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Real Simple’s Wedding Guide to Photography is… Real Confusing

February 21, 2013

Post by Trish:

This time of year is fun because all of the new wedding magazines come out. We love looking at the magazines and see what’s new and trendy. We like to see what brides are looking at for their inspiration and planning and to get inspired ourselves.

We recently picked up the Real Simple Weddings issue {1. see photo below}, what a beautiful magazine,. clean and simple (of course) with lovely photography! The layout for this issue is genius, they broke down the categories such as timeline, budget, location, attire, flowers, vows, food, etc. and give you all the information you need for each item. It starts out with a little blurb, then important things to know to help you get started, and finally ten common questions. For example, Flowers: “What colors do you want? Go to the paint store and pick out swatches of all the colors that appeal to you”.Great idea! “Consult this chart to see what flowers will be available during the season of your wedding”. -Great idea! “Chose your bouquet by style, formal, contemporary, wildflower, etc.” –Great idea! “If the thought of lovely flowers being thrown out at the end of the night makes you cringe, donate them to a hospice, hospital or nursing home”. -Really great idea!

Then we get to the photography section on page 95… Bad idea. As I read through I thought that I was back in 1985 and that the next page would have a photo of a bride with really puffy sleeves and a crown/veil thingy! But worse than that, I found that the information that they are providing about photography is not relevant to the way photographers do things today. How is a bride going to be able use any of this information to help her in the process of hiring a photographer today? Easy answer, it won’t! But fear not, I am compelled to go through this article and point out which items are relevant and which  items are totally outrageous and will be of no help at all.

{2. see photo above} “Ask any bride to describe her wedding day and chances are she’ll respond. “It was all a big blur”. That’s why you want to capture the whole thing on film for posterity.” -We transitioned to digital in 2006 and were one of the last ones to do it. Pretty much all wedding photographers shoot digitally now. Film is a thing of the past, so unless you are specifically looking for a film photographer, expect that your photographer will be shooting digital.

“For a perfect photo finish, you just need to identify what you want (traditional, photojournalistic, sepia tone) and choose appropriate vendors for your needs.” -Traditional and photojournalistic are styles of photography, sepia tone is a brownish color on a printed photo instead of a regular gray tone black and white. In digital everything is shot in color but can then be converted to sepia afterwards.


{3. see photo above} Getting started…To make sure the snapshots are perfect consider these three points when lining up your photography.” -Sounds good.

“ How much do you want to spend? It may seem silly to sink 10% or more of your wedding budget into photos, but years from now pictures are the only tangible things you’ll have to show for all of your hours of planning.” -Can I get an Amen!

“ How do you want to remember your wedding? Before interviewing photographers decide which style of photography suits you best: traditional (classic posed portraits), photojournalistic (artistic candid shots), or editorial (a mix of both). – I believe that editorial photography would be considered detail shots of all the ‘stuff’ and the more stylized shots of the people that show glamour and fashion, like what you would see in a bridal magazine.

“Notice the names of those who shot your favorite spreads in non-bridal magazines. (They may be pricier than wedding photographers, but many magazine snappers also work with brides.)” -Your wedding is a wedding, not a magazine shoot, two very different animals! It’s a real event with real people and a real timeline that requires the expertise of a professional wedding photographer who knows how to make it happen, not always an easy task. Also, unless you actually work at SNAP! you probably don’t want to be called ‘a snapper’.  But we do!

“Contact the Professional Photographers of America or the Wedding Photojournalist Association for a list of pros in your area.” –Great idea.

“ How comfortable will you feel with your photographer? You’re going to spend at least eight hours with the photographer, so you’ll want to be completely comfortable with him or her. After pouring over portfolios in the offices of your top three picks, suggest dinner or coffee with your first choice.” –I think that you probably know pretty quickly after meeting ‘the right one’ if they are ‘the right one’ or not. Not that coffee or dinner wouldn’t be fun, but photography is like any other business where we have busy schedules for work and home so taking additional time after a 1-2 hour meeting is not always an option. You should be able to have a lengthy conversation and make a connection (or not) with that person in the regular meeting.


{4. see photo above} Page 98: “Photo Preservation” –This is where it starts to get really RETRO.

