Does it make a difference if your photographer is a man or a woman?

OK, I'm not trying to start a debate on the merits of the sexes. But the question does come up. As a wedding photographer, I remain very professional when it comes to the bride getting in her dress. I stay out until the bride is comfortable with me being there, and I still get great shots of the bridesmaids getting her ready. After all, if she's not comfortable with the photographer being there, she probably isn't comfortable with the pictures that would be taken either.

Really the question is, what style of photography do  you prefer, and yes, it can make a difference if you hire a man or a woman to do your photography. It can make a difference between two women, or two men as well. Everyone has a different style. Of course, to generalize too much would be wrong, and if a photographer is good, they can likely imitate any style they choose, but every photographer tends to lean more to one style or another.

What do I mean by style?

One way to look at a style is as the "type" of photography - Landscape, Sports, Fashion, Journalism. Each of these forms of photography has it's own "style". But each can have styles within their form - for example, you can choose to shoot black and white or colour in any of these "types".

The "style" I am referring to here is the treatment of the subject and the composition, rather than the type of photography; being formal, or edgy, or modern, or artistic, relaxed or strictly posed.

Style can be used to enhance any image and "feeling". Often styles can be produced in post processing, though they can also be created with photographic techniques in camera. Some photographers rely on photo processing to give their images a certain pastel colour, or a vintage look. Others prefer a clean, crisp look to their images with lots of detail. The end goal in all cases is to have the viewer engage in an image and evoke an emotion.

I could be going out on a limb here, but when I at images produced by women (particularly in the wedding and family photography fields), they tend towards pastel, soft focus, dreamy, or vintage colour. When I look at photos produced by men, they tend to be more detailed, crisp, and "real" looking. Of course, neither is "wrong", and certainly a good photographer of either gender can produce images of either variety, but there does appear to be this tendency.

Personally, (perhaps because I am a guy) I prefer a crisp, clean image in camera. Post processing can be done on a clean image to produce almost any effect after the image is taken, whereas an image shot with soft focus cannot be made more crisp. Sometimes, a softened effect is even used to hide some poor photography.

On the other hand, if a photographer is working towards a certain style, why should they spend hours of post processing when they can do it in-camera? Again, there is no right and wrong, only choices.

What style are you looking for?

I realise all that may sound a little confusing. As the person hiring the photographer, you should consider what kind of style you are looking for. If you hire a good photographer, they should be able to work with that style, but they will appreciate that you have something in mind, and if they don't like working in that style, they can let you know.

Working with a style is something a professional photographer can bring to the table that a big box store portrait studio cannot. The pro can work with you to create a style that goes beyond changing backgrounds and a half dozen canned poses. It can reflect the character of the subject (you, your kids, or your wedding).

When you are choosing a photographer, find one who's images resonate with you. Imagine their pictures hanging on your walls - does the style fit with who you are and what you are looking for? Do the images speak to you or are they simply pictures?

My style...

So, after all that, what is my style? Well, I am a guy. My style tends towards the "real" look. Blurred background (bokeh) is fine and useful, but the subject must be sharp, drawing your eye to the key location in the image and happen naturally. Most of my "effects" are done in post processing, and I'm willing to experiment a little with you to achieve a look and feel you may have in mind.

As to composition, I'm willing to be adventurous and try new things. The basic rules are there to guide us, but often rules are made to be broken and in a creative space are usually broken for good reasons.

I love the romance of a wedding and the spontaneity of it. My images try to capture that without too much interference and are usually adjusted by my own vantage point more than by direction of the subjects.

The photo session is a different matter, and in that space, we work collaboratively to create some awesome images, most likely with some posing involved.

I have been known to use softening effects or colours to enhance an image, but I do use them sparingly as I think they can sometimes take away from the quality of an image, even though they can improve the mood.

So does it make a difference if your photographer is a man or a woman? Not really - if they are good, they can provide you with whatever images you need - and if they are not good, why are you hiring them? But do take some time to discuss style with your photographer. It will be as important to them as it is to you and the images you receive.

(c) 2013 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography


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