One of the professionals that we really respect in the wedding industry is the Wedding Photographer.
Seriously - it's a tough gig!
Bridesmaids who don't like their photo taken, groomsmen who don't smile, inclement weather, overheating brides . . . can you imagine trying to juggle all of that AND do your job of taking breathtaking photos in a two hour window, including travel time? Phew!
So we recently picked the brain of one of our legion of wonderful and talented photographers, to explore just how a professional wedding photographer manages their duties on the Big Day of a couple.
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Pete Battye from Real Image Photography travelled an unusual path to becoming a wedding photographer. When he left high school, instead of doing an apprenticeship or going to Uni, he trained as a photographer in the Australian Air Force.
For five of the eight years he was in the military, he was based at Pearce Air Base just out of his home town of Perth. During that time he had plenty of family, friends and friends of friends tying the knot, so he was often called upon to photograph their weddings. It was an ideal situation really, as he could use the best cameras money could buy (Hasselblads) and process the images himself. This was back in the dark ages before digital came along.
He believes that the fundamentals of good photography haven't changed since the advent of digital photography, with the photographer's 'eye' being the most essential tool. He definitely feels that his time at Pearce was perfect for honing his photographic skills. A lot of the work he did whilst in the air force was public relations such as parades, events, visiting dignitaries and graduations. He often found himself shooting from the hip, having to change his camera settings in constantly changing light conditions which also helped towards becoming a competent wedding photographer.
Following his time in the Australian Air Force he travelled the world taking photos, in particular for the travel group Contiki. When he came home it was obvious that his skill-set was perfect for weddings so that’s the direction his photographic career took. "When I go to work I find myself surrounded by happy people who want to be there, with a whole lotta love getting thrown around."
We asked Pete, what he believed was the most important aspect of selecting a photographer for your wedding is, and he gave us some pretty sage advice. His best piece of advice?
"Do your homework!"
"You need to see a lot more than a handful of photos on a fancy website."
"You need to see consistency throughout an entire wedding and consistency in every wedding. Every photographer regardless of their abilities is going to get a few good photos at a wedding, but you need to be sure that your photographer is going to get 500 great photos depending on how long they will be spending with you."
He also pointed out that professional wedding photographers are all registered with AIPP so it is imperative to "check their credentials". Some other really good points to investigate include;
* what training have they had
* how much experience do they have
* do they edit all of the selected images individually
* do they know how to use fill flash (I won't go into the details, but I'm astounded at how many photographers I've seen at weddings that don't use fill flash)
* how many weddings have they shot
* what sort of feedback have they received . . . . you need to see lots of feedback (testimonials), as any of their friends or family can give them a great review and you - the client - would be none the wiser
* you could even go as far as to ask for some previous clients’ contact details to ask them how the photographer performed on the day.
We also asked Pete was he thought brides and grooms should prioritise in relation to their budgets. Of course being a photographer he think couples should prioritise their photography!
"After your wedding is done and dusted the greatest tangible element of the whole day are the photos - and the photos will enhance your memory of the day for the rest of your lives. As with all photos taken during our lifetime, every time you look at the photos your memories will come flooding back".
"It’s quite simple - the better the photos, the better your memories!"
One of Pete's main goals at any wedding is to make it look like it was the best celebration of love, ever. He believes that this kind of quality photography doesn't have to cost you $5000 or $10,000! But he does want to remind brides that they shouldn't,
"write a photographer off just because he or she sounds too cheap. Of course you can't expect much if you're only spending $1000 unless you're eloping or the photographer is offering a very limited coverage. Keeping in mind that any good photographer will probably spend more than double the time editing than they did taking the photos. But not all good photographers charge like wounded bulls!"
Yet another reason it pays to do your homework. If you do your investigate and thoroughly research photographers that you're interested in, you may be pleasantly surprised by their fees.
Another very important point is how you think you're going to get along with your photographer on a personal level.
Your photographer is the one person who is going to spend a large part of the most important day of your life, with you. In Pete's case he often spends the entire day with the couple. So when you're reading through a photographer’s feedback you need to see that not only does your potential photographer capture stunning moments from your wedding day, but they also make their couples and bridal parties feel completely at ease throughout the day.
