Hiring a Wedding Photographer 1

laowed11

Guests at a Laotian wedding give the lucky couple a ribbing.

It being Spring and soon to be wedding season, I thought I could offer some suggestions to brides who are looking for the “dreaded wedding photographer.”

First, let me stress that I’m specifically referring to a still photographer and not a videographer. The videographer is a different animal altogether.

If when you’re interviewing someone and he says he can do it all, “Run!” Many vendors claim they can do both. It is probably true, but one person can’t do it simultaneously. I’m highly skeptical that the same person can put a video camera down and pick up a still camera without missing a beat.

Each is its own discipline. If your wedding is important, I would suggest you get separate vendors.

I shoot video too but given a choice, I will always choose stills. It’s my first love and it will probably be that way. Besides, what was it that Dirty Harry used to say?

Search Engines: Yellow Pages of today

bouquetWhere to start? If you’re reading this, it means you’re of a certain age group and you are web savvy and don’t need help with how to enter keywords into a search field.

Also I’m sure you know to add geographical keywords so that you won’t find photographers who are not in your area.

I’m sure you’ve also noticed the trend of a lot of photographers targeting the various titles of their webpages with city names, even though they obviously aren’t from those parts. They are casting as wide a net as possible but more on that, later.

So I’ll assume the following are among your criteria. Naturally, no two brides will rank these the same way. I’m merely listing what I would consider if it were my daughter getting married.

  • Price
  • Competence
  • Reputation
  • Personality
  • The Package
  • Style
  • Experience
  • The Contract
  • Proximity (to your wedding location)

Price ($500 to $5,000)

People are unrealistic about what they can get for what they are willing to pay. There’s a saying where I grew up, “Some people think their 5 cents is the size of a bullock cart wheel.”

This is where most brides are tempted to skimp on. Being a photographer I’m of course biased. However, the photographer should be the highest paid vendor at your big day. Why?

Based on time alone, of the vendors, the DJ, Florists, caterer, musicians or minister you hire, who will be there the longest?

At the end of the evening after the food and beverages is consumed, all you will have left to remember this day is the pictures. The party was for your guests–the pictures, well, they are for you.

When you have arrived at the price you’re willing to pay, make calls and meet with your choices. If you’re considering a photographer, you owe it to yourself to meet them. And when you make that appointment and you change your mind, it’s common courtesy to show up. If you can’t, call them back and cancel. Most of the time, these are free consultations, so if you don’t even call to cancel, it’s plain rude.

In the end, this service is a perceived value. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is really no objective way to compare this.

I favor good story-telling imagery over how the album looks, but that’s me–coming from a photographer who’s a photojournalist. I’ve seen my share of boring, rigidly posed images in a nicely bound high end album which I personally don’t care for.

Competence & Equipment

Admittedly the most difficult for a non-visual person to determine. My suggestion is ask to see the photographer’s edited images from 2 or 3 weddings.

I’m not just referring to his “book.” It’s easy to come up with the best pictures from 30 weddings.

If they are secure in their own abilities, they should not have a problem with your request. This will tell you how they work if you know what to look for.

You want to see if they know how to pace themselves. You also want to see their strengths and their weakness.

It is only through seeing the whole “take” as it were can you see how technically sound they are.

If you see gaps in their coverage, it could mean they may have technical problems like exposure or focusing, so they left those out.

Glaring omissions like no pictures of the couple coming down the aisle for the 1st time could mean they weren’t ready and in position to capture that.

If all the pictures looked posed, then it means they aren’t observant, ready with camera with the right lens or are not in the right place anticipating.

And that isn’t a problem if all you’re looking for is the very traditional posed pictures.

An important fact not to overlook is the photographer’s equipment. Ask what camera bodies they use. Generally speaking 10 megapixel is plenty. If they only have 1 camera body, you absolutely don’t want to hire this person.

If they don’t have supplemental lighting equipment and your wedding is in a venue that has low-light, steer clear of them too.

Having said that, just because they have the latest greatest camera equipment only means that they have good gear, nothing more.

Far too many people who are hobbyists with websites are passing themselves off as professionals.

Even Canon Professional Services in their effort to sell more cameras has been qualifying photographers based on ownership of their cameras and lenses.

Not a good idea, Canon. You just alienated some hard-working professionals by doing so.

Reputation

On their website, do they list feedback from previous clients? Even if they have lots of feedback, will they be willing to give references to satisfied clients?

