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Is your Wedding Photographer an Expert?

How do I know that a photographer is an expert?

You may be surprised to know that the clear majority of photographers, specifically new photographers, never take their camera out of automatic mode. The reasoning is simple: modern digital cameras take a lot of pictures very quickly and are generally good at guessing the correct exposure, color balance, and focus.

This means that an inexperienced person may feel confident in their ability to photograph one of the most important moments in a your life. No matter how qualified the aspiring photographer feels, they will be completely incompetent in any situation that arises where the camera isn’t functioning properly. If the shooting conditions require specialized skill, such as photographing a bride in front of a bright back-lit window, then your images will suffer. The camera just isn’t capable of making the best choice in tough lighting situations, and neither is  an inexperienced photographer.

Automatic modes are there to aid a well educated and experienced photographer. Certain automatic modes, such as shutter priority, are excellent when a skilled individual understands the shooting conditions and determines that managing the shutter and letting the camera select the aperture would be best in times of a dynamically changing environment.

Think about wanting to control the flow of a water fountain behind a bride and groom.The   photographer may want to use a slow shutter speed in order to show silky streams of flowing water behind the couple. Using shutter priority automatic could be a good choice allowing the photographer to focus on the shutter speed and posing the couple while the camera would choose the appropriate aperture to maintain the correct exposure.

When you see elements such as a beautiful defocused background, well exposed images, and consistency across multiple weddings you can begin to think of the photographer as an expert.

An experienced photographer should also be able to talk about how they achieve a shallow depth of field, or freeze a moment in time, or even discuss light painting with you. The conversation should be warm and exciting.

Be cautious of a photographer that can't describe exposure and how it works. I like to remind people that if they can't explain it, then they don’t understand it.

An experienced photographer will generally operate the camera in manual mode, using a semi manual mode only when an environment is changing quicker than they could keep up, like silhouette portraits in front of a sunset. You are always welcome to see the EXIF data, a kind of special data about images that are written to each image by the camera. When you look at the data it will say in what mode the picture was taken. If all of the images you inspect says automatic, you’re probably dealing with an amateur.

Remember, we are talking about someone who will photograph the start of your family. Your wedding is serious business. So don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. Ask about the photographers philosophy, why they do what they do, what kind of education do they have, how many brides have they photographed, and what their goals in photography are. 

Be upfront, courteous, and kind. These questions might be unnerving to a green photographer, but a seasoned professional will appreciate these very informed inquiries and will welcome them with warm, thoughtful, reply's.

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