You’ve likely seen the video that went viral about the officiant who got angry at the wedding photographers when they encroached upon the ceremony space, making loud camera noises:
Leaving aside the debate whether or not the officiant was righteous in telling them to back off, I think we can all agree that photographers being obtrusive like a flock of paparazzi helped create the environment where something like this could happen.
That's why it's so important to remember this: When it comes to choosing your photographer, don’t make the mistake of thinking only about the photography.
Here’s a thought borrowed from acclaimed acting teacher Stella Adler (whose students included Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro). "It's not enough to have talent; you have to have a talent for your talent." Her admonition was that to rely solely on natural talent only works when things go well. But it’s training and honed skills that get you through and deliver results when things don’t quite fall into place.
And let’s be frank; with all its various personalities, moving parts, and details involved, plenty of things at your wedding may not exactly fall smoothly into place. That’s just the way real life goes — point being, talent alone is not enough. Talent needs to be honed and developed. Skills have to be learned, and then they need to be practiced until they become second nature. Then experience serves to yield insight and refine those talents and skills.
Something else to consider is how well-versed the photographer is with your type of wedding. Moreover, they need to have a polished workflow in place for the day that’s in harmony with the timing of your wedding. What good are their technical photo-making abilities, no matter how well-honed, if they don’t know how to navigate your wedding day? I was a guest at a wedding where, just when they were about to put on their rings, everyone heard an audible "oh [expletive]!" Their wedding photographer had gone to the rear of the venue to change a card and suddenly realized he was in the wrong spot at the wrong time — and caught completely unprepared. His problem: He didn’t know what was to happen next in the wedding, and his work process put him far away from where he needed to be at that crucial moment.
Consider how your photographer fits in with who you are and who your family and friends are. There are photographers who use questionable language, mannerisms, and humor, which may fit in just fine with some people and some weddings, but maybe not so much everyone else.
Good people skills are really important to consider when you’re looking at photographers. Because the wedding photographer is typically involved with most of the wedding day, there’s the great possibility they’ll be interacting with almost everyone at your wedding. Actually, it's probably more than a possibility; it’s almost impossible to go through a wedding day and not interact with anyone at all. That means the photographer has face time where he or she needs to say and do the right thing with not just the two of you, but also with your family members, your guests, your officiant, your banquet manager, your event coordinator, your musicians, your waitstaff... because how they talk to and handle everyone — and how they handle themselves — will either help or hurt the effort, as is painfully evident in that viral video I mentioned earlier.
This isn't a new phenomenon; we’ve all heard horror stories of arrogant or prima donna wedding photographers who disrupt the wedding, are curt with guests, act abrasively towards the other professionals on your team, and defy the officiant's instructions. Photographers have even been known to make a little flower girl cry. We’ve also all heard stories of photographers who fumbled and dropped the ball, gave lip service, blamed others, and made excuse after excuse for their shortcomings and failures. They didn't take responsiblity for any mistakes, and they didn't handle their inexperience very well. Flush out those types when you’re interviewing photographers by paying close attention to their personalities.
Additionally, your wedding photographer needs to know how to keep your wedding on time, moving things along when needed without rushing you or the photos, firmly yet gently and politely. Photographers needs to think quickly on their feet when plans go haywire, while keeping their cool and calmly, effectively, and quickly get things back on track.
You could sum this all up by saying choosing your wedding photographer isn’t merely about finding talent, skills and expertise, but additionally about finding the right person who acts, walks, talks — and works — as a true professional.
More than simply "talent" is required. If you really want a truly great experience from an equally great photographer, I’d suggest finding someone who can do that one basic thing that will take your wedding day photography experience from that of a camera-wielding shooter to a seamless curator of moments, and your wedding coverage from ordinary to the most meaningful, beautiful images you could possibly have: Someone who sees the bigger picture. A photographer with vision.
—G.E. Masana, a NYC-based wedding photographer
Probably the only wedding photographer in NYC coming from the art world, G.E. Masana's roster of wedding clients have included magazine editors, models, art directors, actors, opera singers, cinematographers, fashion designers, graphic artists and photographers. He's been seen in Bridal Guide, Town & Country, New York Magazine, Style Me Pretty, among many more. He currently writes about weddings for Huffington Post. A sought-after documentary wedding photographer, he's been interviewed by the two leading international professional wedding photography journals and was awarded by the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers. To see more of his work, visit gemasana.com.