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PICTURE THIS: Beautiful bride, groom and wedding party. Parents are overjoyed and look fabulous. Outstanding cake, food, flowers. Grand venue. Substandard or NO pictures.
This can very well be your view of things post wedding if you are not careful when you hire your photographer. Brides, please hear me -- the pictures may be all you have left to reflect on your wedding memories. Don't skimp by hiring a cheap or inexperienced photographer.
I am certainly not saying to hire the most expensive photographer you can find. Expensive does not necessarily mean good. However, do your homework and make sure that you are knowledgeable about what options are available and what you are paying for. And for Pete's sake, don't hire the family amateur photographer who just got a great camera but has no experience. Let him practice at another event. The last bride I worked with that did that (against my advice) ended up with the only photos she had of her wedding being the photos guests took with their cameras. What a waste to spend all that money for a wedding and have nothing left to reflect on.
Book your photographer early. Good photographers book quickly. Ask friends and family for referrals. Visit bridal shows to see the photographers featured there. They usually offer deals on packages at bridal shows.
A very good rule of thumb when choosing vendors for your wedding is to not jump on the least expensive options before investigating. That old saying, "all that glitters is not gold," is absolutely correct. You will never come out ahead getting something for nothing.
Be familiar with the style you are looking for. Most photographers will do a mixture of styles during your event.
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Styles of Photography:
Candid: Focuses on spontaneity, rather than focusing on setting up a staged situation or on preparing a lengthy camera setup.
Formal: Staged, posed -- usually intended to depict the subject(s) in the most presentable manner.
Photojournalism: Capturing the events of the day as they happen with very little (or any) interference from the photographer.
Some of the things to consider in choosing a photographer are as follows:
1. Speak with your wedding coordinator. She will know the photographers that will match your personality, budget and even photographers that are familiar with your venue.
2. Look for the vendors that are in the mid price range. Interview them making sure they are available for your date. Make sure it is clear who will cover your wedding and what you are paying for.
3. Do a call for photographers on Craigslist http://craigslist.com and see what you get. Carefully investigate responses. Make sure they are licensed businesses with references. Stay away from amateurs without formal training. Never exchange funds without a meeting and a contract, after careful investigation.
4. Seek a photographer for a limited amount of hours. For instance, hire the photographer to cover the ceremony and first few hours of the reception. Load your reception rituals (first dance, cake cutting, garter toss, etc.), at the beginning and have the photographer leave after those things have occurred. Have cameras on the guest tables wherein guests can take candid shots of dancing, etc. for the balance of the reception. Collect those cameras and develop the pictures to include with photos taken by the photographer.
5. Ask your photographer if he is willing to do 3 to 4 hours of coverage and provide your pictures on a CD for printing by you at a later date, with printing rights, without editing. Make sure you understand what "no editing" means for your photos and that you are comfortable with that option.
6. See how much "give" the photographer has in pricing. Be frank and explain what your budget is and see if he can come up with a custom package. Be reasonable. If you would not want to work for it, don't expect the photographer to do so. Realize that showing up at your wedding and taking the pictures is just the beginning of the process. He then has to develop and edit photos for the best presentation. If you don't want him to spend time editing to save costs, say so but do not hold him responsible for not liking the unedited photos.
7. Make sure the photographer has a website and a portfolio you can view so you can judge if he has the type of style and experience that suits you. Also ask for recent references.
8. Ask the photograph if he is willing to visit the venues to look at lighting and whether there will be a need for extras. Some churches are very dark and need extra lighting.
9. Try to choose a photographer that is local to your venue(s). If a photographer has to travel a considerable distance for your wedding, with the cost of gas nowadays and time, he is going to be less apt to work with you on pricing.
10. Review and have your wedding planner review contracts. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for modifications on things you are not comfortable with. Make sure your photographer has an adequate back-up plan in his contract if something should prevent him from attending your wedding? Is there a cancellation and refund policy? How many hours are listed in the contract? Is there more than one photographer? Are you being charged for the additional photographer? What is the deposit and when are payments due?
11. How many weddings has he done and how long has he been doing wedding photography?
12. How long will it take for you to get your photos back?
These are just some of the issues that should be investigated when choosing a photographer. Always remember that inexpensive is not always a good thing and if good quality is important, that should be on your list first as a priority and not cost. After all, when the guests and the DJ go home, the food is eaten, the cake is gone, and your dress hangs in the closet, all you have left are the pictures taken at your wedding.
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