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A Simple Guide to Wedding Photography For Couples

An insider ’ s advice on how to make one of the most important decisions for your wedding day


Philip Kent PPA Master Photographer A Wedding Specialist for 30 Years

Contents Introduction How do I find the right photographer? What do you want and what ’ s important? What does it cost? The Wedding Day is HERE! After the big day Do it yourself? When it ’ s done… What are…?

Copyright © by Philip Kent

Introduction Wedding Photography has changed since your parents were married! Things were simpler back then in the 1970s and ‘ 80s. They looked in the yellow pages for a photographer, maybe had a good referral from a friend or perhaps saw a display in a bridal shop. It was easier then because there were fewer photographers in the profession and they offered fewer choices: an album and reprints. Cameras were more expensive and required more learning and expertise to use. Photographers had to build their reputations through dedication and hard work, and with no internet, had to promote their services with expensive print and yellow page advertising. It took years to establish a good reputation and make yourself known. Thus, one could argue that the fewer photographers around then were, as a whole, better than the many digital photographers around today. Today, the “ barrier to entry ” into the photography business has been lowered with inexpensive digital cameras and the internet. Thousands of aspiring photographers are flooding the market and are avoiding years of formal training in school and apprenticeships with information on the internet and seminars sponsored by the camera manufacturers. We are bombarded with emails and pop-up ads. Google searches show 1,000 photographers looking to photograph your wedding offering so many different things at so many different prices, from $500 to $5,000—and more! They promote different styles and approaches. With less expensive digital cameras today, photography is easier. Some call themselves “ p hotojournalists ” . How do you sort this out, and figure out what is best for YOU? I wanted to address these issues with this booklet using my 30+ full-time years in the business of Wedding Photography. My goal is to help you learn the basics of Wedding Photography so you can make a better decision on how to best preserve one of the most important days of your life— your wedding day.


Where do you start in finding a Photographer? Finding a Wedding Photographer ( WP ) today is not difficult. In fact, they may find YOU first. Change your status on Facebook, register on any online wedding site and you ’ ll soon be contacted by one of the larger companies offering their services—and probably a few independent photographers as well. Most of the good and experienced photographers today work independently, not for a larger company. After all, if you ’ re good, why work for someone else? You control your schedule, you earn more, and get to make your own decisions as to when, how and where you want to work. So, most of the better photographers have their own businesses and may even employ other talented photographers. You may be fortunate to have a friend or relative who has had a good experience with their WP and this is a good place to start. No guarantee of course, but most WPs with happy clients will continue to have happy clients. If you search, you have basically two options. One is the website route, checking with wedding related websites such as Wedding Wire or the Knot. Of course, photographers listed on these sites for the most part, pay for that advertising so you will have to sift through the many listings to decide on the few that most interest you. The second and better option is to ask for referrals from the vendors you have already selected such as the reception site. Chances are, they have had experience with WPs that they know and trust. Internet searches through Google, etc. are helpful, but like the wedding sites, you ’ ll have to sift through the paid ads and the general listings which can be manipulated for preferred positioning by the WP or any business. Many WPs work out of the homes. If they are part-timers without regular business hours, make sure they are accessible when you want to contact them. WPs have different personalities of course and you want to be able to like who you ’ r e working with. Be sure to talk with them before the wedding and view different examples of weddings they have done. You want to get a good idea of the style, quality standards and what you may expect to see in your own photographs.


So what do you want and what ’ s important?

The digital revolution has given you many more choices these days. In addition to the traditional matted albums you can choose from a variety of “ digitally-designed ” books or albums, DVDs of your photos and a host of other products. Couples today can also get a CD or DVD of all your photos so they can do whatever they like with them and will have all the rights to reproduce them any way they want. This can be an advantage over just purchasing prints from the photographer in that you have ALL the photos, not just a selection. The downside is that the quality of the prints you might make on your own will probably not be as good as if they were professionally printed through the photographer. Most couples still want something more tangible than just images on a CD such as an album of their favorite images that tell the story of their wedding day. There are TWO types of wedding albums today. One is the “ t raditional ” wedding album style where each photo is mounted on a page or insert in the album. More than one photo can be on a page depending on the layout and size of the album. The best of these are bound in leather by companies such as the Leather Craftsmen Co. of New York. The second type of album is the “ digitally-designed ” album of which there are even more variety of styles and designs. Instead of the couple choosing their photos and deciding the order of each photo in a matted album, the photos they choose are sent to an album designer who does the initial layout using a computer software program. Some photographers do this on their own but professional designers tend to have more experience with more creative options to employ thus doing a more professional job. Various album companies offer a wide range of album styles and treatments to fit the tastes and preferences of the couple before the album is printed and bound. Couples generally will view and approve the digitally-designed layout before the album is printed and will have the option of making changes to the layout should they so desire. There is nothing like having a beautifully created and bound album of your wedding photographs, in contrast to just having the image files on a CD or hard drive. Who knows what technologies will exist a generation or two from now and what will happen to the files? A good album will certainly be around and enjoyed more often; however, having the digital files will give you the best of both worlds.


