How to Avoid The Biggest Mistake 8 Out of 10 Brides Make When Choosing A Wedding Photographer
Some brides make the mistake of selecting their wedding photographer without researching what they’re really getting for their money. “You get your negatives” sounds great, but when do you get them? The original price sounds great, but how much are extra prints? So often, brides buy a package knowing they don’t want everything in it, but they think they’re getting a deal because it’s all together. Nope, sorry, photography is not like buying a “value meal” at McDonalds! To be sure, you must research before you decide.Visit as many studios as you can. As a courtesy, please call them first and set an appointment. If they’re friendly or if they call you back quickly, they’ll most likely have better standards of service. Ask if they have any information they can mail or email to you. Meet the photographer. Search through their website with a fine-toothed comb. Do you see any loopholes or issues? The biggest reason people make mistakes in hiring photographers is because they don’t have experience doing it! They’ve never had to hire photographers, and most likely their last experience with a professional photographer was a friend’s wedding, and the grumpy, sweaty, old guy was either a bore or a an annoying jerk.
But your not destined to make a mistake. With weddings you only have one shot at getting it right, but you’re already on the right path! By the way, most of this information can be directly applied to videographers (and other services) too!
Important Qualities To Look For:
1) Find someone who cares more about your wedding images than they do about their own packages and policies. Someone you know will help your wedding run smoothly and efficiently. Choose someone that you can communicate with someone that truly understands how you want your wedding to feel. How do you know? When you talk to her, she’s more interested in learning about you than describing all of the print sizes and prices.
2) Is this someone that will add to the fun and emotion of your wedding? Remember your friend’s photographer, the grumpy, sweaty, old guy that was a boring, annoying jerk? Steer clear of that! Get someone that will make the work of posed pictures fun, memorable and exciting! How can you tell who’s cool? When you talk the photographer, ask how she feels about your family members taking pictures over her shoulder! If she stays relaxed, then everyone will have a good time.
3) Look for someone who has some flexibility in styles. See what they have to offer. Some of the styles you may want to consider are: Traditional, Black & White, Candid, Romantic or Photo-journalistic. Check to see how they handle both indoor and outdoor situations. Can they do fine portraiture as well as a truly candid style? Find out what they have for you. Remember that the photographer’s creativity and personality (and your rapport with him/her) is what makes your wedding images unique, and your expressions more genuine!
4) Find someone who has as few restrictions as possible regarding packages, number of prints, limiting locations, and limiting the amount of film they shoot. Prepaid, pre-deigned packages limit the creativity of the photographer. Creativity does not come from a pre-packaged album containing, for example, 24- 8x10s. If you’re paying for an album, it should look and feel like a storybook! Think of it not like a photo album, but an illustrated storybook that uses no words to tell the story. In most cases, packages are NOT a good thing because the photographer “knows” beforehand what he needs to shoot and will only strive for those images.
Limiting the number of locations is common among wedding photographers. They’re looking for ways to beef up that package you’re ordering.
Limiting Film (aka: digital film/exposures) is the worst thing a photographer can do when covering an unfolding event such as a wedding! Most package-based photographers will limit film even if they say they don’t! What would stop them from shooting just a couple of rolls – especially if you purchased the “24-8×10 package”. Always remember, once the moment is gone, it’s gone forever. Limiting film is the easiest way to lose a moment.
5) Ask about their guarantees!!! They should have some sort of performance guarantee – GET-IT-IN-WRITING! If something didn’t come out the way you expected, they should offer to recreate it somehow or give you your money back! As of this writing, one performance guarantee is to get “preview” images on a CD before you get anything else. These are small versions of your digital images, like getting a sample before buying the whole scoop of ice cream. If you don’t like them, the photographer should give you your money back! In other words, you don’t buy the photographs until after you’ve seen them!
About Your Budget – Wedding Planners Don’t Want You To Know This!
6) Remember, after the wedding day is over all you’ve got left is your spouse, the ring, and your photographs. The food is gone. The cake is gone. So are the cocktails and champagne. Your dress, as beautiful as it may be, will not be worn again. And, if you’re really lucky, your flowers will make it through the whole day without wilting (if it’s August, don’t count on it). All these things that you spend a fortune on are expendables, yet most of your budget gets spent on these expendable, one-time-use things. The whole budget seems to be spent on the party. A grand party is delightful and fun, but will your guests remember what kind of appetizers you served, or what the centerpieces looked like? This is just one person’s opinion, but you really could drop one of the appetizers I promise your guests will still show up- guaranteed!
If your budget is truly an issue, then you should be even more selective! The cheapest photographer is very likely to be the least qualified for the job! That means – the worst possible pictures at the end of the day!!
When planning your budget, you may want to consider just inviting ten less guests to your wedding – Now, before you get upset – let me qualify this point:
On the average, it costs at least $30 per guest to seat and feed them at the reception. So cutting out just 10 people would give you at least $300 more to spend on the one thing that lasts forever – the PHOTOGRAPHS! If this still upsets you, see number 7 below.
7) Some studios accept credit cards. Credit cards are a great way to extend your payment over a longer period of time. Even better, ask if the studio has a discount for paying cash or paying early. Remember, no matter how much (or how little) you spend on your wedding photography, if you aren’t happy with the finished photos, you’ve wasted your money! But if you love them, consider it an investment that you’ll treasure for a lifetime!
