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A Photographer’s Thoughts: Too Many Cooks…

dom the tog bride finalone2Finding the perfect wedding photographer for you from the hundreds working in the industry today can be a challenging thing, but here’s the rub: After spending all that time isolating your decision to only one you may just find that you have an entire guest list’s worth of photographers turn up on the day.

These days we all carry cameras around with us at all times and we’re always snapping away looking for a great shot. We all see amazing images on the internet every day with all kinds of dramatic backdrops and incredible light and we all have an opinion on what makes a great photograph. There’s nothing wrong with this at all and it’s great that we can all share our memories so easily on Facebook and other social media, the problem however comes when those opinions are at odds with those of the professional the couple have hired to capture their day.

We’ve often spoken about the importance of trusting your photographer and this is particularly important when they are perhaps looking at alternative locations or positioning for their shots from what you might expect. Guests and family members alike are often full of ideas of shots you should ask your photographer to take or locations that they may seen work in another photographer’s shots but amongst that sea of voices it’s important to keep an ear out for the one hiding behind the camera – the one that is trying to tell you that right here, right now that shot is simply not going to work.

Venue staff are often particularly forceful in this regard. So often the photographer will turn up at the venue on the wedding day to be greeted with the words “let me show you where you might like to do the group shots.” Now don’t get me wrong, this can be extremely helpful and present the photographers with locations they may not otherwise have come across, indeed the vast majority of venue staff are extremely helpful and accommodating in all areas of the wedding. However every now and then the words “might like to” become “will do”, and the photographer can quickly find themselves standing in front of 100 guests taking a photograph that they know will look terrible against their own advice.


There are all kinds of reasons why this scenario comes about. Firstly every photographer will have their own style and will be looking for different things from the photographs. The fact that another photographer likes to shoot in a particular place at that venue doesn’t mean it will make a great shot for someone who shoots in a very different way. There’s also the unfortunate possibility that the person who regularly shoots at that venue (on whom the staff may be basing their experience) may not be as creative or as technically skilled as the photographer that you have chosen for your big day. More importantly though it is really the light in that precise location at that exact time that makes the difference between a great shot and a completely unusable one.

The most common example of this is when a venue has an amazing view that you naturally want to take advantage of. After all, everyone knows that when you go on holiday you stand in front of a pretty view and that that’s what photography’s all about. The trouble is that unless the light is perfectly balanced between the background and the subjects in front the photographer may well find themselves taking a picture of either the couple and their guests or the beautiful view behind but not both. For group shots in particular the photographer will always be looking to get the light looking right on the guest’s faces, but if they’re in shadow and the background is brighter then the end result is going to be lots of happy guests standing in front of a big white light and not the epic backdrop you thought would make such a beautiful shot. Equally if the light is too bright overall you’ll end up with people squinting and a generally harsh, ugly texture to the photograph and if too dark you simply won’t see anything very well at all. Sometimes this can be balanced out using flash or other artificial lighting equipment but for various reasons this is not always the case.

Sometimes though the location just fundamentally doesn’t work – for example there may be a location that seems to naturally accommodate a group such as a set of steps that all the guests can fit on. However if the width of the group means the photographer has to step back a long way and be positioned considerably lower than the guests then you’re going to end up with a photograph of 200 people’s nostrils. Sometimes however good the shot seems in theory it’s best to follow the professional’s experience and let them find an alternative spot, whatever the guests or the venue staff may think.

So for your big day make sure that it’s only the photographer that takes charge of the photographs. Drown out the other voices and listen to the one with the real experience to know what’s best. There may be 200 photographers at your wedding just bursting to offer advice but just remember, you only hired one of them and they’re the only chef left in that over-filled kitchen stirring a broth cooked to absolute perfection.

  • Sarah - April 2, 2014 - 12:34 pm

    What a great post!! I think this should include the guests, too, that keep tapping you on the shoulder asking when you’re going to do this shot, or that shot, and you know full well it’s not going to happen because the bride and groom don’t want it!ReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - April 2, 2014 - 1:08 pm

      Thanks Sarah and glad you enjoyed the post! Guests are certainly one of the groups who like to share their opinions on how the photographs should be taken and that’s why I think it’s so important for the couple to drown out those other voices and follow the guidance of the expert at hand.ReplyCancel

    • Jay Emme Photography - April 2, 2014 - 2:24 pm

      AGREED! There was a circumstance where I pretty much had to give up on the shot I was trying to get, because guests interrupted non-stop telling me I was in the wrong place. Guess what? It was a scenario mentioned in this post – gorgeous people or gorgeous view. Both was just NOT going to happen.


  • Camera Hannah - April 2, 2014 - 1:49 pm

    Perfect! A really helpful post. I hate that moment when people say “photographers usually take a photo here” and you know it’s just not right for you. I still struggle to say a polite no because I worry about looking like a pretentious dickheadReplyCancel

  • Chris - Smudged Photo - April 2, 2014 - 2:44 pm

    So so true, especially if you’re working at a venue that has a “recommended photographer” that runs through the motions at every wedding. The staff tend to just suggest the same places over and over. It’s frustrating and one of the reasons I don’t like to see a venue before I shoot there. It’s easy to get ideas in your head that might not work in the light on the day etc etc.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - April 2, 2014 - 8:23 pm

    Yes, Yes and more yes. I really enjoyed reading this post and I was nodding throughout!ReplyCancel

  • Dom / York Place - April 3, 2014 - 10:53 am

    thanks for the comments guys! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Belinda - April 3, 2014 - 5:32 pm

    Great post! Every bride needs to stop in and read this.ReplyCancel

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