Misconceptions About Wedding Photography
In a recent survey of Fearless Photographers, we asked our accomplished professional wedding photographers about some common misconceptions regarding their profession. What mistaken ideas do their clients hold? What do they wish couples knew the truth about? From a large number of responses, we distilled the answers down to 14 of the most pervasive misunderstandings about professional wedding photography on topics ranging from equipment, to compensation, to creativity. We hope that having a better understanding of the realities of wedding photography will assist couples in selecting the perfect photographer for them-and enhance the process of working together on these meaningful images!
Misconception #1: The Quality of the Photos Depends on the Camera Fearless photographers agree: great photography is made by skilled professionals, not "the best" camera. When he hears this myth, Dominican Republic wedding photographer Georges Gurascier says he hands over his camera and invites that person to replicate his results. "They understand the mistake instantly-and ultimately we end up laughing together," he says. Some photographers noted that this misconception becomes more clear when you start thinking of other genres of high performance and creativity. "Usain Bolt wears the best shoes, but it's not what makes him fast. Years of training, persistence, hard work, and performing under pressure make are what give him lightning speed," notes Cincinnati wedding photographer Jonathan Gibson. Likewise, Detroit wedding photographer Andrea Brandt observes, "Picasso or Rembrandt would still have created beautiful paintings in their style-regardless of the brand of paint they used."
Denver wedding photographer Annaleisa Friednash: "A talented photographer can make magic happen with a beginner's camera. Someone who does not know their way around the camera can pick up the nicest, latest camera from any major brand and make a mess of something beautiful. Talent comes from hard work." Mumbai wedding photographer Sam Walzade: "What comes out of the camera depends a lot on the person behind the camera-who he/she is, and the life experiences that lead them to look at and observe things differently."
Misconception #2: Wedding Photography is an Easy Job Long days, heavy gear, constant motion, intense attention to detail, non-stop problem-solving (before, during, and after the big day)? The job of a wedding photographer is anything but simple-even though the great ones make it look that way. As Jonathan Gibson observes, "Perhaps when an expert is engaged in their craft it looks easy-but this is only greater evidence of their mastery." Similarly, Philadelphia wedding photographer Angela Willingham says, "Experienced photographers can make it seem easy because they have learned a lot over the years to overcome the difficulties of a wedding day."
Bucharest wedding photographer Dragos Constantin: "Taking a good picture one time is easy-but taking good pictures every time, in every condition is exhausting." Illinois wedding photographer Christi Chambers: "After shooting many different genres of photography professionally, I can safely say that wedding photography is the most challenging I've done." Kansas City wedding photographer Melissa Sigler: "Sure, it's 'easy'-if the timeline is padded, the light is bright and even, the weather is perfect, nothing/no one is running late, no external lighting is necessary, and you have clients who only want proof that the day happened. But what happens when something doesn't go exactly as planned? Do you want someone who buckles under that pressure, or someone who can get it done and get it done artfully?"
Misconception #3: Wedding Photographers Only Work on the Wedding Day This is a common misconception that couldn't be farther from the truth; the wedding day is just the tip of the iceberg. "Our work begins from the moment we meet you," says Annaleisa Friednash. "We love to take you to coffee, connect over Facetime, or grab drinks. I do engagement sessions with all my wedding clients, so you can feel incredible in front of the camera. We work on timelines, preparation for both ourselves and any assistants we have, and beyond the wedding day, we spend anywhere from an additional 8 to 20 hours editing and refining the perfect images of your wedding day." Other Fearless Photographers also weighed in on the "unseen" hours that go into producing wedding photos for clients: Mexico wedding photographer Melissa Suneson: "The wedding day is 10 to 20 percent of the work. The rest of the days are spent selecting the best images, editing, color correcting, etc. This can take a lot of time depending on the number of images and any special conditions that may need more attention." Mumbai wedding photographer Clyde Peter: "The wedding day is the easy part. Hours, weeks, and sometimes months of editing, album designing, and putting together deliverables is what a wedding photographer's job is all about." Toronto wedding photographer Lindsay Duncan: "You only see us working on the wedding day. And if you love working with us on your wedding day, here's likely why: The day ran smoothly because we knew the venue and your style. We were prepared with a shot list, our batteries were charged, and gear was ready. We likely had a meeting/creative shoot beforehand, which makes working together so much easier! Also, how did you find us? And did you fall in love with out photos? That required hours of marketing and social media, with some web design skills. It's also years of us learning how to get those perfect, candid, emotional shots you love!"
