Big or small, your wedding day should be one of the happiest days of your life. Planning your wedding is an exciting, yet potentially stressful affair. There are many details to work out and a lot of vendors to meet with as everything comes together.
The following are some of the most common things to consider when selecting a wedding photographer. Each of these items have been shared with me by brides (during our initial consultation) as happening to their own friends or relatives. So, they were naturally interested in not making the same mistakes when hiring me for their own wedding.
Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, and what one person thinks is an acceptable product or service may not come close to meeting the wants and needs of another. However, the items listed below are the most common issues that tend to affect the widest percentage of engaged couples when selecting their wedding photographer.
DON’T SELECT BY PRICE ALONE
The most common mistake is most definitely in selecting a photographer solely based on the price paid. The phrase “you get what you pay for” is very true when it comes to artistic professions such as photography and videography. When you simply go with the lowest bidder in photography, you are generally selecting someone who is either (A) inexperienced, (B) not confident enough in their own work to put a higher value on it, (C) not in high demand, or (D) cuts corners on quality of products or amount of time they will devote to you.
Additionally, some of the lowest bids may come from studios known in the industry as ‘wedding mills’. These are the kinds of studios that focus on quantity over quality. Instead of having one primary photographer or even just a few prominent photographers on staff, they have a large pool of on-call photographers with varying skills and experience levels to fill in at events as needed. In most cases, you don’t get to pick your photographer. In many cases, you won’t even know who your photographer will be until they show up the day of the wedding. It should also be mentioned that the larger, national chain wedding mills generally have a reputation for giving great customer service pre-contract, but once the contract has been signed, the client is treated like a number (check the BBB for reviews/complaints). Trusting a wedding mill to handle your wedding photography can be a real gamble, not only with your photography quality, but with your overall customer experience.
If your budget just simply will not allow you to hire the level of photographer that you would prefer, you may have no choice but to go with a less experienced photographer or a low budget studio. As the old saying goes, “The bitterness of poor quality lasts much longer than the sweetness of low price.” Try to remember that after the food has been eaten, the cake has been cut, the dress has been put in storage, your honeymoon is a distant memory, and the kids are growing up and going off to college, the one thing you will have to look back on to remember your wedding day will be your photographs. So, if your wedding photographs are of utmost value to you but budget is a concern, perhaps saving a dollar here and there in other areas of the wedding (the food, the cake, your dress, the limo, etc) will allow you to allocate more funds towards getting the quality of photography you dream of.
The caterers, cake bakers, dress makers and such will not like me saying that, just as I wouldn’t like to hear them say the opposite (ex: “hire a cheap photographer so you can spend more on your wedding dress”), so let me clarify. If budget is a concern, you need to decide what is most important to you. Everyone has different tastes. One bride may want the most expensive dress money can buy, at the expense of having nice flowers, a fancy venue, a big cake, and a high-end photographer. Others may value the photography more and may trust that the professional photographer they hire will be able to make any venue/dress/cake look great! So, the bottom line is that when deciding what percentage of your wedding budget to spend on photography, you must first determine how much you value good photography.
DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO BOOK THE PHOTOGRAPHER YOU WANT
In all her excitement, a new bride-to-be immediately starts planning all of the details of her dream wedding, right down to her dress, shoes, venue, number of bridesmaids, her flowers, the cake, and even the color of the luxurious stretch limo that will whisk her and Prince Charming off into the sunset! She’s thought of everything a girl could possibly dream of to make her wedding day the most glorious, romantic day of her life. And yet, she hasn’t even contemplated the importance of preserving all of these momentous (and expensive) details with the all important wedding photographs!
Waiting until the last minute to book your photographer can result in:
Your preferred photographer is not available because they are already booked with someone else
You no longer have enough money left in your budget to be able to hire the photographer you want, or to get the package you want, because you’re already over budget after spending in excess for more trivial elements—like too many wedding favors, extra hot hors-d’oeuvres for your cocktail hour, or even an overly expensive DJ to play music at the reception.
BEWARE OF CHEAP PRINTS MADE AT DISCOUNT STORES
Some couples looking to cut costs may look for photographers who are willing to do a “shoot and burn”. This is where the photographer photographs the wedding and then turns over the high-resolution images on DVD to the couple. The bride plans to take these images to the in-store labs at Wal*Mart, Costco or a similar discount store where she thinks she can save some money.
What the bride doesn’t realize is that the main reason prints from discount in-store photo labs are so cheap is that the photo paper used there is not archival quality paper. Additionally their color correction process is made for quantity, not quality, so prints come out looking a lot different from the original image shot by the photographer. Remember grandma’s old pictures that are now faded and yellowed? Well, that is what those cheap prints of your own wedding will look like in as little as 10 years.
Discount labs are great for casual snapshots, like vacation or camping trip photos. But for an event as important as your wedding day, you should ONLY get your images printed by a professional lab using archival quality paper such as Kodak Endura paper. Kodak Endura paper is guaranteed not to fade or yellow for up to 100 years on display, or for up to 200 years in dark storage (such as a box or in the pages of an album).
Top-level professional wedding photographers offer only archival quality prints to their clients, and most top-tier wedding photographers do not offer “shoot and burn” wedding packages in order to maintain consistent quality end products for their clients. They are looking out for the client’s best interest by ensuring that the art created from the client’s memories will last a lifetime.