A 4-step Process to Select the Right Wedding Photographer for You

Choosing your wedding photographer is one of the key decisions you will make
in preparing for your wedding. In your preparation, it is important to find a
photographer that is providing the package that will best meet your own
personal requirements. It is useful to focus on 4 key areas in your selection:-

  1. Quality and Styles of Photography
  2. The Photographer’s own Style and Rapport
  3. Any Additional Services required
  4. Your Budget and the Photographer’s Price and Package Details

By working through the following questions and options, we believe you will be
better prepared to make the right choice.

1. Quality & Style of Photography

What type of photographs do you want?

Formal Photos.
Most couples want some formal family and group shots of their wedding. They
are often the “set pieces” of the day (Best man and bridesmaids, Brides family,
Grooms family, Confetti shot, Cutting the wedding cake etc). These, if you like,
are the historical record. For some couples this may all that may be required.
For others these shots may be a small part of the photography, and the couple
may want to keep them to a minimum.

Candid, Reportage, Informal Photos.
These are much more relaxed shots, catching the bride and groom and their
guests during the day. The shots aim to build a story of the day, and to get
pictures of the wedding couple and their guests as themselves and enjoying the
day.

Creative, Artistic shots.
The wedding couple may want to hire a photographer who can also add an
artistic, contemporary style to some or all of the pictures. This may include
fashion magazine type shots, or adjustments to colour and contrast.

How much coverage do you want?
Do you want your photographer to be with you from the moment you rise until
the last dance or do you only want them at the ceremony or until the first
dance? Most photographers will have a range of packages to suit your needs,
ranging from ceremony only to full day coverage (and some will even go
beyond that if required and join you on the stag night or include some studio
or on location engagement shots in the package).

Check photographer capabilities.
The internet gives you a great opportunity to view the work of a wide range of
photographers and help you to build a shortlist of the photographers you
would like to go to see. Most photographers will have an on-line gallery which
will give you a good indication of the type of photography they like to do. When
you meet with a photographer, ask to see further samples of their work, and
look for examples of a full wedding rather than a “Best of..” compilation culled
from a number of weddings. (If you want a candid photographer, do the
example pictures tell the story of the day? As a quality test, do the photos show
the subtle details of the wedding dress). Does the photographer have
Professional qualifications (not just memberships)? Has the photographer won
any awards for their wedding photography, or do they have testimonials from
previous weddings?

Does the photographer’s style match your ideas?
Does the style of photography match your own ideas on the resiults you want
to see in your wedding photographs?

Time, Location and Advice.
Has the photographer worked at the Church/Reception you are using? Does the
photographer have ideas on good location shots either at the Church/Reception
or close by to get the best results? Do your wedding timings(season/time of
day) enable the photographer to get the results you are looking for? If the
photographer is pro-actively giving you sound advice on how to get the
pictures you want, or offering options you have not considered, it is a good
sign that you will end up with good results.

2. Photographer Style & Rapport

Meet the Photographer.
It is fundamentally important to meet the photographer that would actually do
your wedding. You need this to be confirmed to you. Check that the work you
see is the individual photographer’s work, and not examples from the company
he/she works for.

Do you like the photographer?
If you like the photographer (and he/she has met your criteria for the quality
and style of work you want done), you will have a much better wedding day,
and get much better results if you enjoy being with the person who will take
the pictures.

Will the photographer take time to build a rapport?
What pre-wedding activities does the photographer offer to provide? For
example: Pre wedding run-through, Site visits together, Studio portrait
session.

3. Additional Services.

Do you need any additional services?
If not, then it is important to make sure that these, if stripped out of a package,
are not included in the price. If you do want additional services, identify those
that are important to you and test the photographers capabilities in these
areas. For instance:-

  • Advice and range of Wedding Albums
  • Advice and range of picture frames
  • Uploading images to the Web
  • Providing pictures on CD
  • Providing pictures on DVD with/without music.
  • Digital manipulation/compilation.

4. Package and Price

Decide your budget for photography.
There is a wide range of cost and levels of service in Wedding Photography and
you need to have a clear budget in mind before establishing your photographer
shortlist.

Check what is in the package and what is not. It is important to spend time to
understand what exactly is in the package you are signing up for. This can
avoid dis-satisfaction from misunderstandings later. Some points to consider:-

  • How many prints (and what size) are included in the package?
  • What is the cost of extra prints and reprints?
  • Is a wedding album and/or folder mounts included?
  • Who has the copyright to the pictures?
  • Are additional services (e.g Web upload) and miscellaneous expenses (e.g.postage, travel costs) included or not.
  • Back up and Insurance. What happens if your photographer is ill and is unable to photograph the wedding? What happens if the images are lost or destroyed during processing?
  • Does the photographer have professional indemnity insurance?

