Wednesday, May 31, 2017

inspiration (wedding): the Photographer

Few of the things purchased for weddings last beyond the big day. With this in mind, finding the right photographer to capture the day in photos we can keep and display for years was a critical part of our planning.  With our schedules and for the sake of our sanity, we figured out what we wanted upfront and didn’t spend a lot of time making the decision.  That being said, our decision was well thought out. A dozen emails, a meeting, and a phone call later we found “the one,” and I couldn’t be happier.  Here are some tips from what we learned in the process:

What To Do

Ask around.  Your friends and family may have some good suggestions. If you know people on Facebook who've been married in the last few years, it's likely that they're even tagged in their photographer's work. This will give you an idea of what their finished product looks like with people you know.

Use online directories.  Initially our search started on the Knot.  After exhausting myself with the options there, I stumbled across Wedding Wire, where I found a few more photographers we hadn’t seen before including our photographer.

Give the novice a try.  There are tons of new photographers and artists looking to expand their portfolio and build on their work.  While this wasn't the approach for us, we have some friends who went with a recent art school grad for their videographer.  There's so much talent out there, and it's easier than ever to find with the internet and social media.  Especially if you're working with a limited budget, this is another way you may be able to cut some costs.  What they lack in experience they may make up in passion and enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Do your research.  We only spoke with two photographers before making our final choice.  The first time, we met with the photographer in person.  While his portfolio showed a lot of what we were looking for, there were several inconsistencies between things he told us over email, his FAQs, and what he said in person.  When I confronted him on one of these things he actually said, “Most people don’t even read the FAQs.”  Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.  On the other hand, the second photographer had everything we were looking for and more. This time we scheduled a conference call with him, and not only was he consistent, but he addressed concerns we didn’t even know we should have.  If very specific things are mentioned in email, ask the same general questions over the phone or in person to see if you get a different response.  

Read the fine details.  Don’t be afraid to question or request clarification for anything in the fine details before you pay a large sum of nonrefundable money.

Take a shotgun approach.  Email potential photographers in batches.  It might seem like it would make the process more overwhelming, but it will help you better compare packages and policies.  Many of the photographers we found don’t list their full prices and fees on their website.  So it’s helpful to collect several at a time to compare. Some photographers also mentioned things that others hadn’t; this helped guide our questions to our favorites from the bunch.  If you contact photographers this way, do make sure you reply back to each one once you've made a decision. Whether or not you're using their business be considerate of their time, and don't leave anyone hanging.

Stay organized.  If you didn’t already create a separate email for all wedding related correspondence, at least create a tag or folder to keep track of all the emails going back and forth.  Taking it a step further, if you’re using a Google account you can set up folders in Google Drive to keep track of all your contracts and receipts; I’ve even scanned a few paper receipts to keep everything together.  

What to Ask

Photo Rights.  We didn’t need absolute rights, but printing rights were nonnegotiable.  Most of the photographers we found offered this, but it varied.  Some provide a USB with high resolution files, others downloadable images from a private website, or a combination of the two, and another didn’t provide any at all.  We would have had to order every print or canvas directly from him within a finite time frame, literally leaving us access to nothing after that time.

Special offers.  Most offer packages and an occasional special offer, but don’t be afraid to ask if they don't.  Especially if you’re wedding is "off-season" like ours, use this to your advantage and seek out a package that works for you and the photographer.  

Recommendations.  Be sure to ask about videographers or other vendors (photo booth, lighting, DJs, etc.) your photographer has worked with in the past.  Whether it be a friend or just someone they’ve had a good experience with, it can help guide your search and save some time in other areas.

If you have any additional suggestions or tips from your experience, please share below.  It may be just the thing someone else is looking for! 

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