(Adapted from 5 Things Your Photographer Wants You to Know by Emily Takes Photos, on A Practical Wedding.)
The first topic my info session at the wedding showcase covered is “5 Things Your Wedding Photographer Wants You to Know.” I took into account the kinds of questions that I hear on a regular basis, and as I was working on the list I realized how similar it was to Emily’s article that appeared on A Practical Wedding months ago. That makes perfect sense, really, because I think these sentiments come up fairly often in the industry. I can’t speak for every wedding photographer, but here’s my take:
1. It’s important that you like their work AND their personality!
Wedding photographers are not interchangeable! There is a photographer out there for every couple, but it’s not necessarily going to be the same person. Your wedding photographer is going to be with you all day on one of the biggest, most exciting, and emotional days of your life… so you’d better enjoy hanging out with them! Hiring someone you feel friendly with will make you AND your photographer more relaxed, resulting in better photos on your wedding day. Not to mention that they are also one of the only, if not the only, wedding vendors that you will still be working with after your wedding day.
If you like their personality but not their work, remember that this is the final product that you’re going to end up with! So don’t hire someone whose work doesn’t match your tastes, or hire someone thinking that you’ll edit the photos yourself later – after all, isn’t the point of hiring a professional to take the work off of you? And please don’t ask a photographer to make photographs like someone else – we each have our own style, and can’t do our best work if we’re being asked to copy someone else’s.
(Hire a photographer you feel comfortable with = get photos of you looking happy and comfortable! Easy!)
2. Forget The Knot’s list of questions. Ask the questions YOU care about.
All the lists out there have questions like “what kind of camera do you use?”… if you’re thinking about hiring a photographer, chances are good that you’ve already seen and like their work. Is it really necessary to know what equipment they used to make that work? Ask yourself “would I ask this question to another vendor?” (A great example would be asking the baker what oven she used to bake your cake!) Another thing to consider is the trust factor – if you need to ask the person you’re interviewing to be your wedding photographer what they plan to wear to your wedding because you don’t trust them not to wear jeans and flip-flops, maybe consider hiring someone else!
I’ve written a list of 5 questions I think you should ask your wedding photographer, so stay tuned for that!
3. Keep the shot list short and sweet.
Your wedding photographer will usually ask you for a shot list, meaning a list of the different combinations of people you would like to have photographed if you are doing family portraits at your wedding. It’s best to keep this simple by minimizing the number of family combinations you’ll have. This will help keep the family portraits from running long, and keep people from getting bored and antsy while waiting for their turn. A typical way to do this is to have one big family portrait first, with everyone, and then pull people away until it’s just down to the two of you and your parents. Quick and easy!
Think also about the kinds of photos you really want to have: are you going to display photos that don’t include your partner? The two of you should be together in all your portraits… after all, it’s your wedding, not a photo shoot! This is also great for your photographer because instead of focusing on making sure they’ve crossed off everything on the list, they can focus on just doing their job, and getting those great candid moments you really want.
4. The real deal with engagement photos.
It’s not all about staging cheesy 18th century-esque tea parties. Engagement sessions help you know what to expect, so that you’re not going into your wedding blind. You’ll get used to working with your photographer, learn how they operate and how they give direction, and get comfortable in front of the camera.
By seeing the photographs after the session you’ll know what kind of images your photographer can make with you, and that establishes trust. You’ll also create a greater connection with your photographer, so that hopefully on your wedding day you’ll be spending it with a friend instead of a stranger.
5. Why it seems to cost so much.
Finally this last topic is a big one, and I could easily devote an entire blog post to it. It’s hard to write about photography costs in a way that doesn’t seem defensive or self-indulgent, but I’m giving it a try! I hear many times people asking about photographers who charge a “reasonable” price. To me there is no term more subjective than “reasonable” – it often means “what best suits me” or “what fits neatly into the budget,” and that might not be surprising, but it isn’t reasonable. Here’s what really shapes wedding photography pricing:
First, the vast majority of weddings happen on Saturdays, and in Fredericton mostly between June and October. So we are extremely limited in how many days we are able to work. There are 22 weekends in that time frame, and a full load in the wedding industry is generally considered to be 20-30 weddings.
Second, wedding photography is more than just the 6 or 10 or 14 hours spent with you on your wedding day. Each wedding a photographer shoots can represent 40 to 80 hours a work (the “traditional day job” equivalent of 2-4 weeks of work), including the actual photography, the preparation for the wedding day, the correspondence back and forth, the post-production after the fact, the products and services used to deliver your images to you.
Third, since wedding photographers are running businesses, their business income needs to cover their business expenses. This includes all their equipment (cameras, lenses, computer, printer, etc), website hosting, advertising, insurance, professional memberships, education and workshops, paying out income tax, etc.
Fourth, is the experience/demand factor. This is the hardest to define, but just like in every other industry, a more experienced or higher quality photographer will command a higher fee for their work, both because of that experience and quality, and because they are in high demand.
And finally, why do any of us work? To make money to live. So after a professional photographer has been paid for the work they’ve done, and paid their business expenses, we have to pay rent, pay our power bill, and buy groceries (to say nothing of maybe taking a vacation or retiring some day).
Now imagine if you had 22 days to make the money to pay a year’s worth of bills. It suddenly becomes very reasonable to have wedding photography that ranges anywhere from $2000 – $10,000 (dependent on a whole host of factors!). So if you’re seeing photographers offering $500 wedding photography, ask yourself how. Know that they must have other income to pay the bills that professional wedding photographers are paying by photographing weddings. Trust me: nobody gets into wedding photography to get rich. We do it because we love it.
I hope that helps!