Most couples have a wedding budget, I know we did.
Something I hear time and again from engaged couples is, “We’re on a budget, do you have a variety of packages for us to choose from?” In short, my response is usually something like, “Yes of course,” followed by me prepping them for package pricing, “and remember good photography isn’t cheap and cheap photography isn’t usually good.”
When you're engaged people are always giving you unsolicited advice. I'd be shocked if you haven't heard, “We wish we would have put more of our budget towards a better photographer and / videographer.” I have been married for nearly 9 years and we are so grateful that budgeted for an AMAZING wedding photographer.
So, this two-part blog post is all about giving engaged couples insight and advice from someone who has been both a wedding photographer for nearly a decade and a former bride who planned her wedding on a budget and SUPER grateful I allocated more on the wedding photography budget.
Part one below is full of tips for picking a high-quality wedding photographer (PSA: this post is not about bashing budget-friendly photographers). Where part two contains advice on how you can save in other areas of your wedding budget so that you have amazing photos that last.
Here we go!
PART ONE – Criteria for choosing your photographer
I’ll start with my number one piece of advice when looking for a wedding photographer… Do not let your only decision criteria be price. Your wedding is a major life event that you cannot redo.
Sometimes couples opt for a family friend with a “nice camera” to take wedding photos. Sometimes couples opt for someone “getting into” photography to take their photos for a good deal. If you’re considering booking an affordable photographer, consider these three other criteria before making your final decision: 1) photographic style, 2) know how from experience, and finally 3) what’s in the toolkit.
There are lots of photographic styles – natural light, editorial, cinematographic, light and airy, dark and moody, etc. Style comes as a result of image composition, lenses used and post-production editing. When considering a wedding photographer, try to consider if the photographer’s style will appeal to you today and down the road. Just like fashion, photographic styles have it’s trends too. Consider a style that is timeless.
Also, ask to see a full gallery of a few weddings. This will let you see what you can expect in your image gallery, not just the highlight reel from the photographer’s social feeds. Often times family portraits don’t make the social highlights, but are so incredibly important to you.
Know how from Experience
While we are talking about family photos. Your photographer should demonstrate that they can politely, yet firmly, direct those who will be in family portraits. Although family portraits are critically important to capture, they are usually what stands in the way of the reception. Family members wonder (and often express out loud), “how long is this going to take?” You should feel confident your photographer can get the portraits as efficiently as possible while treating your most valuable guests with respect.
That confidence comes from talking to your prospective photographers. Do you click with them? I hope so because they will be with you – nearly the entire day! Do they give input on timelines? Ask them how they handle timelines going awry (because they do). Ask them what their comfort level is with shooting in a variety of lighting scenarios (low light, sunny, mirrored ceilings, aquarium tanks…).
Do you have a clear understanding of expectations from total costs, payment schedules, turnaround time, print releases, etc. All of this and more should be outlined in a contract to protect both you as a couple and the photographer.
Lastly, for someone you are seriously considering, ask to speak with a former couple to get their input or at a minimum – read reviews.
What’s in the Toolkit
When discussing a toolkit, I’m referring to a photographer’s camera bodies (yes plural), lenses, light modifiers, post-production editing software, image gallery distribution.
Let me reiterate, your wedding is a major life event that you cannot redo.
I used an amateur crop camera body with the kit lenses included along with very affordable manual speed lights for the first wedding I photographed. Looking back, I wish I had invested in professional camera body earlier on because of so many things – better performance in low light yielding better image quality, shallower depth of field wider focal lengths, the list goes on. Having professional equipment takes what you deliver to a whole other level.
Do not get me wrong, I am so proud of the photographs that I took that day, and the bride was incredibly happy with her wedding photos. But thank goodness I was in a venue that allowed flash, otherwise I would not have been able to deliver what she expected.
Ask your prospective photographer what type of camera they use. Ask them their approach to adding artificial light if there’s not enough natural light (especially for night receptions). Ask them how you will get your photos when they’re ready. You’ll learn a lot from these few questions
Wedding days throw many twists and turns. And you should feel confident that your wedding photographer can handle whatever comes their way. If you have found a photographer that has the photographic style you find will last a lifetime and you trust their experience and tools, then exhale a sigh of relief. But wait, what’ if they’re not in your budget? Eeks!!! Read part two for ways to save!