“I’m walking in sunshine, woah
I’m walking on sunshine, aooah
I’m walking on sunshine, woooah
And don’t it feel good!!”
(Katrina and the waves, as well as any Bride-To-Be that ever lived)
You just got engaged and you feel like you’re floating on air. Everything is perfect. Life is beautiful. You are lovingly planning your perfect wedding. You know you want tasty food, a great party, and beautiful photos. You’re on Pinterest all day creating your wedding day vision board, adding more and more reference photos of how you envision you will be photographed.
Then the budget reality hits. You realize how much this party is gonna cost you… You and your fiancé start thinking about where you can cut some costs. Venue and food – you know they have to be perfect. Same thing when it comes to your dress (hello?!?!?!?!? You’ve been dreaming about this wedding dress since your Barbie was wearing one).
You and your sweetheart seem to hit a cost cutting wall. But then, as your Facebook friend posts photos from her wedding and you go on bridal blogs and read what other brides are sharing, you know you hit the jackpot of cost cutting:
The Photographer! You turn to your honey and excitingly announce: “Eureka! We can cut cost with the photographer we hire to photograph our wedding!”
After all, everyone is a photographer nowadays. The market is saturated with photographers, and really anyone can do it. And with that in mind you lower your wedding photography budget to an open bid of whomever offers you the lowest price to shoot you wedding. And you are very happy that you found a way to cut your wedding day cost!
Of course, you just turned your wedding day memories for beheading at the nearest guillotine, where the unmerciful blade chopped off what was to be the only thing left from your magical wedding day – your beautiful photos that is. Because unlike common believe NOT everyone is a photographer. The fact that everyone owns the tool – a camera – does not mean they are qualified to capture your once in a lifetime precious wedding day memories. Think about it this way– anyone can buy a stethoscope on line. Does that make them a doctor you would trust with your medical diagnostics & treatment?
With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips on how to determine what qualifies a camera owner to be your wedding day photographer:
Tip #1 – Is this how the photographer makes a living? – “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” said Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the fathers of photography. My question for you is – do you really want your wedding pictures to be within someone’s first 10,000 photographs? There are many photographers who are dipping their toe in the professional photography pool. They want to make sure the water feels good before they jump in. Of course, sometimes the water is cold…and they decide they don’t want to jump in – and back to their day job they go! If you hired one of them to be your wedding day photographer one of the following may happen to you: A week before your wedding the photographer calls to let you know they cannot make it to your wedding day leaving you shocked and, well, ditched / If they do show up it takes over a year to get you wedding day photos back from them / you get your wedding day photos only to realize many key moments were never captured, and the photos that were captured are just not what you were hoping for.
I tell my students photographing a wedding is like being a war photographer – the difference is the only shots on a wedding day are done using a camera not actual weapons (let’s hope). Just like photographing during a war, you have to be on your toes, alert at all times in order to get THE shot. Because once the moment is over – it is never coming back. And that, my friends, takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. It also takes jumping into the cold dark water of the professional photography pool, cannon ball style, “nothing’s holding me back, I’m all in and can handle anything this wedding throws at me” attitude – which is a badge of honor only experienced professional photographers can proudly wear.
Tip #2 – How long has the photographer been in business full time? So let’s talk about the business of professional photography. Just like any other small business owner the professional full time photographer actually WORKS in their business. They have a business license. They have contracts. They have liability insurance. They pay sales tax and income tax on their profits. Many times they have a couple of employees. They are aware of the latest copyright laws and know how to protect you and them from image theft. If you hire a photographer to photograph your wedding day that is not a full time photography business owner you may encounter one of the following: No contract to refer to when the photographer decides to leave your wedding since they feel they got enough shots / When your aunt trips on the photographer’s tripod and breaks her ankle you get the hospital bill/ Yelp and the Better Business Bauru never heard of your photographer, so the bad reviews you post after the wedding day about the photographer walking in on you naked while you were getting ready, demanding to photograph you – are absolutely useless.
Tip #3 – Are they a member of a professional organization? Doctors have the Hippocratic Oath, where they vow to be ethical. I wish photographers had the Nie’pce Oath, or the Dagnuerre Oath (both are considered fathers of photography). Well currently there isn’t a professional photographer oat. And the closet thing you can find to such an ethical oath is if a photographer is a member of a professional photography association such as the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Members of these organizations are at the very least passionate about their craft, and most likely are professional photographers, not enthused photography wannabe’s.
Tip #4 – Do you like the photographer? One of the first tips I ever got from a professional photographer was to get a personality. No he wasn’t talking to me specifically, but to a room full of photographers, telling us why clients like working with him. “You have to have a good personality” he said, “and if you don’t have one – buy one”. What he said resonated with me, and felt applicable over the years especially when it came to wedding photography. Here is why: On your wedding day the one person you will spend the most time with – is your wedding photographer. That’s right. More than with your bridal party. More than with your parents. More than with your honey. Your wedding photographer will be glued to your hip all day long. What can I say? You better like them!
Tip #5 – Will their past clients recommend them? So here is the thing: what you really, truly want to do before you hire your wedding photographer is connect with their previous clients. I mean, the photographer can show you beautiful photos they took, but what you really want to know is what happened behind the lens on their wedding day. Was the photographer on time? Were they pleasant to be around? Were they creative with the wedding photos? Did they deliver everything they promised? And the Million Dollar question (drum roll please)… If they could go back in time – would they hire that photographer again?…
As you can see, none of the tips is about cost. I will say this – if its sounds too good to be true… you know the rest of this sentence, right?
Choose your wedding day photographer for the 5 reasons above. Then see what they charge for their services. Chances are if they want to photograph your wedding day they will work with your budget (as long as it’s realistic compared to what they ask for). They may help you with a payment plan, or give you the option of purchasing your album after the wedding day instead of upfront. Here is an example of something I offer that surprises my clients: Gift registration with my studio. That way, their wedding guests can purchase from my studio gift cards that will apply towards any prints, enlargements and albums the couple will want to order.
And if all else fails and you find out that the photographer you had your heart set on is out of your budget – simply look for another photographer. Lucky for you there are many, very talented business owner professional photographers out there. Since they are professionals they charge what they know their talent and services are worth – and these prices vary from professional photographer to professional photographer – one of those could fit in your budget.
Do your research. You will not regret it. Many years from now when your granddaughter climbs up to cuddle in your lap with a treasure she just found – your wedding album – and she turns the pages asking you if it’s really you in these photos, and telling you how beautiful you looked, you will feel the joy. The joy of your memories coming back to life. The joy of being able to share these memories with a mesmerized child you love so dearly. The joy of knowing your beautiful wedding day is treasured forever.
You may not remember you read this article. But in your heart you will thank the universe for making the right decision and choosing a qualified professional to capture your wedding day memories. And these memories lived happily ever after…
- Rinat Halon, previously Walt Disney Imagineers In House Photographer, started researching the power of a photograph while working on her personalized honors degree from The Ohio State University in Photography & Visual Merchandising ,where she wrote the thesis “The Influence of photographic Images on Brochure Appeal for the Family Financial Management Program” (May 2001). For the past 17 years she has been photographing internationally portraits, weddings and magazine lifestyle & fashion spreads. To see Rinat’s wedding online gallery and contact her to check availability for your wedding day CLICK HERE