10 Vital Criteria To Consider When Hiring a Wedding Photographer
Today I’m going to reveal 10 wedding photography myths that can destroy any bride’s memories. This article is dedicated to the bride who is looking to have a small family-oriented wedding without hassle. As a 2016 bride, I honestly wish someone would have written an article like this before we hired our photographer. We fell in almost every single trap a young couple can fall in. So let’s get right down to it! 1. CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER: A photographer is a PERSON (with a camera), not a CAMERA (with a person attached to it). It is true that when you hire a photographer, what you are buying pictures. However, photography is a form of art and the first vibe that will be transmitted through the pictures will be what the photographer saw when he looked through the lenses. Pictures are NOT what the camera sees, but what the photographer sees through the camera.
The truth is, whatever we do – eat, drink, work, take pictures or naps – our character oozes out. Our character percolates everything we do – including wedding photography. The character of the photographer is far more important than the lenses and the years of experience. And sadly, character is what people don’t talk about when they sell their services as a photographer. So how can you tell if a photographer has a good character? Ask yourself the following: - Does it have principles, values and rules that he / she is not flexible on? You might think that you want someone who agrees with you on everything you ask, but a photographer who is willing to agree with you at any cost, is willing to do so at the expense of the quality of the final product. What they are after is not creating memories for you, but your money. BIG difference. - Is your photographer keeping his / her word, or is he / she always late and never picks up the phone? How soon do you get an answer back from an email or a voice message?
2. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH: Online reviews are NOT enough. Talk to former customers. Online reviews on websites like Thumbtack, The Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc., are great. But they are not enough. A common practice is for photographers to post 7-10 pictures from a wedding two days from the event and ask their customers to leave reviews right away, before the final delivery. This common practice leads to an influx of positive reviews when, in fact, after seeing all the pictures, some couples might offer 3 starts only, or 4 or 2 or... none! At the same time, retaliatory reviews that are false are a very common retaliatory practice nowadays. Sometimes, just because a photographer leaves a comment that upsets someone on a Forum, the offended party will bring in 5-10 friends who will swarm these websites with made-up reviews. It is sad, but true: people lie, especially when it comes to money. It might require a bit of work to track down previous customers, but the truth is, a photographer of good character (oh, no! that little word again!) and good work ethics will make things easy for you. Good photographers will be happy to offer the contacts of other customers - of course, with their approval. Any photographer that makes efforts to stop the word of mouth does so because there is something to hide, right?
3. YOU MAKE YOUR BUDGET, THE PHOTOGRAPHER MAKES ITS PRICES: YOU and you alone are the one who decides how much you pay. But you cannot decide how much a photographer charges for his / her services. Although it is helpful to have a plan, check your wedding budget frequently and stay on top of it. The danger in comparing different photographer's price tags only is that one might lose sight of one important detail: quality. All photographers are not equal, all photographers do not charge equally. There are photographers who are small-wedding oriented and there are others who are glam-wedding photographers. Ask how much your custom package costs, rather than volunteering a particular budget and asking what can you purchase for that tag. By doing so, you protect yourself from purchasing a service that the photographer is willing to sell for 50% less than you are willing to offer. When you speak the price that you have in mind, which might be well over the price the photographer was going to ask, you are setting yourself for a higher bill. When hiring a photographer – or any vendor – you need to be the one asking the questions, they need to be the ones speaking numbers. An experienced professional photographer knows how much his time is worth and how long it will take him to serve you. As a side note, the quality of work that you will get for a $200 gig is not the same as for a $5,000 package but at the same time, the solution for staying within the budget is NOT to try to bring the $5,000 package to $200. In business, it is not necessarily that someone wins and someone loses – in fact, a successful transaction is the one in which both parties feel they made the better deal. Know your budget and what services you request and let the photographers ask what they feel appropriate for their work. Then, make a dignifying decision: take it or leave it, according to your budget, your expectations and your needs. Know at the same time that a higher price tag does not necessarily mean a better character of the photographer – and as I said at the beginning, the character will definitely make a difference in the entire process. There isn’t enough money in this world to turn an ill-tempered person into a sweet company, so do not assume that price is a good character indicator. But you will find people of good character charging very different amounts, and the difference in this case will be made by their artistic eye, style and experience.
4. ALL CAMERAS SHOULD NOT BE TURNED OFF: And all guests should NOT put their cameras down – contrary to popular belief. One of the logistical mistakes that often causes regrets after weddings is asking the guests not to take pictures. You need to be aware that all photographers (who have worked in the field for some time) have a provision in the contract for data loss: they cannot be held liable in the unfortunate case that the data is lost. As a professional photographer, I have never had any issues with guests taking pictures. All guests do not need to put down their cameras so that I can capture that special moment – I truly believe a professional photographer should be able to capture these moments without feeling like friends and family should not take pictures. Besides, I have never had a guest saying NO when I had to ask them to take a step on a side. Guests do want the photographer to be successful in taking the best shots of the bride and groom, and - unless they are at the wedding to cause issues (in which case the bride and the groom probably need to sort more pressing issues than the photographer’s blockage!) - they will be happy to work with the photographer. Even more, they will be aware of the photographer’s moves and will notice each other if one of them is in the way.
