Let’s severely oversimplify for a moment and assume that there are two distinct types of wedding photographers. The technician photographer and the creative photographer. While both work with the same tools of the trade, they are very different animals and create very different work.
The Technician Photographer
This type of photographer sees the wedding day as a series of “must have” photos that are ticked off the mental checklist. They are great if you have a specific shot list in mind, want a lot of posed, “smile at the camera” shots, or otherwise prefer a more traditional style of wedding coverage. Think of the photos in front of the “wall of fame” at celebrity events where Leading Man and Leading Lady are seen together, smiling for the viewer and showing off their designer duds. Snap, next, snap, next. For the most part, the photos are very formulaic.
While you may see stunning studio quality portraits from some of the best, the technician photographer uses his/her creativity as a matter of overcoming technical issues in the pursuit of getting the shot someone else envisioned. Where to put the lights. How to tilt the bride’s head.
There is nothing wrong with the technician photographer. They get the photos they are told to get and generally don’t impose any personal vision on the day. They are the best choice if you have a specific vision of how you want your wedding photography to look. Maybe best of all, most tend to be less expensive because you are basically hiring someone to handle the technical issues of operating a camera, nothing more.
The biggest drawback may be that your wedding photos look a lot like everyone else’s wedding photos.
The Creative Photographer
The creative photographer is hired with an entirely different purpose in mind… to tell the story of the wedding day in his or her own unique way. Here, the story is king, not any specific images. In fact, many creative photographers don’t even have any shots in mind at all as they approach the wedding day. Instead, they capture by “feel” letting the flow of the day guide the photos they get. As no two weddings are ever alike there is no way to guarantee certain images will happen.
Yes, there are certain events that are expected such as the walk down the aisle, cake cutting, the first dance. The creative photographer captures these moments, but not by any preconceived idea of what the final image will look like. Maybe the first dance is shot from the floor, maybe standing on a chair, maybe close up, maybe far away… It’s all about what feels right at the moment.
The creative photographer is generally less worried about technical perfection and more interested in the moment and emotion of the moment. Maybe the groom’s tie is a little loose or the maid of honor has a lock of wayward hair that falls in her face. Genuine laughter, crazy dance moves, or tearful expressions are far more important.
Often this type avoids staging or setting up shots in favor of a more documentary approach, but the flip side is that some photographers are very heavy-handed in setting up their own vision. You don’t tend to see as much middle ground.
The creative photographer tells the story in his or her own unique way. The photographer’s fee is partly the ability to handle a camera competently, but also for his unique, artistic and creative take on the day. The best way to invite disappointment in the final work is to try to impose your own idea of storytelling on this kind of photographer.
Therefore, it is vitally important to choose a photographer who’s previous work is close to what you want for your own wedding. Do NOT assume that they will alter their previous style or storytelling method to suit your own needs.
Which Is Right For You?
Granted, we’ve been talking about the extremes. Most photographers are a mixture of both technician and creative, but almost always favor one style more heavily.
Hire a technician photographer if:
- You have a specific shot list in mind
- You want primarily posed, traditional or formulaic photos to remember your day
- You want your day to be recorded in a specific way
- Technical perfection and studio quality images are what you value
Hire a creative photographer if:
- You love the storytelling style of the photographer’s previous work and want their unique take on your own wedding
- You prefer spontaneous moments in a (usually) less controlled manner
- Moments and emotions in photos are more important than studio perfection
- You hate the idea of posing or playing to the camera all day
- You really, really hate the idea that your photos look like everyone else’s wedding photos
Be honest with yourself about the style of photography, and look of the photographs, you want for your wedding day and choose the proper photographer to capture that look and style.