In the past photography was one of the dark arts, along with plumbing, car mechanics and for me, hanging wallpaper. It was something a professional did, something you expected to pay for and something in which you gave your total trust to the person you had chosen to carry out the work. With the explosion in access to cameras, particularly those on phones, where any knowledge of shutter speed, aperture or focusing is simply not required, the value of the professional photographer has been eroded.
"Everyone's a photographer now" is something I hear a lot these days. And it's true, for just about everyone at every event I go to has a camera pointed at the subject I'm there to photograph. However, I don't think the cheap wedding photographer is anything new. Thinking back to my wedding in the early 90s we saw a variety of photographers ranging in price and quality. There were the £200 photographers who were showing photos from the 70s which were of a quality that today would be what you'd expect from quick snaps on Facebook. But we went for someone who cost us £900 - you really do get what you pay for. So, cheap wedding snappers have been around since wedding photography was invented. The problem today is that there are many more of them now, and with the internet it's easy to find them.
So, what is the role of the wedding photographer and who is their customer? These are just my opinions. The bride and groom with their parents.
All photographers record history. They record a moment in time that will never happen again, or rarely happen again. Even landscapes change. I recently read something by a Scottish photographer who was worried about the increase in the construction of wind turbines, and how it might affect photographers going to Scotland to shoot landscapes. Those images of the landscape before the turbines went up are historically important, as will those be that are taken afterwards, and of course those taken during the construction period.
Photos are fundamentally about memories and telling stories. In the past the story to be told for weddings was the day itself. This was what people wanted photographing, and in many instances, still do. But today the wedding day is photographed by just about everyone, from the arrival of the guests to the last person leaving the reception and the lights going out.The wedding paparazzi!
The last two weddings I have covered haven't really been about the day. I was asked by the mother of the groom to cover the day before, when the marquee was being set up and then on the morning of the wedding, photos of her son, family and friends getting ready. The proper wedding photographer was doing their thing at the brides, ceremony and reception. With the latest wedding I’ve done, again the brief was more about the setting up, the key parts of the wedding that most of the guests don't see. I was of course responsible for capturing the day, the key moments and the family groups as well but in many ways, it’s the behind the scene images that I feel most proud of.
So I won't shoot your wedding day for £300, because your wedding day is worth more than that, but I will shoot your pre-wedding set up day for £300.
For a traditional quality wedding photographer couples should pay for the professional services of a wedding professional like Mark Palmer: http://www.allaboutcapture.co.uk
And let's not forget the wedding video...
Timelapse of the marquee going up.