The photographer is an important part of your wedding in that they not only
provide a lasting record of the people, events and emotions but thay are also
an integral part of the structure and organisation of the day. A photographer
who can work quickly and easily and who you feel is someone you can rely on,
can make a big impact on your enjoyment of your wedding day. It usually pays,
therefore, to invest in a photographer who has the experience to deliver the
pictures you want and to work with you to make the day a success.

Good luck with your search and have a great wedding day!

How to Tell the Difference Between a Good Wedding Photographer and a Bad One

How do you tell the difference between one wedding photographer and the next? Searching through the sea of wedding photographers can be a big task. When I got married, I was given the task of selecting our wedding photographer, and I looked at websites of many different photographers. Some were more expensive and some were less expensive, but often I couldn’t tell the difference between the actual pictures. If I could tell that I liked one photographer’s work better, I didn’t know why. This left me with very little confidence in selecting a wedding photographer.

I want you to be able to choose a wedding photographer with confidence. So let’s answer the basic questions.

Why can’t I tell the difference?

The reason that you and I could not tell the difference, is that most of the work that is put online is the best work of the photographer. All of the photos you see on websites are great photographs. If they weren’t, they would not make it on the website. If you had a camera and went out to shoot a thousand pictures one day, I am sure you could take at least 1 good picture.

This is exactly what some photographers do. They shoot weddings and come up with 2 or 3 good pictures from the wedding. These are the photographs that are posted on their website. You will never see the other photographs. A poor photographer will only be able to take 1-10 good photographs from your day. A good photographer will be able to shoot 30-70 great photographs from your wedding day. A great photographer may be able to shoot 50-100 great photographs.

Real weddings?

Another trick that photographers use to build up their online portfolio is to use fake wedding shots. Some photographers will hire some models and go to a beautiful location and spend a whole day taking photos. They will put these shots on their website and while the shots are great shots, they aren’t from real weddings. The photographer gets the opportunity to spend half an hour perfecting each shot. They may fiddle with the pose. They may take the shot and realize that there’s something distracting in the background. They will not have this much time on your wedding day. You will not get any photos that look like these on your wedding day.

Some photographers may even go to a workshop where another professional photographer teaches them on how to take great photos. In these cases, the teacher is the one who actually poses the model and sets up the lighting. Will your photographer actually be able to create those shots themselves?

Ask to see an entire wedding of photos

So don’t select a photographer merely by looking at the online portfolio. All photographers should have a great online portfolio. (If they don’t, definitely beware.) Meet with the photographer and ask to see photographs from an entire wedding. The photographer should show you 200 or so photographs from an entire wedding and see how many of these photographs you think are great shots. Not all of them will be great. Even the best photographers will have mediocre shots, but if there is a large number that are great shots, you know you have a good photographer.

Know the great photographers

Another way to be able to distinguish the good photographers from the bad ones, is by being familiar with the great photographers. There may be one or two great photographers in your area that charge over $10000 per wedding. You may not be able to afford that, but by looking at their photographs you can realize what good photography really is. Then look for those elements in other photographers. Some of the great wedding photographers are Joe Buissink, Jeff Ascough, Jessica Claire, Nate and Jaclyn Kaiser from The Image is Found, Jesh de Rox and others. Look up those names and peruse their photographs. You will get a sense of what great photography and as a result, you will be able to more easily differentiate the good photographers from the mediocre ones.

Top 10 Must Ask Questions for Your Wedding Photographer

During every consultation with a potential client, the bride opens her wedding organizer and flips to her copy of the ten most important questions to ask a wedding photographer.

No question is a bad question. I’ll politely answer any question she asks. But these top-ten-lists printed in wedding magazines don’t go far enough. So, take your list of ten questions and add a few more that I’ve written in this article. They will greatly improve the information you get from photographers.

Do you accept family portrait lists?

Every photographer should accept this list. It’s essential to accomplishing the job you’ve hired him for. Write down the name of every family member to appear in each portrait. Review the list with your photographer, and he’ll tell you how much time will be needed to take every picture.

Do you carry liability insurance? Every wedding vendor should have a minimum $1 million liability policy. This insurance covers accidents or damage the photographer may cause while working. You don’t want to end up responsible for their damage. Protect yourself.

Will you make changes to the contract?

Many photographers object to changing their contracts for any reason. You don’t have to work with them. Never sign an agreement that you’re uncomfortable with. I suggest the following list of additions to every photography contact.

