Thursday, June 17, 2010

Since photos last forever, listen to the pros

Bride married lays on her back
Photo by Karen Wise

black and white photo of a couple exiting the church
Photo by Agaton Strom

If a wedding is likely to be one of the most beautiful days of a couple's life, why not have a beautiful record of it?

"Whether or not your wedding is over the top with many events, or a very simple one at City Hall, your wedding will have the people you love most at it and many very important moments to capture," said Brooklyn-based Karen Wise of Karen Wise Photography.

With that in mind, Wise and Manhattan-based wedding photographer Agaton Strom offer some things to consider when planning how best to capture the big day, from costs to photo must-haves, to color versus black & white to whether food must be provided to the photographer.

1. How much money should you expect to spend on a wedding photographer?

Wise: For an experienced wedding photographer (i.e. one with more than five years of experience), you should expect to spend between $4,000 and $7,500.

Strom: Photographers have many different packages and include many different things. It is important when looking at packages to get a sense of what the final cost will be. Some photographers hold on to the files so that their clients are beholden to order prints and albums from them and this can add up at the end. 

2. How can you do nice photos on a budget? Where can you cut costs?

Wise: You could cut costs with the number of hours you hire your photographer for. My standard packages offer eight hours of coverage; this usually covers from getting ready to the ceremony and all of the reception, if everything takes place at the same venue. 

As soon as there is travel between venues, the couple may require nine or 10 [hours]. If you decide to skip the getting ready pictures, and just have your photographer shoot the ceremony and half of the reception (five to six hours) you may see a $2,000 reduction in cost.

Also if you choose to have your wedding on a weekday or Friday or Sunday instead of a Saturday, most photographers would negotiate a lower fee to shoot it.

Strom: Look around at the different alternatives, scan Craigslist for emerging talent and ask photographers if they can recommend someone that better fits your budget.

3. What are the "must have" shots?

Wise: Some of them are as follows:

- Getting into the dress
- I love to get the details -- details of the invitation, the rings, the shoes, the jewelry, the dress, the bouquet, centerpieces, the table settings and the venue
- The first look (when the groom first sees the bride)
- The procession of the bride down the aisle
- The recession of the couple up the aisle at the end of their ceremony
- The first dance
- Father/daughter dance
- Mother/son dance
- Cake cutting

4. What are your favorite wedding photos you have taken and why?

Wise: The portrait of Priti (see photo at top) is one of my all time faves, also Dana with the curlers (see first photo below), and Julia and Scott's sparklers (see second photo below). All three of these were technically challenging, and I like a good challenge. I was shooting practically wide open on the lens for these portraits. I don't usually like to do this, but I needed to get the light in. In both cases, I had only one shot left on the roll of film in my camera. I asked both women to not smile and look directly in the lens. Then I clicked the shutter… I loved some of the ranch images at Catherine and Ken's wedding in Malibu. The light was so beautiful and the color read so well on film.

portrait of a bride with pink curlers in her hair
 Photo by Karen Wise
nighttime wedding with sparklers
Photo by Karen Wise

Strom: This changes from week to week but at the moment it's this black & white photo of a couple exiting the church (see photo second from top). The image is very clean and lacks details which in my mind makes it stronger and immediately speaks of the excitement and emotion of having said "I do." There is also this photo of a groom leaning over to kiss and whisper something to the bride (see photo below). The photo was taken during the cocktail hour just minutes after the ceremony. All the guests came up to congratulate the couple and they were engaged in greeting people but for a brief second no one else existed but the two of them.

man whispers to his bride on the dance floor
 Photo by Agaton Strom

5. What is the most unique wedding you have photographed and why?

Wise: The most unique wedding I have photographed was the one I shot in India (in Delhi and Udaipur). It was by far the most unique wedding because of the number of days and events as well as the locations chosen and the spectacular decor at those locations. Not only were there many events over six days, there was an airplane flown from Delhi to Rajasthan with all of the guests, a performance by Parveen, a baby elephant given as a gift to the bride by her husband.

6. What is the strangest thing that has happened to you at a wedding you were photographing?

Wise: At a recent wedding, the Maid of Honor refused to be photographed. She hid her face any time the camera was near. She also had her bangs in her face walking down the aisle so that we couldn't shoot her. She also turned away as she held the chuppah over the bride. She was gorgeous, tall, long black hair, about 26 years old and wearing a beautiful dress. She was stunning. I just felt like I needed one good shot of her with the bride. So after the ceremony I said: look, don't you want your friend to have one nice photograph of the two of you to remember your friendship? Then she relaxed for one shot until she hid for the rest of the wedding.

Strom: Best [to] leave this out of print. Buy me a drink and I'll tell some tales. 

7. What shots are best in color, and what shots are best in black & white?

Wise: I love color film for flowers and anything with soft, muted color or bold, bright color in soft light. I use black & white film for classic or romantic scenes like the first dance, the cake cutting, the buttoning of the dress, etc. I also use black & white when the lighting is horrible or if patterns, textures or colors are clashing.

Strom: I select images to be black & white when the colors distract from the message. Black & white images can sometime be more timeless.

8. Videographer: A good or bad idea? (See the first in a two-part series on videographers here.) 

Wise: Good, as long as they are not in the way of the photographer!

Strom: Neither. Videography can be a great tool in capturing the day. The vows uttered during the ceremony will not be captured on still photos and it might be a good idea to remember what your promises were in case you forget.

9. Feeding a photographer at a wedding: A must or a nicety?

Wise: A must! Shooting a wedding is physically draining and requires a fuel up in order to shoot it well. It is in my contract that my assistant and I should be fed. Also, if we are fed at the same time as the guests, we won't miss out on any of the important photos (usually people don't like to be photographed while eating, so this time is a perfect time for a break. By this time it's already been about seven hours on our feet).

Strom: You feed your livestock and you feed your goldfish. Offering your photographer a meal will be appreciated.


Anonymous said...

Having a great wedding photographer is very important because every bride and groom should want the best lasting memories of their wedding! Great article!

Karen Wise said...

Thanks Lauren! I love the finished piece.

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