Photographs are among some of our most cherished possessions, and there’s an immeasurable amount of worth within any image that allows you to relive a special moment in time. Whether it’s one of life’s many milestones or an epic adventure, the age-old adage remains true—a picture is worth a thousand words.

A wedding is no exception. If anything, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occasion that’s as momentous as it is fleeting, and a photographer only has one chance to properly document the day. To put it plainly, there’s a substantial amount of pressure when it comes to wedding photography. There’s virtually no room for mistakes and photographing such an important event is a task that should be assigned exclusively to a well-seasoned professional.

The most remarkable wedding photos can transport you back to that ceremony, reception, or first dance, even if you’re looking through your albums decades later. Of course, the aesthetics of the day should be preserved by those photos, but the emotional aspect should be perceptible as well. The ability to photograph a wedding in all its glory and unique beauty is a skill that can only be mastered by a true artist. After all, it’s not easy to capture both the visible and invisible within a single snapshot.

A wedding isn’t meant to be a carbon-copy party that nonchalantly takes place whenever two people decide to tie the knot. A wedding is a symbol—a happy ending, a hopeful beginning, and the culmination of a couple’s journey to finding love. This involves so much more than a pretty shot of a table setting, or a posed photo of the bridal party. Photographer Cristiano Ostinelli acknowledges how it’s important for photos to show the emotional and traditional aspect of a wedding day. “But it is even more important,” he says, “to catch the component of madness that love and marriage carry with them.

Love cannot be taken too seriously, and there are no exact words to explain it.” Such a poignant philosophy is what separates the world’s top wedding photographers from the rest.

Artists tend to be more intuitive, with the ability to comprehend and interpret various situations. Since a skilled photographer is dedicated to capturing the true essence of a couple, it’s not uncommon for a close bond to develop between the two parties. An average photographer is likely to show up on the big day and go through the motions of taking a set list of typical wedding pictures. A real artist, however, can adapt to each wedding individually, working to create distinct images. “I don’t photograph weddings, actually,” says Michael Greenberg of Phototerra Studio. “It is the couple’s personalities that direct my photography on their wedding day. My philosophy and approach to wedding photography is based on my curiosity for reading people and presenting them in their best light.”

While some couples and photographers may veer toward current trends, it’s imperative to maintain a classic touch as well. When Roberto Valenzuela takes on a wedding, he approaches the day through the eyes of that couple twenty years later. What do they want to see?

Which moments will move them emotionally? “A wedding photographer documents the most important day in someone’s life—the beginning of a new family,” he says. “That’s a real responsibility I take seriously.” Another duty of a wedding photographer is to anticipate and prepare for the perfect shot, which can take place at any time. “The most treasured moments don’t announce themselves before they occur,” Roberto adds.

For many photographers, identifying special moments can be an exhilarating experience. “The inner satisfaction and adrenaline rush I get from creating art out of something that didn’t exist ten minutes ago is what drives me forward in this industry,” says Duke Khodaverdian. “The idea that we can start with just a subject, lighting and location, and, ten minutes to an hour later, we’ve created something extraordinary that will last a lifetime, is a great feeling.”

Like many artists throughout history, the best wedding photographers also view their own images with a critical eye, constantly working toward improvement. No matter how successful an artist may be, there’s no real finish line in terms of growth. “I spend a great deal of time in my art, from preparing myself physically for long weddings, to investing in equipment and knowledge,” says Jules Bower.

“Rhythm and flow are often used to describe music, but I incorporate the same principles in my photography. Extraordinary exists all around us. Photography should not make it mundane.” 

It goes without saying that selecting the right wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions a couple will make during the planning process. Once the celebration is over and your guests go home, only the photos will remain. Booking the wrong photographer is a mistake no bride or groom can afford to make, and every couple needs to consider how they want their memories to be depicted.

