Life is getting crazy here in kerri paige photography land – wedding season has officially begun for me and I’ve been busy with meeting newly engaged couples, shooting engagement and bridal sessions, and taking workshops/classes to get better at what I do! Because the bridal sessions I’ve shot can’t be revealed to the world until after the weddings take place in March, I’ve decided to blog on the topic of something that shouldn’t be taken lightly in the wedding planning stages: choosing a wedding photographer – but wait; not just any wedding photographer… The best wedding photographer that is perfect for you and your wedding. And before I get started, I’d like to note that I’m doing this from a total unbiased perspective. This isn’t a ploy to get all you newly engaged ladies to book me. This is simply a fun and laid back “how to” guide and tips for getting who and what you want.
1. What type style are you into?
There are so many types of photography out there – which style speaks directly to you? Do you like all the pictures where everything is perfectly posed and everyone is smiling at the camera? Or do you like candid shots and the documentary approach? Do you want all of your pictures to be in the real life color that you experienced it? Or do you like creative coloring and black and white photos that make the images more dramatic? Look for the photographer whose images make you say, “WOW! I want relive my wedding day looking like that!”
2. Do they fit your budget?
Most likely, this is going to be a make-it or break-it situation for a lot of brides, and that’s okay. Figure out your budget early. 10-20% of your entire budget should be set aside for a good photographer; possibly more depending how much photography and remembering your day means to you. 50 years from now, you [most likely] won’t remember the flowers or the centerpieces, but I guarantee you’ll remember how you felt. Photography is supposed to help you not only remember the smaller details, but relive and feel the emotion of the day… and high quality timeless photography does that. However, don’t get me wrong – high quality photography DOES NOT EQUAL expensive. There are amazing entry level photographers out there that are charging pennies, but are damn good. They just need the experience. Unfortunately, a lot of people associate cost with level of knowledge and quality of photos and will automatically overlook the beginners. Don’t forget to give them a chance too!
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for packages to be customized or bargain with your photographer. Yes, some are set in stone and won’t budge, but you may be surprised how many may knock a couple hundred off of their price if they want to work with you badly enough. From personal experience, I’m known for knocking my prices down when I hear an AMAZING love story that I want to be a part of, or if the wedding is somewhere I’d love to shoot… sometimes even if I like the couple enough! I’m sure seasoned photographers who charge up the wazoo will frown on this and may even call me desperate, but I see it as being flexible and giving the bride one less thing to stress about when it comes to planning.
3. What all do you get?
Believe it or not, there are photographers out there who still only sell prints and refuse to sell the digital images on a CD. There are even some who will only do albums!
Make sure you choose a photographer who has options that you want and fit into your budget. I do believe prints are extremely important, but the truth is that I don’t do much business with them since I provide a DVD of the images for unlimited printing. However, during my consultation shpeal, I do share my hate for Walmart and CVS do-it-yourself printing. No quick printing stores do my images justice, and it makes me ill to think that my work is being displayed in a home, printed from Walmart in it’s missed-colored, distorted, darkened glory for the world to see. But no matter how many recommendations I give for good consumer based professional printers, it doesn’t compare to the quickness and convenience of 1 hour photo labs. [insert eye rolling here]
I also understand the importance of having digital files and the rights to all of your rightfully owned images. It’s your day, for Christ’s sake. I just think you should get everything I shoot and I just can’t bring it to myself to charge you $10 per 4×6. Some photographers believe otherwise, and that’s okay. Ask to see examples of prints, canvases, albums, etc. Ultimately you’ve got to be happy with the end result, just make sure that your photographer has what you want available.
4. Can I get along with the person behind the camera?
Okay, let’s assume you are booking the works: an engagement session, a bridal session, a boudoir session, rehearsal dinner coverage, and wedding day coverage. That’s already 5 times you’re going to be with your photographer, not including your consultations, contract signing, pre-wedding meetings, etc. You deal with your photographer more than any other wedding vendor you are working with, so you have to make sure you like them. Chances are, you’re not going to want to keep it 100% strictly business with your photographer. You’re going to want to get to know them, and in return, they should want to get to know you. The more comfortable you are with your photographer, the more comfortable you are in your pictures!
5. What have other brides thought of their experience?
I’m a HUGE believer in referrals and word of mouth – aka good old fashion gossiping. Ultimately the decision is yours, but if you know other ladies who’ve worked with a photographer you’re interested in, they will give you the 411 most truthfully. Websites and Facebook and consultations paint a very pretty picture for you. Everything is a marketing tool. I’m not saying everything is disguise for something that’s truly a mistake, but photographers don’t really out and out tell you the horror stories, or how many times they were late or needed to cancel, or how not dressed appropriately they were. Past clients will tell you that stuff which, in the big scheme of things, is crazy important. They will also tell you the beautiful stuff – the times when they went over and beyond for you, and how they made your day perfect. You have the right to request references – use them!
Of course, there are lists and lists of criteria when choosing a photographer, but these 5 things, to me, are the most important. I could give you websites of “How to Choose a Wedding Photographer” lists, but all in all, it’s about following your heart and what seems to be the right fit. If a photographer can satisfy your needs and wants while making this the best time of your life, you found’em.