Choosing the right wedding photographer

Now that you have taken out the time to find out the style and type of wedding pictures that you like it's time to hunt for the right wedding photographer for you. Believe me you are in a much better position now than 90% of the brides who don't have any idea about how to choose the right wedding photographer. Some brides get so overwhelmed that they end up hiring someone who may not be the best fit for them.

Ok, so here are some points you should be keeping in mind when you choose your wedding photographer.

1) The style of photography

I know we have covered this in our last blog about knowing what style resonates with you. Most of the times when I meet with potential clients, they say the same thing. They want natural,unposed documentation of their wedding from someone who isn't going to interrupt the natural flow of the day. The good news is, many wedding photographers are moving towards this kind of wedding photography. With the exception of a few traditional photographers. I personally like to use a combination of photojournalism and art in my photography. I know there is nothing worse than being poked and prodded and posed all day while you forget to enjoy your day and just go through the motions. So start looking up the websites, FB pages to the photographers that you like.

2) Lighting & Composition

So how do you know if the photographer is good. More importantly what makes a good photo? What should you be looking for when you look at a wedding photographers portfolio?

I think it all comes down to storytelling. Each photographer has a personal take on the best way to tell a story through photos. There are a few variables that photographers manipulate that will make all the difference from one portfolio to the next: The 2 most important elements to look for are Lighting and Composition

Let me explain about lighting first one of the best ways to understand lighting is to hold up a book towards a window. Then start rotating the book back and forth and look at the different ways shadows are cast on the book as you move it around. If you face the book directly at the window, the light falls very evenly and cleanly, but if you start moving the book at a ninety degree angle away from the window, it creates shadows that make book look soft and dramatic. This is what photographers do all day. Play with light. So as youíre looking through photographers portfolios,you will start to notice that different photographers have different preferences. Some photographers prefer really clean photos that makes the world look light and airy, while others use light to create mood and emotion. For example, look at the photos below. They are of the same bride, taken moments apart, but the light is totally different, and therefore the photos are totally different. 

now that you have learnt how to look through photographersí portfolios, pay close attention to the lighting quality in the pictures. Are they dark and moody? Bright and romantic? Each photographer has a certain style, and there will most likely be one that you like more than others. One important thing to consider is how does the photographer handle light in different situations because the light during the wedding and the receptions will be completely different. Every lighting situation is different for photographers, so make sure you are looking at photos that have similar characteristics to your venue. 

After lighting, the next thing you want to look at in someone's portfolio is composition.This basically means, how did they set up the photo? Even when photographers are capturing moments as they happen, we are still looking for interesting ways to tell the story. Take the below photo, for example. It uses a different composition but achieves nice results. By doing this, not only do your eyes know exactly where to go the moment you look at the photo, but you also get the added storytelling. As you look through portfolios, ask yourself: Are all the photos taken from the same perspective and angle? How does the photographer make things more interesting? Are there moments like this picture below, where they get down underneath the action? Anything that makes you feel like you are in the moment is good composition.

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3) Consitency

This is another important point as most photographers will only put their best images on their website and social media pages. This is absolutely fine as everybody wants to only show their best body of work. However, before you finalize with anyone one you ask to see a few weddings from start to finish. If you see that the images are consistent in their quality only then should you go ahead.

4) Specialization 

There are many photographers who do everything. They do weddings, maternity, baby, events, corporate and anything else that they can get their hands on. I would prefer to go with a specialist rather than a generalist because each niche of photography takes a long time to master. After all if you have a tooth ache would you go to a dentist or a general physician. This is also exactly the same reason i would advise that you hire a professional wedding photographer than a weekend amateur photographer.

5) Who are you really paying

This is a tricky one and i might be crucified for writing this. There are a few hi end wedding photographers who started with all the right reasons and when they got all the success they quickly started outsourcing their work to other photographers of lesser quality. So you end up thinkinging you have hired the best available but actually you are paying big bucks for someone else. Be clear on who you are hiring and know that the images that you see on the website are the same images shot by the photographer who is going to shoot for your wedding. 

