How to Spot Great Quality Wedding Photos :: A Beginner's Guide

How to Spot Great Quality Wedding Photos :: A Beginner’s Guide

If photography is not your passion then you may struggle to see the difference in quality between wedding photographers.

In all likelihood, if you are looking for a photographer for your wedding then this is your first time booking a photographer of any kind.

Unfortunately, many in your position resort to judging photographers based on price alone.

Whilst price is a big factor, as you will discover in this article there are many more factors that you should consider.

By the time you have finished reading this you will have a better understanding of what to look out for.

We will also look at the different styles of photography so you can start to narrow down your options.

Hopefully you will also finish with a greater appreciate of photography as an art form.

Photographs or Snapshots?

Photography has been my passion throughout my life.

I can really appreciate the difference between a high quality portrait and a snapshot taken on a mobile.

To be honest, I always assumed that most people shared that appreciation.

What I have come to learn in my years working as a wedding photographer is that for many, a photo is just a photo.

I want to help you to elevate your appreciation of quality photography so that you can begin to recognise and appreciate high quality photography for yourself.

The Elephant in the Room

Let’s get this out in the open straight away.

Yes, I’m a wedding photographer.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be all about why you should choose me.

In fact, I may end up convincing you that I am not the right photographer for you.

Going back to the point I made earlier, this is about helping you recognise great work for yourself and then making your own decision.

 

Forget about the price for now

Yeah I know, you can’t ignore the budget.

I covered pricing in great detail in my previous article Wedding Photography Prices Explained.

One of the things we covered in that article was the price brackets that photographers typically fall into.

What we are about to cover will help you to choose from the photographers within your target bracket.

Judging Photos – Getting the Fundamentals Right

Judging art is very subjective.

There are a few fundamental elements that you can look out for when deciding whether they are any good.

Things like, is the subject in focus?

Did you notice that I said to make sure the subject is in focus, not the whole photo?

One of the key differentiating factors between mobile phone cameras and larger cameras is depth of field.

More on that shortly.

With focus, you are looking for sharpness.

Professional wedding photographers should possess the equipment and the skill to produce extremely sharp images.

Of course there are times when one might make a creative decision to throw the subject out of focus.

There are also some extreme examples where a moment went by so quickly that there was no time to nail focus, but the moment was worth it.

Main thing to look out for generally is the eyes.

The subject’s eyes should always be in focus. If not, question either the skills or the gear of the photographer.

 

Depth of Field

To understand depth of field take another look at the photo above.

Notice that, although there is a lot going on in this image, it is the bride’s face in the reflection which pops out at you.

This is something that experienced wedding photographers use to great effect.

You will probably notice this a lot when you start looking at wedding photos properly.

Talented photographers can make use of very shallow depth of field to give the images a very striking look and highlight tiny details in what could otherwise be a crowded and therefore less interesting photo.

Story Telling

Every photo should tell a story.

Whilst it doesn’t need to be Shakespeare, it should at least give you an idea of what was going on at the time.

This is especially true in wedding photos.

The photos as a collection should come together to tell the story of your day.

At the same time each one should represent a moment in time and tell its own story.

Take for example the moment captured in the photo below.

Completely out of context you know exactly what’s going on, a lovely little moment between a bride, her maid of honour and her flower girl.

Below we have a young man being prepped for duty as a page boy.

You can see the bride’s veil hanging down so you know who is doing his buttons.

The orange bridesmaid dress in the background and the hint of a bed frame tells you they are at home getting ready.

I’m sure you get the point.

Look at each photo in a photographer’s collection, is there context?

What was the photographer thinking in that moment?

Arguably portraits could be an exception to this, although I do still feel like they can tell the story of a couple in love or a proud bride if done well.

If you find that the photos are lifeless and seem to serve no storytelling purpose, perhaps this is not the photographer for you.

Post Processing – Trendy or Traditional?

Wedding photography styles go in and out of fashion very quickly.

In recent years the market has been inspired by Instagram’s retro style filters.

To a certain extent you will need to accept that your wedding photos will look dated in 20 years time.

That is just as true for your choice of dress and hair style, so don’t worry too much about the style of the photography in that sense.

Since there is so much choice it is worth looking around at the different styles out there and picking one which you feel most connected with.

Wedding blogs are a good place to look at styles of photography.

Some of the more popular blogs tend to gravitate towards a particular style so try a couple, see which ones appeal to you.

That will help you to narrow down your options when it comes to choosing your photographer.

To give you an idea of the difference it can make, here is an example of the same photo processed in a few different styles.

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Most seasoned professional photographers stick to a particular style.

This is great for them because it makes their work stand out as their own.

It is handy for you because you know what you can expect your photos to look like if you went with them.

Special Effects

This is another very subjective area.

Do you like your photos to be a true representation of what happened on the day, or would you appreciate it if the photographer added a little ‘magic’ to some of the photos?

I’m not for a minute saying this is a bad thing.

Done well, subtle special effects can elevate a good photo to a stunning one.

However, some may attempt to add elements to a photo using templates without really understanding what they are doing.

These rarely turn out well.

In Camera Special Effects

I’m not sure if these really should be classed as special effects.

Since we are using special techniques to augment reality then I guess it could.

wortley hall wedding

In this example everything was done ‘in camera’.

The light is coming from a flash positioned on the other side of the couple to the camera.

This is the kind of special effects I enjoy experiment with when the weather prevents us from going outside to get sunset portraits.

I use the same effect, though much more subtly, when I photograph the first dance.

backup wedding photos

Post-processing Special Effects

You can probably guess what this might be.

Basically using PhotoShop trickery to add elements to a photo that were not there when the photo was taken.

This can range from adding a little extra confetti to a ‘leaving church’ shot to adding a trail of sparkler light to a night photo.

I am not that big on adding these type of effects to photos as I prefer more ‘real’ photos.

As you can see from the below attempt, I should probably leave it to the experts 😉

Tip of the iceberg

I hope this crash course in spotting quality wedding photography has helped you in your search for your perfect photographer.

Of course, choosing a wedding photographer is about much more than just finding someone who is good at taking photos.

Obviously you need to also make sure they come across as dependable and won’t let you down at the last minute, or on the day, or afterwards.

Make sure you get along with them too.

Remember you will be spending most of your wedding day with this person by your side.

If you are not quite burned out yet, you could have a look through another of my articles which I think will help to fill in a few of the blanks.

Why Do Wedding Photographers Wear Black is my one-stop shop for pretty much everything you could want to know about wedding photographers.

Oh and hey, if you went through all the photos and decided you quite like them, maybe you could check out my services to see if we’re a good match for your wedding ;-).

Questions, comments or suggestions? Get in touch or use the comment section below.

See ya next time,

James

James Morgan

James is a professional wedding photographer based in Sheffield. He loves taking photos of people, tinkering with computers, real ale and red wine, and of course his family.
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