Ask These Questions:
8) Experience- Always ask how long they’ve been in business. Are they a full-time professional photographer, or a weekend photographer that actually does some other job to pay the bills? Are they good enough at weddings to only shoot weddings? Or do they have to supplement their income by working for other photography companies?? If they have an assistant, is he going to produce images for you or just carry around the boss’s camera bags? Do you really want to pay to have someone carry some guy’s photo bags all night? Hasn’t he done enough weddings that he can handle it without a caddy?
9) Are they doing true photojournalism?? This is a loaded question! SOOO many photographers think that they can pick up a camera, blast off some candids or some pics of the flowers and call it photojournalism!! Check and see if the candid pictures speak to you or tell a story. BE CAREFUL! If all a photographer says is they are “Capturing the action” or the “moment,” it’s not enough to pay the big bucks for photojournalism.
10) If I hire a particular studio, is the person I’m speaking to about my wedding really the person who will photograph it? If not, can I talk to the photographer before the wedding? Remember, sometimes you’ll first speak to the studio owner or manager- then they may job it out to “one of their associates” who you might not meet until the day of your wedding. Make sure you’re building a relationship with the right person! Oh, and make sure you get your actual wedding photographer for your engagement session.
11) Will the photographer take the time to visit all the locations where your wedding will take place, prior to the beginning of your photography time? Scouting locations tells the photographer where the best places to set up are, and how the natural light falls at a particular time of day. This will help in the planning of the posed photographs, and make them run really smooth and quick so you can get on to stuff that’s more fun – like the PARTY.
12) Do you have to go to their studio to have a consultation? The months you spend planning your wedding are going to be the most busy, most stressful months of your entire life! If a photographer wants to work with you at your wedding, shouldn’t they also work with your schedule right now? Find a photographer that will come to you for a consultation. Or better yet, find someone you can consult with over the phone. If their website, portfolio and personality are that good, you know you have a winner!
13) This one is sooooo important: WILL I GET MY NEGATIVES? Why would you spend over $1000 on a photographer for the privilege of paying him $30 per 8×10! Get your negatives and make your own prints. Most one-hour labs are using ALL of the same equipment as the pro labs are, so the quality you can get at Costco (with good quality, professional negatives/digital files) is the same as that 8×10 that sweaty guy is charging $30 or more for!!!
14) Make sure you get your negatives within the same month as your wedding!! Photographers think they are being clever by including them in a package, but holding onto them for 1-3 years! They know that you want prints now and that you’ll pay them to get it even if you’re getting negatives later on. Don’t fall into that trap. You are not that naive!
15) Are there any limitations? Do they limit the film or the number of exposures they take? Limit the number of locations? Is the photographer going to be pissy if family members use their cameras while he’s doing “his poses”?? I’ve heard WAY too many brides say their friends hated their photographers because of this! It’s absurd!
16) Is there a MINIMUM-ORDER that you must buy? Keep in mind that any sort of prepaid package (with prints and album) is a prepaid order! If they have a minimum order, they might not care to much to give you above and beyond- meaning they’ll only shoot what they have to- even if they say don’t limit anything.
If you take anything away from this article, realize that photographers don’t set up their pricing like fast food chains meaning buying a “package” or a “meal deal” isn’t a deal at all – it’s RETAIL. Don’t be fooled.
17) Do They Have Information They Can Send You? Get all the information you can up front, it makes your research more efficient. If you can go over their website, brochures, etc. prior to making an appointment to meet with them, you’ll save a great deal of time. And time and stress-reduction are VERY important right now. If they have no info to send you, don’t bother with them! Reputable studios will send you information.
18) Payment Flexibility. Are there other alternative methods of payment, such as credit cards? Can you just hire the photographer for the day, and buy the photos after you’ve seen them? Or better yet, just get the negatives and buy them wherever you want at wholesale? Is there a financing option? See if they have some sort of organized Bridal Registry. Do they give you discounts for paying in cash?
Important Points To Remember – Choosing A Wedding Photographer
19) Your wedding day is a true “once-in-a-lifetime” event; it should be recorded sensitively and accurately – by a qualified photographer!
20) If you are on a strict budget, you will need to be extremely picky about choosing the right wedding photographer. The CHEAPEST PHOTOGRAPHER is very likely to be the LEAST QUALIFIED-this is one time that you get what you pay for!
21) Do you get your negatives? Do you get them right away or do you have to wait 1-3 YEARS?
22) Unfortunately, the photographer is one of the last people considered and hired for the wedding. The best photographers will most likely be booked up well in advance- DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!!!
23) As much as he wants to, DO NOT LET UNCLE LEO PHOTOGRAPH YOUR WEDDING IN PLACE OF A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER!!! In the beginning this might sound like a good idea- (uncle Leo’s pictures from his trip to Yosemite look pretty good)- the price is certainly right, BUT the benefit of low cost does not outweigh the inability to anticipate and capture the moments of your day! The same goes for a NON-WEDDING photographer the experience is just not there. REMEMBER THIS- YOU CAN’T DO IT OVER!!!
About The Author: Toni Rosati, owner of Orchid Photography, created her photographic style with the belief that time spent with friends and family is the most precious and enjoyable part of every event.
By mastering her craft, having a creative and adaptive eye, and planning ahead, her clients proudly display award-winning images – and they remember the event, not the photo shoot!
Toni Rosati earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Northridge in 2000. She and her staff at Orchid Photography have worked all over California – from San Diego to San Francisco.