What Does It Cost? I remember when starting out, charging a very competitive price in order to build my business. As the volume of weddings increased, the prices increased until I reached a “ comfort level ” that was attractive in terms of how many weddings I could comfortably do myself while employing a couple of other photographers, and maintaining a high level of quality. Keeping the price within reach of most couples made for a rapidly expanding business and many happy clients over the years. Today, digital-cameras and the internet have “ lowered the bar ” to entry in the business making it easier for people to take pictures with less experience and training. This has created many part-timers who can afford to do fewer weddings because it isn ’ t their full-time occupation, therefore pricing for business expansion is not as important. If you’ r e only doing half a dozen weddings a year, why not charge more if you don ’ t depend on the income? Also, the impression of getting better quality is more evident with a higher price. Or is it an illusion in many cases? Paying more for a WP today does not necessarily mean a better photographer. “ You get what you pay for ” frequently does not apply in this industry. Sure, you will probably get less service and a lower quality product with a $1,000 WP than with one that charges $5,000, but not necessarily. Price doesn ’ t necessarily translate into the end result in this business. Of course, your budget may determine how much you can spend. Some couples may try to save in this area but it will often turn out to be a “ false ” savings. What will you have to sacrifice in the end to meet your budget? Number of photos, album quality, a less experienced photographer? Or, maybe hire a photography company that works on volume with sacrifices in quality of the service and the end result? Also, what are you getting for your $1,000 or $5,000? The “ s weet spot ” in pricing today seems to be in the $2,000-$3,000 range. But in many cases that does not include a tangible wedding album. Just photos on a CD or hosted online with you having the responsibility of deciding what you want to do with them. That leaves you with the option of spending even more money to order prints, or worse, printing them on your own. For the photographer or the company supplying the photographer, only providing an electronic version of the photos is a great low-cost/high profit service without the much higher cost of producing professional prints and albums. The “ rule of thumb ” is to spend roughly 15% of your total wedding costs on the photography. But the important thing to remember is that when the wedding day is over, the photographs are what

you have to remember it by.


The Wedding Day is HERE! I frequently tell my couples that the most important thing for you to do on the wedding day is to relax and have a great time! Communication with your Photographer before and on the wedding day is essential. You will want someone who is experienced enough to be able to help you with suggestions and advice on planning the photos, yet at the same time be sensitive to your requests and concerns. The Photographer should never be the center of attention but be in the background unobtrusively capturing the moments of the wedding. With the posed portraits, he or she must be able to work with your family members, tactfully directing the picture taking while being aware of the limited time available in your wedding day. The personality of the Photographer is certainly important here but generally, these are skills that are learned through experience. Some are promoting the idea of having two photographers at the wedding. This is unnecessary. One good experienced WP will provide you with more great images than you will need. Why have two WPs running around plus the extra expense ? One gets the bride and her attendants while one gets the groom and his side? How about the bridesmaids first and then photograph the guys, who need less time to get ready, afterwards? You don ’ t need to photograph both at the same time! Develop a written timeline of events and share it with the wedding professionals you have selected. They will be happy to review it and offer any suggestions if needed. It doesn ’ t have to be followed exactly but is valuable in keeping everyone on the same page. Ideally, you want to enjoy your wedding day with your family and friends, with the WP in a very unobtrusive role in terms of visibility and the amount of your time he or she may require. At the end of the day, that ’ s what it ’ s all about. If you do your research, choose your WP and other vendors carefully and communicate with each one of them, you will have a wonderful wedding day. And with a record of memories equally wonderful, to be enjoyed by everyone for years to come.


After the big day A week or so after the wedding you ’ re back from the honeymoon. Are your wedding photographs ready? If not, they should be. In this digital age, things move quickly. Most photographers and studios today only provide the images digitally to review. This is done in one of two ways: hosting them on a website service or providing low-resolution “ proofs ” on a CD. Website hosting makes it easy to share the photos by providing access to friends and relatives. Some studios still print the photographs for you to review. This makes it much easier to judge the quality and select the photos you want vs. having hundreds of images on a computer screen that are difficult to compare. Either way, you will want to decide which way works best for you. One caveat: Some photographers may “ brag ” about taking several hundred or even more than a thousand photographs. You will not want to have to look through this many photographs and have to throw out 90% of them! It doesn ’ t cost them any more to take more photos if they ’ re not printing them. This encourages sloppiness in their shooting techniques and creates more work in the selection process than you will want to endure. 300-400 good photographs is more than enough for most weddings to ensure that the couple will get everything they want. Wedding Photographers have a notorious reputation for slow turnaround of the photographs. Average times for completion of the photographs should be as follows…     

Photos ready to review one week after the wedding. Couple and families need a month or so to review/order. Matted albums take about 4-5 weeks to complete. Digitally-designed albums take 3-4 weeks to design, a week to review and revise, 3-4 weeks to print and bind. This is about a 2-month process from beginning to end. Reprints of individual photos about one week or less.

Of course these are averages. But there is no reason it should take much longer.


