FINDING YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER - HELPFUL TIPS

What is the best way to find your ideal wedding photographer? 

If wedding photography is not a priority to you on your wedding day then this article is not for you.  If you are determined to just find the cheapest photographer or just a friend with a camera then this article is not for you.   It is perfectly ok that some just cannot afford to invest in a true quality professional wedding photographer.  High quality wedding photography is a luxury that some just cannot afford.   I completely understand being on a budget.  Money is sometimes a real issue.  

But if your in the position to afford the investment and want only the best for your wedding day then keep reading.

Your excited and ready to get married and now your on the search for your photographer for engagement photos and or the wedding day photos.  If wedding photography is important to you then you want to find  a true professional wedding photographer that will capture your day in such a way that brings out all the emotion, relationships and beauty.  Your googling and browsing websites until your eyes are getting red.  Here are a few suggestions.

1.  DON'T JUST BE FOCUSED ON THE PRICE.

Have you noticed that there are lots of photographers out there?  Have you noticed that wedding prices are like a roller coaster ride?  Why do some charge $10,000 and other charge $500?  What's the big deal it is only 4 or 8 hours of time right?  Have you noticed that there are some offering weddings for free?  Have you been overwhelmed yet with your friends and family giving you their recommendation?  You hear them say over and over,  "Hey I have a friend I work with who is photographer." "I am sure he or she can give you a great deal."  On and on the flood of newbie photographers on Facebook, friends, and family members come over you in waves until you are about to drown.  This wedding day is the day that only comes once in a lifetime.  Do you want more then just snap shots or just a record of your day?  Do you want to risk this day to someone who has just purchased a camera at wal-mart and maybe has done a few weddings?  When the day is over and the cake is gone, the flowers are wilted and the dress is back in the closet what will you have to look at to remember this BIG DAY?  All you have are the photos.  Are you willing to risk this never to be repeated day just because it is cheap? 

One of my favorite quotes goes like this: "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur." Professional photographers are expensive for a reason. Wedding photography is NOT easy. It's a lot of work to prepare for, to do, and to work on the back side. Any given 8 hour wedding really entails at least 40 hours of work. from advertising, to book keeping, to editing the photos and even meeting with the clients and scouting out locations. On top of that there are equipment costs, insurance, taxes, liability, transportation. etc.. If you want a professional(and you really do) unfortunately you need to pay for one.  On the average full time wedding photographers nation-wide charge $2500 for full day coverage according to the PPA.  If that seems like a lot of money for one day's work maybe your not aware that for every hour at your wedding the wedding photographer will spend 6 - 8 hours (thats 40 - 60 hours after the wedding) editing and designing a wedding album.  Plus the cost of being a small business is incredibly high in today's economy.  Then there is the cost of replacing camera gear every few years.  If they are a pro they will have at least $10,000 in cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, batteries, computers and software.  They have the monthly overhead of websites, advertising, dues, memberships, equipment insurance, business insurance, self-employment tax, sales tax and on and on it goes.   Some are more expensive because they are in greater demand.  They book up over a year in advance.  They hold the wedding date on the calendar for a price that will make it worth doing that wedding.  They give up weekends to photograph weddings instead of spending time with their families.  So maybe you can see that wedding photography can be expensive.

There are many many people with cameras who are willing to photograph your wedding for cheap.  Just because someone has a camera and charges some money does not make them a true professional. Don't get me wrong I am not saying that all cheap photography is bad and I am not saying that high prices mean they will be always good.  The old saying,  "You get what you pay for"  will apply to photography.  If you check out craigslist you will find people with cameras who will photograph your wedding for less then $1000.  Some are just wanting to gain experience and build their portfolio so they can have better photos for their website and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you understand what you are risking.  Everyone gets started somewhere.  Most professionals get started by interning with a more experience photographer assisting and being a second photographer until they have enough wedding experience to do it on their own.  There are even fakes who have stollen images and misrepresent themselves to unsuspecting couples.  Maybe some just don't know all that is involved and think they are making good money when in the end they work for minimum wage or less editing all the wedding photos.  They go out of business or get burned out fast.  Some just don't take seriously the responsibility of a wedding day and are willing to risk your day for a few bucks.  

