Annmarie Swift, discusses wedding photography styles, choosing a wedding photographer, and why wedding photography is such an important part of your big day.
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher and welcome to our series of podcasts with wedding vendors for the Essex Room, Woodman’s wedding and function room, on the North shore of Massachusetts. Today I’m here with Annmarie Swift of Annmarie Swift Photography. Welcome Annmarie.
Annmarie Swift: Hi there John. Thanks for having me.
Wedding Photography Styles
John: Sure. Annmarie, can you tell me a little about your wedding photography business and your style when it comes to photographing weddings?
Annmarie: Sure! I am a Boston based wedding photographer, so I focus mainly on weddings in the Massachusetts North shore area, extending a little bit into New England. Fortunately, I’ll be shooting in the Caribbean this month which is really exciting.
John: Oh, that sounds good!
Annmarie: Yeah, very exciting! My style of wedding photography is pretty candid. I really love to focus on the relationships of people at weddings, and the details, of course, are important to build the story visually. But I really love photographing the couple together with their loved ones and their family.
In portrait time with the bride and groom, I like to focus on some guided directions, to keep them comfortable and embracing and things like that, but really the wedding story is all about the events that are unfolding themselves. My style is to focus on the way the wedding day is unfolding naturally.
John: When you say “candid photography” you’re trying to…maybe walking around the room, or walking around wherever the wedding ceremony or the reception is being held, and trying to take pictures of little moments that are happening.
John: As opposed to…What would you call the other style of photography where you’re kind of lining people up and saying, “Hey, look at the camera and say ‘Cheese’.”? What would that be called?
Annmarie: That’s generally more traditional. Brides are moving more toward a photojournalistic style these days. It’s becoming more common that they want a photographer to sit in the background a little bit more, and capture what’s happening as it’s happening, instead of asking people to smile and say, “Cheese,” like you said.
Hiring a Wedding Photographer
John: What should couples who are getting married know before going about hiring a wedding photographer or a videographer?
Annmarie: I was a bride before I was a photographer, so the most important thing that I needed to know before hiring a photographer was that it was the most personal connection I would have with a vendor. I spent more time with my wedding photographer on my wedding day than I did with my husband.
She was there, and I’m there with my brides during getting ready and before their first look. It’s important, the most important thing for them to have a connection with their photographer, and to understand that it goes beyond a business relationship.
It goes beyond delivering an image collection after their wedding is over, but it really…it becomes a friendship, at least in my opinion, it becomes a friendship and a relationship that really does need to flourish on its own to be successful as a vendor relationship as well.
John: At what point in the wedding planning process should a couple talk to a photographer?
Annmarie: As early as possible. Most of my brides are booking events and catering first, so that they can secure a date, and have a place to be married. Photography and a music resource are next.
I really love to be a part of the planning process as early on as possible, so that we can talk about timelines, and we can talk about how much coverage they’re going to need, what their day is going to be like.
I really like to be a part of the planning process, so that couples are aware of how light plays a factor in their image collection, and what the best time of day to be married is. Really, as early as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind how your image collection will develop as a result of where you’re getting married, what time of day. I like to be in early on, on the business end, to help play a role in how their day will unfold.
I also like to have a chance to get to know them as long as I can before their wedding day arrives.
What Questions Should You Ask A Photographer?
John: You’re talking about that first meeting that you’re having with the bride and groom, and going over some of those things, and talking about your style. What are some of the questions that people should ask of you, or of any wedding photographer, before they book them?
Annmarie: One of the biggest questions a couple should be asking is how they’ll receive their images, especially for a photographer. How they’ll receive them, when they’ll be receiving their images, and if they’ll have rights to print.
One of the things that is an issue in the wedding industry is the rights that you receive to your images. More traditional photographers will either charge a separate fee for rights to print, or send them on a disk, separately.
It’s important to be educated by your photographer or videographer, to see how you’re going to be receiving the product that you’re paying for.
Why Is Photography So Critical?
John: Many people say that photography and videography are one of the most important things at a wedding. Can you elaborate a little bit more on why it’s so critical to have a good wedding photographer?
Annmarie: Sure. Looking back at a wedding day, no matter how many years have passed, one of the things that is crucial to have, to share, is photos and video.
Years down the line, after children and grandchildren have arrived, those are the things that you’ll be sharing, to really showcase the love that you shared with your husband or wife on your wedding day.
Investing in those pieces of your wedding day is very, very important, in order to be able to share that story years down the line. As a couple, they’ll be sharing the memories with each other, and have those to hold on to.
