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