Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Photography Hunt: Priorities

In this post, I mentioned reading a couple different perspectives on photography, and it was interesting to think about this as we went through our photographer search. There is one side of the photography debate, which I'll call the photo-priority side. There is another side which I'll call the bucking convention side. I loved reading both of these posts for some perspective as we went into our search and I tried to ground myself in what we wanted, not what other people wanted. It's always good to remember that we are all different, and blogs aren't bibles to live by, so just because others were spending 20% of their budget on photography didn't mean we needed to. And there is nothing wrong with any of us!
For us, not having professional photography was not an option. This was for a few reasons, mostly because I've been to weddings and events with my family members and friends, and I either never see the pictures, or there aren't enough really good shots to make up for not having a pro. We'll potentially be asking a few friends with DSLRs to play second shooter during the cocktail hour, but I wanted there to be a person whose entire job it was to take pictures to be the one responsible for capturing the day. Yes, this probably isn't something that we need to spend thousands on, but since that's the going rate, that's what we'll be spending. I wish that comfortable shoes didn't cost more than $30, but they do, so I buy them. Some things are just a matter of market.
I always thought that I would value photography the most and that would be the financial priority. Photographs are the only thing that lasts after the wedding is over, and I really really love great photography. The thing I found interesting though, as I perused wedding blogs, other bloggers and I didn't have the same idea of great photography. Other blogger's idea of great photography included photographers that take hazy, vintage-looking photographs, with an almost sunwashed hue, or photos that involved blurry, out of focus shots. I like the out of focus shots, as art, but I also like the idea that in 50 years, I won't be looking at a hazy picture of my grandmother from the wedding and thinking, "gee, I wish I had a clear picture." Photography is both art, and a way to capture life, and I sometimes think the two don't meet. Truthfully, I don't think I will look at our wedding pictures and regret that they aren't art. Ultimately, photographs capture a moment in time, and the right picture, the right moment, will always make you feel like you felt the moment it was taken. I think I would regret not having those moments more than I would regret not having art.
I also started to learn more about photography generally, because I've spent three years in law school to chuck it all and become a starving artist...not really, but I do really want to learn to take better pictures. I took photography in high school and it interests me. So I sat down to think about what I really wanted in a photographer. This might seem kind of selfish, but I was pretty sure that Mark and I had the same general taste, and that my criteria was going to be pickier because I knew more about photography and what it could do. So I made a list, and I set out to find a photographer that could do all of that, within our measly photography budget.
I wanted pictures that captured emotions.

I wanted pictures that captured how much fun the party was.

I wanted pictures that captured how much we love our bridal party.

I wanted pictures that captured how much we love each other.

And so I started our hunt with these things in mind. (All of these photographs are from photographers I looked at during the process. In order, from top down, the first two are Prema Photographic, then Murial Silva, Paired Images, and Lara Swanson.)

What were your priorities? Do you want pictures or do you want art? Did you make photography a budget buster or a budget saver?


  1. Our photography is a total budget buster! When all is said and done, our photographer will probably cost about 1/6 of our entire wedding budget and while that makes me anxious, I know we're getting our moneys worth. We looked at a few other photographers initially and while their prices were easier on our bank account, I kept going back to the same photographer I had seen during the first month of wedding planning. I had initially dismissed the possibility of having her because of the high cost, but when I realized that nothing else out there matched up to the photos we'd get from her, we decided it was worth forking out the extra dough.

    For us, it's the elements of the wedding that we're willing to spend more money on, so photography and the rings were our two big splurges.

  2. Photography was a huge priority for me and my fiance too. Luckily we were able to get a great deal with a professional photographer that we LOVE. It's definitely our biggest splurge for the wedding so far. We're extremely happy with our decision and are looking forward to having these photos to look at and reminisce with for years to come.

    It's funny you mention the blurry/vintage shots all over the wedding world. I totally agree with you--they look pretty but were not what we were looking for. We wanted bright, vibrant photos that capture all of the emotion of the day.

  3. I'm in the middle of drafting a similar post, because we're on the hunt too. And this post is the closest I've read to what I'm looking for. I want professional photography and I've come to terms with the pricing (budget buster, definitely) and my reasons for wanting it. I want it to capture the truth of the day. I want emotional honesty. I want people, not details. I want a photographer who celebrates the people shots on their blog and not the posed portraits or detail shots. I want great composition but not necessarily a ton of effects or stylization. We want someone who understands color and light. So I want it to be intrinsically beautiful, but not necessarily the "art" photos I see extolled in the wedding blog world.

    We're trying to pick apart the differences now between photographers who understand our vision, without a lot of processing, so we know at their core that they'll give us something spectacular. I think processing hides a lot of evils. I also think some processing trends somewhat distance you from the emotion of the photo, making it colder somehow. It's complicated stuff, especially when working from two different aesthetic points of view.

  4. We want a little bit of both (art, pictures). Becca pretty much summed up my thoughts in her reply, above.
    In the beginning of our search, We both fell in love with One Love Photo but 1) they are in Seattle and 2) flying two photographers (though amazing!) to Hawaii over the 4th of July weekend would probably be beyond a budget buster.

    In the end, we found a local photographer who we are really happy with for $2,000. Totally worth it to both of us.

  5. Our photographer was almost within our budget . . . but we were completely happy with stretching it a bit to get the photographer that we wanted. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was something about her work that made us really feel good when we looked at it and when we looked at various shots over the course of people's wedding days. The company is also carbon-neutral, which was an added bonus. As far as pictures vs. art goes, I think a good picture is art. You can spend minutes taking in every color, every detail, every subtlety . . . and you can hang it on your wall as well. I don't think it's too much to ask to want - and expect - both.

  6. I search and recently came across your blog and have been reading along. It was wonderful blog.


  7. I'm torn between even seeing the wedding as a performance tour-de-force (I used to act), and something "authentic," not that I even know what that looks like. I was seduced by the "art," including the sun-dappled nostaligc pictures and the super-vibrant artisitc details. This post called that out for me, and reflects a larger dichotomy in my life. So thank you- this really resonated.