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Hiring a Wedding Photographer – Costs, Location and More

“We’ll leave that in your hands.”

Brides and grooms who say this to a photographer don’t realize that many problems crop up because they prefer to leave everything to the pro.

Big mistake.

Experienced photographers know that it’s usually these kinds of couples who make the most trouble. By not being specific in their preferences, they give photographers carte blanche and then they end up disappointed when the pictures are shown to them.

What’s the # 1 rule in all this? Know thy wants! A wedding requires careful and lengthy planning. It is stressful, to say the least, so think about what photographs you want taken by the photographer before you even contact one. Remember, professional photographers are customarily given six months’ notice before a wedding, although there are numerous professionals who will take three months’ notice. You might get a handful who would be willing to do it at a month’s notice; that is, if there is a free spot on their agenda.

To recap, therefore, bear in mind these two factors, and you solve half the problem:

  • Come up with a precise idea of what you want your photographer to do,
  • Book him six months in advance at least

In addition to these, there are other details that need your attention. They may seem little details to you and are less important in terms of the bigger picture like the ceremony and the reception, but don’t forget that the photographer you hire will be capturing those special moments of one of the biggest days in your life.

Hiring a Wedding Photographer – Consider Budget and Personality

You want to be assured that you’ll be getting your money’s worth. If you decide that you want to hire a top shelf photographer, one who has been recommended by many of your friends, you’d still want to keep a price ceiling on your photography budget. The going rate these days – in certain parts of North America – is about $10,000.00 for a full package. When we say full package, we’re referring to the production of a wedding album with magnificent layouts and a personalized design. However, there are excellent photographers who charge less. It depends on your tastes and wishes. This is why it is essential that you know what you want right at the beginning of the wedding planning process. Actually, it all boils down to giving him a detailed job description and then asking him how much he would charge for that job description.

While it may seem too cumbersome a task to make a trip to the photographer’s studio and interview him, it is important that you don’t content yourself with your friend’s or relative’s referral or surfing his web site to see samples of his shots. A studio visit is definitely worth the time and effort, especially if his estimate is going to be steep. You’re signing the check so you want 100% guarantees that he’ll execute as promised and specified.

The wedding photographer’s studio will play a major role in your decision:

Is his studio well-equipped and does it have neat and logical displays of the wedding pictures he has taken, or are they all strewn about on the floor, suspended on ceilings or clinging tenaciously, juxtaposed, on one cork board?

  • Is his equipment new, well-maintained, and does he have a sufficient number of accessories to service both the outdoor and indoor settings of a wedding?
  • Does he work with one or more assistants?
  • Does his studio give off a professional impression overall?

That’s the studio part. If you’re satisfied, you’re now curious about his fees. Ask him:

  • What kinds of packages does he offer, and what does each package include?
  • Does he charge for overtime?
  • Does he have a budget package for people who do not have the extra dollars to spare? How many hours of work are involved in that budget package?
  • Are payment schedules available?
  • What is his refund or cancellation policy?
  • Will he charge for negatives or albums or extra services separately?

Detailed Instructions are Key

Again, this may seem petty to you, but you’ll realize that by paying attention to these “minute details”, you’ll be sparing your photographer and yourself much agony. Help him do a good job by providing a list, if possible, of what you want him to do – including a separate list of what he shouldn’t do. We’ve heard stories of couples who later regretted not giving enough information to the photographer because he could have done a much better job had they given him “EWDs” – early warning devices!

For example, have you thought of the following?

  • The logistics: the photographer needs to know the name, address, and directions to the wedding sites: bride’s house, pre-church shots, church, reception and stopovers on the way to the reception (perhaps there’s a lake that the bride has a sentimental attachment to, either because her future husband was so nervous proposing that he accidentally dropped the ring in the lake).
  • Formal or casual dress? Inform your photographer ahead of time that it’s going to be a very casual beach wedding so he does not show up in a rented stiff and all-starched tuxedo.
  • Size of wedding: by telling your photographer the kind of turnout you expect, he’ll know how to space out his shots so he can take a “little of everything” or only “everything from the church” or just shots of the reception.
  • List of shots: your photographer will bless you if you tell him precisely what shots you wish taken (“make sure you get a close-up shot of my aunt Maggie when we kiss”)
  • Whether or not you want table shots: photographers know that it is common practice in weddings these days for guests to take candid shots of each other with disposable cameras. By telling the photographer to focus only on the bridal party, you could be shaving off extra dollars in his final bill.
  • “I don’t want” – tell your photographer what shots to avoid. Examples can be of when the two families bring their respective members in for a group shot, or you definitely don’t want shots of guests who are dressed too seductively, who are drunk or who look like they’ve just been doing a marijuana session.
  • Focusing on one segment of the wedding: people have different ideas about the weight of the ceremony vis-à-vis the weight of the reception. You can advise the photographer to limit his shots of the wedding ceremony in the church to a dozen, and to take a limitless number at the reception.

Here’s an “aide-memoire” that you can provide to your photographer so he knows exactly what you want:

Bride’s house: Bride getting dressed
Bride with mom and dad on their way to the limo
Picture of the flowers and the wedding dress

Outside the Church: Bride and father going up steps of the church
Groom arriving
Best man arriving

Church: Front and second pews
Pastor officiating
When cord is draped over bride and groom

Bride and groom right after the ceremony and posing on the steps of the church
Parents of bride and groom as they leave the church
Bridesmaid

Reception: Line-up (25 shots)
Presidential table
Toasts and speeches
Dancing

Even a basic list like this would go a long way for the photographer to do his job efficiently and effectively.

What may be trivia to you is a gold mine of information to him. Besides, you’re footing his bill, so there…

And Finally…

When hiring a photographer, ask him if he can do black and white photos as well; and whether all of his photos will be digitalized or not. Apparently, there’s a trend these days of wedding photos being partly shot in black and white. If they’re well taken, they exhibit dramatic effects – shadows – hues – tones – that color pictures fail to capture.

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