Misconception #4: Wedding Photographers Make Loads of Money This misconception is related to the previous one: the idea that photographers only work on the wedding day. Photographers understand that clients don't always see everything covered by their fee. Along with the wedding day, there's a great deal of work before and after, the cost of equipment-and all the other expenses that running any small business entails. Here are some thoughts from our members: New Orleans wedding photographer Cyd Lapour: "If you're investing in an experienced photographer who pays their taxes, is adequately insured, and has enough weddings under their belt for you to be confident they won't ruin your day-they're not going to come cheap. By the time expenses are accounted for, though, they're making much less than you think they are, all while working longer hours than the average desk jockey. Invest in good people and you'll get good work. And feed us cake, for bonus points." Denver wedding photographer Annaleisa Friednash: "We price ourselves to support ourselves. I never overcharge, but I like to take value in the effort I've put in to educate myself in this field, compensate for the equipment we need to capture your day, and insurance to prepare for anything that may happen." Mexico wedding photographer Melissa Suneson: "Imagine dividing that money into the hours spent at the wedding, plus the hours working on the photos, e-mails (pre-wedding and post-wedding), client meetings, expenses such as website hosting, on-line gallery service to deliver the photos, cell phone, gas, computer and software, camera equipment, light stands, hard drives, and backup drives-just to name a few. That amount turns out to be a not-so-big 'paycheck.'"
Misconception #5: Wedding Photographers Like to Work Free for Exposure Here's another one with a simple answer: no one, in any profession, wants to do their job for free. Edmonton wedding photographer Aspen Zettel noted that charity work is a different thing. "I have deliberately chosen a select few charities that I believe in the contribute my time and energy to," she says, but notes that, "Everything else is work, no matter who it's for or how fun and easy it is. At the end of the day, I have to pay the overhead for my business and feed my family like everyone else." The other photographers who spoke on this question echoed her sentiment and cautioned against entrusting your big day to anyone who does offer to photograph it for free. Edmonton wedding photographer Rhiannon Sarah McLeod:"I love my job and would bend over backwards for my clients-but I don't think anyone likes working for free. I can't pay my bills with passion." Mumbai wedding photographer Sam Walzade: "The only people who may offer to work for free are amateurs who are trying to build a portfolio. As a client, one must consider whether the risk of hiring someone like this is worth it."
Misconception #6: Wedding Photography Is Just a Hobby While photography has long been a popular hobby, those who do it professionally invest just as much time and energy into their job as workers and business owners in any other skilled field. "Hobbies are activities you do for pure pleasure that are not accompanied by external expectations. None of that sounds like wedding photography to me," says Aspen Zettel. Vancouver wedding photographer Jozef Povazan gets right to the point: "Salmon fishing is my hobby." New Jersey wedding photographer Michelle Arlotta: "I take my job of telling the story of one of the most important days in a couple's life very seriously-more seriously than I would a hobby, because a hobby something we do regularly during our leisure time for pleasure. It is a full-time effort to be profitable in the wedding photography industry. It takes a lot of years of learning, a big investment in equipment and other gear, and a ton of determination and perseverance to make a living." Cincinnati wedding photographer Jonathan Gibson: "Watch a master at work and you'll see a drive for perfection, sky-high standards of excellence, no-holds-barred work ethic, and a religious devotion to quality that the hobbyist is not yet ready to commit to."
Misconception #7: It's a Glamorous Lifestyle Photographers understand why people would think this-and they agree that sometimes their job can come with a lot of perks. But most agree that a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" type of glamour is not their reality! "If 'glamorous' means a privileged opportunity to spend time with a family and to find meaning and beauty in every last moment and detail-then, yes, shooting weddings is glamorous," says Jonathan Gibson. "But shooting weddings can also involve 16-hour days of brain-cramping creative problem solving, hundreds of thigh-master squats, and beast-of-burden gear schlepping. This can result in us being a sweaty hot mess at the end of the day. No, it's not glamorous. You be glamorous; we'll do the rest." Malta wedding photographer Ian Abdilla replied simply, "110 hours of work per week. Where does glamour fit in there?" Several other photographers offered their takes on the "glamorous" lifestyle of wedding photographers: New Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau: "Behind every gorgeous image, every trip we take to another destination, is a business owner working until 1:00am to make sure deliveries are going out on time, that each couple has a timely response to their e-mails, and that our social media marketing automations are all working properly. There is definitely nothing sexy about that." Mexico wedding photographer Melissa Suneson: "Going to fancy places and beautiful cities or locations could seem glamorous, but if you think of the hours packing, traveling, working, leaving your family on important dates, plus physically being on the floor, bending your back a lot, carrying all your equipment, etc.-it is not glamorous at all, it is exhausting!" Edmonton wedding photographer Rhiannon Sarah McLeod: "Weddings are amazing and so much fun. They can have glamorous moments but, as a whole, it's very hard work that should never be taken for granted."
