What you should know when choosing your wedding photographer
One of my recent brides summed it up best when she said to me when we first met,
“Sarah, there are only two things that I’m prepared to spend out on for my wedding. My dress and my photographer. Nothing else really matters.”
It was refreshing to hear her say that and so I asked her what had made her come to that conclusion. She went on to tell me that when her brother had been married the year before, he and his then fiance had booked a photographer with a pretty low-budget and had since been permanently disappointed by the images they had received. I could only nod in agreement – this is not the first time I’ve heard such a tale.
I once received an email from a bride at the end of her tether. She asked me if I would consider looking over the images her photographer had given her to see whether I could edit them to a more acceptable standard. As much as I wanted to help her, after checking out her original contract with that photographer, I explained that she would not be able to edit the images (or get someone else to) without that photographer’s express permission. And besides, the images she had been given were low-grade, low resolution images that would have been impossible to edit well and weren’t even suitable to be printed out. She was utterly livid and then she said to me the words I’ve heard too many times and wish I would never have to hear again, “Sarah, I wish I had found the money and booked you to be our photographer.”
Sadly this is a line I have heard one too many times. And it never fails to make me both sad for the couple expressing it and angry at the photographer who has left them feeling that way.
I’ve heard so many tales of woe…
The couple who have still yet to receive an album they paid for, more than a year after their wedding.
The couple whose wedding photos resemble little more than phone snaps.
The couple whose wedding photographer cancelled on them just days before their big day, leaving them to scrabble around looking for a replacement with an almost non-existent budget.
It makes me despair.
The one common theme in all these cases – as much as I hate to talk about it – comes down to the price these couples all paid for their photographers in the first place. More often than not, these couples booked “cheap” photographers.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that there are couples out there who are trying to plan a wedding with a tiny budget. I understand that weddings can be expensive affairs. That venues charge a premium for saturday weddings in the summer or that stick a couple of zeros on the end of the price when they hear the party they’re booking in is, in fact, a wedding. I understand how utterly frustrating this must be for couples who don’t have a lot of cash to spend and yet want to put together the best occasion they can for their loved ones.
I also totally get that I’m biased as hell when I say cost shouldn’t be a factor when choosing your wedding photographer. Of course I’m going to say that, I am one! But please, hear me out…
I’m not about to start preaching about why good wedding photographers charge what they do. There really are so many posts and articles that have been written before that explain why so much better than I ever could.
But the best statement I ever read, a few years ago now, talked about how a bad photographer can make an expensive wedding look cheap and nasty and yet a good photographer will make a cheap/low-budget wedding look a million dollars… or words to that effect. I’ll be damned if I can find the exact quote now, but the sentiment stayed with me. But what defines a bad or a good photographer?
The wedding photography market is totally over saturated – brides are drowning in the number of wedding photographers they can call on for quotes and to discuss their wedding photography needs. Nearly all photographers offer a variation of digital wedding packages, albums, prints, canvasses and more. They all have different styles, shoot in different ways, edit to their own taste and charge wildly different prices depending on experience, self-worth and demand. It’s hardly surprising that many couples wind up basing their choice on cost over anything else.
And I’m not saying that this is wrong. I’m really not.
There are some absolutely AMAZING photographers out there who charge ridiculously low prices for their work. And there are those who charge extortionate prices for producing what can only be described as tat. But these are, generally, exceptions to the rule.
There are some important things you should find out or take into consideration when booking your wedding photographer and these things will, hopefully, help you to avoid the great number out there who are only out to make a quick buck and, in so doing, potentially leaving you with no, or poor images of your wedding memories.
Make sure your photographer has insurance, back up equipment and a back up plan if needed.
Any photographer worth their salt will understand the importance of your wedding day and the significance of producing quality wedding photographs that you will cherish for years to come. Any good quality photographer will weigh that responsibility heavily on their shoulders. It would take a brush with death for me NOT to make it to your wedding day – seriously. And, should the worst absolutely happen, I, and all the other quality photographers out there, have access to lots of amazing networks of other fantastic photographers who we can reach out to and find someone to replace us with at a moments notice. We all take pride in making sure we don’t ever “miss the shot” on the day, by making sure we have enough equipment so that if one camera or lens fails, we can immediately jump in with another and still be able to function through your day. And, well, insurance! It just makes perfect business sense to be able to insure ourselves against any losses or equipment failures that result in losing images of your day for you. No decent photographer will take offence if you ask them if they’re insured and what their back up plans are!
Make sure your photographer has a contract that they ask you to read and sign BEFORE you book them.
Contracts are there to protect both you, the client, and the photographer from any foreseeable problems. Contracts are usually pretty lengthy and cover all manner of things in wedding photography (who owns copyright of the images/what you can expect your photographer to provide/how long it will take them/what happens if someone is abusive to the photographer on your wedding day – just a few examples!) but they’re not out to get you, they’re not meant as a means to tearing cash out of your fists never for you to see it again. They are there to give you reassurance that your photographer knows what they are doing, that they’ve GOT THIS COVERED.
Try to meet with your photographer if possible, or chat with them over Skype or on the phone, look through their portfolios and ask them any questions you might have BEFORE you book them.
The best way to know if a particular photographer is the photographer for you is to meet them and really look through their work. Get to know them a little, read their about pages on their websites, look through the images in their portfolios (online and in person), get a FEEL for them as you would anyone else you’re meeting for the first time. A genuinely great photographer will happily answer any questions you might have without avoiding eye contact or shifting around uncomfortably with certain questions. They will want you to go away understanding EXACTLY what it is they’re going to do for you and exactly what you can expect from them.
Of course, that’s all practical advice that you should always take into account when shopping around for a wedding photographer. But, actually, it’s not the most important thing in my mind.
Here’s the one thing I genuinely wish you would take away from this post today – the one thing I would love for you to do when searching for your own wedding photographer.
When deciding which photographer is going to be the lucky soul to capture your beautiful day, when you’ve got your list of photographers who meet all the above criteria with their varying prices and packages, go for the photographer whose work triggers something in you.
When you look through their images, which one makes you FEEL all the emotions, puts you right into the scene and gets you imagining yourself in that very spot seeing that very scene laid out in front of you. Which one gives you goosebumps? Which one makes you smile from ear to ear? Which one leaves you speechless? Which one has you stifling a sob? Because that’s exactly what YOUR images should do for you once the day is done and you’re looking through your images in the months and years down the line. And if a photographers portfolio can do that to you, imagine what it will be like when you’re seeing your own wedding laid out in front of you…