Whether you’re newly engaged and beaming, a family member
or friend or another vendor, you’ll learn a lot by reading
this article. I hope you find the information I’ve carefully
constructed both helpful and informative.
Do you really need to fork over several thousand dollars
to hire a professional photographer to
shoot your wedding? The simple answer is no, you don’t.
Here are some guidelines to help you make the decision.
How do you value photography
Do you value fine art? Do you buy paintings
or sculpture or other forms of art? If you don’t, then don’t
feel pressured into paying for a talented professional photographer
whose work will go into a box or a book that you won’t appreciate.
If you do value and enjoy artwork and discriminate between the
good and the bad, take the time to select the right photographer
at a price that’s right for you.
Decide who will research the
photographer. I've found that more grooms make initial
contact with me than brides. I suspect it’s because photography
requires as much technical research as artistic, and I’ve
noticed that most men immediately feel comfortable in this role.
If you’re a bride looking to share some aspects of the zillion
details that go into wedding planning, consider giving this task
to your fiancé! The two of you, of course, will decide
together which photographer to use, but this could be one of
easiest chores to take off your plate.
Like most things in life, supply and demand drive all
photography pricing, but it doesn’t mean you won’t
find talent and a satisfying experience at every price point.
Allocate a percentage of the total amount you plan to
spend on a wedding.
Twenty to twenty-five percent
is a commonly used figure, but expect it to vary according
own tastes and values. To put this in perspective, consider
that when time’s up, the music has stopped, you've eaten the
food, the flowers have wilted and you've left the location. What’s
left? Memories and photographs. Be honest with yourself about
BIG STUDIO VS. FREELANCE
Let your personality determine
your choice of a big studio or a freelance artist. You'll find
benefits to both.
The big studios provide structure, backup, and cost-effective
fixed options. They can also
feel like pushy, impersonal factories that force you to settle
for what they offer rather than what you want. You may or may
not meet the photographer who will shoot your wedding, but
looking at a body of work and talking to references may satisfy
you. If you’re in the camp of those who highly value photos,
I recommend insisting on meeting your chosen photographer to ensure
you’ve got good chemistry.
Freelancers have a vested interest in your satisfaction
because their success tends to grow virally, not through advertising.
They, not a booking agent, earn every dollar you pay them. Freelancers
are a different breed; independent, hard working and more likely
to push the envelope to meet your needs. On the other
hand, what is their back-up and what is your recourse? They
and should answer these questions legitimately, so don’t
forget to ask!
The ideal wedding photographer personality is friendly,
decisive, solution-oriented, imaginative, energetic and engaging.
Wedding photography is a demanding, people management job that
takes place in a fast-paced atmosphere. The photographer (not
you) is under tremendous pressure to get everything right the
first (and only!) time. As you might guess, persuading people
to put down a glass of wine to pose for the umpteenth group shot
requires a delicate, diplomatic balance pf firmness and friendliness.
Get someone who takes control without being rude and is quick
on his or her feet.
Beware the double-edged swords of too much and too little
experience. Watch out for shooters who lack that edge
of freshness because they've "been there and done that" a
million and five times. Complacency occurs in every profession,
and wedding photographers can burn out at rapid rates due to
intensity and pressure. On the other hand, too little experience,
while cheaper, presents different risks. What may be perfect
a wedding photographer who can still tell you how many weddings
he or she has done, but who still gets a little nervous before
the Big Day.
A pro should belong to one of the outstanding
organizations for professional photographers. If you
decide to hire a pro, ask which, if any, he or she has joined.
Among the more sophisticated are APA
(Advertising Photographers of America) and ASMP
(American Society of Media Photographers). These two attract photographers
largely serving corporate, commercial and advertising clients.
At the consumer level, you’ll find photographers who belong
to PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and WPPI (Wedding
and Portrait Photographers of America). While there’s
clearly a pecking order, what matters is that your photographer
involved, pursues education (because it never ends in any profession)
and is aware of current trends.
Lastly, ask if your photographer has insurance and ask for
a certificate of proof for your wedding day. Photography is
business with equipment that is fragile, prone to damage from
the most minor of accidents and is highly attractive to thieves.
Insurance isn’t cheap, but a successful photographer wouldn’t
be without it.
The definition of “good” imagery
varies from person to person. Period. Your wedding
photos are a permanent part of your history and all that matters
is that they please you. There are, however, technical considerations
that you should understand. As you do research, you’ll
hear about medium format versus 35 millimeter versus digital
photographer will have an opinion about why one is better than
the other. In fact, they all have strengths.
(click here for
Without question, digital
photography will overtake film because
the equipment, already amazingly high quality, improves at a
Moore’s law. Every year the technology
makes quantum leaps in imaging quality and capability as equipment
Both Canon and Nikon
have full lines of high quality, 35mm SLR camera bodies,
or cameras that take the existing lines of interchangeable lenses.
line, Canon has eaten Nikon’s lunch with an astounding
line of highly successful new products. Canon introduced such
tools as image-stabilized lenses and CMOS sensors, driving virtually
all aggressive sports photographers to use Canon equipment.
