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What makes a Wedding Photographer

The answer to this question most probably would interest every bride. Of course, using this criteria the young bride can find several candidates, make sure that they are the best at what they do. And then perform some kind of screening based on pure financial issues, such as who of those wedding photographers would satisfy her tight budget. So here I decided to make an attempt to help the young lady and answer the question from the other side of the fence.

Personal traits of a Wedding Photographer

First of all the professional wedding photographer should be a good person. It sounds strange and very simple, but if you look at the qualities of a good person you will understand me. The creative wedding photographer as anybody else should be reliable, optimistic and outgoing, persistent and probably calm. Among the other traits I would name respect, courtesy and "you-name-it". And on the second thought I would add physical endurance. So, why I say that your wedding photographer should have those qualities? Let's see.

  • Reliable - I don't think that you would want to have any kind of business with a person, who may let you down, especially, on the very important day of your life. What if the photographer simply didn't show up at your wedding or lost his memory card (of roll of film) with most exciting moments of the wedding day? At the wedding day there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and you definitely wouldn't want to rely on a person, who won't be able to perform his/her tasks. You should be able to trust him/her in taking care of you and your needs in the very important day of your life.
  • Optimistic and out-going - It may seem not the best or necessary traits of the business man, who is taking pictures. But many wedding photographers perform some kind of supporting functions. When something goes wrong an optimistic mind can easier and faster adapt and find a good solution (the right one). An out-going person with optimistic attitude brings smiles to people faces (which improves the quality of pictures) and such a person cheers people up and it seems things go much smoother around him/her. And it always nice to have smiling people around you.
  • Persistent - That's a good trait of a business man, who would perform his duties on time and of best quality despite the obstacles and simple laziness. You can expect your pictures and the wedding album to be done on time and with due diligence.
  • Calm - The wedding day is not the most smoothest and peaceful day of your life, admit it. There are a lot of things that could require immediate attention. (Later you will recall the day as a quite hectic one.) And a calm person won't spend time on panic or emotional burst. It is very important for a photographer who has to take photographs of those fleeting moments to stay calm and composed, which could not be repeat ever again.
  • Respect - The photographer is going to spend most of (if not all) the wedding day with you and interact with your family and all of the guests. You wouldn't want that the photographer to make a bad impression that will cast a shadow on you. It was your choice to pick this one and people would reflect his/her behavior on you. And definitely you don't want to argue with the photographer or worse make a scene.
  • Stamina - If you stop and think for a second, the wedding photographer is carrying a lot of stuff (cameras, lenses, bags, flashes and some other small things), which are not light and compact. And most of the wedding day the guy is on his feet. In my own experience, sometimes you have to crawl or jump. So there are a lot of physical exercises (if I may call it so), which the photographer does during the day. At the end of the wedding the tiredness is accumulating and to continue shooting the photographer needs a good stamina to do his job well.
  • You-name-it - There are a lot of other things that you may want your wedding photographer to have. But if I am correct, the main thing is that you could trust him/her and be more like friends, who you can trust or ask for advice and support. There should be some chemistry between you two (not as with your future spouse though), so this attitude and high spirits would show up in the photographs.
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People Skills

The other side of the professional wedding photographer is about his communication skills with people. And it doesn't include only you. To make a perfect wedding day a lot of people contribute their part and many of those people in one way or another will meet the photographer. Then there are all those nice people, which you invited to your wedding and want to give them that special treatment and memories that would live with them forever. So, what should the photographer have in him to fulfill this role right?

  • Being nice - mostly includes his personal traits, which I described above. Because usually people like to communicate with such a person.
  • Polite - in every interaction this quality adds additional charm and makes the interaction go smoothly.
  • Leadership - at certain moments during the wedding day the photographer has to take charge and let everybody know who has to be in this group photograph or what the best pose is. You wouldn't want somebody to mumble something unrecognizable, which probably is heard only by his own assistant.
  • Judgment and conflict resolution - there are some moments when people start arguing and there is no right or wrong way. In such situations a person with a logical judgment may interject and resolve this small conflict to everyone's satisfaction. Such skill may be required for a professional photographer from time to time.
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Technical and Artistic Skills

Of course, technical and artistic skills is one of the significant aspects of the wedding photographer to perform his duties and responsibilities. You may say that it is in his job description. The professional photographer must:

