Some of the first things newly engaged brides do is go dress shopping, reserve a ceremony and reception location, and hire a wedding photographer. Chance are, this is the first time any of them have hired a wedding photographer. It can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience, filled with explanations of packages, prices, albums, contracts, portfolios, and what’s the difference between flush mount and matted albums again? In an effort to give you a few pieces of advice, ISPWP member photographers have provided a few insights into what mistakes you should definitely avoid when hiring a wedding photographer. Many ISPWP photographers have the experience of shooting hundreds of weddings so they’ve seen it all.
# 1 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Overlooking the Photographer’s Personality
When you are hiring a wedding photographer, don’t hire someone whom you don’t really like on a personal basis! Their photos might be great, but remember that your photographer is going to be a very substantial participant in your wedding day, not only capturing your memories, but becoming a big part of them! So make sure you’re comfortable with their personality. If you find your photographer irritating, abrasive, or if you think their jokes are cheesy, keep looking. You REALLY don’t want to look at your wedding photos, and think “Oh wow, remember the incredibly inappropriate joke the photographer told right before he shot this?” or “That guy got on my nerves – I remember feeling irritated with him as this photo was being taken.” Your day is about your happiness, first and foremost. The most beautiful photo in the world won’t mean as much if your memory of the photography experience sours it!
~ Buffy Goodman, Edmonton, Alberta
The number one mistake to avoid when hiring a wedding photographer is to listen to everyone else. Your best friend might have loved her photographer, and your cousin probably swears by hers. So you meet with both of them and their pictures seem good enough. But did you like them? Your photographer will be with you all day, so it’s important you get along with them and enjoy their company. Your instincts will tell you a whole lot!
~ Britney Gardner, Turn Loose the Art, Huntington Beach, CA
#2 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Prioritizing Products Over the Photography
If you have a limited budget for wedding photography, invest the money in the photographer and not the album. If you look for a less expensive photographer so you can have money left over for an album, you will likely end up with bad photos in a pretty package. You are better off with great photos in a shoe box. You can always get an nice album down the road after you win the lottery or get that big raise, but if your photos are bad you are out of luck.
~ Dennis Drenner Photographs, Baltimore, MD
One thing I think a bride and groom don’t pay enough attention to is considering the quality of the photography aside from the album and wall prints. Clients get easily excited by the look of the album, the size of the album, or the fact that parent albums are included, or a large wall print, etc. However once the event has taken place and all is said and done the photography can’t be redone and clients will be disappointed if they have wall prints and 3 albums filled with mediocre photography. If clients can only afford the services of an exceptional photographer, with little or no product, at least the day is captured forever in images that inspire and take one’s breath away. Albums or other products can always be ordered when budgets allow, but hire a photographer based on his or her professionalism, integrity and photographic skills. Do not hire a photographer solely based on the biggest package deal they are offering.
~ David A. Barss, Photographer, Portland, OR
#3 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Expecting Pro Results From an Amateur Photographer
I can’t tell you how many brides I’ve had come in to look at my albums, and tell me: “My sister got married last year. They had Uncle Bob take their pictures because he only charged them $200. But she didn’t get a single picture from her wedding that she likes. Every time she looks at her pictures, she cries.” The biggest mistake a bride can make is to undervalue her wedding photography. Countless brides have tried to save a few dollars by hiring a friend, or having a family member take their wedding photos. And countless brides have little but tears to show for it. Think of professional wedding photography as an investment in your future joy. It will cost a little now (although it will cost less than the food you serve at your wedding), but it will pay off in great dividends, as you enjoy the memories for the rest of your life.
~ Fritz Liedtke, Fritz Photo, Portland, OR
Don’t leave your wedding photography up to chance! “Cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean good, and “good” doesn’t mean cheap! Do you want to risk one of the most important days of your life to an inexperienced photographer, or Uncle Bob, or Cousin Lenny who has a digital camera, instead of cutting corners on the hors d’oeuvres?
~ Joanne Bartone, Photographer, Pittsburgh, PA
In wedding photography, you generally get what you pay for. The less you spend, the more disappointment you risk. A friend or family member who happens to be a photography hobbyist will have much different results than a dedicated wedding professional. Ask yourself: ‘Am I willing to look at my wedding photos for the rest of my life and feel let down?’
~ Michelle Ross, Under Grace Photography, St. Louis, MO
Pro photographers pride themselves on their equipment and generally they have the best gear available. People who dabble in wedding photography on the side can’t justify the expense of professional gear, reliable backup gear, and proper business insurance. And then consider experience – an amateur can show you a few good images, but can they do that day in and day out? Do they have the experience to deliver high quality images on a consistent basis? Probably not, or else – they would be running a real business. And one last point, when you hire a Pro – they are indeed putting their reputation and their livelihood on the line. You have trust, you have references, and you have a proven track record.
~ Mike Topham Photography, Richmond, VA
You’ve heard it before but believe it; once the party is over, the band has packed the van, the flowers are in serious wilt and your mind is a warm humming buzz, before you hit the pillow you will say, “I can’t wait to see the pictures”. You will say this. You will repeat this mantra for weeks. You might be a little nervous because you left the wedding photos in the hands of family and friends. But, you should be covered, you think, after all there were disposable cameras on all the tables, and cousin Ted has an SLR digital camera and has taken some beautiful vacation pictures. Plus your bridesmaid said her new boyfriend takes really good pictures and is offering his services for free so he can get some portfolio material! What a deal! What a savings! What a disaster. The thing with weddings is that there are no do-overs. Very likely, it will be the only time that a couple will hire event professionals in their lifetime. If you truly want things to go smoothly and have a wonderful memorable event, you need to hire proven professionals. Would you leave the cake to your bridesmaids boyfriend because he is eager and willing and has the ingredients? Nope. But surprisingly, many brides are willing to take a chance with their photography. The number one regret of brides is that they wished they hired a better photographer.
~ Rebekah Johnson Photography, Portland, OR
Looking for an experienced, talented, and professional wedding photographer in your area? Find your photographer on the ISPWP Wedding Photographer Directory.
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