This is a very touchy area. In fairness people are people. There are brides who are just impossible to please or totally dishonest just as there are photographers who are total flakes.

As with most things on the internet, anyone can claim anything on their own website.

If you head to a 3rd party website and read bad reviews over and over again, then you at least have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

Best advice I can give is to always meet with the photographer. Never hire anyone without meeting with them to discuss their contract.

If they don’t have a contract, you are absolutely asking for trouble when things go wrong.

Personality

Everyone can claim to be a people person. But that doesn’t guarantee you will get along.

We’ve all met quirky people with strange sense of humor. In small doses, they’re probably tolerable.

In your photographer, you want someone you can relate to. They may be the best photographer out there but if they’re temperamental and not willing to compromise, you want someone else.

Next time, I’ll touch on the other points in the list above.

15 thoughts on “Hiring a Wedding Photographer 1”

  1. Hi there Pete,
    I especially enjoyed your writings. I am fairly new to the business, although I have been taking photos since I was a child. I am shooting my first wedding in a week and my second the weekend after. I have known both couples for a long time; they know my work and trust me. Up till now all of my work has been done by referral. I am nervous about both weddings but excited as well. Your pointers have put some things into perspective for me, looking at it from the other side. I want to provide the service I would expect. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Anthony,
    I actually have one of these carts too. It works really well. The one I have doesn’t have rubber wheels unfortunately. The link to the cart you recommend looks better.
    You’re right about the large wedding party. The picture is not intended to be viewed on the net so you’re right about having too big a wedding party.

  3. I haven’t used mine yet…saturday I will be.
    Another mistake I see brides make is having LARGE wedding parties.
    This leads to the bride disappearing in the shots..

  4. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Curtis. I wouldn’t presume to be an expert how to select a wedding photographer.

    I do know what I like and I can spot a “faker” so I’m hoping by writing this from the perspective of the father of the bride, I won’t step on too many wedding photographer’s toes. You know what a sensitive lot we can be!

  5. Nice article. Well written and very informative. There is such complexity in selecting the right wedding photographer. You have given brides and grooms a valuable resource to refer to when making this critical decision. Nice work!

  6. Anthony, you’re right about physical attributes having nothing to do with ability. I’m short so all my pictures look like they were taken from the belly button looking up.

    Actually I overcompensate. I’m always looking around to shoot down on something!

    DeeAnn, you are hereby duly spanked!:))

    Sadly Anthony. I’ve known some successful wedding photographers who intentionally blow the interview with they find the bride is heavy and they know they can’t get images they can add to their book.

    It’s not unheard of.

    I do appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment Anthony

  7. DeeAnn,

    Since when does weight have to do with how a photographer produces nice images?
    That’s like saying the bride is to heavy and that’s why the pics came out they way they did.

    Pete,

    Nice article once again.

  8. DeeAnn,
    I hope my readers don’t take this the wrong way. No, I’ll not be the one deciding who gets to photograph my daughter’s wedding. I may pay for it but it will be her decision to make. It is so important that it would be a rite of passage.

    As parents and in this case a photographer, I could give guidance and suggestions. That’s about it.

  9. Your disclaimer on who you would hired for your daughter’s wedding set up this blog nice. My parents hired a expensive local studio in Colorado for my first wedding. Photographer was late, overweight, obtrusive and obviously had never been in an evangelical service before.
    The cheap video guys were better, they stayed out of the way and didn’t distract from wedding.
    I think we can both be honest and say if and when our children marry we will know what we want from photographer. Communicating that and then letting the photog do their job well would be good money spent, and lots of worries taken off the families involved.

  10. This is some great stuff, I am one that always wants to see more than one picture when some one brags about their photo skills. At times that so-called photographer shows his best work, but is it really his work? Hard to trust people in the digital age where they can easily download pictures that don’t have watermarks and claim them as there own.

    A family/Friend referral is also good to explore, this at least gives you an idea of their work after seeing it for yourself. It may also be a good idea to ask what type of equipment they use and ask to see the camera that will be used. You may not be to familiar with cameras, but you should be able to point out a “point and shoot” camera. Yes, some call themselves professional photographers and use a point and shoot. My Niece was one that hired a so-called professional photographer that showed up with a point and shoot camera. He really felt uncomfortable when he would see me shoot with my 5D.

    Again, great stuff Peter…

Comments are closed.