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We’ve all been to weddings where we’ve watched the wedding party awkwardly pose before a fake column or lawn. We’ve seen the obligatory kiss and the hand holding. Nothing looks natural. Everyone looks like a bad actor in a pretend wedding.

 

You don’t need those pictures, but you do want a visual memory of the day that documents real events.

 

I recently spoke with Tony Richards, a wedding photographer with a photojournalistic style, who offered some hints about how to find the best photographer for your event.

 

First and foremost, Tony suggested that you ask photographers about their style. A photographer who is a photojournalist will lean towards more natural, candid shots. For example, they will be able to capture true emotion in the guests and bridal party and include details from the space (flowers, architecture, natural beauty, etc.) A more formal wedding photographer will rely more on portraits and formal poses. 

 

Here are some samples he shared with me:

 

By Tony Richards

 

By Tony RichardsBy Tony Richardsby Tony Richardsby Tony Richards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will probably want a mix of both styles in the end: a photographer who is a photojournalist, but can also be relied upon in order to set up a few posed family shots. (Aunt Lolly would be terribly offended if she wasn’t asked to pose, at least for a few minutes.)

 

When you are comparing packages and prices, be sure to ask what is included: negatives, prints (and their sizes), DVD of pictures, album type, a web gallery that guests can access later and use to order their own copies, if there will be an assistant, if engagement photos are included, etc.

 

One venue that my fiancé and I looked at in NJ had a built-in bookshelf in the dining room with a large space for our “engagement photo.” Engagement photo? I hadn’t known about this (should my fiancé have hired a photographer to be on site before he proposed?) I asked Tony about this practice.

 

Tony includes engagement photos in some of his packages because of their versatility. This more casual photo shoot, which usually occurs sometime before the wedding, allows the couple a chance to become more accustomed to being photographed, more comfortable with the photographer and the photographer can be even more creative with these shots, which makes the final shots more striking. They can be used in save the date, an announcement (like the always coveted New York Times wedding announcements), given as a favor at the wedding, etc. Hearing Tony explain it, it sounded like a lot of fun.

 

A way to cut down on the cost is to create the album yourself. There are a variety of different kinds of albums, from the old-fashioned kind you simply slip the pictures into to a digital album that is designed page by page by the photographer (or by you, if you have the technical skill.) Tony said that he particularly enjoys designing albums, especially since he can send JPEGs of the pages to the clients to ask for their suggestions before the final printing. This ensures that everyone is satisfied. (Can you remember life before the internet?)

 

Photographers are often in the way and in every guest’s picture. Tony admitted that it is hard for him to avoid being in the center of the action in order to take pictures he was hired to take. His advice for limiting this potential problem is to give the photographer a very clear schedule of events for the day. If he knows what is coming next, then he can step aside after he’s gotten the shot he wanted, without risking missing anything.

 

Overall, Tony recommended that couples be as specific as they can with him. Write out a list of people and group shots that are necessary and when they will be taken, when the toasts will be given, etc. The more information that he has, the better job he can do. If you can meet with the photographer and be armed not only with the day’s schedule, but also pictures you’ve cut out of magazines and really like, he can better understand your sense of style and your goals for the day. Finally, during the day, let him know when something changes.

 

Some religious spaces have rules about when and where photographs can be taken. You can help the photographer out by finding out about these rules ahead of time.

 

Tony’s background as a photojournalist helped him to be comfortable with large crowds and getting a good shot quickly. In the newspaper industry, you can’t ask someone to pose or try again. He uses these skills while he shoots weddings. You want a photographer who not only has the technical skills to take the pictures, but also the social skills to handle the crowds and make everyone feel comfortable with him (as a poet, I know that not all award-winning artists naturally have these social skills.)

 

Tony and his wife Grace live in Ann Arbor, but planned a wedding in D.C. recently. He said that they found a photographer through the internet and then face-to-face meetings. They were able to do most of their research online and then met with some people in D.C. before making a final decision. He said that one hint is to look for a photographer with well-lit, indoor ceremony shots. Since indoor ceremonies are often darker spaces, a well-lit photograph shows the photographer’s expertise in lighting.

 

For more information, check out his website, Tony Richards Photography. He will be relocating to D.C. and would love to hear from you.

 

Advice:

Photographers, like other vendors, seem to book about a year in advance. Start looking at websites, asking friends for recommendations, and collecting pictures that you like from websites and magazines. Meet with a few photographers so that you can best compare prices and their work. Each one should have either a web gallery or albums for you to look at in order to get a sense of their style.

 

All of your pictures don’t have to be taken by a professional. Get your friends’ perspective by setting up a Flickr or other webpage where guests can upload their pictures. You can also put disposable digital cameras on the tables and then upload the pictures for everyone to see.

 

Professional photography is an expensive venture because it requires a lot of work, from setting up for the pictures to touching up the final shots and creating the album. We all think that we have the skills to do this now that we can so easily take digital pictures, but when you see the professional photographer’s studio and work, you’ll see the difference in quality immediately.

 

Have a wedding photographer to recommend? Please use the comment section to give him or her a shout-out. Don’t forget to include the website.

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