So here I am posting for the very first time on something other than a clients photos! WOW. I have a voice! Let it be heard! haha
Anyways….I have been thinking a lot lately about the industry of wedding photography as work gets harder & harder to book. I keep trying to figure out why???? I mean I’m getting better every day, I’ve been running a ship shape legal business for 7 years, I’m easy to get along with, friendly, professional, and I produce consistent beautiful work!!!!! Yes I can truthfully say that about myself! So why am I struggling to book weddings??????? What is the deal? So I’ve been asking fellow professionals, checking out the economy, and reading websites, blogs, and more. (As well as checking out my competition…lol) And here is what I have discovered & have to say about the subject.
You only get married once, or at least that’s what we hope and pray for!
With that ceremony comes one chance to capture your day.
Throughout the past century photography has been the primary way to capture the memories of your wedding day. The photos are timeless. They invoke nostalgia. These photos are all you have to show your children and grandchildren your outdated dress & hairstyle. Or how hip & skinny you were back in the day (except for the amazing talents of videography- which I absolutely think is wonderful).
In todays digital world & bad economy there are so many non-professional & hobbyist photographers in the market. Unless you yourself are an artist you may not understand that there is a significant difference between a artsy friend with a point and shoot SLR and a skilled artist behind professional equipment shooting in raw formats with manual settings.
A big difference.
How can the average couple discern what is timeless and elegant and what is just a fading trend of over-saturated, filtered, and instagramed photography?
So, how will you sort out who is a professional, who is a hobbyist?
Who is a skilled studio photographer while in a carefully controlled environment versus the photographer who has the energy, instinct, and talented for composition to shoot your demanding wedding day???
Everyone is marketing for weddings for the extra income or just the sheer joy of photography and many of these well meaning individuals have no idea what the role really entails, or how truly necessary capturing those memories will be for you later on.
Photographers have all have heard the familiar lament from our friends: “we didn’t have the money for you to shoot our wedding so we went with this newer photographer to save a thousand and we hate our images and are so sad.” Or even worse – “we never saw our images! The photographer got divorced and his wife won’t let him in the house to get his photo files!”
Ummm, yes, this happened to someone I know…. Seriously! So are these people glad they spent a $1000 on a photographer or did they throw $1000 down the drain when they could have saved in other areas & spent the money on a consistent professional and received timeless image to smile over and relive the moments with.
Of course, each couples financial situation is unique. Was $1000 all they could truly afford? Then yes, they will be happy with whatever photos they can afford, as anything is better than nothing. I think that sometimes you really just need a cheaper photographer & that is the best & wisest choice for your marriage & family. But wisdom isn’t always going to choose the cheapest. Sometimes investing is wiser. Sometimes saving for quality is better if it’s doable. We invest in the stock market all the time, why don’t we invest in our weddings? We invest in our marriage, why not in the day it starts. Make it a personal choice, and don’t feel compelled to do what everyone else is doing. I encourage you to make a choice to invest in someone who has the skill level, organization, and ability to capture it all with outstanding and consistent results.
I don’t begrudge new photographers at all since we all started somewhere, but all photographers are NOT created equal & we are all in different places in our careers. That being true, you still have to make a choice about who to book. How are you going to do that if you don’t know anything about this field of work?
How do you find a doctor, a dentist, a carpenter, a birthing center? Check your insurance network. Find out what’s available. Listen to friends & family. Take referrals. Etc. Do these! Google is a great source. Facebook has LOADS of photographers. But there is so more you can do when searching for a photographer to meet your desires. So here are some of my suggestions, as these are things I do.
Know what is included.
Take the time to read on what is included in your photographer’s studio rather than just what the price tag is. Do they have professional albums that are restricted to pros such as print & bind style or cheap paper ones you can order on Shutterfly yourself?
Work Consistency & Education.
Here are a variety of factors to consider mostly depending on skill level (education), professionalism, and consistency of work. I encourage you to view entire galleries and not just the best work that is obviously on everyone’s site. You want to see what a photographer can do on a consistent basis. We all put our best face forward. But look at an entire gallery start to finish. Most photographers will let you take a peek.
You should be able to trust your photographer completely.
Case in point: There are a lot of Mommy photographers out there, and they are spreading into wedding photography.
Full disclosure: YES, I AM A MOM WITH A CAMERA… but I was a woman with a career and art degree in photography before I became a mom.
Not to say you can’t start your career after you have kids, but a photographer cares about your wedding results and will not simply turn a camera to auto setting with the flash pointed at your face! Mom’s can be photographers- I don’t judge- they might freaking rock. Maybe they are the best photographer on the market. They have mad shutter skills! What really matters is the level of skill they bring to your wedding day, and with a diluted pool of photographers, it is up to the discerning customer to research the background of their photographer.
Organization & Experience.
How long has the photographer been an artist? How many weddings have they shot? (Bragging point: I am on my 75th!!!!!!!!!!! How cool is that?) Can the photographer cover all events in your day or just the detail shots? I mean everyone is good with details. It’s easy! You have time, proper lighting, and no stress. EASY! But can they capture that spin on the dance floor with appropriate lighting? Can they get the smile right before the kiss. Are they ready for what a wedding day brings or are the confused, stressed out, and unprepared for the intense pace. Are they disorganized when its’ time for a family line up- “um who’s next? Can Aunt Vickie be in the shot… oh wait we forgot Uncle Bob!!” Or are they prepared with a list that has been pre approved (my personal requirement!) Do they just show up and see what happens… say it with me: STRESSFUL! No one wants the bride to cry on her wedding day. But where there is no organization there are tears…
Style. Traditional? Photojournalist?
Does their work look cool to you? Do you like it? Does it stand out? Everyone is looking for a different style.
Research wedding photography styles.
Check out what is out there. I would encourage you to make sure that the photographer can produce quality images over style. Stylizing photography is a HOT trend right now, everything from vintage looks to yellow filtering (I like to call that pee filtering) to soft glows. But what is most important is whether those images are in focus, sharp, and are correctly exposed. A nice filer cannot cover up a bad image.
Take a look at their work before it’s edited. That’s how to see that! You want to make sure that you have images that will be timeless & not be all yellow & scratch effects & filtered in 20 years when its hideous & you are already kicking yourself for buying those neon green skinny jeans… It’s perfectly fun & fine to stylize photos for fun -just ask your photographer to do that later if you want to print some vintage looking images for your wall. You can toss those when that style fades, and still have perfect original images that capture what everything really looked like.
These are just a FEW of the things I advise to check, but there are so many more…. I’m getting tired of writing (LOL) so here are a few more quickly.
You might want to ask: if they have back up equipment; Insurance to cover liability; copyright contracts; What happens if they get sick or have an emergency on your weddings day. I mean life happens; What’s the cancelation policy; Can they offer second shooters; Can you tell they love weddings; Do you get along; Do your personalities blend?
So, I’m done blabbing on how to choose a wedding photographer in an oversaturated digital world. Do your homework and don’t start with a price. Start with the skill level, professionalism, experience, consistency, style, and more of the photographer. Go with what is best for you, but PLEASE do your research before you book. You want your memories to last our industry is ridiculously overcrowded. I feel bad for you if you’re trying to choose. I feel bad for me. Let’s all pray the industry gets healthy, with quality photography taking priority over hobbyist & trends.