Choosing a Wedding Photographer
Many couples get so caught up with planning all the obvious details of their wedding—such as the cake, the wedding decorations, the gown and gifts for their bridesmaids and groomsmen—that they often overlook the importance of selecting the right wedding photographer. It's important to remember that the photographer you choose will be responsible for capturing the moments and memories of what may be the most important day of your life! With this in mind, you'll want to take great care in selecting a wedding photographer considering there are no second chances.
As you might imagine, wedding photography is one of the most challenging types of professional photography. With that in mind, you will want to select a wedding photographer who has the skills and experience to make everyone look beautiful and who is able to produce beautiful work in a multitude of locations, in all kinds of weather conditions, in minimum amount of time. At the same time, your photographer should have the personality to complement you on your most joyous day. Remember, you will be interacting with this person all day under what will most likely be stressful conditions. In addition, your photographer will be interacting extensively with your friends, family and members of your wedding party. Take your time and follow some of the simple suggestions discussed below, and you will most certainly be satisfied with the outcome.
Where Do You Begin?
Personal referrals or asking friends, relatives and co-workers for suggestions, is a great place to start. Typically, people who have had positive experiences with photographers are more than willing to share that information. In addition, you'll already have some insight about the photographer's personality before you actually meet. After compiling a preliminary list, visit each photographer's web site and thoughtfully review his or her online portfolio. If a portfolio looks appealing you, chances are, that photographer might be a good fit. Next, call or email each photographer on your list. Through this initial contact, you can determine the photographer's availability, the type of work they specialize in (candid or traditional) as well as an estimate of the cost and the package you will receive for that fee.
Schedule appointments with the photographers who seem most appropriate and ask to view their portfolios in person and discuss more details. Ask each of them to show you a complete portfolio of a single wedding—this will give you a much clearer sense of what you can expect than a collection of choice shots from several different events. Pay attention to whether the photographer is adept at portraying individual expressions and personalities. Ideally, these meetings should include the bride and groom as well as the bride's parents since you will all be interacting with the photographer.
What Questions Should You Ask?
Be sure to write down all of your questions beforehand, and take thorough notes during the meetings. Although most professional photographers will provide you with a clear outline of their services and fees prior to your meeting, you will, in all likelihood, still have a large number of questions to ask. Remember, the more information you have, the more confident and relaxed you'll feel on your special day. The following are some questions you may wish to consider asking:
- How will you show me pictures for selection (e.g., electronic, proofs, contact sheets, online gallery, etc.)?
- Will you help me choose the final pictures?
- How will you make it easy for friends and family to order reprints?
- What are the costs of the various levels of coverage?
- Are there different degrees of coverage?
- What is your photography style; photojournalistic, traditional, mixed, etc.?
- How much for the duplicate prints, albums, folios, enlargements, thank you cards, etc.?
- What's your time frame for preparing the pictures for my selection?
- How about engagement session?
- How long do I have to make up my mind as to which pictures I want and how many?
- How long have you been in business?
- What kind of guarantee comes with my hiring you?
- What's your philosophy for photographing weddings?
- Will you have an assistant?
- Do you have travel fees?
- How much is your overtime fee?
- What do you plan to do at my wedding to make my wedding photographs unique and personal to me?
- Do you have a backup?
- Will you be shooting my pictures personally?
- Will you use film or digital?
- What's your payment policy?
- Do you give any guarantees on your services and photographs?
- What is the possibility of the pictures fading?
How Much Will It Cost?
The following are some points that will help prepare you for what you might expect to pay for your wedding photography:
- Plan to allocate a significant portion of your wedding budget to ensure photographs are perfect. Expect to spend at least $1000 on a professional wedding photographer to document your event. Albums and prints are usually extra. Other extras that may increase your bottom line include additional hours, additional photographers, custom albums etc. etc. Add on too many extras–and your photography budget could quickly creep to $5000 and beyond!
- Cut the extras and purchase a basic wedding photography package from a skilled photographer. By paying for the photographer's expertise only, you will ensure great images–and you'll buy yourself some time to save up for the custom album and prints after the wedding.
- Get the proofs! To that end, try to find a photographer who will let you keep the proofs. Many photographers consider themselves to be photographers only–artists not in the business of selling photographs. After the big day, they'll hand over your proofs and be on their way. They're yours to keep–you can print them in any manner you please or save them for printing after you've saved up some cash.
- Enter the digital age with digital photography. It's less costly than film, and with technological advances in equipment–digital images are no longer a sacrifice in quality. Many photographers have taken the digital plunge–which results in savings for you!
- Cut the timeline.the longer your event, the more it will cost to document it. Since photographers often charge based on the number of hours they will spend at your wedding, a shorter/smaller wedding celebration will yield big savings in your photography budget.
Making a Commitment
At this point, you should have a relatively clear idea of which photographer is best suited to capture your wedding day memories. Once you have made a decision, be prepared to leave a deposit to reserve the date. You may still wish to reassure yourself by asking about a few final details. For example, find out what the photographer's policy for wedding-date changes is and what the alternatives are if he or she is not available on the backup date. Also, ask about their policy for an unexpected cancellation. If you feel the photographer is right for you, then relax and make the commitment with the confidence that you've made a well-formed, intelligent decision in planning the most important day of your life.