In August 2008, Mike and I traveled to the American Southwest for a two week vacation. After a long flight, we landed in Las Vegas. The same day we arrived, we would drive down to stay in Phoenix for a few days before heading to Sedona, then Page, then the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park until we ended where we began in Las Vegas. Not long after we started on our drive south, we came across the Hoover Dam, and Mike pulled over, eager for a better look and some pictures. Though the heat was astounding, the vista was magnificent, and Mike wasted no time in taking picture after picture. This would set the tone for our entire trip.
We bought a new digital camera before the vacation, and each day we’d take at least a hundred pictures. Then, every night, we’d lay in bed and flip through the pictures, marveling at what we’d seen and laughing about the adventures we’d had. We wanted to savor every moment of the experience. And when we got back home, we certainly became one of those couples, ready to show our pictures to any one who would indulge us. The only problem was that no one could really see things the way we did or feel what we felt. The pictures, though beautiful, are really just a way for us to re-live one of the best trips either of us has ever taken. We are the only ones who could ever appreciate the true value of each and every shot.
So, what does this little digression have to do with wedding photography? A lot, actually.
The problem that I faced when looking for a wedding photographer was knowing that whomever we hired would have one day, one chance, to capture all of the moments that would mean so much to us later. These are photos that we will look through for years, recounting the stories and the memories of the evening. These are the pictures that will help to fill in the gaps in our minds after time passes and we begin to forget the small details. Needless to say, I felt a lot of pressure when searching for a photographer.
I did not grow up in a picture taking family. There are a lot of pictures of my early childhood, but after a certain point, there were less and less. At family functions, my Mom is more apt to capture candid (read: pretty bad) pictures of people sitting around the living room or shoving food into their mouths. They’re not necessarily the kind of pictures that tell stories but rather document who was in the room in case anyone needs an alibi. It’s not that I prefer posed pictures, but I do like those that capture a moment or a little story. Because there has always been a lack of photographs documenting my life, I never realized the void until much later, when my Mom and I visited Italy and took tons cherished photos, and until Mike and I took the aforementioned trip to Arizona.
Another challenge we faced when looking for a wedding photographer was the cost. Mike and I had a fair, respectable budget for the wedding, but when we started looking at photographers, we realized that it would be easy to stretch way past what we were willing to pay if we were not careful. I did not want to be cheap in this area, but I did want to be reasonable. Cutting corners with one’s photography budget is a bad idea. In fact, I wish that I had been just a little more flexible with my own budget in this department. If a photographer is thousands above one’s budget, well, that’s an issue, but if we’re talking $500-$1000 above one’s budget, I’d say go for the better choice even if it’s a bit more expensive. The returns will be great.
The wedding day will move faster than you can ever imagine. All those tiny details you labored over, well, you won’t even see half of them because you will be too busy to notice. If you are like me, you will be excessively worried whether or not people are having fun, but you will have no real gauge to tell if anyone is, in fact, having said fun. You will be busy having the best and happiest day of your life, and when it’s over and everyone is leaving, you will wish that the party could last through the night if only so you could collect more of it in your memory and hold on to it forever. If you’re lucky, the photographs will help you hold onto the night a little longer and will help you remember what sped by you so quickly.
I never expected how much I would want to see any and all photographs from the wedding once it was over. During my honeymoon, I couldn’t help but to check my email often to see if anyone had sent us pictures; they just couldn’t come them fast enough for me. Much in the way that Mike and I wanted to relive our Southwest vacation, I wanted to see what it was like to attend my wedding. I wanted to remember what we looked like as we said our vows and celebrated at our reception. And, most of all, I wanted to experience again and again the deep, unbridled joy I felt all day long.