A good rule of thumb is to plan about 1.5 to 2.5 hours in front of the camera for out-and-about photos. After that it gets old. Just because you have four hours between ceremony and reception doesn’t mean you have to use it all for photos. If you’re not enjoying the experience you’re not getting value from your photography.
Don’t forget travel time on top of the above mentioned estimate. You might be surprised how long it takes to get a wedding party on and off a bus, and traffic is always worse than you would otherwise expect.
Have a big wedding party (six or more per side)? Add more time. Big groups take longer to set up and get organized. Have a heavy drinking group (you’ll know if you do), add a little more time.
It’s a good idea to pick a couple good spots and milk them for all their worth rather than trying to hit every place you can think of. For example, consider two or three spots in Forest Park (MUNY, waterfall, Jewelbox) rather than trying to go to five, six, or more all over the place. You’ll enjoy a more relaxed pace.
Remember to give your photographer the time and attention required to get groups set up and make any adjustments to equipment. Typically every new spot will require some adjustment to settings and lighting.
Most inexperienced photographers and almost all friends-with-a-camera do little or no enhancement to the images after they’re shot. Enhancement takes a lot of time and is an art in itself. They typically explain it by saying they “get the shot right in the camera.” Yes, you can expose carefully and get a pretty decent image without doing any additional work after the fact. But do you get the BEST result this way?
Let’s look at a quick example. Two versions of the same photo. The photo on the left is exposed well with a good range of tones from bright to dark. If it was exposed any brighter we’d lose subtle details in the bride’s dress.
The photo on the right has has some careful enhancement by bringing out details in the shadow and highlight areas and adding some contrast. I took it further and cropped it to remove wasted space and finally manually “painted” areas (such as faces) brighter or darker to draw the eye and adjust for uneven illumination.
Enhancement can actually change the way an image is captured in the first place. Ever notice how popular those blown out skies are in portraits these days? It’s done because it’s easy, not because it actually looks better – although tastes differ. The photographer can simply expose for a face and let everything else wash out.
However, when you have enhancement in mind from the start, you can expose the image for the sky or a white wedding dress, retaining details, and bringing up the subject for a nice finished image that looks very natural.
In the first image the photo was exposed for the couple’s faces. Notice how washed out the church and sky look in the background. This is a best case scenario out of the camera. But when you know you’re going to enhance an image – using it as a tool rather than as a fix – you can expose a darker image that keeps detail in the sky and then brighten the couple afterward for a very nicely balanced image that looks better than the best case straight from the camera.
Yes, you can add flash to the mix to get a well exposed subject and blue skies – and sometimes that’s the right solution – but there are plenty of valid reasons to shoot natural light and enhance in post. Enhancement is just one more tool in your kit.
Even when the images are exposed as well as can be in the camera it doesn’t mean that it gives the best photo. Careful enhancement brings out details and gives a more finished look. Only you can decide if better photos are worth the additional cost of a higher end photographer. To couples who value the quality of their wedding photography it is.
When stepping away from discussions of style or additional items such as albums, most couples have just four actual needs from their wedding photography.
• Photos to show off to friends and family – Though most don’t want to flat out admit it, when being painfully honest most couples want dynamic photos they can show off. Facebook, prints, albums, even showing co-workers a digital image on your phone during a break; couples want images that generate “oohs” and “ahhhs.”
• Candid memories for a lifetime – Candid photos of real memories and interactions that capture the essence and feel of the day are what most couples value years after the wedding. There is a huge difference between photos that capture emotions and tell a story and photos that are “random” candids.
• Good enough quality – Let’s face it, it’s easy to say we all want the very best that can be created, but to many couples the large extra cost doesn’t justify the additional quality they get in return. At some point, we all reach a point of “good enough.” Only you can decide where that point is to balance your needs with your budget.
• A price they can reasonably afford – Not specifically a cheap price or what a couple might want to pay, but a price that is livable within the budget. An experienced, quality photographer will cost more. A cheap photographer won’t deliver the quality you want. Find a balance that works for you.
These four needs are met in slightly different ways or to differing amounts. For example, one couple’s threshold for quality may be much, much higher than what another couple would consider sufficient, but at some point it will be “good enough.”
Only you can decide your threshold for each.