Making your wedding day picture perfect
without breaking the bank.
As digital camera equipment becomes more affordable brides find themselves faced with more "photographers" than ever. Just as riding a bike does not allow one to win the Tour de France, owing a camera does not make one a photographer.
When a couple is interviewing a photographer, a good photographer, although it may be subtle, should be interviewing the couple as well. Look for a photographer that is more interested in figuring out specific needs and how to go about fulfilling them than selling a larger print-package.
Most every article written on the subject of finding a decent wedding photographer suggests the prospective couple ask to see an entire wedding, which is good advice, anyone with a camera can put together a book of their best shots, but the questions should go further than that.
Prospective photographers should be asked about their equipment, more specifically their back up equipment. Although as a couple you may know little about photography, simply asking about the photographers equipment should get the photographer talking, and although the photographer may talk in "geek speak" and it all may not make sense, the key words a prospective bride should be looking for are "backup equipment."
Back up equipment is an absolute necessity. Without sufficient backup equipment, it should be time to start looking elsewhere. No serious photographer would tackle a wedding without being properly equipped.
From $500 - $5000. "You get what you pay for." Or do you?
For $500 do not expect incredible results, in fact one should consider themselves lucky if a $500 photographer has sufficient backup equipment. But what about at the other end of the scale, what makes a $5000 photographer worth $5000 really? According to a CBS marketplace report from November 6, 2003, not much, wedding photographers are listed as one of the top 10 overpaid professions.
This is not to say that one should scrimp when it comes to a wedding photographer, after all you cannot redo one of the most important days in your life, so aim for a photographer with a solid portfolio, and seeing as it cannot be stressed enough, solid backup equipment.
Photojournalistic coverage vs. traditional coverage.
Almost every wedding photographer these days claims to be a photojournalist. Ask them to describe photojournalism in their own words and see how they answer. Ask yourself if you are happy with their answer, or if they are just using it as a "buzzword" they know prospective couples are looking to hear.
"There are so many different terms that people throw out," says David Roberts of the Wedding Photojournalist Association. "The bottom line is that you should look at their work and think, do I like this? If you look at it and think, I could do this myself, don´t hire them."
A true photojournalist is a trained professional who can go into almost any setting and see a shot with no excuses and no worries about the lighting, about the angle, about anything. A true photojournalist, both through training and being equipped with the proper tools, can come up with a shot where many photographers would say there is none.
Photojournalistic, or candid coverage is what is hot today, however, having a mix of posed formals is essential. Keeping Grandma happy is a good thing, but at the same time as Nina Willdorf says in her book Wedding Chic, don´t listen to your mother, who would be happy having the photographer use all his time taking formal family portraits. Keep in mind the total number of portraits should make up only five per cent of all your shots.
"I´d rather see a shot of Grandpa and Grandma exchanging a proud peck after the ceremony. Don´t let the formal shots overwhelm the total photography package. Keep it quick and simple. Have your photographer spend his time - and your money - focusing on the photos that will resonate the most with you and your husband for years to come."
Beware of "photographers ego" or the "used car salesman."
If a photographer is acting arrogant, almost as if it is a privilege for you to be able to hire them, or always in sell, sell, sell, mode, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere.
Willdorf sums up the "photographers ego" nicely. "Before we found the photographer we fell in love with, there were a cast of other, less appealing applicants. One notable photographer I visited was obsessed with the intricate shadow work in her book. Her zeal scared me, mostly because I thought she fancied herself a faaahbulous fashion photographer, not a wedding photographer. Clearly, she still considered herself an artiste - not a service provider."
The importance of owning your negatives in a digital age.
From the start make it clear to your photographer that you want to own your negatives. If you are unable to purchase your negatives, it is time to look elsewhere. Willdorf agrees, "There is positively no better way to save on your photo budget than by getting your hands on your negatives."
In today´s digital age, it is important to have access to your photos. Why would one pay $30 for a 5x7 when the local retailer will print it for $1.49. Do not allow your photographer to "hijack" your negatives. You will end up paying dearly, with very little to show in the end. Not only will the price of reprints drive your budget sky high, but what happens five years down the road if the photographer has moved or closed up shop?
Your memories, should be just that, yours.
Questions to ask and red flags to look out for.
Does the photographer have back up camera bodies, lenses, and flashes?
If not, what happens if a body fails, if a lens stops working, if a flash burns out?
How many memory cards / how much space does the photographer have available?
Most serious wedding photographers have at least 20 - 30 gigabytes of memory on hand at any given time. If your photographer says, "I have just ordered my second memory card off of eBay," you most likely have reason for concern.
Ask your photographer about a wedding they have declined and why?
If they have been in business long enough, they will be able to answer this question.
Ask about black and white / sepia toned photos. In the digital age this can be done with a click of a mouse, this should be very easy for your photographer to provide. If they attempt to up-charge you for the service of clicking a mouse, consider looking elsewhere.
On top of looking at slideshows and fancy leather albums ask your photographer for a few recent references. Make a phone call or two and see how recent brides feel about the photographer, their presence, personality and most importantly their product.
A picture is worth 1000 words:
In the words of one of history´s most famous photographers, Ansel Adams, "There are no rules for good photographs. There are just good photographs," so at the end of the day, remember to take a moment to stop asking questions, to stop listening to the sales pitch, and let your prospective photographers images speak for themselves.
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