Hiring A Wedding Photographer
Common Mistakes and Recommendations
You're about to spend thousands of dollars to hire a wedding photographer. What you don't know will greatly afffect the decisions you make and ultimately the pictures and albums you receive. Please take a few minutes to read about some important areas where mistakes are often made.
Mistake: Basing photography decision on highlights vs complete weddings.
Discussion: This is like buying a house without ever walking in the front door! I believe this is the number one reason why everybody knows of brides who are unhappy with their wedding pictures. When shooting over 1,000 images per wedding, even a poor photographer is going to make a few good "mistakes". Remarkably, I've heard brides say that they were hiring a particular photographer because of only one great photo that they fell in love with! This is a recipe for disaster and the perfect setup for another unhappy bride.
Recommendation: View COMPLETE weddings and not highlight reels to make an informed decision. Complete wedding links are on my site. Have you ever wondered why so few photographers provide links to complete weddings? I wonder also as none of my clients have ever objected to others seeing their wedding pictures!
Mistake: Not knowing who fulfills print orders and if prints will be fully touched up.
Discussion: The solution that many photographers are using to eliminate print fulfillment workload (ie to save time and money) is to have third party service companies like Pictage host all their wedding images for reprint orders (and potentially album design too). The issue is that due to the large number of images shot at each wedding, no photographer fully processes those images as it would take a substantial number of hours. In fact, EVERY large photography company that contracts hundreds of freelance photographers to shoot weddings, subcontracts all reprint work!
The result? Print orders are fulfilled with proofs that aren't truly custom created and haven't been touched up beyond basic color correction. EVERY portrait print should be further enhanced for skin blemishes, shiny spots, etc. Furthermore, these print orders are created from the same size digital "negative" by a computer program and not by a real person. Take the time to stop by and I'll show you in person that custom prints generated within my studio will be significantly more clear, colorful, and beautiful than those created by computer programs.
Furthermore, ask anyone who's logged into these photographer's websites to view a friend's wedding about the large amounts of unsolicited spam they receive. Do a google search for "company" problems (replace "company" with the vendor your photographer uses)...it's not hard to find other brides/photographers expressing concerns about print quality and customer service. When there are issues, do you really want to be dealing with an 800 phone number to get things corrected?
Recommendation: Ask who your photographer uses for print fulfillment and then do a search for feedback/reviews on that company. Ask whether reprint orders will be fully touched up - this means, for example, shiny spots corrected and skin blemishes removed. Ask how this is accomplished: by the photographer prior to uploading 500 images to a central database (highly doubtful) or by sending custom adjusted files for each and every order to the professional lab. If a photographer says you can do it yourself, I encourage you to investigate the tools and techniques required to do it properly ... for a print that will hang on your wall for many years to come.
Mistake: Basing decision on wedding photos that are photographed in enviroments totally unlike yours.
Discussion: This is the number two reason that brides are unhappy with their pictures. If you're getting married in a church that doesn't allow flash photography or in a dark barn, you had best make your decision based on the same photographic scenario ... and that dark church is dramatically different and much more difficult to shoot than an outdoor, sunny wedding!
A dark venue requires different camera equipment than a sunny outdoor wedding that many new photographers will not own. The same is also true regarding very small or very large weddings. It's one thing to shoot a wedding with 125 people outdoors in a park compared to a private wedding with 10 close friends in an intimate setting in a small inn's parlour.
Recommendation: View wedding pictures photographed in venues similar to yours.
Mistake: Not understanding if you're photographer contracts out wedding processing and album design.
Discussion: The number one issue that digital wedding photographers have in processing weddings is the tremendous amout of processing time required due to the large number of photographs taken. The image files are very large and take plenty of computer (and photographer!) time to process properly.
The result? Many photographers are sending out your wedding processing to third party companies. Ask yourself this: do you want someone who wasn't at your wedding deciding which pictures will and won't be included? The same is true with album design - many photographers are outsourcing album designs to vendors who have no personal knowledge of your wedding day.
Making matters even worse is that the data management side of digital photography can nearly be a full-time job! Managing hundreds of thousands of images by keeping them backed up safely and securely takes a lot of work and a commitment to do so on a regular basis. I, for example, keep 2 copies of weddings on-site and one off-site in case of disaster.
Recommendation: You're now better informed to ask the right questions - digital photography is not simpler - it only appears so!
Mistake: Not requiring the photographer to carry liability insurance.
Discussion: We live in a society that loves litigation. What is a newlywed couple going to do when their photographer knocks over an expensive vase in a hotel while trying to capture a unique pose? Want three guesses as to who the hotel will pursue when they find out the photographer has no assets?!
Recommendation: Make liability insurance MANDATORY for ALL your vendors - no and's, if's or but's!
Mistake: Making album decisions without seeing the albums in person first.
Discussion: This is like buying a car without being able to test drive it and never having seen or read about that brand of vehicle before! Albums vary in cost (to a photographer) from $19 to well over $1,000 and the quality of those albums varies just as greatly. Without viewing an album in person (often half the cost of a photography collection), a couple has no idea whether package A at $3,000 is better for their needs than package B at $4,000 - all they know is that they both have albums - yet a Yugo is very different than a Mercedes!
Many photographers, due to increasing workloads and a desire to reduce costs, are having their print labs produce their wedding albums. I've yet to see a photographic lab that can compare to the the quality of a professional book binder for custom albums.
Recommendation: Make album decisions after viewing them in person. If you can't initially view albums in person, insure that a credit for the album's value can be applied to a different album if you're not happy with the original selection. Ask: who will design my album? Does a professional book binder manufacture it? or a photo lab?
Mistake: Underestimating the trade-offs in hiring an inexperienced wedding photographer vs. price.
Discussion: The old adage "you get what you pay for" couldn't be more true than with wedding photography. It's a very high pressure assignment filled with opportunity for failure. The digital camera craze coupled with the internet's far reach has put many photographers into the wedding photography business with little or no experience, little equipment, and little knowledge of how to handle situations that can change VERY quickly.
Recommendation: Iif photography is important to you, there are many, many considerations that affect a photographer's ability to deliver great pictures. In this case, sacrifice "add-ons" for better pictures. After all, albums can be purchased later as your budget allows ... it's the pictures that can't be recaptured.
Mistake: Believing More is Better.
Discussion: You read about this trend all over the web today: "800 proofs", "unlimited pictures", "1,500 pictures on a CD ", etc. Really, it's NOT all that important how many pictures a photographer takes at your wedding!
What is important is how many GOOD and UNIQUE pictures a photographer delivers. Many photographers reach 1,000 images by including 15 versions of the same pose with a slightly different smile. Some companies require their photographers to deliver 1,500 images and the photographers privately complain that they just shoot "anything that moves" to reach that number!
Recommendation: Focus on the QUALITY of pictures NOT quantity.