Misconception #8: Wedding Photographers Can't Photograph Anything Else Well Wedding photographers want you to know that they choose to do wedding photography because they love it-not because it was their only option. In fact, being a great wedding photographer requires them to master more skills than practically any other facet of professional photography! Over the course of a single event, wedding photographers will document fast action (like sports photographers), beautiful garments and styling (like fashion photographers), overwhelming emotion (like photojournalists), classic family and couple images (like portrait photographers), the beauty of the wedding venue (like landscape or architecture photographers), the sumptuous meal (like food photographers), and even live music and dancing (like club photographers). India wedding photographer Aviral Mediratta: "Photography is not a beggar's game. We choose wedding photography because we love to shoot weddings. Give us anything else and we will still give you exceptional results." Edmonton wedding photographer Rhiannon Sarah McLeod: "I certainly can photograph newborn babies but I don't want to. I can do a more than competent job, but I'm not passionate about photographing babies like I am with wedding photography."
Misconception #9: All Wedding Photographers Have the Same Style Spain wedding photographer Adolf Boluda cuts to the chase, suggesting that this is like saying that "all food tastes the same." Likewise, Sara Kirkham states, "We're all different. If you had three different photographers at your wedding they'd tell three different stories with their images." How should a couple's style affect their selection of a wedding photographer? Two more pros weighed in on this important topic: Kansas City wedding photographer Melissa Sigler: "I think even the most disinterested person could tell the difference between styles. Find one that speaks to you and won't be outdated in ten years. Most importantly, find a photographer with whom you connect on a deeper level." Denver wedding photographer Kaitlyn Holeman: "Bright/airy and dark/moody are two examples of really popular styles right now in photography-but not everyone fits in those two groups. I personally fit more into the colorful and bold category, which isn't for everyone. The key is to find a photographer whose style really speaks to you, and a style you know you'll love even years or decades from now."
Misconception #10: Wedding Photographers Like to Imitate Other Photographers' Photos Like painters, musicians, and other artists, photographers acknowledge that they are inspired by others in their field. In the early days of learning an art form, striving to imitate these masters can even be an important tool for growth. What sets skilled wedding professionals apart, however, is their ability to advance beyond imitation-to innovate and capture fresh perspectives that are uniquely tailored to the couple and their event. Here's what our Fearless Photographers had to say: New York wedding photographer Raj Sarma: "Sometimes clients do show me some photos and ask that I do something similar. In those instances, I'll talk about how each photo shoot is unique to a client's personality. I thank them for showing me what they like and then ask them to trust me-as we'll get photos that are true to them." Edmonton wedding photographer Aspen Zettel: "No image can be re-created exactly, as the light, equipment, and subjects are all different from the inspirational source. The more you try to control an image, the less happy you will be with the outcome in that situation. Organic cooperation and feedback is much more satisfying-and the work is original." Mexico wedding photographer Melissa Suneson: "Why would you like an imitation instead of having something created during the moment specially for you?"
Misconception #11: Wedding Photos Have to Be Pretty Pretty is nice-but it's not everything. Illinois wedding photographer Christi Chambers says, "I find that the 'pretty' shots are instant hits. But months, years down the road, I see a really interesting change. The images they share and talk about become all about the people and the stories in them. They get shared on birthdays, Mother's and Father's Day, but even more so when a loved one passes away. My clients' relationship with their images changes over time, and their priceless images begin to emerge for them really only after a year or more has passed. They will always love the pretty ones, but they actually cherish the images that tell the unique stories of their wedding day." Other Fearless Photographers echoed the sentiment that true life is what is really beautiful. Kansas City wedding photographer Melissa Sigler:"True life is not always pretty, but that's what makes it beautiful. We can appreciate the wonderful moments because we live through those that aren't perfect. The real, unposed moments may be stressful or 'unpretty' at the time they happen, but as life goes on, they will be cherished and maybe even fondly remembered. The raw moments we capture offer a glimpse into people's lives that overly posed, 'pretty' photos cannot convey." Mexico wedding photographer Melissa Suneson: "Wedding photos have to be real. They are about the love and the people gathered, so they have to capture the reality of each couple, family, and group of friends. Whatever the location, the people, or the situation, what is pretty at the end of the day is capturing that special day for our clients and making them happy when they look at their photos." Cincinnati wedding photographer Jonathan Gibson: "Pretty things, pretty people, and pretty photos flatter our tastes-but like cotton candy, it doesn't provide any muscle-building protein after the initial and fleeting sweetness passes. Trust yourself and your photographer to look beyond the pretty to photographs that are inspiring, raw, poignant, provocative, and ultimately reflect the real you."
