Hiring a wedding photographer for a traditional wedding(African Wedding) is slightly different from hiring one for a Western (white) wedding. Traditional Wedding Photographers need to be aware that each culture has specific customs and traditions that differ from one another. With that said, I’ve compiled a couple of questions that my clients usually ask me and I think these are key to consider when hiring your photographer.
1. What languages do you speak?
Traditional weddings are filled with people from all walks of life and not all them are comfortable being addressed in English. Some expect to be spoken to in their mother tongue, especially the older people. So it is important that your wedding photographer speaks at least one of the other nine South African languages other than English and Afrikaans.
This is not only important for directing people during the portrait session, it could mean the difference between catching an important unexpected moment and wishing you caught it. Imagine the MC suddenly says something that requires everybody to look in a different direction but your photographer misses it and by the time he turns around…the moment is lost.
2. Do you understand my culture and traditions?
Cannot stress this enough. Knowing the difference between what you can and can’t shoot or where you can and can’t go, these are all crucial to understanding the difference in tradition and customs for each wedding. I’ve been guilty of this myself. In some South African traditions at some point in the wedding, all the men must leave the yard. So the women can be introduced to uMakoti. At my first traditional wedding I had to be told twice, and rather forcefully, that I wasn’t allowed to be there. Photographers get caught up in capturing moments and fail to pay attention to customs and traditions. Not everything is meant for the camera.
3. Have you shot a traditional wedding before?
A little obvious but also important, traditional weddings are not the same thing as Western weddings. This goes back to “Do you understand my culture”. For example, if in your culture, Malume is going to jump out wearing a goat on his head and hit the groom with sagiya over the head then your photographer needs to anticipate this and be ready to capture it. You can’t possibly know all the nuances of every culture, but having that experience behind you helps. However, it is also important that the bride and groom explains some of the customs to the photographer before the wedding.
4. Do you shoot extra hours?
Ahh, where do I begin? African time is a thing, it is totally a thing. I have rarely seen a traditional wedding start on time. This happens with Western weddings as well but less so. I think it comes down to the fact that suppliers for traditional weddings don’t really bill by the hour. Western weddings usually take place at wedding venues that are booked for a certain amount of hours. So is the photographer, the videographer and most probably everyone who is a supplier.
So you need to ask your photographer what would happen if you were to start your 8 hour program 4 hours late :). You need to know what the cost implications are, so you are able to plan ahead and anticipate the extra costs that might arise. Some photographers charge extra which I think is fair, some will charge you at a discounted rate for the hours that they were doing nothing and waiting for the wedding to start. Speak to your photographer and find out about his/her arrangement.
5. Do you Enjoy Traditional Weddings?
This one is a no brainer. It’s not enough that you are a wedding photographer and you love to shoot weddings, but with traditional weddings you need to be curious about African culture and want to understand the different cultures and customs. In most cases traditional weddings do not follow the same order of white weddings, for example the families might want to slaughter on the day of the wedding and you need to ask your photographer if this is something he/she is comfortable to shoot. It’s important to explain all this to your photographer before the wedding starts.