Charleston Wedding Photographers: Finding The Right One

So you’ve began your search for the right Charleston wedding photographer to capture your big day. Creating an amazing wedding day event filled with all the idea’s, friends, and family you can fit into one day could be one of the most spectacular and memorable days of your life. And your definitely going to want to document that through pictures. But finding the right wedding photographer in Charleston’s heavily saturated market can be a massive undertaking. So we decided to create this article to help you navigate, filter, and understand the Charleston market and where to begin.

Navigating all the photographers that call themselves a professional can be daunting in it’self, so let’s start there. First you should understand there are no guidelines, tests, or requirements to be a professional wedding photographer. Anyone, I mean anyone, can call themselves a professional, and there’s no credentials you could even ask for that may help verify that they are. Now asking to see a business license, or a business tax id#, would be good questions to ask because if they take their work serious as a business, they will have these important legal requirements. You could also ask if they carry business insurance.

But let’s start at the beginning, as if you just started your search. Your most likely going to start through a Google search or a recommendation from an event planner or friend. Even if you do start from a recommendation, your most likely still going to use the web and search engines to look around and compare.

With that in mind, we’re going to help you by breaking down the different types of Charleston wedding photographers, what you should look for, where you should start, and what questions you should ask before making a final decision.

The Important factors

From our experience in the industry, most brides and couples heavily way their search process on three main area’s. They are style, quality and price. Deciding which is the most important to you depends on your personality. For instance, if you’re budget-minded, price will be a big factor for you, but if you’re more artistic yourself, love photography, and have an eye for quality, you know already your willing to pay more money for the right wedding photographer(s).

So let’s start with quality…

Quality

To determine quality, we have to look at a standard of something as measured against something else of a similar kind. If you prize quality above the other factors, then the caliber of the images and the nature of your photographer’s artistic approach are what will really pop for you.

You’ll see a unique artistic consistency in the work. The quality of light in their images and their exposures will always look natural and pleasing to your eye. Another thing you’ll notice is the artistic approach the photographer uses from the way they pose their subjects’, to the depth of the images through their choice of lens aperture and the photographs’ composition.

Quality and price usually are closely related. The more experienced, seasoned wedding photographers in Charleston usually start around $3,500 and go up from there.

Style

Every seasoned wedding photographer has his or her own style. The most compelling styles will usually be a signature element unique to each of them. Of course, other photographers will have styles of their own as well, but like any other type of artist, it usually takes many years of experience and practice to develop your own unique signature style.

Style also does not mean quality. Because wedding photography is such a sought after, highly saturated market, many photographers don’t have the patience or willingness to put in the time to craft their skills to be an organic signature artist. So they copy trends in the industry either through the way they photograph or through the post production process.

The digital age of photography offers lots of ways to express one’s style, but many photographers are using post production enhancements to overshadow their shortcomings. Another way of saying this is that some photographers over-stylize their photos because the photographs themselves simply aren’t that great.

Heavy contrasts, soft focus, vintage effects, over saturation and added texture elements are all current trends being used to enhance images. If done correctly and subtly, it can give an image an extra little pop, help calm distracting backgrounds and even give an image a fresh, interesting appeal. But the key is that the initial image should still stand strong on it’s own and the effects should be subtle. You’ll find that most of the top wedding photographers in the world use very little post processing to enhance or mask their images. They keep their images clean, naturally colored, or they use classic tones like black and white and sepia. If they do use effects though, it is done in a very subtle way to enhance whats already great.

A fantastic wedding photographers that’s a great example of this done is Jim Garner. Considered one of the top 10 photographers in the world, his work is beautiful, elegant and just full of emotion and energy. His dramatic style is perfect for the little touches of effects he uses to enhance his work. It really shows in his album design as he uses it to help create an overall tone or style to a complete design. Besure to check out some of his work and his gorgeous album designs that he has won many awards for over the years.

Another amazing photographer is Jerry Ghionis. His work is stunning and again his post production is used subtly, almost unnoticeable. To me, this is the perfect example of it being done right. Jerry is one of the most influential photographers of our time and is recognized and praised for his contribution to our industry by almost every professional magazine and organizations that exists today. His work encompases everything: the highest of quality, a distinctive signature style, elegance, timelessness and an amazing eye for balance, composition, and posing. He is a master, fully in control of his craft. He has been a wedding professional for over 20 years and has photographed over 1000 weddings.

