What to consider when choosing a photographer

Shopping for a wedding photographer is not like selecting a gown or a bridal bouquet. You can see something tangible before you make your decision, when you're shopping for specific items like that. But in the selection of your photographer, you're often at the mercy of a super-salesperson and/or your own intuition. It seems as if PRICE is usually the main determining factor, even though there's NEVER going to be a second chance. Nor has there ever been anything written that gives you, the bride, a true guideline as to how to select the one person who could supply you with a heart full of memories to last a lifetime.

Undoubtedly the best way a bride has to prejudge the competency of a wedding photographer is to have a recommendation from someone whose opinion she trusts. If she has more than one recommendation, that's even better - especially if the same photographer's name comes from different sources.

Then, a phone call is appropriate.

The telephone conversation should begin with the availability of the studio to cover the wedding on your specific date. You should also learn the name of the photographer who would be doing the actual pictures at your wedding, and at least a rough estimate of the costs involved. You should find out on the telephone how the photographer feels about posed and candid pictures and decide whether or not you agree or are interested in the studio's philosophy of how the wedding photography should be conducted. That is - photojournalism, candids, portraits, groups, etc. Just one concept? A combination of several? An appointment should be made to meet with the photographer who will be assigned to your wedding, see his/her work and discuss the details. Without doubt, this meeting should include both the bride and groom as well as the bride's parents...or however many of these people can be assembled for the consultation. 

At that meeting the first assessment you should make is whether or not you feel comfortable in the presence of the photographer. If you're going to spend a good part of the most important day of your life with this person, it should be someone with whom you know you'll enjoy sharing that time. Then you should see some of the photographer's work. 

 Another result of this meeting could be to allow you and your photographer to begin a one-on-one relationship. In that way, neither of you would be strangers to each other on the day of the wedding and you'll be more relaxed in front of the camera.

What questions should I ask?

 Some important questions you may consider are:

1. How do you feel about the bride and groom not wanting to see each other before the ceremony? ---What are the alternatives? ---How will the various plans affect us on the day of the wedding?

2.  How long do you expect to be with us on the day of the wedding? ---Beginning at what time? ---Until when? ---Is there an extra charge if the wedding runs a little overtime?

3. Whom would you include in the photographs? ---Where and when would they be taken?

4. What can I do to help you perform your duties to the best of your ability?

Ask to see an entire wedding.

If you're still interested in the photographer's services at this point, I'd ask to see a complete coverage of a single wedding. That's a lot more important than seeing a selection of beautiful highlights from many different weddings.

When looking through the album, evaluate the work by placing yourself in the position that this could have been YOUR wedding coverage. Ask yourself if the photographer has actually considered the individual characteristics and personality of each of the important persons in the photographs. Has the photographer caught the individual's actual feelings of the moment, or are these just pictures of people standing and looking self-consciously into the lens. Do they look natural? Or even better than real? And, in fact, is that what you and they really want?


Get Specific!

 Too often important details that you had never before considered come back to haunt you later:

5.  How will you be showing me the pictures for selection?

6.  Will you be helping me in the selection of the final pictures?

7. How can people who live out of town be accommodated with ordering, paying and delivery?

8.   What are the costs of the various styles of coverage? --- Are there different degrees of coverage? --- What's included in each?
9.  How much for the extras? --- Duplicates? --- Ask to see the specific style of album you will be receiving. --- Are alternate choices available? At an extra cost?

10. What kind of time frame are you looking at for preparing the pictures for my selection? --- Are you providing me with proofs, slides, video tape of the pictures, or what? --- How much time do I have to make up my mind as to which pictures I want and how many? --- Are the proofs for sale or are they included in the chosen package?

Consider future expenses

11. Can I purchase a basic package now and upgrade the package should I choose to do so?

12.. How long have you been in the business? --- How long do you plan on staying in the business? --- In other words, what kind of guarantee comes with my hiring you and/or your studio?

Wrap It Up Intelligently

Finally, let's consider a few topics of conversation that could/should help you make your decision.

13.. Do you have any particular philosophy about your approach to photographing weddings?

14. What would you plan to do at my wedding that would make my wedding photographs unique and personal to me? --- Can I tell you who I want in my pictures? --- How will you find them?

