Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the relationship between a photographer and the bride and groom they’re photographing. Being photographed is such an unnatural thing, we’re all used to it but generally only in the sense of pulling a big cheesy grin and giving the camera a thumbs up on for our holiday snaps or those mandatory family birthday shots. What we’re generally not used to though is someone trying to take an intimate portrait that engenders our personalities, to allow someone to take a snapshot of us really being ourselves and freezing that moment in time – not the guy who always stands at the back and does the comedy bunny eyes thing, but the guy staring at someone he loves with all his heart with a tear in his eye and a broader smile than he could ever pull artificially for the camera. To get that sort of picture you have to let your guard down, and if we’re not really comfortable with the person taking the picture then we automatically put up an emotional barrier, impenetrable to those we choose to exclude, and at the end of the day the pictures suffer because of it.
Now I’m not saying you have to be best friends with your photographer to get good pictures, but I think the best photographs reveal something about their subject and unless there’s a basic understanding between you that becomes increasingly difficult. For the photographer it’s part of their job to try to build some form of rapport with you, but here’s the crux – if you really want the most extraordinary pictures you need to give something back to them too. When you book a wedding photographer you shouldn’t really be looking at it as hiring someone to do a job for you, you’re actually investing in a mutual partnership. Photography isn’t a service, it’s an art-form, your investment is what enables the artist to be able to do their job, without the finance it’s just not viable to do it. But it’s not actually about money, what you’re both actually trying to get out of this partnership is the best possible photographs of the day, and to do that you need to work together and offer mutual respect.
Building this relationship starts from the first time you make contact with the photographer. Like you they’re looking to get some killer shots from your wedding and they want to feel like they can click with you enough to make that possible. If you open with a very formal email “Dear Sir/Madam” then it tells them nothing about you other than the possibility that you weren’t excited enough about their work to actually find out who they are. This doesn’t mean they’re not going to be able to take your picture at all, but it does mean they’re already thinking you might not be the sort of client that is going to truly understand them on the day and help them to get amazing photographs of you.
At the moment there’s a lot of debate about whether you should have to feed your wedding photographer or not. After all you’re paying them a lot of money, surely they can afford to bring themselves a simple sandwich! Well yes they can and most will, but after being on your feet working solidly for 9-10 hours do you feel more inspired and creative after sitting down with a nutritious hot meal or sitting in your car with your third car-warmed sandwich meal of the day? For some people what they eat doesn’t really make much of a difference, but for others they find it essential to their creativity. What is undoubtedly essential though is providing liquid refreshments for your photographer – there’s rarely room in the bag for a bottle of water (particularly with the extra weight this brings) and it is genuinely exhausting work. Unless you want your photographer traipsing back and forth from the car every time they need a drink and missing shots in the process, making sure they have enough liquid to keep them going all day is definitely a good idea. Again it’s about a partnership – look after your photographer and they will be much better placed (and even more keen) to look after you by producing outstanding images.
At the end of the day photographers are professionals and if you treat them as just a contractor they will get some good photographs of you, but if you let them in and build a bond with them, they can take those photographs to another level. You’re going to be spending most of the most important day of your life with this person, make sure it’s a friendly face standing in front of you, not an employee.