This is perhaps the most insidious threat you face in choosing a wedding photographer. In fact, I can already guess that I may receive death-threats from some of my fellow wedding photographers for having exposed it–the dirtiest secret of the wedding photography industry.
See, many pro photographers regard wedding photography as the illegitimate stepchild of professional photography, as the field one turns to only when one has exhausted every other possible means of supporting oneself through photography. For a shockingly large number of those who call themselves wedding photographers, this is, unfortunately, true. I promise.
When I was just starting out I shot alongside plenty of photographers just like this. Shooters who were jaded, disgusted, and utterly embittered at having to “stoop” to wedding photography in order to eat.
Just consider it from a photographer’s point of view–weddings are one event in nearly every person’s life for which they will almost certainly hire a photographer. Given that the average wedding photography package costs $2k-$5k, it’s no wonder why there are so many photographers out there willing to “sell themselves out” by doing something they seriously dislike, just for the opportunity to cash in on this phenomenon.
I remember clearly the moment when I really got how pervasive this is. About four years ago outside a camera shop in San Francisco, I met well-seasoned wedding photographer who was loading some gear into the back of his car. The man was in his early fifties with a tired and sad air about him. He caught my eye and asked me what kind of photography I did for my work, and when I responded, “wedding photography,” he nodded as if he had me all figured out, and quickly followed by adding, “Ahh, of course, and what do you shoot for fun?” He looked stunned and became visibly uncomfortable when I replied with a giant grin, “Weddings!”
Now, truth be told, I am also passionate about concert photography and I shoot concerts for both work and pleasure, but at that moment, I felt the need to let him know that despite his own displeasure with having chosen to do something he doesn’t enjoy, that there are people who love it, and who live for it.
The photographer who shoots your wedding should be in love with wedding photography. In order to love shooting weddings, they must love being at weddings. The photographer, who can’t stand weddings, cannot stand himself for shooting them just to keep his boat afloat. I warn you, this person is a toxic element to introduce into the sacred environment of your most special day and he lacks the essential stuff of great art, which is: passion. Indeed, it is passion that distinguishes basic craftsmanship from photos that truly sing.
There is hope!
Despite the startling magnitude of photographers who shoot weddings just to pay
the bills, there are those of us who regard wedding photography as our calling (hooray!). We hold the craft sacred and operate within the mystical arena of the highest art while we shoot. For us it is our great honor to share our gift of photography with people during this most blessed and special day and it is our great pleasure to have a blast, and to make life-long friends in the process.
How then, do you discern true passion from carefully concealed disdain? After all, the embittered wedding photographer, the one who lacks passion, especially the one who has been shooting weddings for years, has learned to disguise their abhorrence for their profession. Here, perhaps more than in any other time, your intuition is paramount. Look your prospective photographer right in his or her eyes and ask them directly: “What is it that you love about wedding photography? What moves you about weddings? Why do practice wedding photography instead of, say, portrait, or fashion photography?”
“I just really like them,” might be a thinly veiled version of: “I can’t stand them, actually.” Ask them, “Why did you get into wedding photography in the first place?” You will know if they are genuine by the delivery of their response as much as by the content. Are they hesitant? Fidgety? You know when you’re being put on. Trust yourself. Good pictures are not enough. You deserve better than a technically proficient fraud making photographs for you and your most beloved family on the day of your sacred union.