Hiring a Wedding Photographer

June 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

What Every Bride Needs to Know!

by Dusty Demerson and revoirweddingphotography.com

Long after the guests have gone home, the tux is returned, your dress is cleaned and lovingly packed away and you’ve eaten that last bit of stale wedding cake the memories of your wedding day will remain forever archived in your wedding albums and prints. There really are no second chances with your wedding photography so choosing your wedding photographer will be one of the most important decisions you will make. This is especially true if you’re planning a destination wedding. These weddings create unique situations requiring specific skills and advanced training as well as knowledge of other vendors and locations to guarantee your wedding photos are captured with technical precision and artistic flair. Your photographer should have years of experience not only in photography but also working with people in stressful situations and under variable conditions.

So, what should I know about hiring a wedding photographer?

Your photographer will be a very important part of your wedding day. They will work very closely with you and can have a huge impact on how your day goes and how well it is remembered. You will probably spend more time with your photographer than with any other person on your wedding day. The better wedding photographers do much more than just snap photos. They will help with planning, timing, the fine details, calming nerves and lots more. Establishing a good, honest and open relationship with your photographer is critical.

It’s important to understand a little about the industry, its best practices and how things work before choosing your wedding photographer.

There are so many wedding photographers – How can I choose the right one?

Choosing your right wedding photographer really comes down to two things. First, you should love their work. Look for a photographer who shows the type and style of photos you want for your wedding. Look at complete albums, not just a few photos on the website. The second factor to consider is personality. Is he or she a person you are comfortable being around? Will they make you feel confident and relaxed? Could you be friends with this person even if they weren’t your photographer?

It’s great to get referrals but planning a destination wedding can make that difficult. Check out the photographer’s testimonials from previous clients. Ask other vendors who they like working with.

You can’t really choose a photographer from a price list or brochure. Narrow your search to 3-4 photographers and spend some time with them. If you can’t visit with them in person spend some time on the phone getting to know them. You’ll want to address their style, creativity, quality of finished albums and prints, compatibility and their qualifications.

Aren’t all wedding photographers qualified?

Unfortunately no! Anyone can hang out their shingle these days and lots of hobbyists “with a good camera” have done just that. Your average wedding photographer probably has a “day job” and does weddings on the weekends for extra cash. There are, however, wedding photographers who do possess qualifications and training and these are the photographers you’ll want to consider to document your wedding day. Membership in professional organizations like Professional Photographers of America or WPPI are one way to check qualifications.

Why should I hire a professional when my friend has a great camera?

It’s not the camera that makes the photographs, it’s the photographer. Although a friend may be a very good amateur photographer, they will not have the experience, knowledge, training and back-up equipment that a professional has. Capturing your wedding photographs requires a highly specialized set of skills that takes years to master. A professional will be able to produce consistent results regardless of the various challenges that weddings can present. They know how to make the best use of light and can adapt to constantly changing circumstances.

Professional photographers know how to work with the drama and occasional stresses of an emotional day in a calm manner. They know how to finish and present your photographs in ways that will bring you joy for ages to come. Will you hire someone to create your wedding cake because they have a good mixer? Will you have your wedding gown made by a friend who has a good sewing machine? Probably not. You should select your wedding photographer based on the work they produce rather than whether they have a “good camera” or not.

How far in advance should I book my wedding photographer?

The earlier the better. Once you’ve made your choice you’ll need to book your photographer, usually with a deposit, to guarantee that they’ll be available for your wedding day. Prime summer and winter dates for weddings can be taken a year or more in advance while off-season and weekdays may be available closer to the wedding date.

How much should I budget?

This was probably your first question, right? This one can be tough because professional photographers don’t advertise their prices. There’s a good reason for that too. While most wedding photographers offer packages, many will customize those collections for your personal needs. There are so many products available these days that you’ll what to have some idea of how you’ll remember and share your wedding memories. While these products are comparatively priced, wedding photography prices generally reflect the level of service, experience, skill and training of the photographer. Here’s a rough guide:

  • $0-$3000 – friends/amateur/new photographers with poor to average skills.
  • $3000 – $5000 – starting prices for full-time professional photographers with good skills.
  • $5000 – ? highly skilled and experienced professionals with more creative flair and premium products.

Before you set your budget consider these wise words: “It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything – The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.” John Ruskin, Artist & Philosopher

Why is it so expensive?

Wedding photography today is expensive for many reasons, though relative to the cost of your reception or even your gown it’s still a very good value. Your photography and your rings will be the only memories preserved over time. Good professional photographers use the highest quality equipment, materials, labs and albums. The running costs and overhead of a business are significant. Professional quality cameras, lenses and lights cost tens of thousands of dollars and must be maintained and replaced on a regular basis. In addition to the camera gear, digital photography requires a substantial investment in computer equipment too.

