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
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.
- The Package
- 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.
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.
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.