It’s a good sign if
your digital photographer uses Canon equipment! (Digital medium
format isn’t practical
for shooting journalism or weddings yet, but when it is, we’ll
enter a whole new world of image capture. More on medium format
Evaluation of a digital image doesn't end with what comes
out of the camera. Yes, digital
photography lowered the bar for entry-level photographers, but
I’ve yet to see a single
image come out of my digital cameras that didn’t benefit
from adjustment in Photoshop. Some need a lot, some just a little,
it is both an art and a science to produce a high quality digital
The telltale signs of low quality digital images are
off colors (too orange, too blue), flat light, little shadow
and little highlight detail. All images enter the digital chip
color, and the conversion process from color to black and white
in Photoshop is as difficult, if not more, than printing black
white photos in a darkroom. The telltale signs of bad black & white
conversions are virtually the same as those in color, including
color casts. However, I guarantee that you will not be able to
between a well-developed digital print and a film print.
Ink jet print and papers are still relatively new despite
the plethora of research and claims about ink longevity. Nobody
really knows yet how current ink jet prints will hold up
over time. There are exceptions, however. While I don’t
recommend you put any ink jet color prints into an $800 album,
I would recommend
accepting black and white prints from high quality Epson printers
on archival paper.
Ask for RC paper color prints if
your digital wedding photographer will make your finished prints.
insisting on traditional photo chemical paper is that the high
quality album manufacturers don’t like to work with ink jet prints.
This is because any glue that gets on your image in the mounting
process generally takes the ink out of the paper when wiped off.
That means the photographer has to reprint and mail an additional
image. In the end, you end up paying for this extra time and hassle.
Most pro labs accept digital files and a digital photographer who
doesn’t use one is bordering on amateur.
Medium format vs. 35mm. Medium
format (35mm would be “small” format), still mostly film, refers to the
negative size. The larger the negative, the better the potential
print quality. You’ll hear medium format sizes referred to
as 645, 120, six by six, etc. Many an established studio using only
medium format will try to convince you it’s the only way to
go. One reason may be the image quality, but what you get just may
be outweighed by what you give up (read this). Any medium format
camera is harder to handle and is slower to use than a 35mm camera.
Part of this stems from having fewer frames per roll of film (hence
more stopping to change rolls). Another part is the camera size
– most medium format cameras are larger and require tripods.
WHERE TO START LOOKING
There’s a general hierarchy
of the search process that tends to yield the most satisfying
and efficient results.
At risk of stating the obvious, ask your friends, colleagues
and family for references. But don’t stop there.
If you don’t get solid leads from people you know, ask
the other vendors you’re considering for the other
parts of the wedding. Start with the wedding planner and move on
to the florist, the caterer and the band. Often these vendors have
kickback relationships, a perfectly acceptable business practice,
but these references are just a launching point. You’ve
got to do more homework.
The Internet usually proves to be
the most effective tool.
When you land on a photographer’s site, you should
get an instant read on his or her style and capability and get an
immediate, gut reaction that either appeals to you or doesn’t.
If it’s good, dig through more links and resist trying
to immediately go to the pricing information. A well-designed,
site with a handful of carefully selected images usually translates
into a thoughtful, organized photographer who takes care and
in his or her work. This business is all about visuals and how
a photographer shows his or her work speaks volumes about how
finished product will look.
Do your homework – and always,
always talk to references. Once
you’ve narrowed your search to a few photographers, call
them. Go through some of the questions on my interview
list, and when you find someone you might want, make
a decision about whether or not you want to meet. Believe it
or not, I’ve
booked nearly all my wedding jobs without meeting my clients
face to face and had fabulous results. If, after you meet, ask
no matter how comfortable you felt at the meeting. Use my reference
resource list of questions when
you approach them and get a well-rounded experience out of these
Don't even consider a photographer who doesn't use contracts
because they protect you and the photographer.
They eliminate squabbling and mysteriously fluctuating prices and
provide a collection point for all the details. Your contract should
include the nitty gritty ceremony details, the names of the wedding
party members, the other vendors, the specific photography start
and end times and any special services like extra lighting, travel
or assistants. Additionally, the contract ideally has a list of
poses you want (see my posing list)
so that the photographer doesn’t inadvertently forget them.
Pay your deposit promptly once you receive a contract draft
from your lucky chosen photographer. This lets your
photographer know that you’re serious and it locks in your date, especially
for the most popular months of June and September. An ethical photographer
will return your deposit if you are unable to come to terms with
the contract, and you’ll know if your photographer is ethical
because you did your homework!
Set your priorities. Be clear about what you want. Start
early. Search efficiently. Trust your eyes, then your gut. Expect
to get what you pay for.