Choosing A Wedding Photographer – Does Price Trump Everything Else?

Your wedding day ranks up there as one of those all important milestones next to your First Communion, Baptism, Bar Mitzvah and Graduation.

Who you eventually entrust the responsibility of documenting your special day will depend on your budget, your preference on the style i.e. traditional or the documentary style of wedding photography.

Chances are your search will start on the internet or through recommendations or word-of-mouth.

Though the internet is a great place to begin your search, you should resist the temptation to hire someone without meeting them in person unless you are getting married in Hawaii or a location where it is impractical for you to meet with them.

In that instance, you might consider contacting a local photographer and asking them if they do “destination weddings.”

If time is on your side, then you should meet with all your prospective photographers.

I cannot emphasize enough how important this is because the best photographer in the world with the worst attitude no matter how good a price, is a sure guarantee for a super stressful wedding day for everyone.

The interview is important to both sides because it allows both sides to gauge how they will get along.

That’s why a contract that spells out the details will prevent any misunderstanding.

So don’t base your decision on a hiring a photographer on a price quote over the phone . Your initial phone call should just be to see if they are available on your wedding date.

Once you’ve established that, you should keep an open mind and meet them.Most don’t charge for that consultation so you have nothing to lose.

If you can’t make the appointment, at least call the photographer to reschedule or tell them you changed your mind about meeting them. They are after all extending you the courtesy of a free consultation.

By looking at the bride’s pictures at the end of the evening, you should be able to see if she was a “trooper” or a “bride-zilla.”

It shouldn’t matter if the wedding was at the Edwards Mansion, the Mission Inn or someone’s backyard.

So there is no question your search should start online but you should be aware that the pictures on most photographer’s website are not necessarily a good representation of their true abilities.

What you’ll be seeing are their best images taken over mulitple weddings and over the length of time they’ve been in business. Keep in mind, that your needs are different, you’re hiring them to document your all-important day from “start to finish.”

So it is a good idea to ask to see pictures from several different weddings. from start to finish or as a “whole.”

What you are looking for is consistency in the imagery. Don’t confuse consistency with repetition. There should be consistency in how the photographer handles the light.

Are the images well exposed? Is there a lot of variety in their shots i.e. does it look like they moved around using different angles, lenses and shooting from different locations?

The skillful photographers and truly professional ones do all this. Some even set up lights of their own when the lighting conditions are bad. Examine the pictures of the brides. Are they all pretty, slim and slender?

This is important because it is far easier for a photographer to make good pictures of great-looking people than ones who aren’t so photogenic.

Similarly, it is easier for a photographer to make good pictures at a scenic place like the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel or the Mission Inn in Riverside than the local park or the Elks Lodge or just someone’s backyard.

Good wedding photography tells a story of how that day went for the bride and groom.

By looking at the bride’s pictures at the end of the evening you should be able to see if she was a “trooper” or a “bride-zilla.”

It shouldn’t matter if the wedding was at the Edwards Mansion, the Mission Inn or someone’s backyard.

The truly skillful photographer makes the most of the settings and makes the wedding couple look their best.

Also, the observant and creative wedding photographer recognizes little details like place settings, party favors and center pieces which you have painstakingly chosen.

If they have an appreciation for style, they will definitely include those pictures as backdrops or backgrounds for your photo albums or DVD menus.

Most photographers offer slideshows with music either on CDs or DVDs. It might be a good idea to borrow one or two of these to view at home instead of during the interview.

Just be a good sport and return those when you’re done. DVD samples are expensive to produce. On that subject, ask if they author those DVDs themselves or they outsource those.

Naturally the photographer who does their own is more skillful and probably cares more about their work than one who outsources that work.

Besides, how can someone else who wasn’t at the wedding do as good a job?And for all these reasons, in terms of cost, it is probably a good idea for brides-to-be to realize that after the cost of food, drinks and the banquet hall, the photographers fee should be next highest on the list.

When you consider all the vendors working on your big day, who will be there the longest? Does the photographer get to kick back and relax while everyone is having a good time?

He/she is charged with the responsibility of capturing and documenting the day. If you asked for their presence when you were getting ready, they will be there when your bridesmaid and you are dressing up.

In between they have to sneak in some pictures of your groom as well, not to mention the bantering before that stroll down the aisle for both of you as single people hopefully one last time.

And afterwards when the party is over, the photographer’s work is only beginning. Hundreds of pictures have to be edited and fixed for various flaws in post production. Portraits have to be re-touched, albums have to be designed, DVD slideshows have to be created and enlargements have to be ordered. The list goes on.

The post production can take as much as 20 hours or more depending on how elaborate a package a bride wants.

So remember the next time you get a quote from a wedding photographer and you think it is very high, consider what you’re paying for.

Unlike the other vendors you hire for the day, the caterers, disc jockeys, florists and wedding planners, the wedding photographer is not done at the end of the evening.

In fact, depending on how many exposures they made at the wedding, their post production work can take as much as 30 hours or more.

Depending on their particular clients’ needs, they may have to fix blemishes on images in photoshop, convert images to black and white , design albums or author slideshows with music. They will probably have to meet with you, the client, to finalize layouts for albums and send your print orders out and deliver them when ready.

All in all, these hours need to be accounted for and included in their quote so that they can be profitable and remain in business.

In the end, like most things in life, the calibre of photographer you end up with depends on what you’re willing to pay. Just remember that the food and music is for your friends and family, but the pictures are for you. After all, that’s what you’ll be looking at years after when you reminisce…

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