With the introduction of relatively inexpensive digital cameras and the ease at which someone can create a cool looking website, it has never been easier to hire a photographer, but never been harder to identify if they are reliable and can give you the product you have paid them for. I have included here a list of things that the average bride and groom should know or at least be cognizant of before they sign on the dotted line. I know this may seem like a pain in the “you know what” to read all this. But your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and the person that you intrust to document it is equally important.
First lets talk about the photographer themselves:
1. THE MOST IMPORTANT,ask yourself “do you like them?” If they are not likable and fun to be around, chances are you won’t like having your picture taken by them all day long which = bad pictures. The only way to find this out is to meet them, emails and phone calls won’t cut it a photographers personality is as important a tool as thier camera
2. “Are you a member of any professional photography organizations?”
I say this because professionals invest in themselves, they attend workshops, participate in organizations, anything to keep them evolving and improving. I am a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) & WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International)
3. “Are you insured?”
This does not mean drivers or health insurance this is liability insurance. Again this shows a level of commitment not only to themselves as a professional but one to the customer as well.
4. “Tell me about your experience and qualifications?”
You are not necessarily looking for how long they have been a photographer. The requirement to be a good wedding photographer is not being 10 years in the business or shooting a couple hundred weddings. Being a good photographer is about dealing with the unexpected and come out of it with a high quality consistant photographs. It is not enough to be able to take a good picture, you have to be able to do it every time for 8 hr. straight in the rain or if the power has gone out. Not an exaggeration sometimes the craziest things can happen. You want a photographer that has multiple years of experience who has learned and grown over that time not a multiple year veteran that repeats the same year over and over again.
5. “How did you end up as a wedding photographer?”
Find out about their background. There is no right or wrong answer here but gives you insight into what kind of person they are and first and foremost who you are hiring the person. When you hire a photographer you don’t hire a machine you hire a person who has a certain vision and style. Usually this vision and style springs out of the person they are and the person they want to be, personality and who they are is important.
1. “Are there any time limits?”
It’s crazy to try to fit everything you want into a 5-6hr block of time, so why do photographers do this? Money. Either they try to fit 2 weddings in on 1 day or they hit you up for overtime when they go to leave and the cake hasn’t been cut or the garter thrown. Go for the unlimited time full day coverage you should be the most important thing to the photographer on your day. And the last thing you want is some one punching a clock
2. “Do I get or do I have the option purchase a disc of the images with the rights to print them? And how much does that cost?”
As a professional photographer I want you to have all of your pictures. I don’t want to hold them ransom so I can charge an exorbitant fee for enlargements. I know some photographers that charge peanuts to shoot the wedding then, now that they have all the pictures, rake the customer over the coals with astronomically high print and enlargement prices.
Personally I do not fear the Walmart Photography Department. I know that if you want a great, sharp, color correct pictures that look great and won’t fade over time, you will order them from me at a reasonable price, but if grandma wants a 4×6 for her refrigerator and doesn’t care if it’s a little red or blurry take it to Walmart. You should own your pictures.
Now there is something to be said by having others subsidize the cost of your photography. What I mean is sometimes a photographer can offer you a discounted packages with out a disc of the pictures. This is made possible by the money from your friends and family’s print sales.
3. “What do you do to the pictures after you take them?”
This is a defining question that will tell you if you are talking to a pro of a amateur. An amateur will shoot the pictures, print them or burn them to a disk to give to you and you are on your own. A pro processes the images, corrects colors, crops, preforms minor retouching and edit out the bad ones. This is actually a very lengthy time consuming process but so essential to making sure that the final product is perfect.
4. “Are you going to take the pictures or do you pay someone else?”
When you hire a photographer you base your choice on the person and their work, so what if you go into a studio that has multiple or staff photographers? Who’s pictures are you seeing? What is the personality like of the photographer that will be shooting you? Im not saying you should stay away from a big studio with multiple guys shooting, just know who you are getting and get it in writing.
Equipment / Techniques
1. “Do you have a back up camera and equipment?”
Even a $8,000 camera can act buggy, but despite that, the show must go on. If they don’t have back up equipment, thank them for their time and promptly hang up or leave. If they have a backup chances are you are dealing with a pro. If they go on to say that they even have a back up for the back up, you have a pro that has experience.
2. “Do you use secondary or off camera lighting?”
If you have ever used a point and shoot camera inside with a flash you have probably seen first hand how a camera can change someone into a vampire. The eyes go red, the face becomes a flat pasty white and the background becomes dark. You don’t want this for your wedding. A good photographer can use off camera lighting to create flattering shadows and dimension so the pictures are interesting and powerful. They can also use secondary lighting so that the background is not dark but full of light, color and information. Long story short they are essential tools in the tool box. You don’t have to know the intricacies what secondary or off camera lighting is but it’s a good question to ask if you want to know the skill level of the person you are talking to.
3. “How do you archive and store the pictures?”
There are many ways to archive digital files. My way might be just as good as another but the key here is that I have a system. If the photographer scratches their head with a blank stare on their face, chances are they don’t. After an event I copy all of my pictures from my discs to my laptop. From there I copy them again to 2 external hard drives (incase one fails I have the other) Then I burn them all to archival quality DVD(s) which then get placed in a fire proof safe. Sound excessive? Yeah it is, but I can guaranty you if when your grandkids want pictures printed of your wedding, decades from now, I will have no problem retrieving the file and printing it.