Commissioning a wedding photographer can and should be an exciting experience. Only a few times in life do families have the need or desire to hire a professional photographer so a little education goes a long way. Most people are photographed by a professional at key moments during childhood. A first birthday, toddler portraits, and some even into their pre-teens. However, school portraits tend to take over for most families. Certainly, high school or college graduation should merit time and money spent for a professional portrait, but nothing is as momentous or meaningful in a family than a wedding, so this is the time to do a little research beyond the surface. So, how do you search for the best wedding photography you can afford? Here are some tips that go beyond the obvious.
Most families entering into the quest for the perfect photographer will undoubtedly have to settle on price vs quality. The fact is that at this point in the digital age, photographers are a dime a dozen. There is absolutely no pre-qualification in the photography industry to state who can say they are a professional and who cannot. But that does not really matter. There are plenty of surgeons, dentists, or other key professionals who have schooling and a degree that lack talent and intuition. Talent is the key ingredient in great photography. Just like a fingerprint, each person’s eyes see things differently. Hand the same camera to a hundred different people where talent and skill are equal and each one will come up with something different in a given situation. The key is to find an artist that communicates visually with you.
A great way to sum it up is to visit the gallery district in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. You can walk through over 100 galleries on any given weekend and see a wild array of art. You can come out of some galleries perplexed, emotionally drained, or simply thinking how weird you feel based on what you just experienced. Photography should grab you emotionally and shake you up. If it does not it is probably time to move on and find something that does.
Why is Photography Expensive?
So what constitutes price for photography? Why does one photographer cost $3000.00, which by professional standards in the industry is the bottom of the barrel, to $25,000 which is the going rate for celebrity photographers who photograph the rich and famous? It is a combination of many things, and most likely my answer will not be the most popular because simply put, the best does cost more than most can afford. Supply and demand are one of the most crucial elements of why photography can get as expensive as a luxury car. Phenomenal photography does take a great deal of time to produce. You want to give an artist time as you want them designing and printing your photographs when they feel in the creative zone. That may be at 4 am, which may be in the afternoon, but when the feeling hits them the results are usually well worth it. A high-end photographer generally starts with a superior image based on years of experience working with light. A photographer that is just 5 years it is clueless about light, even though they may think they know it all. In photography, you never stop learning, and never know it all even if it is your life mission. A seasoned professional can walk into any situation and create a masterful image because they understand light and/or lack of light, and how to use their tools to master the situation. For everyone else, it is guesswork. Maybe the result will be good or maybe it won’t. On a wedding day, the last thing you want to do is leave it up to guesswork, and you certainly don’t have a second to spare on somebody trying to figure it out. So, a well-paid artist is paid less for their time and more for the accumulated knowledge of their superior image-making ability. Their entire life’s work comes down to the moment you hire them, and every experience and breath they took in between matters because it reflects in the images they create. High-end professional photographers also have the ability to pay for superior processing of photographs, have luxury paper choices, and generally the latest in digital technology at their fingertips simply because they can afford to. They will no doubt have a more luxurious product offering, and you get the feeling that goes along with hiring the best. As you know, regardless of what you purchase, when you buy the best there is a great feeling that comes with it. To sum it up, think highly of the professional who draws the upper price scale as they have earned their way there by pleasing clients and their price is where it is generally because of the integrity of the product and service and the demand for their personal and professional time. They are setting new standards of excellence and raising the bar in their industry, while the cheap photographer is actually pulling industry standards down. You will no doubt get what you pay for in wedding photography.
Figuring out prices can be challenging as well. Some photographers will have cookie-cutter price menus with little regard for personalization. Others will have A-la-Carte pricing where you pick and choose your options. Still, others will price by custom quoting based on the demands of the assignment. There is no right or wrong way to price photography, but I tend to feel that if photography is truly luxurious, then luxurious options apply in which a custom quote based on your individual wedding makes the most sense. How many hours do you need, whether you want an album, how many photographers should be present, how many parent books, whether you want luxury papers in them, and ultimately what your budget is should all be taken into account by the photographer and worked around what you desire. There are a lot of questions to be answered, and a custom quote takes all of the guesswork out and makes the decision-making process much more simplified.