Another amazing wedding photographer that uses all these elements beautifully is Roberto Velenzuela. Be sure to check out his work and notice that many of his images have subtle enhancements but could easily stand on their own without them.

Now if your thinking to yourself, these guys have a beautiful classic sense to their work, but your more of a fan of the modern, photojournalist style, than let me share with you some of the top modern wedding photographers today.

Ben Chrisman and his wife Erin, of Chrisman Studios, are game changers. They have almost single handedly created a movement of followers that has almost every new photographer- aware of who they are, copying their signature style. And no one, I mean no one, does it better. Their eye for composition, unique use of angles, foreground elements, reflections, and light, leave you in awe of how they did it and the beauty of some of the most stunning images you will ever see from a wedding. Check out their wedding photography awards here.

Next I want to share with you Jose Villa. An almost exclusive film shooter, his images are gorgeous, unique, elegant and signature. His brilliant use of super shallow depth of field and compositional choices are also influencing almost everyone. His images are published in almost every wedding magazine available and his style has pretty much become the benchmark for how to shoot details to be published.

Though there are many, many more amazing wedding photographers worthy of recognition, I’m going to jump forward to a husband/wife wedding photography getting town of publicity right now. Their name is CallawayGable. There style is fresh, fun, artistic, vibrant, humorous. emotional and just wide open.

No matter how different these photographers are in style and approach, they all have the same fundamental things in common: they are in control of their craft, they make strong choices, almost all their artistic style is created in camera- not in the overuse of post production, and you absolutely, undeniably feel something when you look at their work. These are true professional wedding photographers, artists, and without-a-doubt passionate about what they do.

So the next time you’re looking at a wedding photographers website, compare them to these guys, the best in the world. I guarantee after you take in their work, you will know what a true professional wedding photographers work looks like. You will know what quality looks like, and you will definitely know what a signature style looks like.

It’s wonderful to be influenced by another artist. To be so moved by what they do you want to emulate their work, or be inspired to look at thing’s in a new way you never thought of before. But many of today’s photographers are simply copying other photographers work. That’s why you see so much of the same thing over and over on so many different websites. Because these photographers are copying images, and not working organically. They end up with forced, lifeless images full of odd poses, bad lighting, and uncomfortable expressions resulting in poor quality, boring wedding pictures.

Another problem with postproduction stylizations are that they can easily be impacted by changes in trends. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow. What is unlikely to become unappreciated is a genuinely artistic style. The best styles depend mostly upon composition, posing, lens use and other similar factors, again- not an overuse of post production.

Price

You can expect the price of even the most inexperienced Charleston wedding photographers to start at around $1,500 and go as high as $2,500. If you include an album, prints and other extras, you could be looking at a price tag closer to $3,000.

Before you fall in love with a low price, however, it is important to keep in mind that – no matter the cost – your packages will not look good without decent photos. That’s why quality is so important. Prints, albums and canvas all look unattractive when they showcase a bad picture.

More seasoned photographers are likely to charge something closer to $3,500 and go up from there. Our prices rarely include all the extras either. Most of what you’re paying for in a basic package is our experience, artistic eye, years of practice and investment, top-notch equipment and other personalized benefits.

Most of the really good Charleston wedding photographers have been shooting weddings for at least four or five years, and their prices reflect their skills.

Now that we’ve covered the three major factors that may be the most driving factors in choosing a wedding photographer, let’s get into recognizing the tell-tale signs of good and not so good.

