For starters, you may be asking yourself, “What does this b*tch know about wedding photography, and why is she trying to be the boss of me!”
Let me introduce myself. I’m Elayne Woods and I am a retired wedding photographer. I was self-taught and fought the urge to start doing weddings for a handful of years prior to finally caving and marketing myself as a wedding photographer. Before I even considered tiptoeing into the wedding realm I had already been doing portrait photography where I learned about basic camera skills and lighting. At the time where I started being “kinda” interested in weddings, I asked a couple photographer friends to let me tag along on their weddings with them, for free. I just wanted to experience the day and use some of my new skills. I did this for a year until one of them started to pay me to be his second shooter. Even then, I was still not ready to take on the awesome responsibility of shooting weddings, so I worked as a second shooter for THREE YEARS prior to ever booking my own wedding and then spent the next several years shooting my own high-end and destination weddings. Your wedding day was not something I was going to take lightly and I wanted to make sure I was skilled enough in both my camera and lighting skills, but also as skilled as possible in managing a wedding day, wedding party, family and guests. Only after I had this experience, and had the appropriate backup equipment, did I venture out on my own. So, it’s from years of experience that I bring you this advice. As always, do your research.
THREE THINGS TO AVOID WHEN HIRING A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
HAVING A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER SHOOT YOUR WEDDING
Many friends and family members who have a “nice” camera and do hobby photography like to offer their services to newly engaged couples. Don’t get me wrong, I know they mean well. They want to save you money or use this as their gift to you. This is only a good idea if your friend or family member is a Professional Wedding Photographer. . . Note: not a photographer, a WEDDING photographer. Going from a controlled portrait shoot into the chaos of a wedding day can overwhelm the best of intentions and puts your wedding day images at risk. It’s just not worth the potential of distressing a friendship or relationship with someone that you’re close to.
It’s going to be really awkward if they don’t live up to your expectations but even if you’re confident they do a good job, they aren’t going to be able to just relax and enjoy your day. Which, segues into a REALLY great way to gently turn down that friend or family member that has offered. . just tell them that they are important enough to you that you want them to be fully present and not working your wedding, but thank you kindly for offering.
NOT MAKING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUDGET A PRIORITY
This is one that I’ve been educating both the public and photographers on for the past decade. With wedding photography, you get what you pay for. The lower the price tag, the newer and more inexperienced the photographer, the less they likely know about the flow of a wedding, (as well as the lighting knowledge required), the more that you’re risking not being happy with your images.
You may look at a $4000 – $5000 price tag and experience some sticker shock, but of everything that you’re putting into your wedding, your photos are going to be the only thing that you’re going to tangibly walk away with, (other than your spouse). Your day goes so fast, (like literally zooms by), and I promise you’re going to be dazed and wondering what happened. You’re going to question what you missed and struggle to remember exactly what all of the little details looked like that you planned for a year to get perfect. All you’ve got is your images, so this isn’t an area of your budget to skimp on.
Around this area (Eastern Nebraska) I can pretty much guarantee you that any photographer less than $3000 is pretty green and they haven’t yet learned just how much work and expertise goes into shooting a wedding. I know this because I was there once and after doing a breakdown of equipment, education and time not only shooting but the hours and hours spent culling and editing, I found was making less than minimum wage when all was said and done. It just takes time, experience and confidence in your craft to figure that out.
There are so many areas where you can save on your budget so that you can allot what you need for Wedding Photography. An experienced photographer is going to be able to work with any decor that you have and make your less expensive dress look exquisite. You can have the most simple details and an experienced wedding photographer knows the right way to make your images look like they are straight out of the the pages of your favorite wedding magazine. All to say, I highly recommend saving for the photographer of your dreams so that you’re confident that you’re going to have incredible images to document the wedding of your dreams.
HIRING A NEWB
This kind of goes along with the first two and you may think you’re saving money, but as we reviewed above, this isn’t an area to skimp. It’s also really important to know the right questions to ask to confirm just how much experience a photographer has with weddings. We will review interview questions in a bit.
I love them and everyone has to start somewhere, but there are a lot of new and trendy photographers out there that have awesome Instagram profiles of pretty images they took in the exact right setting, with the exact right lighting and they have the perfect preset filter to apply to their images to make them look nice and consistent. Or, they have done a couple styled shoots, which are controlled shoots in one setting, and then put those on their portfolio. None of these fully represents what you’ll want in your full wedding gallery. I think that these photographers have a lot of potential, but they may not be quite ready for your wedding day.
You need to know. . . can they still get great images when they are following you from a dark church out into full sun, or vice versa when going from full sun into a dark reception hall. Are they able to get good ceremony photos when the priest banishes them to the back of the church (are they respectful of the rules when this happens) Do they have experience changing camera settings on the fly and do they know how to light the darkest reception hall with no windows and a black ceiling? Unless you only want a handful of images that were taken during the golden hour, then these are some of the things that you need to know.
Many new photographers see the higher price tags for weddings and they think it’s easy money so they start marketing themselves as a wedding photographer for $1500 for “All day”, and they don’t do the due diligence they need to train themselves to run the day and deliver a full gallery of amazing images. An experienced wedding photographer is going to know how to flow, how to mediate between exes (or mothers and priests as I had to do in one case) and how to shoot in ANY situation thrown at them, and they are going to know the value of their work and their art and are going to price themselves accordingly.
IF you’ve run the numbers and you simply cannot afford a higher budget, just try to find best and most experienced photographer available in your budget. Here are just a few of the important questions that you are going to want to ask:
Can I see a full wedding gallery, including receptions photos?
How many weddings have you shot as a lead photographer (and did you second shoot or train with anyone prior to shooting your own weddings)
Do you know how to light darker reception venues and churches? (Ask to see!)
Do you have a backup camera?
Do you have a backup photographer?
I am going to take a moment to draw your attention to these last two. This should be a non-negotiable for you.
Backup Camera – There are SO many horror stories of cards or cameras failing, being dropped in ponds or being lost. If your photographer is relying on only one camera and any of the aforementioned things happen, you’re out of luck.
Backup Photographer/2nd Shooter – This is one I am very passionate about. I have always included a 2nd shooter in my collections anyway, but after I had a wedding where I NEEDED one, it’s something that I think should be non-negotiable for EVERY wedding photographer.
To make a long story short, I was shooting at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha and I got a call that my son went into complete heart-block and was rushed to the emergency room where he coded. (HE’S FINE NOW thanks to a Heart Transplant!) Thankfully I was nearing the end of my time at the reception anyway, but because I had hired a competent Second Shooter, I was able to leave to be with my son in the hospital without missing important images for my client. This is an extreme example, but any type of emergency could happen to any photographer, at any time. If you only have one photographer at your wedding and something happens to them, there goes your beautiful wedding photos that you hoped and dreamed for. Always make sure your wedding photographer offers a 2nd shooter AND a backup plan so that you don’t have to stress if the unforeseen happens.
As always, when you book your Ceremony or Wedding Reception at The 1206, you get all of my advice, opinions and referrals as a part of our service! Please let me know how I can help you!