Friday, 19 March 2010

Choosing a Photographer

It's a minefield, choosing your wedding photographer. These are the pictures that are going to grace your granny's mantlepiece for the next twenty years, so you want to be looking good. But that's not the only thing to think about - you need to decide your style. Will it be traditional or reportage, arty monochrome or popping colour like a Mario Testino shoot? Do you want your photographer to be a man or a woman? And the elephant in the corner - what's your budget?? To help you answer some of these thorny questions, we sat down with well known British photographer, Mark Bothwell, to discuss some key points to consider when commissioning the person who could make or break your big day.....

BTBD : As a photographer, you understand how important your role is on a couple’s big day. You’re a paid guest {!} and in charge of recording our memories – a huge job! So…when choosing a photographer, what should we be thinking about?
“It’s impossible to narrow it down to one area, it’s a process which happens in stages. First of all clients contact photographers whose work they like - that could be a group of as many as a dozen. From there, cost will narrow the field down, and then it’s usually based on instinct. The couple have to often warm to one particular photographer. In my experience couples will often be prepared to go beyond their budget if they really like a photographer’s attitude, so while quality of work is the hook, personality is often the clincher. Photography at a wedding is a very pivotal task, you’re being trusted with a huge day in people’s lives and you can’t underestimate the responsibility of that role. My own attitude is to give the absolute maximum each time you’re commissioned because you’ll never get the chance to impress that particular group of people ever again”

BTBD : What’s the deal with photography packages? How do they work?
“I cant speak for anybody else, but for me this is really clear cut. I hate the whole package idea, I just don’t see the point as it confuses the issue. People want clarity, transparency and to know what they’re paying for, and why. My personal approach is to have a price for the photography, a price for books and a list of unit costs for prints. This simple approach allows couples to piece together as much or as little as they wish. You wouldn’t believe the stories I hear about photographers who bamboozle clients with this, that and the other.

BTBD : We’ve been to so many weddings where the photographer took ages to shoot the family groups. Is this an inevitable part of the process, is it always like that?
“No, not at all. I hear this stuff too, and it’s so frustrating because we all get tarred with that brush. I suppose if you give a photographer a list of 30 family groups then it’s going to take ages to shoot, but you have to decide whether you really need that? Maybe it’s because of my reputation and style of working, but I’m never asked to shoot groups in any quantity. My clients don’t want their day interrupting with an overly formal approach, plus it greatly reduces the natural feel of your pictures. A wedding day is a gentle, intimate occasion, and I think it’s really poor and quite invasive for somebody to walk in and dictate the pace of the day, which trust me some try to do. A photographer works for the couple, it’s not the other way around.

BTBD: Loads of our friends have got printed books of their wedding pics rather than traditional albums. How do you decide which shots to choose? Can we choose which ones we like and the layout?
“Absolutely, I think it’s very important couples feel they can get involved in the final look of something which will hopefully be valued for many years to come. It comes back around to that principle of being flexible, because high quality art books aren’t cheap, so why would you settle for something less than you know you can have? Speaking for myself, initially I’ll design a draft, then turn this over to the client to check. They can then list changes, or come into the office and direct their ideas for improvement in real time on the big screens. I would go as far as to say that often couples really enjoy a mini stint as an art editor, it’s a fun and collaborative process which always yields better results for them, which is the ultimate goal. If you want that level of involvement, you need to tell your photographer what you want, so they can work round you.

BTBD : What’s the deal with copyright. It seems weird that a photographer can own the copyright to my wedding pictures?“This is another straightforward area for me because I always offer the ownership of the photography to clients – after all it’s their big day! The feedback I receive from clients who have spoken to other photographers who don’t offer the rights automatically is that the they are suspicious of hidden costs later and that something is being almost kept from them. It supports the theory that couples want a clear, easily understandable arrangement with their photography and I consider confusion as a fast route to mistrust.

BTBD : Lastly, wedding photography gets a bad press sometimes among other pro photographers, why do you think this is?“It’s a great point, and something I find increasingly amusing. The basis for this attitude is that anybody can  show up and take pictures, and often weddings take place on the weekend so people abuse the trust placed in them in the pursuit of easy cash. But this exists in all areas of life, not just the wedding industry. It’ll be the same with fashion, news, products, etc.. There are lots of suppliers who are awful, many who are good and a small group who excel. Life in a nutshell, really”

{Mark’s portfolio can be viewed at www.markbothwell.com}

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