With roots in Milan’s fashion industry, Sandra Aberg combines high fashion with her wedding work, yet believes couples should always hire a wedding photographer who suits their individual taste. “I think one of the most important things when choosing a wedding photographer is to make sure you absolutely love their style of imagery and their personality,” she advises. “If the two match, you will trust your photographer and the outcome will be magical.” Cheryl Richards offers further advice, highlighting the importance of paying attention to a photographer’s eye and heart. Every artist has their own perspective, and a couple must be confident that they will like how their wedding appears through that artist’s lens. “I’m there to capture love,” says Cheryl. “There are so many photographers to choose from. Try not to base it on price, because the day after your wedding celebration, your photographs become priceless.”

What would you give to be able to relive the happiest day of your life whenever you want? Consider the importance and sentimental factor of a wedding, and it’s obvious that quality wedding photography is a worthy investment. The amount of love and joy felt by a couple, and the fact that those feelings may be preserved within a photograph, is enough to surpass any monetary value.

Furthering Sandra’s and Cheryl’s statements about finding photographers with the right personality, Brian Marcus of Fred Marcus Studios suggests that couples hire a photographer they feel comfortable being around. It’s a simple rule of thumb many people overlook, thus resulting in contrived, overly-posed or rigid wedding photos. “The camaraderie is important and will help even the shiest couple to relax in front of the camera,” Brian states. “The joy I get from photographing weddings is hard to explain. As a filmmaker and director, I love being able to really guide everyone throughout the entire day, as well as deliver a beautiful product they will love forever.”

Prior to the big day, brides and grooms should be fully confident that their wedding is in good hands. Even under the best circumstances, weddings can be chaotic. Knowing how passionate a photographer is about their craft is perhaps one of the most comforting thoughts a couple can have. Not only will the ideal photographer-client pairing have the right chemistry, but they’ll also have a mutual understanding of the day’s significance.

Since his training in the 1980s, John Nassari has maintained the motto, “You are only as good as your last job.” His reverence for what he does is also apparent, and he aims to be “present but invisible” while working. “I have always felt that I am in a privileged position when I photograph a wedding. And literally so—I am standing at the front of the ceremony and have the best view!”

When top photographers discuss the most enjoyable elements of their work, it’s overwhelming just how much time, work and dedication they truly put into each wedding. The depth of their emotional involvement alone can be surprising. For 4 Eyes Photography partners, Kellie Walsh and Rupert Rogers, being able to witness such an intimate occasion is not something they take lightly. “One of my favorite moments is that “look of love” when a groom sees their bride for the first time, either at their first look, or walking down the aisle,” Kellie describes. “It is these moments that connect you to your couple—for one brief second, you can experience the love they share.” Josh Wong shares a similar point of view, alluding to the sentimental value of authentic, spontaneous snapshots. “As a photo artist, I love real, raw and organic moments; the simple, special, intimate moments are the
best. A wink, smirk or tear in the eye are a few of the many,” he says.

It’s an understatement to say these photographers comprehend the importance of one’s wedding day. They’ve seen more weddings than any guest will ever attend, yet they know how to identify what makes each wedding and couple unique. And even though they may have a signature style of photography, a professional artist is in a perpetual state of evolution, always looking to offer an improved version of their work to future clients, no matter how stunning their photography may already be.

Being part of a husband and wife team at KLK Photography, Kristi Klemens proudly declares, “I love love.” Offering two different photographers and styles—soft and romantic, paired with dramatic and elegant, she shares, “You are always learning, always striving to become better. I know we all have so much potential that we have not even grazed the surface of yet.” It’s true that photography is subjective, and everyone will naturally gravitate toward one approach over another. Alain Martinez affirms his objective of “creating timeless family heirlooms that focus on the couple, and not what’s around them.” But regardless of the methodology and artistic principles a photographer chooses to adopt, each artist has a similar goal in mind to take a brief chapter of a couple’s life and transform it into a tangible and everlasting keepsake.

There’s an air of vulnerability that comes with trusting an individual or team to document an entire day filled with unbridled emotion and once-in-a-lifetime moments. But the right photographer will know exactly how to maneuver through an event, bring out a couple’s personalities, and preserve those memories through images that will always be relevant. “A wedding is the one day when a couple comes to celebrate their love with their closest family and dearest friends. I am pretty much the only person, who is neither family nor friend, yet I have been invited to witness and capture the day, so they may relive it for generations to come,” Bénédicte Verley illustrates. “It is an absolute honor.”