Choosing Your Wedding Photographer (When You ARE a Wedding Photographer)
Choosing your wedding photographer can be stressful. Heck, choosing anything for your wedding can be stressful! Somehow people seem to expect you know exactly what you want even though you've never actually done this before. They keep saying how this is going to be "one of the biggest days of your life" and so clearly all of these decisions are super important, and yet how are you supposed to know what to do when you've never actually hired a photographer before?! It feels like a gamble. Because Kevin & I are planning a wedding abroad (click here to see where!), I find myself often realizing what it feels like to be planning a wedding as a "normal" bride rather than an industry insider.
So how do you go about choosing your wedding photographer when you are a wedding photographer? (Because while that might sound like it makes it easier, bear in mind it's like when you think you can only have 1 best friend in elementary school and you feel the need to announce it to all of your other really good friends. Clearly you can definitely have more than one best friend, but realistically, you still are only going to hire one wedding photography company). Here's the 3 qualifications (yep, I really only have 3) I had for choosing our wedding photographer(s). And yes, as should always be the case, Kevin was a part of this decision. Contrary to cultural belief, this isn't actually only about the bride ;-)
Comfort (for both of us) is key.
It's not about the art. (Gasp!)
It's about actually slowing the day down and remembering.
Ok, this is a fairly obvious one. I think for every single couple I've ever spoken with, being comfortable with the person on the other side of the camera has been a key factor. Friends, just because I'm behind a camera doesn't mean I'm a natural in front of one! Additionally, I knew from the start that I needed to be sure whoever photographed our wedding day not only kept both of us comfortable, but also (and this is unique to my career) kept me from acting like a wedding photographer! The last thing I want is to be switching into work mode on a day when all I should be doing is staring at the hunky guy in the dapper suit next to me. While you may not start thinking about which way to stand for the best light on your wedding day like I would, I bet you could easily start thinking about the never ending list of details and tidbits you've planned leading up to the day. Wedding photos can authentically represent your personality and emotions felt that day BUT only when you are fully, 100% present to the moment. When most of us seek out photographers to document those candid moments we all love so much, not many think about how those candid moments are captured. You need someone on the other side of the camera that you are comfortable enough with to allow yourself to authentically and openly react to what's happening around you (aka it's okay to cry!). A true pro is there reminding you to stay focused on what actually matters and not whether or not the napkins were folded the way you had decided 3 months ago.
I firmly believe, on a busy, often chaotic, day like your wedding day, you need a pro who isn't only thinking about their job description. Anyone can use a camera. To me, what sets wedding photographers apart (and made choosing ours a no-brainer) is their ability to help you actually experience your day the way you've envisioned. Whether it's promptly getting to your cocktail hour to spend more time with your guests, or being the excuse to pull you out of the room in order to have a quiet minute alone, being comfortable with your photographer goes much deeper than whether or not you are okay with getting dressed in front of them (remember that happens too!). Only when you are truly comfortable does your personality shines through.
2. Forget about the Art Aspect (Sort of).
This is probably the most surprising qualification. Or lack thereof. Now granted, given I'm hiring my very own colleagues, we obviously weren't going to be choosing anyone that wasn't a highly skilled photographer. That should be a given. But presumably, that's the case for anyone. You aren't going to take the time to email a photographer who's work you don't like. You've spent entire weekends searching through websites and portfolios. Ultimately, you only contact the people who's artistic style you like, so that's not even a qualification anymore. This is about more than what I think is pretty or artistic. It's about having a team that supports you and people that know this one day has bigger stories. This is what separates wedding photography from every other type of photography out there. It was crucial to me to have photographers who are thrilled to take that "boring" family photo because they understand there is a larger legacy to be captured there. When my 84-year-old grandma gets on a plane to fly to Italy, taking what we call a "grip and grin" (the photo where you are standing still next to each other, looking straight at the camera) is going to be really stinkin' important. It won't win any awards. That photograph won't show off the photographer's technical know-how or fancy new camera. But it will get handed down to my grandchildren. One day, unfortunately, it will be the first photo I reach for when she's no longer on this Earth. And that's more important than any artistically impressive, award winning, image.
It was paramount for me, above all else, to have wedding photographers who would put the legacy of our families above all else. Above artistic ego and dreams of epic images. We chose photographers who would make sure we were comfortable being photographed in order to capture those iconic candid moments, that showcase not only our relationship, but also the relationships of our loved ones that will fly half-way across the world to share this day with us. I want to look back at our wedding photos and feel what it was like to be there. Not see some cool photography technique that was popular in 2017. Which leads me to my final qualification...
3. Photographers who actually help you soak in the day, because "it goes so fast."
It's about having someone remind you amidst all the hustle and bustle of a busy day to stop. Your hair looks great, your mascara isn't running - just stop. Remember how your dress feels, remember the sound of your loved ones chatting away in the distance, just stop and savor this unique moment. The one thing every single engaged couple is told by numerous well-meaning friends and family is how fast the day goes. "Be sure to soak it in," they say. But no one ever actually tells you how to soak it in. Every day of our lives seem to go by faster and faster, so how, on this one day where more things are happening in an 8 hour period than any other day of your life, are you supposed to slow it down? By having the pros make you. :) You need someone in your corner on your wedding day reminding you of everything you are experiencing. We are human and humans are finite. There's only so much you can take in at once. When you combine so many emotions into one short day, it can easily become a blur. Having a team of pros who remind you to process the sights, sounds and feelings of the day gives you a crucial trick up your sleeve to that wise advice of "soak it in." Because otherwise, you'll celebrate your butt off but do it in a whirlwind of excitement that flies by without you realizing it.
We chose photographers who don't specializing in using a camera, but instead specialize in understanding people. And that, to me, is what should separate wedding photographers from any other photographer. These are the philosophical and moral beliefs I approach each wedding I photograph with, so I know I can rest easy and focus on marrying this insanely patient man of mine with someone who believes the same at the helm...
So... (drumroll please)... Who is actually photographing #ikissberg? Well, if you've been paying any attention to the watermarks on these photos, it's probably pretty obvious. ;-) My dear friends, I'm ecstatic to say that Jeff & Erin, the romantic husband and wife team that make up The Youngrens, will be joining us in Italy.
P.S. A random list of things I did not even consider to be qualifications: film photography vs. digital photography, where they lived, only 1 person (even with only having 40 people join us, we were always going to have 2 photographers), what awards they've won, and... the big kahuna... digital files (at the end of the day, the album is really all that matters. I practice what I preach my friends!).
P.P.S. The woman who swore she would never have a hashtag, couldn't pass up the perfect pun of our last names (Hint: It's how you phonetically pronounce my last name. Now everyone finally knows how to pronounce Ickes).