Beyond the Surface
With that said, you will have to look beyond price and even beyond the photography product itself if you want to really experience the best of wedding photography. What experience will the photographer provide you on the day of the wedding? That is a very important question that you should get to the bottom of. In my 20 year career photographing weddings, I have been fortunate to hear over and over what an incredible experience couple had with us on the wedding day. There simply is not a lot of time dedicated to posed photography at the weddings I photograph. Couples that hire me, want to enjoy the day, each other, their family, and their friends. The seconds count and regardless of whether they hired a celebrity wedding planner/coordinator, the photographer is actually the person who controls the flow of the day’s events. The photographer makes sure you are on time, or you are late. They keep you on schedule or you are always behind. The credit of your day flowing smoothly ultimately should be given to your photographer if they take pride in your experience. Great wedding photography, therefore, goes well beyond the imagery, talent, and the price you pay. In fact, there are many very expensive photographers who feel they are entitled to your precious time. Which of course is nonsense. This is your time, and part of the photographer’s job is to make sure you get as much of it as possible. Your photographer should be able to work quickly and have the people skills it takes to organize groups and get your portraits composed beautifully at the same time. They should also be able to see god gifted moments and capture history as it unfolds rather than interrupting your every move and breath. Every time they interrupt and change history the day becomes less about your life, and more about theirs while it burns minutes off of the timeline of your day.
The Digital Masterpiece
Digital photography has come of age, and is now the standard of excellence. There has never been a more exciting time to be a professional photographer, and there has never been a more demanding time either. Customers have come to expect more from professionals, and rightfully so. Many couples have Adobe Photoshop or some other image editing software on their home computer and know what is possible. Just a few clicks of the mouse and a pimple can be removed, the sky made more blue, the edges can be darkened, borders can be added, and all sorts of creative effects can be done. It is important for people to keep in mind that this does take time. The images captured by professional-level digital cameras are much different from consumer cameras. The files literally have millions of more colors available and the file sizes are dramatically bigger. Even the fastest computers take several seconds to open a file into Photoshop and a few minutes to edit and save.
Add 200 on top of that and the photographer just spent two days sitting at a computer. It is easy to get caught up on how easy it can be done to one image at home, but important to realize that this equals days of skilled work by a professional. And, what you expect from yourself at home is one thing, because when you are paying for it you expect perfection. What is thought of as quick just took the photographer days or weeks. Digital photography takes more time than traditional photography where little or nothing was expected in regards to retouching are artistic printing. With that said you also need to be careful that the effects used can be dated. If you think back to the 70andrsquo;s and just how bad wedding photography became, you know what I mean. Effects are great when they are classic, but be careful that the effects are not going to be like a time warp of embarrassment when you look back at these photographs in twenty years. Just because the tools are available does not mean that you will receive a masterpiece if in the wrong hands. Give anyone a paintbrush and every color in the world, chances are the end result will be less than beautiful. So choose wisely and think ahead when it comes to digital.
Visual Communication Experts
Many photographers work from home, others have professional offices, still others have studios. None of this matters when hiring a photographer other than your own comfort. The fact is that event photographers do not need a studio because everything they photograph, portraits included, maybe on location. However, you might pay attention to style in their home, gallery, or studio? Do they have style? Are the photographs presented well? Are there hundreds of photographs on the wall, or just one or two with clean lines and visual communication? Those that take pride in their style and their living or working environment usually take pride in taking care of their customers with obvious care for their experience. Successful artists invest heavily in their client’s experience, and you should pay attention to more than the photographs. If the artist does, in fact, have style, it will communicate into their art and in the end, into your own home as well.
This also carries over to the photographer’s web site and presentation. Do they have style? Good question. The web is the ultimate tool for an artist to share their vision with the world. At the core, photographers are supposed to be visual communication experts. If that is true, then it should make sense that their online gallery should visually communicate and be inspiring. A good sign that they have style begins with how they deliver their message to the world. The web is a great place to start and find out who has style and finesse. You and your guests will ultimately have online experiences with the photographer after the event with web proofing, slide shows, and other unique options. Since your experience starts online and ends online, this should be a consideration from the very start.
There are lots of articles on choosing a photographer, but very few that give it to you straight and are usually written around being budget-conscious rather than experience conscious. This was written to offer you advice that has depth and things to consider other than price so that even if you are on a tight budget, you will pay attention to more than the obvious. When choosing a photographer for such a precious occasion it is smart to choose wisely and think beyond the surface. Only then can you have assured confidence to enjoy the day’s events in style.