15. With whom will I be dealing after the wedding?

16. What's your payment policy? --- Do you give any guarantees on your services and photographs?

 Be Prepared To Make A Commitment!

By now you've probably spent a good deal of time with the photographer. His/her time is money, the same as yours. Realize that in the long run someone has to pay for the hours each photographer spends as a consultant. Keep his/her (and your) expenses to a minimum by going to the meeting with the photographer prepared to leave a deposit to confirm the date. Before you do, however, you may want to assure yourself of a few more last-minute details.

Find out the photographer's policy if the date of your wedding is changed and he/she's not available on the alternate date. Find out, too, what the policy is for an unforeseen cancellation of the date. At this stage of the game, if you've really taken the time to get into some of the above questions, you HAVE to know whether or not this photographer is for you.

If the photographer IS for you, if the photographer IS available, and if you're convinced that it's worth the price...then make the commitment and rest assured that this is undoubtedly one of the best and most intelligent decisions you've made in planning your wedding!

How Much Should Photographs Cost?
It's difficult to pay too much for something you really like. Yet, price is usually the one obstacle that prevents many wedding clients from selecting the photographer who undoubtedly could give them the best value for the money.

Quite often the difference between the price of the photographer you really like and one who you feel is "within the budget" is miscalculated.

Understandably, of course! When wedding plans come down to dollars and cents, it's hard to keep spending "a little more here...and a little more there. Somewhere along the line," you feel, "you have to give a little! There's only so-much money available!" Yet, within the framework of the entire wedding day, it makes good sense to evaluate the money spent on photographs in relation to what's being spent on flowers, food and music. Although everyone knows that the pictures are the only thing you have after the moment has passed, some people still feel that they have to put the money "where it shows".

Later, In the privacy of their own hearts, many of these people are often disappointed with photographic memories that give them nothing but heartaches...and there's no remedy!

The reality is-

You're going to remember the wedding day through the eyes, heart and talent of your photographer. When making the decision as to who that photographer is going to be, realize that oftentimes you're talking a relative difference of pennies! On the other hand, if you're unhappy, regardless of the "good deal" you're getting, you could lose everything!

What's the "going rate" among wedding photographers nowadays? The price difference is as great as the time, talent and technique of the studios being considered. Certainly, among competent photographers in a highly competitive area, or photographers in their formative years, a basic wedding coverage can be found around the fifteen hundred dollar category. Spending less than that would probably be a high-risk gamble.

Other photographers may begin somewhere around two thousand dollars and go upwards from there. A true specialist, one who has a reputation for consistently delivering the best, might begin at two or three times that amount and go upwards to five thousand and more.

When considering the cost of a photographer, you may find that studios sometimes approach this matter in one or two different manners.

Whereas some photographers have basic "packages" of an agreed number of photographs for a specified dollar amount, other studios might have a predetermined charge for their services and allow you to buy whatever amount of pictures you want.

Still some photographers allow you to have ALL the pictures that are taken. There is a set fee that includes EVERYTHING! There are, of course, benefits to all of these approaches. In the first instance you have a good idea right from the start how much money you're probably going to spend...and you're locked into that minimum. That's a double guarantee, both for you and the photographer. Studios that offer you what' known as their a-la-carte system are taking a chance (along with you) as to how much money you'll be spending.

The studio that offers you ALL the pictures may scare you at first with the high price, but you may want to know that up front and KNOW that you will not be spending more.

Realize that at the same time you're preparing your budget, you will probably want/need to spend extra money for albums and portraits for both families. In any case, you're probably going to spend more than you originally planned, but you'll be doing it because you like the pictures so much, you WANT to buy the extras. The bottom line, as you know, is not necessarily how much you end up spending on photographs. Instead, it's how much pleasure you get from them over the years.
Wouldn't you agree, that at a time as important as your wedding day, it's better to invest a little more money for photography than you had planned...instead of a little less that you should?

Why risk your memories of a once-in-a-lifetime event on a gamble?

Besides, if you should spend $1000 for your wedding pictures that's only an investment of five cents a day, if you make it to your 50th Anniversary! Only twenty-seven cents a day on an investment of $5000.

You're going to be concerned with the price only one time...when you buy. You're going to be concerned with quality, however, during the lifetime of the product!