Misconception #12: Wedding Photography Is Not a Necessity While wedding photography may not stack up as critical against fresh air and clean water, the photographers who responded to our survey pointed out that weddings aren't about necessity. Cyd Lapour noted, "Lots of things on a wedding day aren't a 'necessity.' Do your guests really need to eat? Do you really need flowers and centerpieces? Nope. And you don't really need photographs of your day-but I can promise you you'll regret not getting them. Photographs are our legacy. They preserve our memories and history." Melissa Sigler: "It's a luxury, but so is a wedding. You don't have to throw a wedding-you could just get the paperwork from the state. But why spend a day with the people who mean the most, dress up, throw an amazing party, and not have anything but your memories to remember it by?" Aspen Zettel: "If you're investing in a large gathering to celebrate your marriage, then the time spent with friends and family becomes the dominant reason for the celebration. My most cherished photograph from my wedding is a photo of my grandfather and I dancing. Photographs only increase in value with time. Can you say the same about a dress or the flowers?"
Misconception #13: Wedding Photographers Can Make Magic While great photos can seem magical, photographers are not miracle workers. The "magic" that makes exceptional images happen is actually the result of exceptional skills, exhaustive planning, a lot of patience, and knowing how to make the very best of whatever situation arises. Here's what they had to say: Top New Jersey wedding photographer Lauren Brimhall: "Every photograph we make has many ingredients to it: time, location, light, etc. Being deprived of time, especially, makes it extremely difficult to deliver the types of portraits that most brides and grooms would expect. If you are going to give us less than ten minutes to take your portraits in a church parking lot, there may not be any amount of 'magic' we can do to make that stand up to the rest of the work you have seen from us." Winnipeg wedding photographer Jenny Eaglesham: "Sometimes we can make magic, but not always. It's so important to have a conversation with your photographer before your wedding so that you both know what the expectations are when it's all over. The more your know about how your photographer makes photographs, the better the end result will be!" British wedding photographer John Hope: "Those of us known for our creative portraits can use our vision, some clever lighting, and the odd trick to make stunning portraits in the most unlikely of settings. On the flip side, clients sometimes hope we can achieve what is impossible. Many a photographer has been sent a Pinterest board of sunny, beach photos ahead of a winter wedding at a golf club!" Wyoming wedding photographer Janelle Rose: "We can't make magic, but you can. Relax. Be you. Let yourself laugh, cry, and be fully present. Allow yourself to feel all the feels. That's what makes real magic. The formalities of the day should take a backseat to the magic of authentic moments."
Misconception #14: Everything Can Be Photoshopped Later The photo editing program Photoshop is a terrific and valuable tool-but, as acclaimed San Francisco photographer Mauricio Arias notes, "You can't make up a moment that didn't happen." Jonathan Gibson elaborated on this idea in his response, saying, "A lot of things can be Photoshopped: pimples, distractions, and even a tyrannosaurus rex or the Millennium Falcon. What can't be Photoshopped is a tearful father who never cries, the clenched handkerchief in a grandmother's hand, or the look of quiet yet unbridled joy on your mother's face during the ceremony. Some of the most important moments happen once and can't be repeated, faked, or Photoshopped. Don't expect a computer program to create a reality that didn't exist in the first place and don't allow it mitigate the purity of your memories." Here are some additional thoughts by wedding photographers on why Photoshop isn't the miracle cure many people think it is. New Orleans wedding photographer Cyd Lapour: "We're artists, not magicians! If a moment wasn't there, we can't make it so. Sometimes what we envision doesn't actually happen, but that doesn't mean that the real moment isn't valuable in its own right. We can Photoshop some things, sure, but not everything. And isn't real life more fun, anyway?" Toronto wedding photographer Lindsay Duncan: "When we're delivering hundreds of photos, even a 'small touch-up' could take 5 extra minutes. If that small touch-up needs to be applied to something in multiple photos (let's say, your cousin's braces need to be removed from every photo they're in-and they're in 100 photos) that's an extra 8 hours of editing."