Clueless about photography, are these 2 photographers "good"?
September 11, 2013 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Need a photographer for my upcoming wedding, and every photographer's photos look nice, but photoshop and filters can mask lesser skill I know. Can anyone with actual photo expertise tell me if these two (APJ and TB) are "on the level" or if one is significantly better?

In case it's relevant: TB costs more, but is willing to come to my state for engagement pics. APJ is just getting started and is offering some perks. I'm planning this from out of state, and alone at that. I'm just anxious because I have encountered an awful lot of people who call themselves "photographers" because they bought a $2000 camera, but have no skill with composition/lighting/etc.

Thanks to anyone who can offer opinions/help.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I clicked on the links before reading your description. Knowing APJ is cheaper, I would definitely choose them because their pictures are more lively and seem less "edited." Which probably just means the pictures were edited well.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2013

You need to see a single entire wedding (i.e. what you as a client would be delivered), not just a few selects from a bunch of different events. Don't judge based on a website portfolio in which they will, understandably, present only their very best photos from a bunch of different events.
posted by primethyme at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

My reaction is the opposite of oceanjesse's: I'd pick TB because their pictures are quirkier in posing and setting, and not quite as traditional. (We picked our photographer because of her quirkiness.)
posted by telophase at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd definitely rank TB signficantly higher than APJ. They're obviously far more experienced (much greater range of situation).

I could offer additional commentary if you want.
posted by Magnakai at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

As a nature photog, I don't have a dog in this fight; APJ seems like the better raw photographer - framing, lines, etc....TB seems like he (she?) knows how to work the wedding party better.
posted by notsnot at 8:47 AM on September 11, 2013

APJ is the better choice. The other one's photography is ridiculously processed and somewhat staid IMO.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm not a professional photographer, but I do work w/ publishing photos regularly, and APJ's pics are just more interesting. The other one can take good shots, but they just seem more traditional to me. Which, if that's what you want, go that direction. But I'm using the word 'traditional' to mean 'kind of boring.'
posted by nushustu at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd pick TJ. We seem pretty evenly split here so I think the answer to your question is that neither is significantly better, and the differences between them are stylistic preferences. If you genuinely do not have a preference yourself, and the only thing to decide between them is cost, well, choose the cheaper one.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:55 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

nth'ing DarlingBri -- Based on the limited, self-selected samples we have here, either looks competent to do a routine wedding. Unless you can see a couple of complete shoots, the style and price differences outweigh any difference in raw skill on display here.
posted by tyllwin at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2013

Not a professional photographer either (erm, though I have been paid and published for photography? not a lot though), but APJ stood out as someone who knows their craft. They know how to use light. TB tries to make up for bad use of lighting with post-processins/special effects. (I really can't understand the washed-out darks and lights in some of their photos, if they knew what they were doing, as in basic aperture/shutter speed/ISO stuff, nothing complex, a lot of their photos would be richer.) TB does look good with people, but honestly, I'd go with APJ because no matter what the lighting circumstances are, they'll know how to make do with it.
posted by fraula at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2013

APJ's pics have a more "photojournalist" feel about them. Whereas TB is more focused on the pomp and ceremony of the wedding event. APJ treats the wedding more like a breaking news event. TB treats it like a special staged event.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

APJ has better composition and more spontaneity. Cheaper is a bonus.
TB is pretty amateur IMO, and I used to teach photography. The posed shots and all that space above the heads are indications of an amateur.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:10 AM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've shot weddings, and my wife was an assistant for a big name wedding photographer in NYC back in the day. We got married last year and we spent a lot of time choosing our photographer.

Both seem fine--legitimate working photogs with some interesting photos. I personally am more drawn to A's style, which seems more candid and friendly. T's shots are a bit more glossy than I need, but your tastes may different. I'm also personally a bit averse to creative processing in wedding shots; I've had personal experience (at my first wedding) with photogs who keep digging into the same bag of tricks, and it ends up a gimmicky crutch for redeeming less than great photos. There's a bit more of that going on in T's shots--but to be clear, I think what he's done is in the realm of tastefulness.

You should sit down with both, and each will surely have many, many more images to show you, and will also give you a sense of the presentation of prints, books, etc. You'll also get a feel whether you're comfortable with them. You'll also want to know about second shooters, how long they work, what prints come with the shoot, and--perhaps most important these days--what electronic versions they'll give you (low res? hi res? what cost?).