Wedding photography is a highly skilled profession requiring years of training and experience. Your photographer’s skill and training is likely reflected in their fees and your photographs.

Your photos and albums will be original works of art, involving lots of time, skill, talent and artistry. For example a typical wedding photojournalist may take a thousand photos at your wedding. They will then spend hours, days or even weeks editing, processing and retouching your images. Designing a custom wedding album can easily take 40-60 hours. For every hour you see your photographer there’s usually 2-3 hours they spend behind the scenes working on your wedding photographs.

Is it cheaper to have an off-season or weekday wedding?

It can be. Photographers and other wedding vendors may offer discounts or bonuses for less-busy times. June through September are usually the premium wedding months.

Should I sign a contract or agreement?

Absolutely. This is your assurance that the wedding photographer you have chosen will honor his commitment to you. It also confirms everything in writing so there are no misunderstandings. You will also be expected to place a deposit to hold your wedding date. This amount is usually 1/3 to 1/2 the total cost of your wedding photography. If you’re interviewing a photographer who doesn’t offer a  written agreement or contract you should keep looking.

What happens after I sign the contract?

You should have occasional written or email communication from your photographer leading up to your wedding day. Feel free to share ideas, favorite shots, locations and changes to plans. Plan on meeting with your photographer a few days before the wedding to finalize times, locations etc.

Should I give my wedding photographer clippings or a list of photos?

Every photography studio has a different working style. Some are happy to see examples of photos you like while others may not. Trying to copy the style of another wedding photographer can be an exercise in frustration and can hamper the creativity of your chosen photographer. Tread lightly here. If your photographer invites your ideas, great. Otherwise you should have confidence in your decision on hiring a photographer whose work you love. A professional photographer with the experience necessary to photograph weddings should not need a list.

How much time will the photography take?

This seems to vary from one wedding to another. It’s a good idea to ask this question up-front when interviewing photographers. Having photos created in alternate locations will affect the time involved too. Be sure to share your photo ideas early with your photographer so you can receive their ideas. Creating special images the day before or after your wedding might be another option. Generally allowing at least an hour for photos would be a good idea but if you want photos in the forest, around town or by the lake you’ll need significant extra time. Consider doing the Bride and Groom photos before the wedding for these special images.

What if I hate posing for photos?

While lots of couples choose photojournalist style photographers to avoid this problem, most of the candid images they love are not as candid as they seem. Truly candid photography can result in lots of pictures of people’s backs or with uncoordinated expressions. While candid photos during the service and reception can truly capture the spirit and emotions of the day, family groups and the wedding party images will benefit by some direction from your photographer. Also, having only candid images means compromising the lighting and composition of your photos which may result in less-than-flattering memories. To look your best and have beautiful memories of your wedding you’ll want a professional photographer who knows how to capture candid and artfully composed photos in all types of light.

How long will the photographer stay at the wedding?

Photographers are usually happy to negotiate the coverage requirements for your wedding from a few hours to all day if you so desire. Most weddings with a reception require 3-4 hours while dinner and dancing could easily extend the requirement from 6-8 hours or even longer.

What’s the best time of day for the photos?

This really depends on the weather and the style of photographs you’re looking for. It’s important to choose a photographer who has a good working knowledge of your wedding location. This is a major reason for choosing a photographer from your wedding destination and not bringing in someone from another location. Your photographer’s ability to work in all types of light will greatly affect the quality of your photographs. Generally the hour before sunset is always a safe bet.

When do I get to see my photos?

Today most photographers of destination weddings use online display for their wedding images. It’s the most convenient way to share images with wedding family and guests from all over the country…even the world. As we discussed above, the studio may invest significant time before your photos are ready to view but you should expect to see images soon after your honeymoon is over or within 30 days of your wedding. Busy summer months may require a little extra time.

By now you can consider yourself a Rock Star of a bride for educating yourself about how to choose your wedding photographer. Good luck and happy shopping!

I would love to take credit for the above information but to tell the truth, most of it has been compiled from Louisiana photographer: http://revoirweddingphotography.com. She’s done such a great job compiling a lot of good information in a small space and deserves the credit. If I were getting married in Louisiana she would be my first call for a wedding photographer. Of course, if you’re planning a Crested Butte wedding, I would love to talk to you. You can get lots more information at www.DemersonPhotography.com.

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Crested Butte, Colorado photographer, Dusty Demerson creates fine art photography displayed as prints and canvases and provides private photo tours in and around western Colorado.

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