It doesn't matter whether or not a wedding has five guests or 500. It may be held at the Queen's palace or under the mulberry tree. Ceremonial act upon act may piece the day together or it may be devoid of every tradition in the book. Regardless of what type of wedding you have, it goes without saying that a wedding photographer is an absolute necessity. Pictures retell the story of the day over and over again for many years to come. The spontaneous reactions of pure joy, intimately absorbed glances, the frenzied excitement, and blissful calm-the camera should capture the most potent moments of the day. Not only should the photos represent the actions of the ceremony and reception, but they should also evoke the myriad moods and emotions expressed throughout the event. That is why it is so important to find a photographer with a skilled eye; one who knows how to capture those most memorable moments that will be shared and cherished for years to come.
In every wedding image collection, there is at least one picture, if not many more, that stands out above all others. Everyone who comes across this photograph stops to admire it longer. It seems to communicate something to its viewers that no other picture can express. Though the image itself may be unique, the moment it has captured is not. It may be the bride and groom standing in a dimly lit hallway, a great grandmother getting down on the dance floor, or a flower girl's funny folly down the aisle. It is the nature of the event. Within the short period of time allotted to the celebration, hundreds of meaningful, impassioned moments arise, with the bride and groom at center-stage for most of them. The guests feel it and react to it. Life and love is breathed into the day itself. Everyone is swept away in a whirlwind of excitement, and unfortunately, oftentimes, many of the wonderful moments are swept away as well.
It is up to the photographer to ensure that such moments are recorded and kept for posterity. His camera freezes the activity, so that each time the pictures are viewed, a new breath of life and love is breathed into the day. Your memory is refreshed, and all of the joys and intricacies of your wedding come rushing back to mind. Capturing these important images can be no small feat, but with the right wedding photographer, it is possible to obtain those special images.
Not surprisingly, the need for wedding photographers is great. With this need comes an overabundance of individuals with cameras calling themselves 'professionals' and professing to provide the best wedding photography. It seems easy enough. A wedding is filled with so many opportune moments to take a picture. All the photographer has to do is pick up the camera and snap away. Not until the negatives have been developed, or the digital images have been posted online, do you realize the errors of your ways, and more specifically those of the person who was holding the camera. Action pictures are not in focus, the top of your mother's head is repeatedly cut off, the lighting is all wrong..it happens. Not all wedding photographers are created equally. There is a great divide between those at the top of their game and those who are just learning to use their flash. There are many things to consider when choosing the right photographer.
First, recognize the significance of high-quality pictures that you will cherish for many years to come, and, equally important, the disadvantage of not having them. Knowing this, you should be prepared to invest time in finding the best photographer possible.
Some photographers will work with you on the type of pictures you want, while their particular style may be less flexible. This, you will ascertain by looking through their portfolio and discussing how she classifies her work. An entire book of portraiture should not make a wedding album; it is the candid pictures that tell the real story behind the wedding. These photos separate one album from the next, conveying that special thing that sets apart your wedding day from all the rest. Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) member Jonathan Adams describes himself as a "hands-off photographer." He believes, "The greatest photographs come from those unscripted, decisive moments that are fleeting in the eye, but forever held in the mind." Like other good photographers, Adams knows that the most beautiful images are created when the subjects are relaxed. It is then that their personality shines through. When looking through the photographer's portfolio, look for those images that stand out, the one's that grab your attention, and transport you into the picture. If you can flip from one image to the next without lingering, then you may want to find yourself another photographer.
WPJA member Benjamin Rusnak will spend up to ten hours photographing each wedding. A photojournalist as well as a wedding photographer, Rusnak incorporates his storytelling skills into documenting the entire wedding from start to finish. This requires a lot more energy, skill, and dedication (not to mention time) than simply getting a few 'classic poses,' and the results are ultimately superior.
While interviewing the potential candidate, there is information that cannot be gathered by asking questions. Simply, do you click with the individual face to face, on the phone, or via e-mail?
Finally, once you've decided upon the right photographer, you need to sit back and trust in his/her skill. WPJA members are granted inclusion based upon the quality of their work. Many are among the finest in the field and have received numerous awards. The outstanding work of Neil Cowley personifies such high standards. In Cowley's estimation, "The photographer's responsibility to the viewer is to be honest and straight forward, not create the scenes himself," but instead, "to find, capture and relate the expressions, moments and details of the day."
In the end, what is important is for you to be happy with your pictures today, tomorrow, and fifteen years from now. With a commitment to finding the right photographer, and a reliance on reputable wedding resources, such as the WPJA, you will have a collection of timeless pictures that consistently conjure up all of the vibrant memories of your wedding day.
— by Emily Anderson/Lauren Ragland for The Wedding Photojournalist Association