Avoiding Pitfalls When Choosing a Wedding Photographer-
The Advice I Wish I Had Been Given
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At the time of my wedding, I had been taking photos from a young age, including ten or so weddings of friends - so I thought what I was asking of my wedding photographer was nothing extraordinary. I wanted a mix of black and white and color (and some sepia, which I love); lots, and I mean lots of editorial pictures; no misty, “Vaseline” images; a few formals.
What I received instead were several albums (ok, one check next to “lots”), a good mix of color, black and white and sepia (another check), but I also got many photos with that Vaseline look (yes, the one I specifically asked not to have). I did get some formals, but only one shot of my groom and me together. One.
Unfortunately, what I remember most about the photography experience on my day was taking time to pose in awkward positions on the ground in wet leaves and grass- no fun and no thanks. I also remember my photographer asking my Maid of Honor if she would care to pose nude for him “some other time”- double ick!
The upshot of this experience with my own photographer was my realization that I could do better! And, as a lover of weddings, particularly same-sex weddings (they are just so touching, and ok, I am a sappy romantic) and a pretty outgoing personality, I figured this job would be my perfect fit. So with some encouragement from my new husband, who gave me my first professional camera and a “go get ‘em”, I quit my high-powered, long-houred, low-reward job as a marketing executive and started spreading word about my career change. To this day, I could not be happier!
Advice on Choosing a Wedding Photographer
It is time for me to pay my good fortune forward and proffer some advice from what I learned on that very day, and some I have learned since- as a photographer and a bride.
§ When researching a photographer, find one who does great detail shots. You have paid a lot of money for your creative party ideas; make sure they are commemorated “on film”. Especially the flowers. Somehow it never dawned on me that I would not get to see my flowers after my wedding day- it’s not like an order you receive at your door that lasts all week…. The next day, they are gone- like the wind. All of those beautiful things…. Gone. Sigh. Plus, your photographer's attention to detail is likely good indication that they will notice the little things that matter throughout the day- the tear in the eye of your dad, the fidgety flower girl, the secret gift swap, etc...
§ Talk to your photographer about album options and a no album option. Like prints, this is an area where photographers make money. Albums alone begin at about $500 and can stretch far beyond. That price does not include design, images, prints, or other service charges. I have been running a successful business without an album offering. If you do decide to purchase what they offer, make sure to see a sample album. Find out if the photographer does them him/herself and how long they take to deliver (remember to put this in your contract).
§ The most important piece of advice I have is to choose a photographer you LIKE. Once you have determined you like their style, and are ok with the price, if you are debating between two, go with the one you like most. This person will be following you around for hours (often in intimate apparel), and meeting your relatives. You don’t want to dread calling them for any reason, and liking them will make ironing out any kinks in the relationship much easier, should they arise. (And a photographer will be more likely go out of his/her way to make you happy if you are easier to deal with!).
§ When signing your contract, make sure it states the name of your photographer, the precise deliverables (such as a minimum number of prints/proofs, the style of shooting, the time photographer will be there, any albums you want, etc). But most importantly, include the deliverable dates! I have heard far too many sob stories about albums that have not been delivered over a year later. This is often because a photographer contracts out their work, and/or gets too busy. Albums are a great way for photographers to make money, but often not what they are best at doing.
§ Last contract item, I swear… ask your photographer to include the price of your prints (by size) and some indication that prices will not go up (or list the percentage they will) within a given time (such as a year). This will spare you the sticker shock that I experienced when I forgot to ask prior to the wedding! My friends and family could not afford the prints my photographer was selling (nor were they really good enough to want to pay his price, but it’s all we had). Selling prints is how photographers make their money. So be understanding if you choose this kind of photography package, but be forewarned, and do your research wisely! I created a different pricing model for my business: I don’t mark up my prints.
§ Once you have booked your photographer, make sure to give him/her a call about a month before your wedding day, though a good photographer will have called you already, or set up a date with you to do so. Go over the details of the day: timing, shot lists, special attendees of whom you want pictures, any surprise events during the day, etc. When I called my photographer a month prior, he told me he only liked to have a conversation with his brides one week prior to their wedding date. His inflexibility (and disorganization) should have been a clue; even after I called a week prior, he still did not remember the list of things I did and didn’t want (per the above). And why should the onus be on me to call him?! Especially since I had already paid up front?!
§ Think about taking time prior to your wedding to take pictures of just you, or you and your bride/groom. You only get to wear that fabulous outfit/gown for a few hours, and it’s hard to take off. You might enjoy a few extra hours in it.. feel glamourous….
§ Make sure to tell your photographer how important (or not) your formals are… If you don’t like the pose, speak up! It’s your day! It’s your money! If you don’t want to risk grass stains on your dress, it’s ok. A good photographer can find an alternative pose. But keep in mind that you have hired this person for their creativity. So trust to some extent…..
I feel incredibly lucky to be included in anyone's wedding day …. And more so to have made and maintained friendships with many of “my” brides and grooms. …
Don't hesitate to call or write if you need any advice on planning your photography for your wedding! And remember to breathe...!