Do you know what you are risking by hiring a cheap photographer?  It could be a lifetime of regret.  I have had the phone calls from brides who are crying about their wedding photos.   They hired a friend who was starting out and only charged her $500 and now she will regret that the rest of her life.  Her wedding day was beautiful but her photos were ruined.  She had no beautiful images to remember her wedding.  It was a sad conversation.  Now she will need to take some special photos with her wedding dress and his tux to make up for the ruined wedding.  She will never be able to go back and capture her day again. Sadly this is the story of so many newly wed couples.  They wanted to save some money and there is nothing wrong with that.  How important is your wedding photography to you?

2.  LOOK AT PHOTOGRAPHERS WEBSITES WITH A DISCERNING EYE.

Every photographer will show only the best.  What should you look for?  First make sure the photographs in the galleries are really what you want.  Make sure they have more then just a Facebook page.  Are there lots of wedding photos with different brides and couples.  Not just 5 or 10 photos of the same few people.  Can you tell  how many weddings they have photographed?  Websites can be misleading so be careful.  Look at the blog.  The blog will have a record of the most recent work and at least go back to past weddings.  Are the wedding photos consistent or just a bunch of outdoor scenes?  Do they include getting ready, the ceremony, reception, family, bridals, as well as the creatives.  

3. FIND THE PHOTOGRAPHER THAT YOU LOVE THIER PHOTOS.

When a future bride calls me about prices I always ask, "have you looked at our website to see our photos?" many say they have not but just wanted prices.  What does it matter about my prices if you don't love my photos?  Before you inquire about availability and prices be sure that you have looked at their portfolio and love their photos.  I am not talking about a few pictures on a gallery.  If they are experienced serious professional they will have a blog filled with whole weddings that you can look through.  Is it consistent?  Can you see your self in the photos?  Does it reach out and touch you?  Is it more then just the ordinary things that are happening on any given wedding day?  Study a little about the different types of photography styles.  Some photographers just go with the trends.  Some have a set style.  What is it that you want is what you need to decide.

4.  MEET WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHERS IN PERSON.

I suggest that you find the photographer that fits the style you want and after you have researched their website and read their reviews then call them to set up a meeting.  It is so important to meet them in person.  They will ask you lots of questions or have you fill out a survey to get to know you.  Then ask lots of questions to make sure they are able to go above and beyond on your wedding day.   Do they have the right equipment and do they have back up gear in case the camera goes out in the middle of the ceremony?  Do they have a large number of couples who have given them good reviews?  Are they just starting out and want to use you to get another wedding under their belt hoping that all goes well?  Are they just doing this on the side?  Is this just a hobby to them?  Ask to see albums of whole weddings.  Ask to see galleries of whole weddings.  Are they full-time professionals or just doing this on the side?  Do they have insurance?  Do they have a guarantee?  Make sure you are good fit.  Do you feel a connection with their personality?  They are the ones you will be with on your wedding day more then anyone else.  They will talk with you and meet with you many times before the wedding and even after the wedding.  

5.  DON'T PUT OFF BOOKING THEM.

If you know they are the ones you want and meet all your requirements.  They have the date available then go ahead and secure the date.  If you are hesitating then someone else could call them and book them on the spot before it is too late.  It has happened to us many times.  While one couple was thinking it over another couple who knew us from a past client called and booked us over the phone.   

The good news is that there are plenty of good quality professional wedding photographers to choose from.  If a good photographer is out of your price range then ask them for some recommendations. Today's bride must be discerning enough to know the difference between the real pro and the wanna be.  It seems like there is a photographer on every corner. Don't get burned.  Don't let price blind you.  High quality wedding photos are an invest that will be worth every penny for years to come.  If you approach wedding photography with your eyes open you can find the wedding photographer that is for you.  If I can help you with suggestions please contact me.  

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