This is a hard subject to write about without sounding like I’m putting others down, so I’m going to tread delicately, yet still write the truth.
At three quarters of the weddings we photograph, some guest comes up to us to tell us their wedding photographer horror story. That fact frustrates me so much! And after years of hearing these stories, I have started to find a common thread…that these people didn’t have the right expectations from their photographer.
Let me explain…
If you hire a photographer that charges less than $1500 (this seems to be the magic number but that is just my opinion) then you are probably hiring someone that has little experience or confidence in their work. In general, as the price goes up, so does the level of customer service, quality of images, creativity of images, amount of professional grade cameras and lenses, and ease in front of family and friends as they are working. So if you’re budget only allows for a $500-$1000 photographer or you’re thinking of having your uncle or cousin do it, just be realistic with what to expect. Photographing a wedding is a lot of pressure and it takes a few years of consistently working to get used to it.
And on the flip side, just because someone charges a lot of money doesn’t mean that you will be happy with your photography, either. Some brand new photographers jump into the scene charging the same as pros with years of experience under their belts.
So, you may be asking, how can I make sure I’m getting the quality photographer that I want?
My first suggestion is to treat it as an investment…you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to anything wedding related.
Second suggestion? RESEARCH! Go on www.weddingwire.com and look up reviews of your photographer. Ask for emails of at least three former clients, but know that the photographer will probably give you emails of clients that like them. And ask around the wedding community. If someone is on a preferred vendor list they usually have a good reputation (though sometimes the preferred vendor list is a paid advertisment, so keep that in mind). Ask your florist, cake designer, or wedding planner who they would hire to photograph their own wedding…you might find a hidden gem of a photographer that the wedding community knows about but hasn’t “made it big” yet.
The one part of investigating a photographer that I find is difficult to get used to but worth the time is looking at portfolios and blogs. If a photographer’s online portfolio only has images from 4 or 5 weddings, that is probably all they’ve shot (and they might not have even been the primary shooter). If you look closely, you can start to see the same dress over and over again, the same couple over and over again. And if you research it a little bit on the blog, those couples are more than likely relatives of the photographer. Looking at the dates of the blog entries helps, too. There are some blogs with a lot of beautiful weddings but each post is spread out by 4 months, so they’ve only shot a few weddings a year.
I think it is important to ask to see an entire wedding the photographer has been the lead photographer for so you can make sure there aren’t just a few good images, but a collection of great photographs that tell a story. Also look for repetition of style, if all the pictures have similar posing or photoshop actions, it is likely your images will look exactly the same.
Is this meant to bash up and coming photographers or part time photographers? Not at all. We have definitely been both in our lifetime! But the Twin Cities is one of the most saturated markets in the US for photography and it is important to know what you’re diving into. You don’t get a second chance at your wedding photography, so it is an investment that is worth taking seriously.
In all the stories I have heard of photographers running off with deposits or using portfolios that aren’t their own images or being a good salesperson but not a quality photographer…I feel that it is important to be an educated consumer. I want your wedding day to be a happy one with memories in photograph form that will stand the test of time =)
Where to research your photographer or any wedding vendor? Check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints. Look at Wedding Wire to read reviews. If you like the Knot, go on their message boards though that tends to get gossipy. IWA, WPPI, ISPWP, and WPJA are organizations that promote quality work, (though they are paid memberships). Ask another vendor that you trust. Be purposeful with your investment and realistic with your expectations and you should be fine!