But for people that weren’t allowed, or didn’t have the ability to be there on their wedding day, it really takes something visual, and something that you can have an emotional connection to, to really understand the love that you shared, and the bond that you created.
Having those pieces, photos, video, albums…canvases on the wall in an art gallery when people enter homes — those are the ways that you’re sharing exactly what you felt on your wedding day.
How Has Wedding Photography Changed?
John: Are couples requesting specific kinds of shots that they want you to take? Do they show up at that first meeting or a later meeting and give you a list and say “Okay, here’s all of the things that we want you to get?” And how has that changed over time from what you were talking about, the more traditional type of posed photos compared to the more candid photography that you’re doing now?
Annmarie: Social media has played a huge role in how wedding photography and videography is changing, Pinterest especially. Social media is so visual and provides so much inspiration for brides.
In that initial meeting, I really love to let my brides know, if there’s a pin board that you’re pinning to, I would love for you to send me the link.
I don’t want to replicate anybody else’s work. I don’t want to deliver an image that has already been created for another couple. I really like to see what kind of images my clients like. If they like a closer, more intimate guidance or direction, or if they really like wide shots of their scenery and their backdrop.
It’s important for me to understand more the vibe of the images they’re looking for, not the exact poses that they want me to capture. I’m very fortunate that my clients are super trusting and really believe in me and my creativity to provide an image collection that they will love.
It’s a great honor to be invited to photograph someone’s wedding and that trust that they’re putting in me to do that well and the way that they would like is wonderful.
But I also want to make sure that the images that I’m delivering, and the collection as a whole, kind of fits with what their vision is. So I like to see where they’re pulling inspiration from, if they’re reading a specific wedding blog, or if they’re pinning in a pin board. If they are images that share a certain romantic feel or if it’s more candid. Some of my couples do like traditional posed images, and that’s fine too.
So working in what they hope to see in their image collection with the general style that I’m already delivering is how I’m seeing my couples’ request images or styles.
John: That’s good advice. You’re right — social media, Pinterest, and things like that have really changed things in terms of giving people a lot of inspiration and ideas for what they’re looking for.
I would imagine that that would help you because then you can look at those pin boards and say, “Oh. OK. I really have a strong sense now of what it is that this couple is looking for. I know how to go about having a collection of photographs that they’re really going to like.”
Do you find that couples today are preferring more candid pictures rather than posed shots or a mix of the two? You talked about how you really enjoy doing the candid photography. If a couple comes to you, and they want to do a mix of candid photos and posed shots, can you do that?
Annmarie: Of course. Yeah. A lot of my couples have a really healthy mix of both. I like to focus on, with the bride and groom, I want them looking at each other. I don’t want them smiling and looking at me. Usually, there’s one or two of those because parents really love a traditional kind of photograph.
The images that are going in an album and are being printed on canvases for their walls, they’re looking at each other, and they’re embracing. It’s about the connection that they’re having together and not the connection with the camera.
I really like to deliver both. Image collections, to me, are not just about the couple, but it really is about their family and the legacy that they’re going to leave in their family.
Family photographs are usually pretty posed because that’s very traditional, and that’s what the older folks in their families are looking for.
The pictures that are printed and framed on mantles are the ones where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera and feeling and looking their best, which is great. Some of my favorites and usually my couples’ favorites as well, are more candid.
They’re genuine photographs of moments that my couples are experiencing together. It really is a mix of both. Most couples are coming to me more for the more intimate, romantic images and not so much the posed, looking at the camera smiling together images.
In my opinion, any well‑rounded image collection is going to have a little bit of both so that they, as a couple, are happy. As they grow in their marriage, their preferences may change. The option is there to have the other kind of photography as well.
Other Benefits of a Wedding Photographer
John: Are there some services or benefits that a wedding photographer can provide to a couple that perhaps they don’t think about?
Annmarie: Absolutely. One of the biggest things — I don’t want to take a guess — but one of the biggest services that I provide my couples is the timeline. So lot of couples don’t think of how their wedding day is going to unfold until much closer to the wedding, unless we ask them to think about it.
Right from the beginning, they are going to choose their ceremony time and they assume that’s when their wedding day starts. For a wedding photographer, it starts long before that. It really does start with the engagement session.
Hopefully, it’s a chance to get to know each other and really, as people, have a connection so that the wedding day relationship is very smooth and can run really easily. So, like I said earlier, I like to be in early and develop a relationship with my couples so that we all get along well and it can be a really enjoyable experience for all of us. The timeline is huge. Couples don’t realize how long wedding photography, or how long the wedding photography investment really should be.
