We’ve all heard it before… Smart shoppers look for the best value. Well, nothing could be more relevant than when you are looking for a wedding photographer. When you start your search it can be tempting to pick up the phone and call 15 photographers and ask for them to send out a price list. Sounds logical right? Well, the fact is that many photographers you will call won’t send you a price list, and there are probably a lot of good reasons as to why. At first you may be aggravated and think “I won’t do business with that company.” But, often these companies may be your best bet because their goal is to make sure their clients get the best value.
If you have ever bought a car, you know how bad the experience can be. You see a price and payment of a car listed in the paper. But when you visit the dealer you learn that it is a lease and you can only put 6000 miles per year on the car with that plan. Suddenly that price doesn’t make sense anymore, and you end up getting talked into paying twice as much due to a smooth talking sales pitch. Switch and bate, maybe, but it happens far too often in photography as well. So, be very careful when looking at what one photographer charges over another for what appears on the menu to be the same product.
Menu based price lists rarely work in photography because there are just too many details that should be thought out. Every single wedding has different demands and every single couple has different expectations or tastes as well. There are several questions you should ask yourself prior to hiring a photographer and these aren’t the questions you read about in bridal magazines dreamed up by a writer….
Do I truly enjoy the company of the photographer I am meeting with?
It may not be as important that your cake baker has as great of a personal connection with you as your photographer. Same holds true for your florist, gown designer, invitation creator, or most any other person you hire for your wedding, entertainment excluded of course. As long as the cake looks great and the flowers are gorgeous, you won’t even know they were there. However, if you do find vendors that you connect with, it makes your experience all the more pleasant. But first and foremost, your photographer is the person by your side every moment of the day and you need to be comfortable that they see the beauty in you and will be able to bring out your best even in the toughest situation.
Does the photographer know how to use professional lighting equipment?
Today, all the rave seems to be natural light photography! Natural light is phenomenal when it is great. But, it is awful and unflattering when it is not. Pro-level lighting equipment is unobtrusive and sets up and breaks down quickly and easily. Few photographers today know how to use it, but if used well, photographs against a fake collapsible wall will look stunning if that is all the photographer has to work with for portraits. Not only should the photographer know how to use it, but they should bring it just in case.
How will the photographer be dressed at the wedding?
Ok, sounds crazy right? Common sense is that they will compliment the wedding right? I have literally seen photographers at formal weddings wearing jeans and sandals. No joke, and call me crazy, but I personally feel the photographer should blend into the event.
How many professional photographers do I need at my wedding?
This is a hard question. This is why thinking about your expectations is so important prior to starting your search. A professional with incredible talent and experience will easily cover more angles, capture more details, and shoot circles around 3 or 4 photographers who aren’t seasoned pros. BUT, if for instance you want a photographer to cover the getting ready moments of the groom and the bride simultaneously, you need two photographers. If you want details and room views of your reception prior to guests sitting down and must take portraits during cocktail hour, you need 2 or maybe even 3 photographers in some cases.
How many photographs should I have in my album?
This is where it gets tricky. More pictures should never outweigh the eye of the photographer and their ability to capture defining moments. When you are done with your wedding and all that is left are vague memories and photographs, you will be much happier looking at how great you look in 20 photographs than how bad you look in 100 photographs. This is where value comes into play most.
Why bother visiting a photographer that won’t send me a price list?
You might assume that a photographer that doesn’t send out a menu price list is just too expensive. Often, though you would be wrong. Value based companies may have options available that exceed the quality and experience you could possibly achieve with a weekend warrior or mom and pop studio. This is something you have to feel out for yourself, but well known companies, even if they are a firm with multiple photographers, are often well known because they deliver on their promise. You don’t get popular doing poor quality work, especially in the wedding industry.
Should I listen or talk during my consultation with a photographer?
Listen, listen, listen… The smartest thing you can do is listen to what the artist is saying. If you tell a sales person everything you want, then they will sell on what you tell them. It is smart to ask questions about what you value most, but listening is how you determine if their style, personality, and confidence is right for you.
Is it smarter to hire a photography firm or a small studio?
There is no right or wrong answer here. A larger company may have more options for value, yet a smaller company may have more personalization. An apprentice or associate photographer working under the visual excellence of an industry leader may have experience that gives them years over a single photographer figuring it out on their own. However, there are also boutique style businesses who create compelling photographic art as well. My best advice is to see both for yourself and not to listen to any sales person who sells against other vendors or that make unsubstantiated claims. Fact is that there are great small companies and phenomenal firms as well.
How important is getting a high resolution disc of images from my photographer?
Shoot and burn is the business model of a lot newbie photographers in the industry, and it can be very tempting to go this route. In the history of the world, I’ve yet to hear of an artist who doesn’t care about how their work is presented and that it will last. I can’t imagine anyone who is really great at what they do wanting their art printed at Wal-Mart or a convenient store. Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a 50 cent disc rather than professionally printed photographs that will stand the test of time isn’t a smart way to go. Prioritize and have your photographs printed through the artist as the printed photograph is the only thing that lasts. Then, if money is available to purchase an archive, go for it. But, know that formats change and those .jpg files will be out of date in just a few short years.
Finding the best value for photography is certainly the goal you should have in mind. Keep these questions and suggestions in mind as you begin your search. First and foremost, be open minded as there are many professionals who are truly looking out for your best interest, and make it a point to see photographers who do and who don’t sent out price menus.