1. The photographer you are hiring should be named explicitly as the photographer who will photograph your wedding.

2. The contract should list any prepayment as a deposit. It should not say retainer. In some states, you may have a difficult time being refunded a retainer if the photographer fails to perform the contract.

3. You should provide limitations on things he shouldn’t photograph, such as the bride or groom undressed.

4. If you’re receiving digital negatives in the package, you’ll need the photographer to grant you a copyright license to use the digital files for unlimited personal printing.

5. The contract will have a “Failure to Perform” section. It should state that you are entitled to a full refund of all money paid, including the deposit, should the photographer not photograph your wedding.

How do you provide wedding proofs?

Few photographers provide printed proofs anymore. Every photographer I know posts the photographs in a private web gallery or mails a DVD to the client. I do both. The web gallery accepts print orders from the couple and their wedding guests, and the DVD includes all of the photographs in a printable format.

How long will the wedding photographs be online? Every service is different. They should be online for a minimum of one year.

What file format do you shoot?

Every professional photographer will use the RAW setting, which gives the client the best possible results. This file format captures 4,096 levels of color per channel. The JPEG format, used in every point and shoot camera, captures 256 levels. That’s a massive difference in the subtleties of color tone within an object.

RAW has the greatest dynamic range, which means you’ll see a lot of detail in the brightest and darkest areas of a photograph.

Does your rate include any photo editing?

Anything is possible when your photographer has great digital editing skills. But don’t count on it being free. Editing is a very extensive process that often costs more because of the time that is involved.

As part of the photographer’s day-rate, he should include a RAW conversion. This means that the photographer opens each RAW file and adjusts all of the settings to create a nicest printable photograph. It will improve the skin tones, contrast and sharpness of the photographs.

Many clients think the conversions look so wonderful that they can’t suggest any other changes. RAW conversions create proofs that blow away proofs made from film.

Your tab will start adding up when you ask the photographer to change things about your appearance. Want a different hair color? I can do it. Want a digital nose job? No problem. It’s cheaper than plastic surgery.

You can save money. Ask your photographer to provide free editing with your album order. I do this as part of my regular service. I will make any edit to an album print that the client requests at no additional charge.

Do you provide digital negatives?

Selling the digital negatives is a very contentious issue among professionals. Photographers never gave film negatives to the client without charging a bundle. Since digital files are the same thing as negatives, many photographers charge upwards of $1,000 for them. So, the couple is forced into buying an album or prints if they ever want to hold their photographs.

Younger photographers, including myself, realize that the market has changed. Wedding clients demand that they receive the digital negatives as part of the day-rate package. I agree with them.

I give my clients the digital negatives, and they still spend plenty of money on the new, innovative wedding albums and other products. My clients are happy, and my business prospers.

Do you grant a copyright license to print from the disc?

Why pay for the disc if you’re not allowed to use it? Ask to receive a copyright license to use the disc for personal use. Photographers won’t sell you the copyrights, but they will grant you the license to print from the disc. You could even choose to make your own album. I always give my wedding clients the license.

How long do you archive the client’s files?

Digital image files are huge. They quickly fill hard drives, and some photographers won’t spend the money to save years of photographs. The photographer should tell you how long he archives the files before deleting them.

Do you print on exclusively on real photography paper?

If you know nothing about photography and want a high-quality, life-long lasting print, then ask your photographer to print on Fuji or Kodak digital papers with a Lustre finish

These two brands of paper look identical. The brand you receive will depend on the professional lab where your photographer orders his prints. They will last for your lifetime. That’s much longer than your parent’s wedding prints, which have probably faded in their album already.

The Lustre finish has a fine sheen. It’s not glossy, nor is it matte. The colors really pop, and it resists fingerprints and water droplets. If you ever spill water on a print, drain it off and air dry. Don’t dab or wipe it, and you might save the print.

What is included in the album rate?

The price should include a fixed number of pages and photographs. The photographer should edit the photographs to your satisfaction.

If you’re receiving a coffee table book with a unique layout, you should request final approval before printing.

Don’t allow fake photo paper in an album. Albums with rigid pages most likely have real photography paper. If the album has flexible pages, then it’s probably a fake photo paper. This is nothing more than coated cardboard designed to imitate the real thing. It will fail in your lifetime. I’ve seen interior folds fade within a few months.

Many coffee table books, however, use real photo paper. Make sure the photographer knows what he is selling you.

Copyright Rich Dutchman 2010

Article may be reprinted in its entirety with proper crediting to the author.