When Choosing a Wedding Photographer - Are they the person who will capture the memories of your day for you to enjoy forever or be a huge disappointment.
BREAKING NEWS! Before reading the tips below please note! If you visit a photographer that only has one set of wedding albums; a 10x10, an 8x8 and a 5x5 with beautiful wedding photos that look much better than their other work it may be that those are sample albums sold for $100 for all three by LustreColor Labs as samples of their Neuvision albums. The photos were done by a high end West Coast photographer and designed by LustreColor graphic artists but have no identifying markings showing who the photographer was. Be careful - Ask Questions!
What are their answers to:
Experience/Equipment: Has this person photographed other weddings? How Many? Do they do this for a living or as a sideline? Can the photographer show you at least three complete sets of wedding photos?
Do they have a business license for the city, county and state? Professional Photographers have licenses. There is no legitimate excuse for not having one! If they take money from someone for doing photos in Mobile or Baldwin Counties without a license they are breaking the law! Do they have insurance? Do they bring a backup for all cameras, flashes, etc. in case of malfunctions?
Backup equipment is critical because, if their camera quits, everything stops till it's fixed and if it can't be fixed you will have no photos.
Make sure of a physical address or landline phone: Our group and other associations have gotten desperate calls from brides whose photographers have simply disappeared with their money without doing the work or delivering photos. Yes, it's rare, but this has happened! So don't accept only a cell phone and/or email for contacting them. Make sure where their place of business or home is so you can find them if something goes awry or you don't get your photos. A cell phone number can be changed in a few minutes, a website can be taken down in an instant and neither of them are traceable. Be very wary of anyone who wants to come to you to show samples rather than you coming to their place of business. What are they not wanting you to know or see? All of our members are required to have their physical address on their websites and they are also on our member listing here.
Truth in Advertising:
1 - Were the images on their website or brochure taken by them - or were they furnished by whoever made the website or brochure for them? This is unethical but is done by some newbie's.
2 - Is this the photographer who will be photographing your wedding or will they send in a substitute?
3 - Are the images you are seeing from a real wedding or were they done with models in a controlled situation? Ask where the weddings were and the names of the bridal couple in the photos if you have doubts. A wedding is definitely not a controlled situation and the photographer must know what is happening and where to be when it does. Don't be afraid to ask!
4 Remember, look for complete sets from actual weddings the photographer has done. If they only have a "Portfolio" of two or three shots from several different weddings but no complete sets or albums - look somewhere else! A six-year old can come up with two or three great shots out of 400 to 600 images. A MySpace, Facebook or Craigslist page as their main web presence is a sure sign of a wannabe professional.
Price Range: Although the last thing you want to do is shop only by price; is this person within your budget? If not, is he or she worth the price difference? Make sure you understand what everything costs, including reprints and albums. A good rule of thumb for budgeting is the photography should be at least 20% of the cost of the wedding. The cake, the food and flowers are gone and the gown is put away but the photos which captured the memories of your day will be a joy forever.
Photographic Style: Are the images that you are shown what you would like to have? There are "buzz" words flying about everywhere about photojournalism, formal, artistic, traditional, candid, etc. so make sure you know what each type is. Photojournalism is really just a big word for unposed candids which have been done for 25 years and was started by Dennis Reggie way back in 1980! A competent wedding photographer must be able to do much more than just candids. Do you want a mixture of black and white or only color photos? Any color image today whether film or digital can be printed as black and white. Do they use film or digital? Some professionals still use film but many have switched to digital which, if professional grade cameras are used, will be equal to or better than film.
Delivery: How long does it take to get your proofs back, your finished album, your bridal portrait, etc.? Do they offer online proofing, magazine style proofs, CD/DVD slideshows or proof prints in a book?
Shoot & Burn on Disc: Some photographers offer to shoot your wedding and reception and burn the images to a disc without furnishing any finished prints - This is something to avoid. If you do want all your images in a printable size on a disc just make sure you get at least 100 finished images done by the photographer before you accept delivery. Once you have the disc, anything from there on out is your problem, so you need to make sure you have good, usable images. Read this opinion of "Shoot & Burn" by the President of the Professional Photographers of Ohio: Click Here
Contract: Do you understand the contract. Is everything spelled out? When push comes to shove, only what is WRITTEN really counts, not what was promised. Make sure that you have read it all and get a copy of their contract and the brochure showing what the package is.
Retainers/Cancellations: What does it say about cancellations on your part or the photographer not being there? If the photographer protests, ask him/her why? This is another area NOT to take lightly. Ask who will fill in if the contracted photographer is ill or has an accident. They should have access to other professional photographers who can be called upon in an emergency situation. It is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to have some one take over the photography of your wedding if they canít make it.
References: A personal reference is always the best and people love to talk. Get the names of any previous brides who may not mind being called and asked about your prospective photographer. Another good indicator of satisfied customers is the number of weddings done for sisters or friends of previous brides and the photographer would know about them for sure!
Certified Professional Photographer is a degree program by the PP of A, Professional Photographers of America Ė NOT by the University of South Alabama. There are a few new photographers in the area claiming this degree from USA but USAís program is mainly a beginnerís photography course which results in a Certificate of Completion of their course. This certificate in no way makes them a CPP or Certified Professional Photographer.
Remember this is one of the most important days of your life and the photos will be your most important keepsakes so they must be done right the first time.