How to Choose a Wedding Photographer
There are so many things that worth of preparing before your wedding day. Since I’m a photographer, I’d like to share some thoughts from a photographer’s view and cover this topic in several sub-topics.
1. How to choose your photographer.
View past work.
The first thing that comes to my mind when choosing a photographer is to view his/her past works. Photography is an art, not everyone with a camera can master it. Although, digital camera has revolutionized how photos are taken and gives more latitude for photographer to correct their mistakes after the shoot, kauai photographers still need photographic skills and knowledge in order to capture the moments. That skills and knowledge can not be developed or acquired overnight. It takes time for a newbie to become a fully fledged artist. Regardless what the photographer states, if you do not like his/her past work, don’t work with that photographer. Remember, you are going to hire someone to record maybe the most important moments in your life. You do not want to regret after seeing the wedding photos that you are not happy with. Budget enough money and take enough time to find and hire a capable photographer that matches your style and taste.
Traditionally, wedding photos are mostly done inside studios with props and setups. Photographer often gives very specific modeling instructions and advice to brides and grooms. If the subjects know how to pose correctly, it can result in great photos that are sharp and well composed. Unfortunately lots of people are camera shy and don’t even know how to smile in front of a camera. Under this circumstance, posed shots may not be your best choice.
Photojournalistic wedding photography has gained its popularity during the past 15- 20 years. This photography style offers less formalized shots with much less posing requirements from the subjects. Photographer takes the shots without giving too many instructions and records raw and untarnished emotion. Sometimes, subjects don’t even realize that they are photographed. I personally prefer this approach for portrait because people look best when they are under their natural state. However, this approach can cause technical constraints with photographer. As lighting is one of the most important elements of photography, photographer may not get all the preferred lighting when he/she moves around like a journalist. Photographer really needs to rely on their knowledge and equipment to get the best shots taken.
Wedding is never a natural event; therefore, hybrid style is frequently used. Hybrid style photography is a blend of staged shots with photojournalistic shots. Photographer can ask group shots to be staged while take candid photo to show emotions or story.
This is the one question that’s asked most frequently. When selecting photographer, many brides put the price as the number one deciding factor. I believe that this is not the best approach of choosing the right photographer. Please remember, you are hiring someone to document the most precious time in your life. There is no second chance for photographer to ask you to re-do the ceremony or take the same photos twice. You really need the help from professional not some amateurs. Cost of professional photography has come down significantly due to popularity of digital camera and competition. Wedding photos used to cost $2,000-6,000, and most photographers charges between $1,000-3,000 nowadays. How much should a couple spend on photography services? I’d say, about 10-15% of your total wedding budget should be a reasonable allocation. I’ve seen amateurs advertised their wedding photography services for only $450 and offer to give a DVD disc to client right after the wedding. I believe that this is an irresponsible way of producing wedding photos. Good photos need to be created both during and after the shoot. What I mean is that post processing is also important besides good original photos. Post production can correct the color, create romantic feel, and add some nice touches to the originals. The wow factors usually result from post processing. Post production is time consuming and requires technical and artistic skills. Amateurs who provide DVD right after the shoot try to avoid the time spend on post production (or even don’t know how to do good post production) and time deal with client after the wedding.
They consider their job completed when wedding day is over. Brides who focus on saving money and hire this type of amateur photographer most likely end up having photos look just like the ones taken by their friends. This is not saving money, this is wasting money. If you do a simple math, taken the time that pro photographer charges for post production, the price you pay for amateurs and pros should be similar; therefore, you are paying pro price and got an amateur service. There is a reason for people who charge very low fees. All these amateurs care is money. Quality and customer satisfaction are not their main concern. Be aware! Professional photographers need to maintain certain price level in order to survive and make money because taking photos is all they do for living.
Most weddings happen during the weekend on Saturdays, thus there are only 4 weddings in a month. Even say photographer charges $1500 per wedding, that’s only $6,000 a month. After business expense, equipment depreciation, taxes, and other misc. expense, what’s left in photographer’s pocket should be no more than $3,500-4,000. It is not a lot of money, but that’s reality. In addition, winter months are usually slow or even without any business. If a pro wedding photographer charges less than $1,000 a wedding, it is hard for him/her to survive in at least Washington DC metro area, unless he/she can pull income from somewhere else.
Professionalism & Personality
Do you want to work with people who are negative and aggressive? Do you want your guess feel that the photographer is intrusive and unfriendly? I suggest that you at least talk with photographers a couple of times over the phone or have an interview with them before signing a contract. Do not just view the website and then decide who to use. Follow your instinct and use the one you feel comfortable with. The manner photographer answers the phone can also tell something about their professionalism. If a photographer never answers phone or only return your phone call or email days later, chances are they are not very good at customer services. Is the photographer on time for an appointment? This is extremely important and can be an indicator of his reliability because you don’t want the photographer show late (or not showing at all) at your wedding. Lots of good photographers work from their own home, and this should not be a judging factor of their professionalism.
A professional photographer should have a well drafted contract/agreement. If a photographer just promise to show up on your wedding date and does not want to sign a contract, don’t work with him/her. I had brides told me that someone took the deposit and simply disappear. Although, give a 50% deposit is common practice to secure your wedding date, ask for full amount of the service ahead of time is unreasonable.