One of the things I really wanted going into the wedding planning process was good photographs. They don’t have to be magazine editorial quality or anything, but I want some really nice photos that we can frame or put on canvas and hang in our living room. Then I started looking at the prices of wedding photographers. The ones that I admired so in their sponsored posts on wedding blogs generally cost more than all the cars I’ve owned put together (granted I’ve owned some crappy cars). Most of the “budget” photography packages with those photographers were a few hundred dollars over my entire budget. Clearly a budget wedding to those people means only spending $10,000-15,000. Then I turned to my trusted friend, Google. I emailed several photographers I liked in the WNC area. All of them started at $700+ for JUST THE CEREMONY. I got similar results with Wedding Wire, though I didn’t go through all of them because they came up with 24 pages of results and virtually none of them listed their prices. I emailed my cousin, Briana, who takes beautiful photographs (she took all of the pictures of the farm on our wedding website). She declined, because she has never shot a wedding before, but she did recommend her friend, Paula Roberts. I am so thankful that she did, because her rates are very reasonable and I really like her work. Her blog is paularobertsphotography.blogspot.com and her website is paularobertsphotography.com. Here are a few things I’ve learned about finding a wedding photographer.
Wedding Photography Is Not The Same As Lifestyle/Landscape/Portrait/Etc Photography
Now that I know a bit more about wedding photography, I’ve very grateful that my cousin didn’t decide to use our wedding as her first foray into wedding photography. Weddings are very important and emotional milestones in our lives, and we put lots of time, money, and energy into planning everything from the venue and the caterer, to the minutia of the decorations and bridesmaids hairpieces. If I’m putting this much effort into hand making all of the bouquets, then I damn well want some great shots of them. Experienced wedding photographers know what shots are important in a wedding and how to get them. They are also experts at capturing the important parts of the ceremony without being intrusive.
I recently read a blog post on Hindsight Bride about a woman who hired her friend to do their wedding photography. Of course, the friend was a professional photographer for a national lifestyle magazine, so what could go wrong? Apparently a lot. He was unprepared and stressed the whole day, and she was very disappointed with her photographs. I’m not saying that her experience is universal for everyone who has hired a non-wedding photographer for their wedding, but it’s a pretty big leap to go from photographing models or still objects in a carefully controlled environment to photographing real people who are in the midst of a big event in an environment you have very little control over.
The Doctor People Lie
There are very talented photographers who are just starting out and may be willing to give you a great price just so they can build their portfolios. There are also people who will misrepresent their skills, experience, and equipment (or straight up lie about them) to make a few bucks. My fiance’s ex-wife at one time fancied herself a photographer. She ordered business cards for her photography business and told everyone about it. One of her coworkers asked her to shoot her daughter’s wedding. Of course, the ex had never done any real photography, let alone a wedding, and didn’t even own a decent camera. So she showed up to the very dimly-lit church with her crappy digital camera and proceeded to take pictures WITHOUT FLASH. The pictures undoubtedly would have been awful in any event, but the fact that she didn’t use flash meant that you couldn’t see anything. Oh, and did I mention it was a black family? Apparently all that you could see of the bride was her white dress. The poor bride had no useable pictures of her wedding day. All of that could have been avoiding if they had just asked to see her portfolio.
Hindsight Bride had a less extreme experience when she decided to hire a student photographer for her wedding. The student also misrepresented herself and showed up with a borrowed camera that she didn’t really know how to use. You can read the rest of the story (and see some of the results) here.
People Are Nice
So there are some crappy people out there who will flat-out lie to your face, but there are also really nice people who will do their best to work with you and your budget. I’m not saying a photographer who normally charges $2500 for all-day coverage will suddenly take $500 for the same service, but they might be willing to do a few hours for less. If you absolutely love a certain photographer who’s just a bit out of your price range, email them and see if they’ll work with you. If good photography is important to you and you haven’t set a date yet, consider getting married on a non-peak day for weddings (basically any day but Saturday) or a non-peak season. Photographers are more likely to do your wedding for less if there’s not much chance of getting a more lucrative engagement.. You can get discounts from other vendors as well for the same reason.
There Are Good, Professional Photographers With Reasonable Prices Out There
It may seem like your photography is doomed to either be crappy or force you to sell a kidney for it, but that’s not the case. The photographers who are featured on sponsored blog posts are the ones who spend a lot of money on advertising. They have to charge more because more advertising means higher overhead. Of course, I know that digging through tons of photographers on Wedding Wire or sifting through pages and pages of Google results is a drag, especially since you have to email 90% of those photographers to even find out if they’re close to your budget. If you have the energy to undertake that project, more power to you. For everyone else, start by asking, not only your friends and family, but also your vendors. We actually found some of Paula’s business cards when we went to a consignment wedding dress shop (of course, we’d already booked her at that point, but it’s nice to know we probably would have found her anyway).
Now the question for us is should we do an engagement photo shoot? Even John has commented about the lack of pictures of the two of us and I think it would be fun. Maybe we’ll find a Groupon/LivingSocial deal for it.