5. FAMILY PICTURES DON'T REPLACE PROFESSIONAL PICTURES; THEY COMPLETE THEM! Talented friends and talented family members will most likely not have the gear – nor the experience – to capture the key moments of the wedding and the atmosphere. A great number of these key moments are happening so fast, that the photographer needs experience to be able to foresee them happening and be ready to shoot. Without a good number of weddings under the belt, one cannot capture these moments. However, as I mentioned at the beginning, the one taking the picture is the person behind the camera, not the camera itself. Professional photos cannot successfully replace friends or family taken pictures, and friends / family taken pictures cannot replace professional photos. Your mother will always see you in a way that a photographer will not - and she will capture what she sees on the camera. That is why I never ask my brides to ask their guests to put the cameras down.
6. VIDEO SCREENSHOTS ARE NOT PICTURES: videos stills are simply NOT as good. No, they are not. This point can be easily proven – leaving aside all the technicalities of the image capturing and the geeky photographer insight – please try this experiment before deciding to go with this option: screenshot frames of a YouTube video. Hands down, screenshots will never be anywhere near as good as photographs.
7. ARE YOU BOOKING "RETOUCHING" OR "EDITING"? Retouching does NOT mean editing. The professional lingo might be slightly misleading at times. Retouching does not mean editing. Retouching a photo means playing with the overall chromatic and quality of the image itself; editing means playing with the content of the image. When retouching a picture, the areas that will be addressed are: the skin color, the sky and the dress color, the temperature of the colors and the overall atmosphere, sharpness, contrasts, etc. When editing a picture, in addition to all these, the content – like weight, wrinkles, closed or red eyes, make-up and messy / windy hair - will be addressed. If you are photogenic and have no camera shyness, you do not necessarily need editing; when you do have insecurities, retouching might not be enough and editing might be mandatory. Ask your photographer what they mean by "edited" pictures before you sign the contract.
8. MORE ON EDITING AND RETOUCHING. When a photographer says that their pictures do not need editing, what they mean is that they have the gear to capture the colors of the skin and ambiance as accurately as possible. What they should actually say is that their pictures do not need RETOUCHING. Editing - fat happy tummies trimmed down, armpit hair removed, ear hair trimmed - simply CANNOT be done by the angle of the camera. Not all of these at the same time. The angle might favor the silhouette and show even more nostril hair or underline the un-pedicured toes - especially when the picture contains a large group! (I know it's funny, but it is absolutely true!) So please, dear brides, don't pay more of your money to a photographer who says that they don't need to "edit" the pictures - because what they mean is, "the colors will be accurate". Which is actually a by-default condition; after-all, no one wants to look as a green alien! So... the "no editing required" selling line is pretty much like selling air...
9. HOW TO PAY: Full payment in advance is NOT the only option. A true professional and a person of good character will always look out for the customer’s interest and put themselves in the customer’s place. Full payments in advance are not the only option. Partial payments are as equally good and most photographers are happy to work out payment plans. The most common payment form is 50% when booking and 50% on the day of the event – but if you feel more comfortable to have a payment plan, any photographer who would like to work with you should have no objection. Of course, payment flexibility depends from studio to studio and from photographer to photographer, but regardless, full payment in advance should not be the only payment option they are willing to consider. If that is the case, I would strongly recommend doing a bit of research for other vendors who are more sensible and have a better understanding of quality customer service. 10. RAISE THE BAR! You *are* responsible for the quality of your relationship with your photographer and for the quality of the services provided to you! Please make sure that you keep your expectations high for the service you wish to purchase. Be respectful. Do not waste a photographer's time - everyone works on billable time and wants to sell, not to befriend! A good photographer is a professional who is genuinely interested in your good whilst also running their business. It is not an easy position to be in. Respect and expect respect back. Like in any relationship, if there are any red flags, don't ignore them - ask questions and take a decision fast. Don't waste the photographer's time with weeks of chatter and then announce that you do not wish to book with them because you have found someone cheaper. The prices should be discussed first - if they are out of your budget, at least respect their time. Also, make sure that they respect your time and you don't have to chase them down with calls and emails and messages. If there is no mutual respect in the relationship, definitely look at your options. Communicate clearly, have healthy boundaries, and show the respect that you expect to be shown back.