How NOT to Choose a Wedding Photographer
You have seen it on practically every wedding photographer's web page and in bridal magazines. It seems that everyone wants to give the bride and groom advice on how to choose a wedding photographer. Most of what I have read is sound and useful advice, but I thought it might be helpful to write an article that explores this in more detail. So lets look at the mistakes brides and grooms often make in choosing their photographer.
Over the past 25 years as a wedding photographer, I have had the opportunity to speak with well over a thousand engaged couples. I am always surprised by some of the criteria many of them use to choose their wedding photographer. Here are the top 7 mistakes I feel many brides and grooms make when selecting a photographer for their big day:
1. RELYING ON WEDDING VENDOR REFERRALS. This may be the worst mistake of them all. Many wedding vendors trade referrals with other wedding professionals with no real knowledge of the other's work. And yes, many times it's an honest referral based upon working a few weddings with one another. But how much can a DJ, for example, really know about the quality of a wedding photographer's work? Often times this type of referral is just based on the fact that the DJ has worked with the photographer at a number of events and liked him or her. Did the DJ ever see the final result? Did they see the wedding album? Probably not.
2. JUDGING A PHOTOGRAPHER BASED SOLELY ON A "GREATEST HITS" WEDDING ALBUM PORTFOLIO. There is nothing more misleading regarding a photographer's talent than looking at a sample wedding album that is a compilation of their best shots at 50 different weddings. An album such as this may be useful in understanding just how great an image they are capable of producing, but that's really all it tells you. Ask to be shown an album of one entire wedding from start to finish. A good wedding photographer should be able to produce a number of complete albums, which will give you a better idea of how your own wedding will be photographed. Virtually anybody with a decent camera can get one great shot per wedding!
3. PAYING TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO THE SALES PITCH. Every photographer can tell you great things about themselves and so they should. But in your initial wedding consultation, look for photographers who are interested in YOU. A good photographer will want to know the types of photography styles you are interested in and what you are looking for in a wedding photographer. A photographer who asks you lots of questions about your wedding and your preferences will probably also be more likely to listen to you and have a better sense of what you want. If the wedding meeting is just one long lecture from the photographer, move on to the next photographer. Find someone who cares.
4. NOT ASSESSING THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S PERSONALITY. This is a biggie. You will spend the entire day with your photographer. If you don't get along with him or her, it can ruin what should be the happiest day of your life. Rude and bossy photographers can also cause problems with your guests. Find a photographer who is easy to talk to and who you can establish good rapport with.
5. CHOOSING "UNCLE BOB" TO SHOOT YOUR WEDDING! With digital cameras now in practically everyone's hands, there seems to be a lot more "wedding photographers" out there. The fact that a friend or relative is good with his new digital camera does not mean he can handle a wedding. And what about file backups? Does your family photographer know how to do a correct backup, or even have the proper computer hardware to do it? In my business, I bring a portable hard drive to every wedding and the images are uploaded and checked on the spot. When I get back to my studio, the images are uploaded to my main computer and then backed up on an external hard drive. Once that is complete, 2 back up DVD's are burned. Only then will I erase the cards I used for the wedding. You don't want your memories to go up in smoke along with a burnt out hard drive.
6. CARING ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS TYPE OF CAMERA EQUIPMENT. In this day and age, a photographer can make great images with any medium to high quality camera. Wedding photographers who spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the type of equipment they use may not be the right person for you. What you really want to know is what type of images they can produce and if they can show you plenty of samples. It's the final result that matters. If you are happy with what they show you and everything else checks out OK, you can assume their equipment is adequate for the task.
7. CONFUSION OVER PRICING. If you can't understand the pricing or packages, keep looking. Package pricing, if flexible, is the best way to go. It allows you to have a better idea of what your final bill will be. Ala carte pricing can confuse and be misleading. You may assume that something you though was included in their coverage costs extra. Like a wedding album! However, a photographer who only offers strictly structured packages should also be avoided. Ultimately, you want to find someone who will work within your budget and give you exactly what you want. If you don't see a package that fits your needs, ask the photographer to let you design your own.
This list was not intended to intimidate people in the market for a wedding photographer. It should, however, help you understand what's important. Find a photographer with a style you prefer and who shows you images that you love. Use that initial consultation as a way to get to know your photographer and develop rapport. Talk to some former clients to get a sense of how the photographer behaved at the wedding. If everything looks good, you are ready to make your decision!
Mike Dubnoff has been a Bay Area wedding photographer since 1979. His work has been published in local newspapers, commercial brochures and national magazines. With over 550 weddings to his credit, Mike has established himself as one of the leading wedding photographers in Northern California.
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