“Album of selected images, What it is: An album holding 50-500 photos that you choose from your proofs. What to know: Some albums are included in photo packages, but others can cost up to a few thousand dollars. Choose from matted (pages have cutout windows) or flush-mounted (pictures are printed on photo paper and mounted on heavy card stock). What to ask for: Archival albums made of acid-free paper, which should conserve your photos for 75-100 years.”–Whoa! This is seriously out of whack. The wedding album is a selection of the best photos. Back in the day, a proof album with all of the 4×5 proof images may have had 500 images, but never your final wedding album.

“Prints, What they are: Reproductions of images that have been color-corrected, adjusted for light, and printed on archival paper. What to know: Many packages include a set number of prints, with extras costing $5-$300 each. If the vendor shoots digitally, you can usually reorder prints online for up to six months”. What to ask for: Whether the prints will be made in the photographers darkroom. If not, make sure they’re done by a quality lab”.-This is where I completely lose my mind!!! Ask whether the prints will be made in the photographers darkroom??? NO. The only prints that would ever be printed in a darkroom would be black and white prints, but I would imagine that there are very few (if any) wedding photographers that do that. It’s a VERY time consuming process and would be considered a specialty that would be expensive and rightly so. The advent of the digital darkroom (the computer) has completely negated the need for an actual darkroom with chemicals and an enlarger. Even if one was printing in the darkroom, it would not be of a any quantity of 4×6 or 5×7 or even 8×10 prints. It would be a couple of really special images. Color printing in a darkroom would only be done by a fine art photographer and again I can’t imagine that anyone would even do that now. Reprints or any print in color has never been printed by a wedding photographer in their darkroom!!! Color printing in a darkroom is a very specialized process, for example, it has to be done in complete darkness with no safe lights. So it is a lot more time consuming, expensive and complicated than black and white printing. In conclusion, to think of a photographer just running into a darkroom to crank out a bunch of prints for you is a complete false impression of how things are actually done in the world on photography.

“Box of single photos, What it is: An archival box containing 20-40 hand retouched prints that come in a size of four by six , five by seven, or 8×10 inches. The photos are normally mounted on heavy card stock. What to know: Some photographers select these photos for you. What to ask for: Photos without the studio’s watermark across the images, so you can display them. Also, ask whether they’ll come in an acid-free archival box.”–When we say ‘hand retouched’ that also conjures and image of a photographer hovering over each image, but again, that is just not the way it is. Each image should be tended to in Photoshop to make it totally fabulous, but that is done in the ‘digital darkroom’ on the computer. Every photographer does things a different way, and there are a multitude of ways to display your images in albums and boxes. Not all will be as described above, or be mounted on heavy card stock, (which doesn’t really sound right anyway). No photographer will ever put their watermark on a photo in a final presentation of your photographs. Ever.

{5.} “10 Common Photo Questions”

Q: “ When should the photo shoot be held?”

A: “Before the ceremony, when your make up is fresh, you’re excited about what lies ahead, and you’ll have more time to party at the reception. But if you don’t want your groom to see you in your dress, you have two main options: Get a few photos out of the way pre-ceremony (the bridal party, the bride with the groomsmen and so on). Then tackle the rest afterward.”  -Agreed, doing photos together before the ceremony does make for a much smoother and fun cocktail hour and reception when all of that stress is out of the way. BUT if you don’t want to see each other, then bridal party or any family shot that would include both of you is out! What would be shot before is the bride alone, with the bridesmaids, and with the parents. Same for the groomsmen. The bride with the groomsmen and the groom with the bridesmaids would be logistically crazy to get before the ceremony. Not to mention that those are not really photos that are important in the grand scheme of the day anyway.


Q: “How do I pick the right package?”

