Shy photographers: dispelling the myth that your wedding photographer should be your BFF

March 4 2015 | Guest post by Deborah Huber
Photo by Deborah Huber
Photo by Deborah Huber

As a photographer, I follow wedding blogs and often find advice recommending couples to hire a photographer that “could be your friend.” This is something that I find incredibly odd, and sometimes not very good advice.

For instance, I watched an online workshop from a super high-end wedding photographer speaking to photographers on how to grow their businesses, and the first thing she admits is her photography isn’t the best, in fact what she recommends is selling your self and the experience. What she is selling is “a brand,” not good work. And here is where I offer caution: be sure that you are not being sold just the experience of someone’s personality. You want their work to back up that personality.

This is not to say that if you find someone who is amazing and outgoing that you should not hire them (us photographers come in all shapes and personalities). Rather, I'm saying that as a consumer, y’all should be aware of the difference between being sold to and booking someone based on actual good work. And as an artist, I beg to offer a little different perspective on hiring someone that you could be friends with.

I am pretty extroverted these days, and most people now wouldn’t think of me as shy, but this is not something that came naturally for me. On behalf of all those other shy (yet still amazing documentary photographers), I’d like to offer a few reasons why you should consider not solely hiring "someone who you could be friends with," and a few secrets that artists might not disclose every day…

1. It really doesn't matter if your photographer is your friend

You have your buds for that already. In fact, if your photographer is so busy being your friend, most likely they aren’t paying attention to the little moments that are happening all about.

2. Artists can be a little socially awkward, which is probably why they turned to art as a way to express themselves in the first place

A lot of times, a good documentary photographer most likely is, or has been, shy or introverted at some point in their life. In order to really be able to capture and notice all those quiet moments, at some point they had to spend time just observing people.

3. Instead of focusing on the photographer as a personality, focus on the photographer’s portfolio

Scroll through their blog posts, and ask to see more work if their work online doesn't cover enough of the day. Ask yourself, what is important to you to be documented? Is your main focus posed portraits and details? Or is it capturing friends and family? Or do you want a mix? Do you want crispy documentary photographs or something with some artistic flair? Once you answer these questions, start looking for this in the portfolios and choose based on this.

4. You might not really spend that much time with your photographer

If you do find that photographer that you could be friends with, and you also love their work, that’s an awesome bonus and you should go for it for sure. But at the end of the day, you may not care how well you and your photographer meshed, because you're not actually socializing that much on your wedding day. A lot of us documentary photographers are just flies on the wall.

Sure, you don’t want to be uncomfortable with your photographer, but remember: this is a business decision — friendship doesn't necessarily have to be a factor.

Wedding photographers, do you aspire to be BFFs with your clients?

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  1. I 100% agree with you that the photographer's portfolio should be the first consideration!! I get frustrated when I see the big name photographers talk about how it isn't their photography, but their brand that they're selling. As an artist, that's beyond frustrating. BUT – I do think that personality is also important. You don't have to be buddies with your photog, but you need to feel like you connect, and that they get you, and that you enjoy their presence. Otherwise, that discord is going to show in the photos where they're in close proximity. Just my $.02 🙂

  2. Ugh yes. While trawling through the endless photographer websites, I started to get turned off by too much personality. Every wedding entry on their blogs would start with a super gushy "OH I just LOVED this couple, we were like BFFS!" or "This was the BEST couple!" or "My FAVOURITE wedding!" or "the MOST FUN!" and it was just kinda off-putting. When every wedding you shoot is superlative, it starts to seem a bit forced. I'm sure they'd be delightful in person, and of course you want the photographer to be someone you get along with, and of course you want the photographer to enjoy themselves too, but yeesh.

  3. Work is the most important, but personality matters too. That's not to say that your photographer has to be the most fun person to be around that you've ever met, just that you shouldn't clash with them. I think the key is that your photographer's personality should fit you and the kind of photos you're trying to get. If you want big, loud, energetic, more posed photos, a louder personality will probably bring that out in you more. If you want more candid, subtle, documentary kinds of photos, someone quieter and less intrusive might be the key. Just make sure their work backs that up. You don't have to feel like they're your new BFF, but you should think they're okay (and certainly don't hire someone you find abrasive on your wedding day! On the flip side, if you need someone who can wrangle 40 loud family members into a crazy shot, you might want someone with a higher energy and volume level… it all depends!)

  4. As a wedding photographer, I think it is important to be able to get along with the clients and their friends and family, now of course you also have crazy situations with guests who don't behave…. so in those instances you may have some troubles. But I do believe the entire process works better with people who have a respect for each other but that doesn't mean you have to become best buds. I personally do like to take the time to try to get to know my couples as much as possible and that is one of the reasons I LOVE to get together with them for engagement photos because it gives us a chance to practice working together before the big day. To answer another part of the question that was posed here… I HIGHLY recommend choosing a photographer not just by how well you get along with them but also because you WANT them to photograph your wedding. Look at their portfolio, also look at a few entire weddings. If they design books or albums, look at the samples they have done of weddings for their clients. Choose them based on their talent, their character and of course in the price range you can afford. It is also a great idea to check their references or verified reviews from clients.