I don't know your tastes, but there's no reason why you couldn't get great shots from either. Congratulations on your wedding.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2013

I would pick APJ, because the people in her photos look good. When I look back at my wedding photos, I look at the people who shared the day. While the photographer did some lovely photos of the sun setting and the whales breaching in the ocean as we said our vows, it's the people that I remember. The beautiful photo of my beloved aunt hugging my husband was priceless to me when she passed away.

If it was my choice, I'd pick APJ.
posted by 26.2 at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2013

I would definitely go with APJ, the photos are gorgeous and interesting. The other one has some neat ideas but everything just looks so staged and sort of phoney. Obv others disagree though, so you will prob be happy going with whichever fits in with your own style the most.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:28 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

APJ. In TP's work, I see tilted horizons, lack of distinct focus, poor composition, oversaturated colors/blown out highlights, and generally crappy post-processing that, as others have pointed out, is attempting to mask amateurish photography.

Though TP's shots are generally passable, please keep in mind that these are photos that he/she selected specifically to showcase their work. That's the best they can do. Think on that.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

Coming to this from a brutally practical standpoint, one that says above a certain baseline a photograph is a photograph (it's a wedding, not the Photojournalist Association Awards, and unless you associate with photographers literally nobody is going to care about gradations of skill): Both are competent. Pick whoever is cheaper and more convenient to you.
posted by dekathelon at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2013

Yes, both appear capable while neither seems especially creative or inventive. Pick the one whose tone/style appeals most to you.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2013

It's personal, but I wouldn't use either. Both have had the opportunity to showcase their best work and both have chosen some images that are, I think, evidence of a lack of attention to detail. Rules are there to be broken, but the third image on APJ's site has no element in focus and a smear (either a reflection or a nearfield specular) across the lower third for no reason I can see. It's clearly chosen because of the interpersonal chemistry and expression on the subjects faces, but having that in my house for the rest of my life would be like running on a blister after a while.

Is that a wedding pose in an anechoic chamber in TB's portfolio?
posted by cromagnon at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Both seem a bit hit-or-miss, in different ways.

TB has some interesting shots in there, but a lot of the compositions are more about the setting than the people, and more than a few just plain mistakes (blown-out sky, lens flare, missed focus, etc) that seem really questionable to include in a portfolio. The wacky fake-tilt-shift-to-make-up-for-terrible-framing in the fifth one down really turns me off, for example.

APJ is more consistent, if less inventive, and seems to be getting better facial expressions (or at least is better at picking out portfolio shots). However he also frequently leaves in way too much headroom, which is a totally amateur mistake -- the subject's face is not supposed to be in the exact middle of the frame (TB is often guilty of this too.)

I might keep shopping around, to be honest.
posted by ook at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2013

IANAphotog but I know photographers including wedding photographers.

The thing is with paying for a more experienced photographer is that you're not buying photos that will be objectively 'better' (though there are certainly post-processing trends I dislike), but you are buying the services of someone who knows how to work a wedding. If you don't like oversaturated colours, shallow focus or HDR or whatever, the photographer should be able to take that on board and advise you as to whether you are a good fit for each other. You should tell the photog that you want photos that are classic, simple, timeless, elegant, intimate and they should be able to deliver that. Of course, there are some fab wedding photographers who are just starting out, too. If you think that APJ understands what you're asking for and you guys have a good rapport then maybe take a punt.

Also, a good photographer is not a magician - they just do what they can within the confines of time, light and technology. You can't insure against a photographer being off their game, so just pick whichever one you feel most comfortable around and enjoy your wedding.

Make sure your guests forward you their phone snaps too, though, just in case!
posted by dumdidumdum at 10:07 AM on September 11, 2013

APJ, for sure. THB uses some faux depth-of-field tricks that really put me off, putting aside the fashion for oversaturation.
posted by Nyx at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another vote for APJ.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2013

Just for comparison, here is a real pro. Kevin is a friend of mine from Penticton BC, and he has hit the photography jackpot. People fly him across the continent to shoot weddings, etc., but he is an extremely balanced, low key guy most of the time--keeping bees and spending time with his family. He shoots very spontaneously, but his years of experience show. You'll never see anything quite like his shots. He catches all the small, unique moments. Almost nothing is posed. Show this site to APJ if you like.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2013

Hi, I'm outing myself as the OP here.

I should clarify, I'm having a really weird ceremony -- outdoors in a private garden, and some Indian wedding rituals will be incorporated into the ceremony. It will be nonreligious and the officiant is a friend, so the ceremony will be highly nontraditional. I'll also be wearing traditional Indian dress. There are about 20 guests, and the "reception" is basically a shared meal afterward. APJ is offering to throw in an engagement session since there is no real reception. Both photographers appealed to me because they had photographed interracial/multicultural weddings before.

