I was recently having coffee with a would-have-been client turned friend from many years ago. I was ribbing her a little bit on having selected a different photographer. I was never actually offended by her decision to work with someone else, we just have that kind of relationship. I’ve seen her images, they are beautiful. But, as I learned during our conversation, she wasn’t happy with them. I asked her why and what she said actually kind of surprised me.
I’m seeing this wonderful variety of mostly excellent images, and there she is seemingly looking for stuff that was wrong with the photos. My very first thought was that we’d dodged a bullet–I’d hate to have worked really hard for a client only to have them ruthlessly nitpick all of it. But I kept that thought to myself and tried to understand what was really going on.
When I started pointing out how nice some of the images were, she spilled the beans that their photographer had just been kind of a jerk to them and their family. I think she hesitated to recount the true story because, having gotten to know me since then, she knew that wouldn’t have happened if she’d been working with us. Live and learn. She described her photographer’s demeanor as selfish, saying that it seemed like all she cared about was filling her portfolio. The photographer wasn’t interested in taking requests from family or friends. She was just plain inconsiderate and only wanted to do her own thing at the expense of my friend’s ability to enjoy what she was creating.
So there I was with a kind of epiphany. My friend had a set of beautiful photographs, but all they were doing was serving to remind her how her photographer made her feel: Not good.
Everyone knows what they think they’re looking for in a wedding photographer. Beautiful images. Obviously. But what if that’s not actually the most important thing?
Let me preface this by saying, obviously, you don’t want no images. And you don’t want images that make you look terrible. There’s a baseline of skill we’re assuming of any photographer you might consider. So no, you should not expect to be happy in the long run with the photos your cousin takes with the new smartphone she got for christmas, as tempting as it may be to save a couple thousand dollars. It’s just not that realistic. But everyone kind of knows that and if that’s the decision you make, you’ve probably thought it through and decided that’s what’s best for you. I digress.
See, what I learned from my friend’s experience, is that the way you feel about your images will be influenced by what it took to create them. You can have a really gorgeous image, but if you had to miss a couple hours of your reception to get it, or the photographer who created it was really rude to your grandmother or something, it’s always going to carry a sour taste.
So, while photographers love to espouse that it’s all about the image, that’s not exactly true. The experience leading up to and on the wedding day matters almost just as much as the images themselves.
So, while you might be fixated on finding someone with excellent images or a good price, there are other skills (depending on your personality) that your photographer needs to have. You should raise these 10 basic skills much higher on your list of priorities for your photographer. Maybe as high as the images themselves.
Patience: Because you might need more help than you think.
Responsiveness: Because it’s frustrating to talk to the wind.
Empathy: Because you need to be understood.
Creativity: Because creating beautiful images is more than just pointing a camera.
Foresight: Because the same kinds of things tend to go wrong.
Tough love: Because sometimes your expectations are unrealistic.
Flexibility: Because plans change.
Insight: Because the biggest problems and best solutions are not always obvious at first.
Punctuality: Because the whole wedding day is relying on it.
Pragmatism: Because sometimes tradeoffs have to be made and you want to make the best ones you can.