I like to be on site with the bride as primary photographer about two and a half hours before the ceremony. I like to be there to photograph her dress and the invitation suite, and her rings and jewelry, the handwritten vows, if they’ve chosen to do that, and then photograph her getting ready.
Having hair and make‑up done, her veil being put in place, her mom and sister, usually important women in her life, are zipping up the back of her dress and helping her put her jewelry on and those are moments just as important when you are gathering with the people that you love, to focus on as well.
Timeline and really understanding, having the opportunity to be educated about how much really goes into the wedding photography experience and it’s not just about the ceremony, dancing at the reception together, but it really is about all the smaller moments that are building that wedding story on the day of.
John: Looking back at my own wedding, I feel like I relied on my photographer a little bit to keep the whole day on track. In a way, I almost felt like the photographer was the wedding coordinator.
Annmarie: Yeah, it’s true.
John: In a way, she really walked me through like, “okay, now we are going to do this.” “You guys have to go here.” We really relied on her and leaned on her in a way that I didn’t expect.
Annmarie: Right. Most couples come to me and say, “We’ve never been married before. We don’t know how to do this”, and they don’t.
They don’t know how to get married and how to be a well‑oiled machine, so as wedding professionals, be it your photographer, videographer, even the florist has advice that really can share to build an experience that the couple doesn’t know they want or need, which is fantastic.
Coming from a place of professional experience is so different than being a bride or groom with friends who have been married because there are so many things happening behind the scenes that they aren’t really realizing are happening.
It’s great to have the opportunity to build a relationship that allows open communication and education for couples to really get a good grasp of what is happening and how they, on their own, can assist with it running smoothly.
Getting Your Pictures After The Wedding
John: You talked earlier about asking your photographer about the format that you’re going to get your pictures in and how that’s all going to work. How long after the wedding do couples generally get their pictures?
Annmarie: I always add a sneak peak on social media usually the night of the wedding or the morning directly after and then we’ll add most of the couple’s images the week after.
They are receiving one tiny sneak peek the day of the wedding, a bigger sneak peek a few days later and then they’ll receive their full image collection in four to six weeks, which really allows me the time to edit well and make sure their collection is well‑rounded.
But honestly, it’s my unofficial goal, and I share this with my couples, to get their images back to them by the time they’re back from their honeymoon which usually, for most my couples, is about two weeks.
One of the things I really love to do for my couples, as part of the experience, is to deliver their images quickly. They are not my moments. They are not my memories so I really like my couples to have them as soon as possible.
That way they can print images and frame them for the wall, or they can post them, in the holiday season they have gifts they can share with friends and loved ones. But it is important to me that my couples see their images as soon as they can because, especially during your reception, there are things — there are friends and family dancing and things they haven’t seen yet. I really want them to be able to, as quick as possible after the wedding, still live on that high and excitement that comes from being married and a new wife or husband.
And so it’s important to me that they receive them quickly. Usually it’s about 10 days to two weeks for my couples.
John: A lot of couples now are choosing a more modern wedding invitation that might even have a picture on it or certainly, couples now are sending out save‑the‑date cards before they send out their invitations and those usually include some picture.
Can you be involved in that process as well of taking a picture for a save‑the‑date card or an invitation?
Annmarie: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of my couples use their engagement session photo for their save‑the‑date. Most of my couples are having a more simple, more classic invitation suite which I love, and they’re expanding it and making it more modern with gold foil or different types of paper stock like linen or textured paper. I really love to be a part of the save‑the‑date process. Most couples are sending them out with an image or even a selection of images from their engagement session.
But that’s usually where they’re using their photography, more on the save‑the‑date or on a wedding website too. A lot of couples like to do a wedding website which can be done through The Knot or Wedding Wire.
Some of my couples have bought their own Squarespace link and designed it themselves which is really cool to have. A very personal website that you can keep after the wedding is over to update friends and family, which is fantastic.
So those are the places usually where my couples are using their photographs — online, to share more information with their guests about accommodation or wedding weekend or brunch or dinner or on their save‑the‑date, which is great.
John: How can couples get in touch with you, Annmarie, if they’re interested in hiring a photographer?
Annmarie: They can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a contact form right through the website itself, annmarieswift.com.
John: Thanks again for speaking with me Annmarie. I appreciate it.
Annmarie: You are so welcome. This was great John. Thank you.
John: For more information about The Essex Room and more tips on wedding planning, you can visit the Essex Room website at essexroom.com or call 978 768 7335.