(btw, I know it's a small wedding, but photos are extremely important to me, and I am basically devoting the bulk of the budget to making sure I get a "good" photographer.)

Thanks all for your input, you are pointing out all kinds of things I didn't notice. I will be back to best-answer for sure, but I welcome more advice considering my specific circumstances.
posted by Locative at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2013

I would do a reverse image search on a sampling of images from each photographer (Google reverse image search if you havent done that before) just to make sure they are legit and those are their images . There is an unfortunate amount of Copyright infringement in the wedding photography industry.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:22 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Given your update, and especially that it is a small ceremony, I think a lot of concerns are moot (second shooter, experience covering events, etc). Which do you feel more comfortable around? If one annoys you or makes you feel on edge at all, it will show in photos. Go with the person who puts you more at ease.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2013

Yeah, I'm going to go with APJ.

Note that there are other considerations. When Mrs. Lurgi and I got hitched, we picked a photographer because we liked his style, but also because we liked what he would do after the wedding. He said he wasn't into making books or albums or any of that crap. He'd send us a box with high quality prints and a DVD of all the images and that would be it. If we wanted to print them up into an album, that would be super and he wanted no part of it.

I know people who spent months trying to get prints from their photographer. The guy was tweaking them or editing them or baking them into pies or some damn thing. One couple I know actually contemplated *suing* just to get the pictures.

So, check on that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:38 AM on September 11, 2013

I may have overloaded Kevin Dunn's server with my MetaFilter link. Maybe view it later--he is definitely worth a look.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are some wonky shots to APJ, but they generally get good, laughing moments, and don't do things like blow out the fucking detail on the white wedding gown, which TJ does. Like, choosing that to highlight your skill? Ugh. Maybe it looks better in print, but screens are how most people are going to see your work.
posted by klangklangston at 12:15 PM on September 11, 2013

ABJ, definitely. It's not just that the photos are more spontaneous and less processed (I particularly dislike the shot with the faux tilt-shift blur, four photos down, on TB's portfolio). The people in ABJ's photos look happy, consistently, which suggests to me that he's able to put his subjects at ease and be non-intrusive. TB's photos, in contrast, look staged and stiff.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

it really depends on how much YOU want to get involved making sure the photographer gets the right shot, and the required friends and family pics. Whomever you choose you must communicate clearly what shots he/she must take. A traditional photographer like TJ appears to be, will most likely do a good job getting the informals, but also remember to get the stand-up shots with Mom and Dad and the siblings etc. ABJ is more of a narrative style. He may tell the story of the wedding but not get all the relatives in a line. (This tends to upset the inlaws and grandmas). Take a look at , an excellent narrative style that manages to include the necessary formal shots.
posted by Gungho at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2013

FWIW, I used to do portrait and fashion photography for a living - though only a couple of weddings for friends. Rule #1 of course, de gustibus non est disputandum, if you are happy with a photographer's work, then that's what matters.

However, from a purely professional point of view, while neither photog is anything to write home about, APJ is clearly better. Not to be too harsh, but TB's work is very poor indeed (and he picked the best he had): completely clueless when it comes to composition and framing, no idea what he's doing post-processing; just how clueless you can see from the predominance of high angles on the couples - in general you try to avoid medium shots of couples from above, because it diminishes them - tops of heads are not a good focal point, shorter and stubbier is not attractive and the perspective distortion of faces is not flattering - it's a sign of someone who could use a photography 101 class. Use high angles sparingly, for large groups and from a distance or special situation (church balcony etc.). Note how there is no real point of view in any of those photos - why is the camera placed there, rather than somewhere else? The guy has no eye, period. I wouldn't trust him to push a button in a photo booth.

APJ at least attempts to capture the psychology of the moment, though I worry that he gets lucky once in a blue moon, and selected all those shots from all his sessions for this portfolio - you may not be able to get this on your shoot at all. Very limited skill set, but at least seems to have some general if hazy understanding of the idea.
posted by VikingSword at 1:20 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

APJ's photos are much better, more natural, the subjects look like they like the photographer. In TB's photos everyone looks embarrassed, dressed up and uncomfortable (I feel uncomfortable looking at them!), and they look like they are somewhat scared of/freaked out by the photographer? There is some weird dynamic going on between him and the subjects.
posted by nanook at 1:21 PM on September 11, 2013

I agree with nanook. A lot of TB's wedding party shots look more like funeral processions.
posted by chrchr at 2:02 PM on September 11, 2013

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