If you talk to someone who has been through the process of choosing a wedding photographer and has got their final album in their hands, they will definitely inform you that their choice was not an easy one. In addition, many brides are often disappointed with the final result of the wedding photography. These tips that follow come from a professional photographer for weddings, what wedding shows are like and who has had experience with more than a 100 weddings in the past 3 years.
The aim is to help you to make a decision based on what is most important, so that you will have an excellent wedding photographer who captures just the right shots on your special day, without blowing your budget.
Tip #1: Wedding Photographers Come in Various Types: In general, people group wedding photographers in three types or levels. They usually vary in the price they charge and the quality you receive. However, there is not much difference to be noticed in the number of prints and the packages, until you actually go into detail about what services they will offer you. Packages and pricing span across three levels, from luxury to budget pricing.
Expensive Packages (Go for it if you want the best and if you have the money) – If you are looking for the best wedding photography experience, you can go for the expensive photographers and studios, which usually come with the best reputation. The studio will usually be impressive and they might have assistants to help them with lighting and photography. Their services will usually cost anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000 or more and they each have a different style and different artistic capabilities. However, their overall quality is excellent and they are difficult to book for a Saturday during the wedding season. In fact, you usually need to book them one to two years in advance. The packages that they offer with prints and albums will easily cost you anywhere from $3,500 to $6,500. If they are within your budget, you can expect to get excellent quality with almost no risk. However, ensure that you are booking the best photographer if you are going to spend big bucks on your wedding photography.
Least Expensive Packages (More quality than a willing friend’s photography) – If you are on a very tight budget, but you still want a professionally shot wedding album, you can take a chance with the wedding studios that offer their services at very low rates. They usually hire photographers on a part time basis. You should take care with choosing as these places usually advertise themselves through their impressive retail locations. They hire their photographers on a part time basis, usually on the weekends. Thus, their actual photographers might be working normal jobs on the weekdays, or might even be students. They pay their photographers very low rates. Even if your package costs you more than a $1000, the photographer might only be paid $15 every hour. Despite their low costs, they offer many proofs, prints as well as a CD or a DVD. The average cost for this type of photography on a weekend basis is around $500 to $1,500. However, the artistic quality of the photos is also very poor. The portfolio of the photographer might be very good, as they need to sell their services. However, ask to see an actual wedding album that they have completed previously to get an idea of how your wedding album will look like. In general, the photography is very poor and the photos feature many grooms and brides posing in an unnatural way with fake smiles. The composition of the images is also quite bad. They might even end up giving you photos exactly as clicked, without any editing. Most of these photographers will only shoot images in low resolution mode even if they advertise as high resolution photos. Since the price charged by these business is very less, they will do all they can to reduce the amount of time they need to spend on each project. They usually use software that is automated in order to enhance the photos and to increase the volume provided. This way they can take on more weddings in order to increase their earnings. They usually do not like their work much and do this as a way to earn money. You can never know which photographer you will get, as they are not too loyal to any one production company. If a company offers even slightly more money per hour, they will flock there immediately. If your wedding day is the day you would like to have a photographer with manners and experience, you might want to be cautious going with a low budget photographer.
Somewhere In the Middle (Very good photography if your wedding album is important to you) – With mid-value photographers, you will usually get charged between $750 and $3500 for a weekend package. Many of these shops will allow you to choose the exact photographer you want for your wedding, so that you have no surprises later. The best photographers in this category will shoot in RAW, high definition mode and they will put considerable amount of time on each print before printing it. It is always better to go with a photographer whose style and work pleases your aesthetics, and who operates and owns their personal business, and who does not hire others to do his work. Even more important is that he or she should spend time working on your wedding album even after your wedding is done in order to provide personal service and high quality of work. Do not go with the companies with the retail studios. You can definitely find quality and excellent photographers who operate by themselves without a studio. This way, you also do not need to pay $4000+ that the studio would have otherwise cost you.
Tip #2: Do Not Pick Photographer that belong to an Ever-Changing Pool: Some photographers own their personal business, have fixed partners and have people who they hire to work for them. Most of the photographers who are paid by studios to work per assignment or by the hour, will neglect to put in the required amount of time before and after the assignment that would assure good quality in their work. They provide their owners with huge profits by working with low cost packages that provide volume. They, however, never put in the required amount of time to edit the images. They almost always shoot their images in .jpg, even though their portfolios advertise “high resolution”. These images definitely do not match the resolution of high quality, RAW images. They are very strict and rigid with the package details, and the style dictated by their studio. They will not be flexible if you want something specific from them. At this end of the spectrum, your photographer will neither be charming nor well mannered, unless you are really lucky.
