It’s been too many times that we have heard from Brides and Grooms that their original wedding pictures didn’t turn out because a cousin, aunt, grandpa, or friend VOLUNTEERED to take their wedding pictures. It’s really sad when this happens to the couple. The complaints range from they are so dark, we can’t see ourselves, most of them are so blurry or there are too many heads in the way! The only day that it is acceptable for weird pictures is on Halloween not at your wedding and sometimes you may be better off with Cousin It taking your pictures! Please don’t let this happen to you! Just because someone has a good camera, an interest in photography or calls himself a “professional” is not a guarantee of good photos. We have helped many couples by doing a reenactment of their ceremony so that they can have those beautiful memories.
You can do something about this by researching whomever is taking your pictures. How often do they take portrait, action and group photos in the same conditions you’ll have at your wedding? A beach with a setting sun behind you changes the lighting requirements considerably. Ask to see your cousin’s photos that he has taken previously. Has he ever taken any party pictures where they cannot be posed and must be taken right at that moment? This is not to put pressure on him but just explain how important your pictures are to you. He may appreciate the escape if he was just volunteering to help you out. If you see that he can take wonderful photos – that’s great! If perhaps you are a bit weary about his abilities, you can invite him to take photos along with a photographer that you choose.
How do you research a photographer? One mistake is to look at the photos he is showing you or has on his web site. Think about this carefully. What pictures would you put on your site? Certainly, they would be the five best. How many pictures and how much time did it take for him to get those five? A better way of seeing what your photographer is capable of is to look through his galleries. Ask to see a sample of an entire wedding. How many pictures would you want from those choices? Was this his work for 30/60/90 minutes which is what you have hired him for? Even more important, if you are having a shorter photography session, you want to be able to have all of the shots that you would still like to have.
Ask your coordinator to give you a list of photographers that you can look at. Do they only have one that comes with every wedding they do? You should have a choice and feel that you can work with that person. Wedding pictures are priceless and are the most looked at pictures when reminiscing. Is your photographer able to do some black and white shots? Does their shots show quality and care? How about creativity or are the shots the same ones everyone has? Of course, there are certain shots that everyone wants but are there some unique ones too? Your photographer should fit your budget, produce quality images, be able to give you options of how many of each that you would like and enlargements if you want to do so, and really care about your wedding almost as much as you do.
Here are some things to ask and think about when choosing a photographer.
- How many weddings does the photographer do in a month? Knowing this will give you an idea of how much time he will spend on editing your shots to get the best looks for you. A better question is will he do editing and touch ups or does this cost extra? When should you expect to be able to see the shots? Does he do albums?
- What equipment does he use? Especially at a destination wedding, you want to know that your photographer has the correct equipment. Filming on a beach in Maui is very different then in your church back home. Make sure that your photographer understands the lighting and has equipment to make those adjustments. If you are having a sunset wedding, it is wonderful to have some silhouette shots but you don’t want all of them to look that way. Lighting is important so make sure he has the equipment to capture those shots.
- Ask the photographer if he does soft focus or does regular shots. Tell him which you prefer. Most brides are going for the clear, well focused, colorful shots but they may like to have some of the soft focus shots. If your photographer doesn’t understand this it may be a hint that he doesn’t do many weddings.
- Does the photographer have a list of photos to choose from so you know what shots you would like? Or, can you give him a list of what you want?
- Definitely discuss payments. Is he included in your package? If not and you are hiring him yourself, what kind of deposit does he require? Should something happen, is it refundable? What forms of payments will he accept and when does he want them?
- If your photographer is included in your wedding package, you will know how long he will shoot and what is included. Ask if you can order all of the pictures and what type of a la carte packages he will offer to you. Can you purchase your digital proofs? If you want him for the reception or extra time, how much will that cost?
Many couples have asked how much they should budget for a photographer. The prices in Maui are very mixed as I am sure they are in most places. I have found excellent photographers who will shoot for 90 minutes for $400. I have also found some not to excellent photographers who will shoot for 60 minutes for $650 and up. I would suggest budgeting somewhere in the $400 to $1000 range for your wedding photos. The $400 would be for the ceremony shots only and then adding a reception, album or all the photos the price will go up. Photographers involved in wedding packages will be the best deals for you if you have your choice of a photographer. A la carte will be more expensive.
By all means you can ask a photographer for the last few couples emails that he worked for and get references. You wouldn’t hire any other person without looking at their reviews or asking them for references. You should do the same for your photographer. Look at his on line reviews and if you are still not sold – ask for references. When checking into his reviews or references, definitely ask about his personality. Did he know what he was doing when posing you and did he do it without barking orders? Was he relaxed and fun? This should be an enjoyable time for you and yet, if you ask most couples, photography became a burden after the ceremony. You should be able to relate to this person so personality really matters.
Maui is very casual but you might not want your photographer looking like a surfer! Ask him what he will be wearing. If you are having a more formal ceremony, make sure they dress the part too. Let the photographer know what you feel is appropriate such as Aloha shirts and shorts or black slacks and a dressier shirt and for the women photographers to also dress well. I am one of those coordinators who expects my photographers to dress in black slacks and shirt or my women photographers in a nice sundress or skirt. Not all photographers do this, so ask!
Happy Halloween – enjoy the costumes, the weird and eerie shots you can take today! Don’t risk it with your wedding photos.