A: “If your head is spinning, make a list of all the elements you are really interested in. Do you need 100 wallet size prints, or would you rather have more 8×10 portraits? Choose the smallest package that includes your must haves. If you love the proofs, order more. That said make sure your contract allows for add-ons”. -I’m not sure how other photographers do it, but I think that the days of picking how many prints you will get and in what size before the wedding is also a very passé concept. What you should be thinking about is what you would want to have for the long term. What would you like to show your children someday? What do your grandparents and parents have from their wedding that you enjoy seeing? I often hear brides talk about not getting an album at all to cut costs. But honestly why would you have this fabulous wedding and then not have the album of images that shows it all? When your kids ask what your wedding day looked like and what you wore, wouldn’t it be fabulous to sit down and flip through the album with them and to tell them about the people and what it was like that day? I also feel that way about having a beautiful photo framed on the wall. Just think about how you feel when you go to someone’s house and see a bridal portrait from many years ago, it is magical. The day of the wedding is only one day, it is a snapshot in time of the people that were all there on that day celebrating. It’s unique and will never happen again. It is a symbolic right of passage that deserves to be honored and preserved in the proper way.

Q: “What should be in my contract?”

A: “Name and contact information for an available backup photographer. Types of cameras and amount of film to be used. Date the proofs will be available and how long you can keep them. How long the photographer will keep the negatives.”-A photographer should not have to supply the name of another photographer whom they would call if something happened to them! Photographers know other photographers and would surely do their best to get someone comparable to cover the wedding. The types of cameras to be used also do not need to be listed. If you meet a photographer whose work you really love, then it would be assumed that whatever equipment they are using is appropriate to take photos that you will be happy with! If you are really curious to know what they shoot with then by all means ask. If you worry that this person is not using professional or proper equipment then you should not hire them in the first place. Again, proofs and negatives are outdated. But definitely find out how you will see all of your images and if you will receive a CD of images and make sure it suits your needs.

Q: “What can I do to look my best in photos?”

A: “Prior to the wedding show the photographer both flattering and unflattering photos of you and your groom. This will give her a sense of the angles you prefer and the those to avoid.” -Not necessary. What you look like in a snapshot from a point and shoot camera or a phone is completely different than how you will look being photographed with a professional camera, great lens and an experienced person behind it! Generally a photographer can tell by looking at you how you will look best, but if you hate your profile or something else about the way you look you should definitely mention it. We all see ourselves very differently than the rest of the world sees us! This is a great reason to have an engagement photo session with your photographer before the wedding. They get familiar with you and you with them. You can work out the kinks beforehand and then know that you will look fabulous the day of the wedding. Every bride glows, it’s a real thing!

Q: “Is it a good or bad idea to provide wedding guests with disposable cameras?”

A: “Now that everyone has gone digital, there’s no need to ruin the aesthetic. One idea is to order only your favorites from your photographer and purchase additional shots taken by friends to remember the day. Prints bought online can cost several dollars less than those from your photographer. Set up a booth with a fabric backdrop and a Polaroid camera, or a digital camera and a tripod, and let guests pose for souvenir shots.” Just for the record, photographers prints are more expensive than CVS or online because you are paying for a professional lab to print them with higher standards and quality materials that you find elsewhere. Also, the photographer has used their talent and expertise to create that image, that has value and is worth the additional cost! If everyone could do it then there would be no need to hire a professional. Setting up a backdrop and popping a camera out for guests to take their own photo sounds fun, but in reality it can go really wrong really fast! Not only can it look hap hazard, but there are so many technical aspects to consider. All I can say is that we spent years perfecting our photolounge and it has pretty much been a struggle at every turn. I highly recommend hiring a photo booth that can come and do it for you. That way you know the photos will be in focus!

Q: “How can I tactfully ask what the photographer will wear?

A: It’s perfectly OK to ask the photographer to dress appropriately for the wedding, but keep in mind that he or she needs to be comfortable – don’t ask the person to dress  in a tuxedo or a ball gown. Customarily, wedding vendors wear a white shirt with a black bottom or all in black so they don’t stand out- or, worse, clash with the decor colors.” Although totally impractical, wearing a ball gown would be so fun! So don’t be shy to ask if that’s what you really want to see me in. Otherwise I will go with my all black ensemble and jazzy accessories. I wouldn’t think of clashing!

In conclusion, if you hire a professional who is an expert in what they do, then you will be fine. Talk directly with them and ask what you should expect, don’t assume that any magazine knows the nuances of each specialty. Your wedding vendors are more than happy to educate you on what they do and how it all works, they want to share their talents and passion with you to make your wedding sparkle!

Happy wedding planning!

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