  • Have the right equipment - it may sound like a race for a better and more expensive camera. However the professional equipment is not only about the price and number of interesting features. The professional gear allows the photographer to get more out of very tough situations, such as low light, weather (rain, snow and dust) or quickly pacing action. As well it relieves him from many technical distractions and allows to concentrate on the creative part of his job.
  • Know his equipment - if the person doesn't know how to use the camera, the lens and the flash, then the person is not a real photographer. And even if he is a photographer, but uses unfamiliar equipment, then it is a very dangerous for both of you: you as the client may not receive the photographs you requested and expected, he may loose his business or loose a client and referrals. Nowadays the cameras are getting more and more complex, it seems that they become computers with lens. And such machinery requires an extensive knowledge to operate.
  • Maintain the equipment - as I just said above the equipment a profession photographer carries with him is a piece of fine machinery, which requires an appropriate maintenance and care. It should operate sometimes in harsh conditions (such as rain, cold, snow and moist). The lens should be without scratches and clean. The batteries should be fresh and last for the whole wedding day, or the photographer should cary additional ones. And there are more of such small details that should be prepared before the wedding.
  • Know composition rules - composition is more like a language of photography - the way to communicate with the viewer. It's the boundary that connects the artistic mind with the public, which allows the creative wedding photographer to communicate his vision to people. And without the full knowledge of that language the photographer cannot write a novel, which you would see in the wedding album.
  • Know the light - photography is about the light, there is no photograph which is created without a single beam of light. And the light is intricate matter. There is a whole science about studying light and how it affects the subject, the environment, the mood and finally the image. And as the painter should know the paint and the brush, the photographer should know the light (its qualities, how to apply and modify light).
  • Know portraiture - even in photojournalism it's all about faces. But at a wedding there is more than just faces, emotions and actions, there is a great demand to make art. And portraiture is art about people, which are the main subject at the wedding. Sometimes it's only a small shift of the camera, which makes the person look great instead of just OK. And without that simple knowledge the photographer may miss this opportunity.
  • See everything - it's about having another pair of eyes on the back of your head. Though the focus of the wedding is on the bride and the groom, there are a lot of small events that are going on. The wedding photographer cannot concentrate only on the newlyweds, he has to be everywhere and capture as much as possible in order to have a complete story of the day.
  • Be able to tell a story - in addition to the frame composition (the language of photography) your photographer should be able to tell a story with his images and even with a single image, which is the hardest. The story is not only about interaction between people, it's about emotions, the mood and history. And that's the real Art.
  • Know how to design an album - now, there are specific companies that can design the wedding album instead of the photographer. In my mind, it's not completely right, though acceptable. The photographer is like a conductor, who weaves his tunes from the first day you met to the final presentation of the wedding album. The photographer knows your wishes and expectations, your mood and your inclinations. And it would be perfect if he can conduct this concert without outsourcing any part of it, then the wedding day would fully be represented in the final product.
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Business Skills

The word "professional" means to have a profession, to be in the business. That's why the professional wedding photographer should be a successful business man. And this success is not only about money, it's about the overall experience that the clients of this business receive. Of course, the quality and choices of wedding photography services add to the criteria. This experience encompasses everything I covered till this section and more. Here what I would include into "more":

  • Deliver the product - The purpose of the business is to provide services and products and make profit. The wedding photographer has to deliver what is promised (in the contractual or verbal form), and nothing should stop him from it. And it's not just the quality product, but the quality services also.
  • Dress code - the professional worker would always dress appropriately to the event he/she is attending. So the wedding photographer should dress in such way that it would conform to the event and wouldn't impede performing his duties.
  • Industry standards - unfortunately, lately there is a wave of negative attitude towards wedding photographers. Many photographers agree that people who undertake this role (as a wedding photographer) somewhat lowered the industry standards and allow themselves a slack in the way the way they treat the clients and perform their duties. So, it is a professional obligation to improve the image, rise the industry standards and ameliorate customer experience.
  • Make profit - in the race for discounts and cheaper services or defeating the competition, people sometimes forget that for the business to continue function, it should make profit, which would allow the business to grow and provide better services. And this is the issue not only for the clients. Many photographers (especially those who just starting their business) in order to attract the clients set their prices lower than the prime cost of their work. And by doing so they undermine not only their future business but the business of their fellow photographers.
  • Website - it may not be the requirement, but one of the important features that make client's life easier. Via the website the clients could better judge the skills of the photographer, learn about the offered services and products, reserve the date or simply send a message and receive feedback.
  • Samples - a professional photographer should always have samples of his work to show to his clients. The samples is a good starting point to discuss what the client actually expects from the photographer. As well it's one the best ways to evaluate the skills of the photographer in doing his work.
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What's left?

In conclusion of this article I would like to say that it is very rare to find a professional wedding photographer, which would satisfy all the mentioned criteria. But it is something we all should strive for in our own fields of work. And if you find a photographer that seems to fit into the description I presented here and what's more important - you LIKE him and his work - then probably you found YOUR photographer. It all boils down to your own impression of and attitude toward the photographer. [end of the text]