  5. Totally. As a wedding photographer and in everyday life, I'm friendly, polite, and pleasant but I'm not bubbly, loud, or heaven forbid the center of attention. Most of the friends I've made in recent years have in fact been wedding clients, but I don't try to foster that real friendship until after our client/vendor relationship is behind us. I find that working with friends can complicate business matters. I do really enjoy working with clients that I can see being friends with, but I still produce great work for the clients I get along with but don't see myself hanging out with post-wedding. I don't have to be your friend to understand what you want in your wedding photography and capture your day beautifully! Ultimately I'd rather someone hire me because they love the style of work that I love to produce, not because they love the personality that I project online and at their consultation. The work is the heirloom they'll keep forever. My personality will just be present on the wedding day (important, but not the most important).

  6. Thanks for posting this. Our photographer was absolutely wonderful, but we aren't besties. She's pretty shy, and so am I, so the chances of that were slim. But she was super sweet and took amazing photos, and I could never thank her enough.

    By the way, some people seem to conflate shyness with rudeness–no no no. You shouldn't put up with a rude photographer just for their amazing photos, but you also don't have to go out looking for someone you expect to socialize with outside the wedding. A vendor can just be a vendor, and it seems like people expect a lot more from their photographers lately. Finding a photographer who also becomes your friend should be a bonus, not a requirement.

  7. I completely agree! As a florist in the wedding industry I know how I like to conduct myself professionally and was surprised by a yelp review I received from a client. She said in her small town she was used to "sealing the deal with a hug" and not to let our cold demener sway you but that's just how we are. I didn't think we were cold I just thought that we were being professional. If I hire someone for a job I'm expecting results not a buddy. Weddings are an industry and I'd like to be seen as professional and competent not as a possible buddy.
    On a personal note, the author was my wedding photographer and was amazing! I wanted to hire talented vendors and qualified…and wasn't disappointed.

    • I might have hugged my photographer at the end of the day & after a few glasses of champagne, but I'd *never* expect or want to hug anyone I'm starting to do business with.

  8. Thank you for this. After reading the "choose a photographer you could be BFFs with" advice so many times, I had begun to feel like we did something wrong. Our photographer had an excellent portfolio, reasonable prices, and she was professional and friendly. We didn't "click" in the way I would want for a potential friend, and that was fine.

  9. Isn't there a saying that don't mix friendship with business?! Now tell me, which business out there advertises that they want to be your BFF? I never read my doctors bio stating that he loves Dr Pepper and eat tacos lol I want to know where he went to school and where he got his training. I could careless about his chubby cat Fideo.

    I don't undertand this best friend thing because I'm running a business to pay for my bills and won't turn away a potential client who fell in love with my work. I am a professional and can smile and be courtesy, workable, approachable and still deliver awesome pictures. When I visted my cake person, I didn't think OMG I need to click with her and hope we can text everyday and discuss my almond vanilla cake with buttercream frosting…haha or your DJ, caterer, florist, wedding coordinator, venue manager etc. You want to best, so HIRE THE BEST!

    Now if a vendor is a meanie, yea go somewhere else but if they are legit, professional and answer all your questions in a timely manner, hire them! You want someone on top of their game, not traveling all over the world eating tacos and drinking dr peppers. Your emails will be not answered till the cows come home but wait this was the person who was your BFF. Now you really can't conplain because your relationship will be ruined!

    In my opinion I want someone who is always shooting, has a nice portfolio and is sharp as a pistol… On top of their game. Email them several questions and if they are replied within 24 hours, that's a good sign. Ask them about their vacation and travel, how will this affect delivering their work to you. I am that shy girl who people watches but I'm also a ninja with a camera really to capture bad ass moments regardless if me and the couple will meet again at Christmas and sing carols all the way home 🙂

  10. I agree with this 100%. Our photographer was (and still is!) amazing. We were really in love with her style and how she handled herself and we knew we could trust her to do her job, and to handle some strong personalities that were at our wedding and may get demands-y.

    We're still acquaintances, but that came about more from the length of our engagement than because we chose her specifically because she was going to be our best friends forever. I'm one who likes to feel comfortable with someone, as I like to be behind the lens and not in front. She did that for me. Our sensibilities and senses of humor aligned, but I'm such an introvert it can be painful for me to really just push myself. I didn't need another person to take more spoons from me on a day where everyone wanted to talk and to mingle and to be, generally, all over me and my now-husband.

    We have beautiful photos that many, many people in our families and our circle of friends absolutely love. We definitely hit the absolute best balance and we hope to use her when we are able to expand our family in the near future.

    More than that, and I don't think this is mentioned entirely, if you've hired the right photographer, you will sing their praises on their work and their professionalism and their ability to hold commitment. You will want to recommend them to others with whom you think they'd click.

  11. I appreciate that everyone's relationship with their photographer is going to be very different, but I am personally grateful for the buddy-esque bond I developed with my wedding photographer. Thankfully, she's got the professional quality to match her sparkling personality, and that's just what I needed!

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