Quality over Quantity
More is better. That's what the modern world teaches us. More TV channels, more websites, more apps for your phone, more consumer goods for you to buy, more more more. More choice could certainly be seen as a good thing. More choice generally equals greater 'freedom' of choice which is often seen as a positive; but at what cost to quality of choice? In my experience, quality and quantity are most often mutually exclusive, you can have one or the other, not both.
A few years ago my wife and I were looking for a new kitchen table. We visited all the usual places including various furniture stores, national chains and local outlets. We were a little naive perhaps and the first difficulty we faced was finding one that would actually fit into the space we had available, whilst also trying to make sure it would be big enough to fit into a larger house we might move to in the future. 'How much bang could we get for our buck' so to speak?
The next problem we faced was the spec. Obviously we needed a table with an intricate and complex folding mechanism so that it could be morphed into any number of configurations, shapes and sizes. What if we needed to move the table about too? Better get one with optional wheel capability just to make things easier. Oh, and then there were the chairs. Of course more was better, how couldn't it be? We settled on a projected need for 10 chairs; my wife is quite the cook in her spare time (I'm awful, just to bring balance to the universe) and we'd need to make sure we had enough for big dinner parties you see.
Then came the choice of materials. Space grade titanium seemed a little overkill for a domestic item but it didn't stop me at least wondering once or twice if that was at least possible. It wasn't. Other options included wood, glass, less exotic metals and even recycled plastics. Who cares what it's made of? It had to be light to move it around easily and the more attachments, folding parts and the greater expandability it had the better right?
Price. By this factor alone all of the smaller outlets were effectively eliminated. None of them offered anything in the same league as the larger stores, where we could find dozens and dozens of tables for under £300 and all offering just the types of things we were looking for. There were folding tables, expanding tables, tables with wheels, even self-locking components. Self locking! Amazing. There were tables of all types of material, all offering next day delivery, free home construction service, interest free credit, buy now pay later schemes, three months warranty, free gifts and all were 'passionate' about quality and service.
Swept up in the corporate glitter-ball frenzy, convincing promotional material and sparkle toothed salesmen we excitedly chose our perfect table. It promised to double in length thanks to some ingenious mechanism that seemed to defy the very laws of physics. It had little fold down wheels that meant it could be moved around easily. It had a stain resistant, heat proof, fire retardant, scratch resistant high gloss coatings. It came with 10 chairs and it was light, it seemed to be made of wisps of air itself.
And it only cost £299.99. Perfect.
The next day, as promised, the table arrived at home. Two burly and competent looking table builders had the table up in no time. We had our perfect table at last. Within 6 months it was broken. Turns out the table may as well have been made out of air for all the sturdiness it provided. The miracle coatings peeled, the folding mechanisms jammed and broke within about 4 months, two of the chairs broke, one of the wheels fell of the first time I tried to use them and to top it off one of the legs came loose after the self-locking mechanism sheered. That was the final straw.
To cut a long story slightly shorter, after much agonising and a few 'I told you so's' from world wise friends and family we were on the market for another table. A piece of advice I had heard of stayed at the front of my mind this time. Buy cheap, buy twice. If only those words had been with me during the first buying process. You'll obviously be glad to know we now have a gorgeous and totally solid hardwood dining table, complete with folding mechanism that could comfortably support the weight of a container ship.
So, more is better? Unfortunately this idea is pervasive and we humans are wired to try and get the most we can for our money. Salesmen have been taking advantage of this for millennia. Most of the time, the lesson is learnt. Sometimes the lesson is painful, but usually there is opportunity to go back and rectify the mistake, just as we did with our new table.
Do you intend to get married more than once? Then you will only have one opportunity to get it right. There is no option to 'buy cheap, buy twice' when it comes to your photography. There are no repeats, no second chances. I'm not saying you should get ripped off but I am encouraging you to think about quality over quantity. Do you really need one thousand five hundred images from your day? Do you need a 'head shot' of every guest? Do you need twenty five images of your shoes and fifty of your cake? Twenty four of the images of your shoes won't be as good as the single stand out best one, the same is true of the fifty of your cake. Further, would it be better to provide your quests with a few disposable cameras to get the 'head shots' you are after whilst leaving your professional photographer and their talent to capture the priceless moments of your day?
Like the apps from Apples iTunes store or even the next great band about to hit the big time buried in the bowls of online music sites, small venues or pubs or clubs it is increasingly hard to identify the best or most useful things you need from the squawking cacophony of mediocrity spewing from the tens of thousands of frankly rubbish programmes/bands clawing for your attention and money. The parallels in photography are not dissimilar.
So how can you cut through the noise and find quality in the midst of tempting quantity? Firstly, I suggest looking for the emotional power of the photographers work, the quality of the moments they captured, the strength of their understanding of the day. Secondly, think about the perspective the images show, where they were taken from, how close the photographer was to the action. Thirdly and most importantly, look and the depth and breadth of their work; their consistency. It is one thing to see one of two good images from a wedding but a great photographer should be producing over a hundred exceptional images at every wedding, time and again, regardless of conditions or venue.
A truly great documentary photographer will melt into the background during your day, working unobtrusively to capture you and your guests interactions without dictating how your day unfolds and leaving you to enjoy YOUR day to the full. They will work with you to understand your needs and what you want from your photography. They will also be a master of their art and after the wedding day they will whittle down whatever images they make to only the most exceptional, emotional and powerful that tell the story of your day to the full. You will not be burdened with thousands of average images to choose from. You will receive from them only the absolute best quality images that capture forever those cherished, once in a lifetime memories.
Getting rid of things isn't easy as we live in a culture that values abundance and the supposed comfort it brings. In both my own life experience and my work with clients I see time and time again that our lives will be much richer if we opt for things that are fulfilling and meaningful instead of opting for just more of everything. It can be a brave step to place you trust in a photographer that offers less quantity and more quality but, if you can take just a small leap of faith, you can be sure that you will never have to worry that you have 'bought cheap' and will have to 'buy twice'.