25 Sep Why Choose a Premium Wedding Photographer?
“Here’s the most important thing you need to know about wedding pictures: Book the best photographer you can afford as soon as you set the date. The wedding music will fade, the flowers will die, and you even remember if you ate, let alone what you ate, at the reception. But the wedding pictures last forever.”—It’s Her Wedding But I’ll Cry If I Want To by Leslie Milk, Rodale Books, 2005.
Some brides find this advice intuitive, while for others, the photographer is the last thing they think about, after they’ve faced the expenses of hiring the hall, choosing the food, paying for flowers, hiring a makeup artist, buying their gown, etc. etc. etc. The photographer and videographer, they think, don’t contribute to the actual event, and I must take care of my guests, so let’s see how I can get away with spending as little as possible—and maybe my uncle Harvey will do it, or some student, or maybe I’ll just leave disposable cameras on the tables, and the guests will provide my wedding photography!
Of course, you get what you pay for. Plus, there’s a great variety of talent out there, in addition to levels of service (how soon will I see my photographs), and you also want to consider how well you get along with your photographer, and how accessible he is. In fact, those are the three major factors you want to consider when hiring a photographer:
- Do you like the person? Can you work with her? Is she accessible?
- Do you like his photographic style? Do the sample albums (featuring people you don’t know) hold your interest? Do you like the level of artistry and imagination? Is she capturing the important images of a wedding?
- What level of service can you expect? How soon will your images be delivered? Your album? What’s the procedure for creating an album together?
So once you decide on the range of your budget, you can begin evaluating photographers based on these criteria.
Now what will you get if you decide you want a premium photographer? that is, one that charges $5000 and up for his services, including album and engagement session, but not including video or parent albums.
You should get more and better in all of the above categories, in addition to extra products and features, such as the following:
- a longer and larger album
- a more extravagant or far-flung engagement session
- a personalized guest book with your engagement session photos in it
- a post-wedding photo session in your wedding garments and and album of these photos (a “bridal book”)
- an elaborate wall portrait, possibly on canvas or aluminum
- a second photographer at your wedding
But look closely at the photographer’s style—and not everyone is sensitive to this, but most everyone will react more positively to better quality photographs, even if they don’t know why they feel that way.
To be a professional photographer, all photographs have to be of excellent technical quality, but
•Look at the expressions: do you see emotion? Delight, surprise, joy, pride, concentration, love, even sadness.
•Look at the compositions: is there a minimum of hands or feet cut off in full-length captures? (A good portrait cuts or crops above the joints, that is, the elbows and knees, or else includes the extremities). Sometimes an expression may be so good that this rule is broken, but it should be followed as much as possible.
•What about the light? Are there unwanted shadows? Is there evidence of extra lighting during the reception (off-camera flash)? Is there a minimum of hot spots (other people’s light sources)? Are outdoor photos taken bright sunlight with deep shadows and people squinting?
•Look at the album layout. Does it show artistry and imagination? Does it give you a feeling for the atmosphere during the various phases of the wedding? Does it emphasize the right things? Does it include details of decor, flowers, centerpieces and food? If you have a theme, does he pay attention to it, so that it becomes a leitmotif in the album? I once had a client whose theme was the peacock feather.
•How do you like the photographer? Does she make you laugh? Is she interested in you as a person, what the rest of your life is like? Does he encourage you to contribute ideas, to express your desires? Does he explain things to you and welcome your questions? Do you have any experiences from other parts of your life that the photographer might share (professional, cultural, sports, current events, travel, etc.) so that you bond in other ways? We all strive to do our best for all of our clients, but some clients actually inspire us to go even farther, to be even more creative.
•As for service, the photographer will tell you when to expect delivery of images and products, but will she furnish references to confirm the level of service?
•Does he have payment plans? What if you really like a photographer, but she is a bit beyond your set budget? Will she accommodate you perhaps by cutting back on products, or deferring products (including your album) until later? What about spreading out payments? I have had clients who ordered their album a year after their wedding.
•What is the photographer’s experience in other domains of photography? Photojournalism or social documentary? Fine art photography? Portraiture? Wedding photography used to be very dry and predictable, and in the hands of some photographers it still is, but it needn’t be.
You may be surprised to find all the factors that go into making a photographer who is worth paying $5000, $6000, $7000 or more to photograph your wedding. The results may be intangible, but they will give you a deeper joy with your album, and actually preserve the magic of your wedding day more clearly and faithfully.