How To Find A Wedding Photographer—Part 3
Part 3: Know Your Shooter
Incredible as it may seem, when you book a wedding with “Joe Blow Wedding Photography,” Joe Blow might not be the one taking the pictures. Many large photo studios have multiple photographers on staff, and even though you made all the arrangements with Joe, come the day of the wedding, somebody other than Joe might show up and start unpacking his camera gear. “Where’s Joe?” you’d understandably ask, in less than friendly terms. “Oh, unless you make special arrangements,” the photographer might explain to you, “then Joe doesn’t handle the assignment.” The photographer might even reach for a copy of the contract that clearly says, in Section XXXII, clause 4, that Joe has the right to send an assistant.
What’s wrong with this picture? A lot. First, even if Joe has managed a turn a delicate legal dance, it’s just not right. When you have surgery, you want your doctor to do the cutting, not some intern who just graduated from medical school. Unless Joe has made it clear that he won’t personally be taking pictures—and clear doesn’t count relying on the fine print of a contract—he’s betraying your trust. It seems the the Joe Blow photography studio has become a little too big to serve its customers well.
And I hate to say it, but you’re not blameless, either. This has become a common practice in the industry. You need to be aware of it, and you need to make sure that you’re not taken advantage of. During the negotiating process, be sure to ask Joe about who will be taking the pictures and make sure that your desires are spelled out in the contract.
If your contract is with Paul Braverman Photography, you can rest assured that Paul Braverman will be the principal photographer. I may bring assistants along, but when it’s time to make that first incision, I’ll be doing the cutting. (You can see my Wedding Photography page here. All images were taken by me, personally, no assistants.)
(Note that the question of who is primarily responsible for shooting the wedding is a different question than whether or not to hire a second shooter for the event. That is often a wise move, for reasons that I will discuss later in this series, but the principal photographer should be the person you expect to be the principle photographer.)
Many of my advice about choosing a photographer can be summed up in two words: No surprises! A good photographer won’t leave you flat-footed at any stage of the process: Not when you sign the deal, not when you see who’s showed up to take the pictures, and not when the bill comes. No surprises. Words that I live by.