Do it yourself? Sure! Do it yourself! The new digital cameras these days make it easy for anyone to take photographs. They ’ r e automatic, you can see the photos right away and you can store them on your computer forever! Plus you ’ ll save potentially thousands of dollars! Actually a friend or relative can do it because you ’ r e the one getting married. But, and it ’ s a big but, consider all this…           

Do you actually have a friend or relative willing to take the responsibility to do this? Does he or she understand the complexities of which photos to take, and when, and not miss some important ones? Will they have an understanding of lighting in dark churches and reception venues vs. bright sunlight and other challenging settings? Can they arrange individuals, couples and groups quickly and naturally without having them look stiff and posed? Can they anticipate the emotional moments of the ceremony and reception and capture them without interfering or losing the moment? Are they quick to compose an image and will they do this without taking too much of your time away from the event and your guests? Will they have the photos ready for you to review a week after the wedding and enable you to review them easily? Are they able to provide you with a professional quality album built to last or will you be on your own with a CD of images that you don ’ t know what to do with? Who is going to retouch the images that need retouching? Who has the expertise for designing a matted or digital album? Are the photographs going to be printed professionally or are you going to print them yourself resulting in lower quality?

As you see, there are many, many skills and much experience required to produce a good set of wedding photographs. An investment in a good professional will be the best money you spend on a wedding. We are frequently reminded of this by our appreciative clients.


When it ’ s done… Ben Franklin said, “ Nothing is certain but death and taxes. ” Having beautiful wedding photographs and memories is not one of those certainties. However, with a little homework, studying what ’ s out there and making the effort to select the best professional photographer based on the advice in this guide, you will greatly increase your chances of having a great experience with your wedding photography and wonderful lasting memories. A few key recommendations… 

Your photographer is a key individual involved with your wedding. Make sure he or she is easy to work with, experienced and meet your expectations without distracting you from your enjoyment of the event. Make sure they are accessible in the weeks before and after the event.

Don ’ t pay for everything up front before the wedding! Normally a partial deposit ( h alf the minimum package for example ) , the balance when the initial photos are reviewed, and any additional balance when the order is completed.

The follow-up service of reviewing the images, placing the order and expeditious delivery of the finished result should be as seamless as possible. The person ( s ) responsible should be available for assistance, as this can be a complex process.

More important than a CD, make sure you create and receive a nice professional album of the photographs that will last many years. This is a tangible item you will always refer to and enjoy. But do purchase the CD if you can. It gives you another backup for accessing your photos and these days, most photographers offer it, as included or an option, depending on their pricing.

Finally, enjoy your memories. Your wedding photographs will have preserved the most important day in your life!


What are…? CDs vs DVDs? A CD holds 700MB ( megabytes ) of data ( p hotos ) . A DVD holds 4.7GB ( gigabytes ) of data, almost 7x more than a CD. The difference? Let ’ s say you have 400 highresolution professional photos at an average of 7MB each: 400 x 7 = 2.8GB, too much for a CD, so they ’ re put on a DVD. You can put that many low-resolution photos on a CD but the quality may not be very good. Both CDs and DVDs work the same. Matted Wedding Albums… Variations of these have been around for many years. Each photograph is individually mounted or matted on the album page alone or with others depending on the size of the photos and the album. High quality, matted leather bound albums are custom made by companies such as Leather Craftsmen and are among the most popular albums made today. Digitally-Designed Albums… Sometimes called “ Storybooks ” , “ C offee-Table ” books or other names, the photographs chosen by the couple are laid out in a software program by a skilled album designer. More creative effects are often employed depending on the designer ’ s skills and the style preferred by the couple. Once the couple approves the layout, the book is printed and bound by the manufacturer. There are many new companies vying for this business today and it important to have the photographer utilize a professional supplier and not a consumer-oriented company which is less expensive. Professional companies provide a much better quality, more durable product that is going to last much longer than the consumer version. The extra cost of a professional wedding album will be money well spent.

Matted Albums Digitally-Designed Albums 11

About The Author Philip Kent ’ s experience and credentials are unique and unmatched in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC area. After service as a photographer in the military, he obtained a B.A. Degree in Professional Photography from the renown Brooks Institute School of Photography and Filmmaking in Santa Barbara, CA. He has earned the title of Master Photographer from the Professional Photographers of America ( P PA ) based on years of awards and accomplishments. Philip has taught other Professional Photographers through seminars and has judged statewide professional print competitions. He is a member of the invitation-only American Society of Photographers ( ASP ) , open only to Master Photographers. His work has been published in various local and national publications such as Washingtonian, Readers Digest and People magazines, as well as in text books by Time-Life, McGrawHill and other media. He and his wife, Karen, reside in Vienna, VA. and have two sons. If you have any questions about weddings and/or photography in general you are welcome to call Philip Kent at his studio located in Tysons Corner, VA. We are available Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Anyone interested in considering Philip Kent for their wedding photography are welcome to call also. There is no obligation of course.

The Philip Kent Studio Centennial Plaza 8296-B Old Courthouse Rd. Tysons Corner/Vienna, VA 22182 703-790-1020 Website: Email:

Wedding Photography Guide for Couples  

A concise guide to Wedding Photography for couples planning a wedding.

Wedding Photography Guide for Couples  

A concise guide to Wedding Photography for couples planning a wedding.