Your photographer needs to be and do many things. They need to be your friend and make you feel comfortable and relaxed without getting too comfortable themselves. They need to be your manager without getting too pushy or too relaxed. They need to be your advisor as they have done this many times before and you haven't. And they need to be able to listen and take your advise themselves. It’s your day. They're your photos so if you have your own ideas, you need to let your photographer know.
Apart from great photography and a great personable photographer, every bride and groom have one thing in common. They want access to their selected digital images unencumbered by copyright.
This is super, SUPER important.
Some couples would like an album, proof book, canvases etc supplied by their photographer, however others would like to sort these things out themselves. It’s important when you select your photographer that you have the freedom to pick and choose what you'd like your photographer to do for you and what you'd like to take care of yourselves.
The last Pete particularly mentioned when we were talking about selecting your photographer is . . . . time.
Pete says, "Great, original photography takes time. I can shoot an average-sized bridal party in a short period of time if I have to, but it means I'll be sticking to my tried and trusted techniques, spending only a little time on each and won't really get the chance to experiment. Allowing more time makes everything so much more relaxed and this gives the photographer the opportunity to look outside the box and try new things."
"It doesn't have to be a drag or be boring for everyone. No one person is getting photographed all of the time, so I always advise bridal parties to bring an eski along so they can relax and enjoy themselves between photos."
Pete is also one of the dedicated wedding photographers who know of the 'special spots' to take one-of-a-kind photos for each bride and groom. He says, "I have a few favourite spots only one of which is a ‘secret’. I know of a fabulous beach between Dunsborough and Cape Naturaliste. Meelup Beach may be a hot spot for weddings and photos, but I find it’s very crowded on the weekends in summer and there aren't that many good rocks to use."
"The spot I like to use isn't as crowded, the water is just as clear if not clearer and there are plenty of rocks to use to set your bridal party up around or on."
Another spot that Pete loves is on the coast between Yallingup and Gracetown. There is a high cliff which requires a little rock hopping, but it’s worth it as the views are apparantly incredible! There is also some beach access which is also a bit of a hike, but once again, he knows it's totally worth it!
His one 'secret spot' is a little lake on private property. Pete said that he approached the owners one day and they said they were happy for him to take bridal parties there, as long as the property was respected and everything was left as it was found. Unfortunately the lake dries up in summer, but if he has winter or spring weddings, Pete can create some stunning images. He says that there are plenty of peppermint trees in and around the lake and lots of old gnarled-up paperbarks which make a fabulous back drop.
One last thing we were curious about, while chatting to Pete was if he had many requests from couples to do some 'out there' kind of photos or locations.
He said he did get a few requests for adventurous photographs now and then, and he also encourages it wherever possible. Pete said that most bridal parties (especially the groomsmen) are up for some "jumping off rocks" photos, but his all-time-favourite is when the bride and groom request a "trash the dress shoot" at the beach.
He said that it doesn't happen often, but when it does . . . he jumps at the opportunity.
Pete said that a "trash the dress shoot" usually takes place a day or two after the wedding and ideally just before sunset. He finds that after he has spent an entire day with the couple (on their wedding day) the couple are now very comfortable in his company and all their inhibitions go out the window.
"There is also the added advantage that they don't have to rush off to a reception, which means we can all take our time and experiment."
"Although most brides do worry about ruining their dress at a photo shoot like this, I once had a bride who had stunning deep red wedding dress the underside of which looked a bid grubby after our shoot, and she later told me soon after that she had hosed it off and you wouldn't have know it had been in the water " . . . . “I actually have no words to describe how happy I am with them! (the photos). Except maybe ‘OMG’ ‘Perfect’ and ‘Thankyou!!’ I am so glad I went through with it! Although I am yet to get my dress dry-cleaned, we did clean it ourselves a bit after the photo shoot and left it out to dry and you could not tell one bit that it had been in the water!”
Funnily enough, Pete said some brides have even purchased a cheap wedding dress online from China, to use purely for the ‘trash the dress’ shoot.
If some of Pete's wise words strike a chord with you, why not check out more of his work here. We are so please to have him as one of our photographers and wouldn't hesitate in recommending him to our brides. He's such a nice guy too.