Monday, April 02, 2007

Life of the party

My sweetie and I met with some photographers yesterday.

There are a heck of a lot of photographers out there, especially in and around NYC. I've asked my married friends for recommendations, but all of their photographers, who were affordable when my friends got married, are now too expensive. This seems to be the way of wedding photographers: they are affordable when they first start out, but as they build a portfolio of weddings and a record of happy couples, their prices creep up.

So, I've gone with recommendations from the Knot, and also from the Wedding Photojournalist Association, which helpfully lists members by location and price.

Photojournalism seems to be the current trend in wedding photography, and it's one I really like: basically, the photographer does little to no directing of action, s/he simply records events as they happen. A good photojournalist will capture a real you-are-there feeling that's something I would like to have.

My sweetie and I met with three photographers, who could not have been more different, personality-wise, even though their stated photojournalistic approach is the same. The contrasts were striking: one guy met us in a Starbucks, and had a very friendly, businesslike, outgoing personality. The second one met us in a small independent cafe downtown, and had a more intense, serious, somewhat arty presence. The third met us in the lobby of an ultra-modern hotel in Chelsea and was young, hip, and trendy. It was several slices of NYC life :-).

Each photographer showed us a complete wedding he had shot--that is, all 300-400 proofs from a wedding, not merely the albums of 50 or so of the best pictures. The idea behind seeing a complete wedding is that you get a better sense of the flow of the day, and how the photographer tells the story. I must say, I enjoy looking at wedding pictures. I'm a total sap at heart.

As I looked at hundreds of pictures yesterday (and even more online), I realized that one thing that really matters to me is good shots of the party. I could be wrong, but I feel that most reasonably competent photographers can get lovely and moving shots of the ceremony, or portraits of the couple, or magazine-beautiful pictures of the flowers and the cake. The real challenge seems to be the party: do they get pictures of people dancing, talking, laughing? Are these pictures interesting to me, who has no idea who any of these people are? Do we only have long shots of a group of faceless people on the dance floor, with a lot of backs? Or do we get great close-up action shots of Aunt Mildred breakdancing? Do we have endless pictures of couples trapped at tables, smiling stiffly at the camera, or do we see people laughing or flirting with each other, oblivious to the camera? Photojournalism is great for this kind of photo, but only if you're really good, because if your goal is to be unobtrusive and let the action happen, the risk is that you back off too much.

Photography is really important to me; it always has been. When I go on vacation I take a ridiculous number of photos, and if they turn out poorly I'm crushed (the last time I went on vacation, my pictures were ruined by the x-ray machine, and it almost ruined the vacation for me). I'm really, really anxious to find the right photographer. From all reports, your wedding goes by so fast, you miss half of what's going on. I don't want to miss a minute. We are doing our best to put together a relaxed, fun wedding, and I want the photographer to capture it. I don't want it reduced to stiff posed pictures or crowd pictures that show nothing.

I want to see the party.

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