Posing

For me, this is the quickest and easiest way to spot how experienced and talented a photographer may be. In fact, this could be the very most important factor once you narrow down your top choices. This will show you not only their skill and experience with understanding the human body and how to pose individuals, and couples, but their lighting experience and communication skills. Experienced professionals know their equipment so well they don’t waste time boring people with the technical set up or staging. They make quick, clear decisions and then spend more time with the couples posture, poses, and expression. Also because of their experience, they are confident in how they communicate. By taking complete control and confidently directing people, they make their subjects feel at ease in front of the camera and thus creating trust. Once trust is established, the subjects become relaxed, start having fun, and become willing to do just about anything a photographers asks without hesitation or worry.
A less experienced photographer will either be so caught up in the technical aspect of what they are doing, or are so nervous and unsure about what to do, subjects become bored, worried and stiff. You then end up with dear in the headlight looks, the test shot looking picture, the million mile stare, half blinking eyes, and unnatural and stale images.

Don’t just assume your day will be better. The pictures a photographer has posted in their gallery is them choosing the best of the best, so just imagine what the rest look like. Remember, a competent professional can create consistent results every time under any conditions. That includes shy couples, challenging body types, harsh lighting conditions, low and no light conditions, bad weather, limited space, timeline and event day pressure and more.

So be sure to very look close at all the portraits in the photographers galleries: bridal, engagement, day-of portraits: the bride and groom individually, the bridal party and finally the family portraits.

Other factors

The above-listed factors will likely be the primary points of focus in your search for a suitable Charleston wedding photographer. There are other things worth considering, too. Here are some additional things to think about.

Verified Opinions

You can look for reassurance about your decision by checking out other vendors, reviews of a photographer’s services and statements made by previous clients. All respectable professional photographers will have an area on their website dedicated to such information.

Awards

Though some photography awards are credible, most are rubbish. Some Charleston wedding photographers even their organization memberships as being noteworthy. In reality, they imply nothing other than the fact that a photographer has paid his membership dues on time. You may also see outdated awards. Occasionally, desperate photographers will even post their accolades from high school!

As you can see, being an “award-winning” photographer can mean almost anything. At King Street Studios, we are proud to have been recognized with honors that actually matter.

We are a part of the Junebug Weddings organization. Junebug honors only four or five wedding photographers from each state, and King Street Studios was the first in South Carolina to be recognized. Wedding photographers selected by Junebug Weddings are generally understood to be world-class in their field. Those designations are earned, not paid for.

Similarly, Fearless Photographer also has strict criteria which decide whether or not a wedding photographer will be accepted.

We take great pride in the recognitions bestowed upon us by both organizations.

Being Published

The wedding market is a huge one, and there are lots of wedding blogs hungry for new content. That means that just about anyone can have their wedding photos published these days. Very few criteria actually influence whether a photographer’s work is publishable. After all, these websites need new content lightning fast so they can continue earning advertising dollars.

The other thing about most “published” wedding photography is that the published photos aren’t even the kind of images you really care about. Those blogs prize photos highlighting themes and creative ideas worthy of Pinterest.

On the other hand, the best wedding photos are of people. Amateur wedding photographers focus their energies capturing centerpieces and tablecloths so that they can make advertising money. Profession wedding photographers get those too, but their primary focus is on the stunning shots that will bring you back to the wedding album for decades.

Bottom line advice

Take your time when you go hunting for your wedding photographer in Charleston. Don’t rush your decision.

Look at the reach of work of any of the Charleston wedding photographers you think you’re interested in. Check out their blog entries and request to look at full galleries of previous clients. Only looking at a few of the highlights can be a mistake, too. Go deep and examine as much of their work as you can.

It’s easy to be distracted when you review wedding photos. After all, they’re romantic! Try not to become emotionally involved in the experience because it can compromise your judgment. Turn off any background music. Really focus on the pictures.

If you’ve only looked at their work online, be sure to pick up the phone. Before you can reasonably commit to a photographer for your wedding, you need to know that your personalities jive well. It’s important to know them not just as a photographer, but also as a person.

We are proud of the way we deal with our clients. We really do listen to them. The ideas that they present usually make their way into their albums because it is important to us to fulfill their requests. A truly professional wedding photographer can take the shots that you want. After all, it’s about creating photos together.

Hopefully, you found some useful advice here about choosing the right Charleston wedding photographer for you. We wish you the best in your search!

If you have any questions, or just want to speak with us directly, feel free to contact us at any time. We’ll be more than happy to help you find the best Charleston wedding photographer for your specific wedding day plans.


Authored by: Todd Surber