In light of a story that aired last night concerning a local wedding photography business, here are some tools and advice to help you find a great wedding photographer that suits you, your budget and your style.
Because planning a wedding can be incredibly daunting, and because the total cost of a wedding can be so astronomical, I urge you to take some time to do some in-depth planning first. Sit down with your fiancé and discuss the details that you feel are the most important. Make a list of things you will not budge on (for instance, reception or ceremony location or the perfect dress) and list them first. These are the things that you will allow yourself no guilt over, and for everything else you can search out great deals or compromise.
Searching the Internet for photographers will yield a slew of results – how do you even begin to narrow it down? Set aside an entire weekend dedicated just to this task. Begin with determining what you want your pictures to look like. Do you prefer traditional poses, or creative angles? Artistic touches or straight-up photojournalism? There are many different styles of wedding photography out there; determine what you’re looking for first, then search out photographers in your area that shoot in that style. It’ll make narrowing down your choices later on much easier.
Unless they’ve had some experience with it before, people generally underestimate the cost of services such as photography, videography and catering. Envisioning a wedding that would cost $25,000 to fit into a $7,000 budget happens more often than you’d think. Wedding photography only adds to the stress; you can search Google and find sometimes hundreds of photographers in one area. Moderate costs usually fall between $1500-$3000, depending on the services or products (albums, pictures, proof books, canvases, etc.). You have to ask yourself several questions: how important to me are my wedding pictures? What do I feel is a reasonable cost for a photographer? What products (prints, albums, etc.) are a must-have? What quality and/or style of pictures do I want? All of these things should be taken into account to budget for your pictures.
Also consider that some photographers set up ‘packages’ and others don’t. Research this and ask. Many have what they call ‘a la carte’ products and services as well – things that they do but are not included in their packages. Make sure you’re very clear about what services and products that you want, so that the photographer can give you an exact quote. This makes your budgeting job (and the job of the photographer doing the quoting) much easier.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to photographers that fit both your style and budget, make sure they are responsible and credible. Some will have studios; some will not. Some will have a business license; some will not. I urge you to meet your photographer. Do NOT book with someone simply because you love their website. Meet them, and listen to your intuition. Meet with all the ones you narrow your list to, and then narrow your list again. Don’t be too shy to meet with them twice. Ask probing questions. You can find great questionnaires at About.com, RealSimple.com, and WeddingPhotoUSA.com.
Note that you must ultimately be comfortable with the person, trust the person and like their photographic style. Don’t discount a photographer whose style you love and who you have a great connection with simply because they’ve only done a few weddings or are just getting started. Some photographers have been long-time hobbyists, and may have just recently gone into business for themselves. Understanding what their level of knowledge, talent and background is will help you make an informed choice.
As a photographer who shoots both portraits and weddings, I can say that wedding photography horror stories, unfortunately, are not uncommon. All of us who are serious about our work encourage you to do your research. Take the time to plan. Ultimately, we want you thrilled with the outcome of your wedding pictures. With good research, planning, and following your intuition, you can choose a photographer whose work you will cherish for many years to come. Happy hunting, Brides!
Samantha is a Portrait and Wedding Photographer in the St. Louis area, who loves her kids, her city, and her cameras. You can check her out at http://www.arms-up-photo.com.