Tip #3: File Type and Camera Settings are very Important in Determining Image Quality: If any photographer expresses enthusiastic desire to shoot your entire wedding in .jpg, avoid him or her like the plague. Even if they try to convince you that this mode is actually high resolution mode, you should look for photographers who are more willing to shoot your wedding in RAW mode. Your photographer should at least be willing to capture the important photos in RAW mode, if not all the photos. RAW mode basically is the most high resolution mode that any professional camera can provide. However, most photographers will avoid this or fail to mention this, as it requires more work than images shot in normal mode. Photographers need to convert the files and they must put in time in manually enhancing the images. Thus, the amount of time required in RAW mode is usually twice the time required otherwise. The rule of thumb is to add 6 hours of work to every 50 images shot in RAW mode. On a Sony digital camera of 12MP, RAW images require 19 MB, whereas .jpg images will only take up 4 MB. This means that a RAW image stores four times more detail than a .jpg image. If a photographer says that they will give you all the images on DVD, beware. This will usually mean that all the images will be shot .jpg mode rather than RAW mode, and they will probably have no editing work done on them either.
Tip #4: Pick a Photographer Who is People-Oriented, and Interested in Capturing Tiny Details of Your Religion, Wedding and Culture: Nowadays, most couples are from various different cultures, religions and backgrounds. Good photographers should be trained to pay special attention to these small religious and cultural differences in the ceremonies and they should focus on the beauty of these ceremonies. Remember that in your wedding, no detail is a small detail. A good photographer also spends time to understand exactly what is important to the couple and their respective families. Your guests should also feel comfortable asking the photographer to capture their images. This way, you get better quality of shots and more images.
Tip #5: Do Not Get Swayed By Wonderful Retail Studios: A retail studio location is usually expensive, due to the overhead costs involved. The final price you pay for the location and the results the studio promises you will vary across studios, and you will have to deal with any photographer they randomly assign to you. You should try to choose a photographer according to the quality of their past work. Check it in detail and try to find out how many weddings they have worked at in the past year. Also check out the number of years they have been in the business. If they have shot at more than a 100 weddings in the past year alone, it is very likely that they are overworked, and you may not get the personal service you are looking for.
Tip #6: Deal with the Photographer in Person: If you are looking to find the best package as well as value pricing, you need to start talking to the photographer. You can go through their portfolio online and you can call them up and negotiate the finer details with them over the phone. This way, you can gauge whether or not you want to spend your wedding day with them around. If you negotiate over email, you might get a good deal. However, you cannot judge the personality of your photographer very well online.
Tip #7: Do Not Just Go With Your Friend’s Choice: If your friend or family member recently hired a photographer for their wedding, it might be tempting to make the same choice of photographer due to the experience. However, do you always like the same things as your friends or relatives? Tastes vary a lot across people. When you select a photographer, you are also selecting the particular style that they offer. If you like the final result of your friend’s wedding album, go ahead with the photographer. However, you should at least go through the work of three photographers before you make a final choice. Also, be aware that many photographers might take advantage of the fact that you came to them based on a referral.
Tip #8: On a Budget? Save up to 25% on Photography: You can cut many costs of your wedding, such as limos, facilities, location costs and especially photography by picking a date that does not fall on a weekend. You can go with a Friday or a Monday of a three-day weekend, or you could get married during the off-season.
Tip #9: Go Through a Full Wedding Shoot With Your Photographer: Before you select your photographer, ask them to go through a complete wedding they shot previously. Ask them to show you images besides the final ones that were selected for the album. See the images as they were shot, before the client selected a few of them. See the difference between the original images and the enhanced version of these images. A good photographer will use digital equipment to capture around 60 to 100 images every hour. They will offer you many choices for each kind of image, so that you can choose the best from the lot.
Tip #10: Medium and Large Format Cameras Are the Mark of a Good Photographer: If you are looking for the best photographer, look for someone who also offers medium and large format film or digital camera shots in their package, besides their professional cameras. These cameras result in amazing images that render 20MP to 30MP files once digitalized. However, the prints are much more expensive due to the size and amount of detail involved. If you are looking for larger prints that are 16” X 20” or bigger, or if you want some great black and white shots or colour portraits, you should go with the larger film or digital cameras. If the photographer you are considering also throws in medium format options in your wedding package, you can be sure that they are very good at their job, and that they want to provide you with good quality because they care about their work. Usually, these cameras are avoided due to the costs involved.
With these ten tips, you can be sure that your final wedding photographer will be up to the mark, probably within your budget and very dedicated to your wedding shoot.