6) Art Vs Commercial Photographers

I know a lot of wedding photographers who are in the professions only for the money. However there are some professionals who do it only for the art. The idea is to find a photographer who has a balance between art and money because if the photographer is only interested in money he will not be able to sustain in this highly competitive industry and if he does it only for art then he may not be doing justice to himself and his family. Such hi on art photographers would also find it beneath them to take shots that are not artistic enough and thereby losing a moment for you.

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7) Investment

Ok so how much should you pay to your wedding photographer. Before i get into this, i want you to consider what impact the pictures are going to make for your matrimony. I would suggest you look at the lifetime value of these images and then decide for yourself how much you should be investing.
Instead of asking why is wedding photography expensive, ask yourself this:
“Why is the cheap wedding photography, cheap?”
* What corners are they cutting?
* Are they using the right equipment?
* How much experience do they have?

There are many reasons why there are so many cheap photographers out there. Here are some of the most common ones:

Lack of Skills
Some amateur photographers enter the market and start shooting weddings because they want to make some additional money. But they do so without having the knowledge required to be a wedding photographer.
Most professional wedding photographers on the other hand invest a lot of time perfecting their skills which makes a huge difference in their body of work. You will see consistency, attention to detail and an ever expanding body of work, not to mention the endless hours of work to make all of this happen. This is one of the most important but easily missed points when you see a professional and an amateurs portfolio.

Low Quality of work
Now you could also point out that there are also some photographers who have been around for 15-20 years but still charge very little. Sometimes even less than the newcomers.
This is because their quality of photos and service are so poor that nobody sees any value in their work. So they have no choice but to charge very little to maintain a stream of income.

So why do the quality photographers charge what they do?
Other than the physical products offered, photography is not a commodity business. It’s a mixture of many. Photography is an art, a skill and a service.
For a wedding photographer, it’s not a case of turning up and taking a few shots and then handing you a disk of images. There is a lot more involved in creating the perfect memory of your wedding.
Let’s take a look at some of the main costs a wedding photographer must consider when working out their prices.

a) Labour (Actual)
The most important (and obvious) part is the labour. An average wedding can last from anything between 8-14 hours.
Your photographer will most likely arrive long before the main event. They’ll capture the small details. Things like the bride and groom getting ready, decorations, venue layout etc.
During the wedding, they will be running around, ducking, diving, crawling and sometimes climbing! All to catch those moments that would otherwise be missed.
Doing all that for 8-14 hours is draining.
And to ensure they capture everything, they will have taken between 800 – 1500+ photos by the end of the day. Sometimes more.

b) Unseen Labour
Most people are unaware that a photographer’s job does not end when the wedding does. It’s not uncommon for people to think that it’s a simple case of downloading the images and putting them on a disk.
The fact is, while the newlywed’s jet off on honeymoon, the photographer is still working on their photos.
Depending on how many photos they captured, they could spend anything from 5-14 days processing all the images of the day. Generally, processing involves selecting the best images, cropping if needed and getting the colour tones right .
Now, let’s see how many actual hours are needed to complete 1 wedding shoot. We’ll assume it takes the photographer 5-10 working days to process the photos. And a further 2 working days to design a custom album and another 2 days to travel ( for out location shoots)
* 2 hours – Pre-Wedding Consultation
* 3 hours – Prepping for shoot
* 8-14 hours – Wedding Day
* Travel to and from wedding (2 Days for out location shoots)
* 40 hours – Post Production
* 16 hours – Album Design
* 3 hours – Admin Work (emails, calls, accounts etc)
Total Hours worked: 74-100 hours

And that’s only for labour at the very basic and minimal level of service. You then have to take into account all the other costs involved in running a business.

c) Equipment
The equipment your photographer brings to the shoot is no ordinary camera equipment. Professional digital cameras and lenses can cost anything from INR 300,000 – 500,000.
And that’s just for the primary camera body and lens! A good photographer will always bring a backup camera (or cameras) as well as various types of lenses in case the primary fails.
They also need batteries, memory cards, filters, flashes and other lighting equipment. Then there’s the cost of computers and professional photo editing software like Photoshop. Plus, there’s also the cost of upgrading every time a newer version is available.

d) Experience / Education
Most wedding photographers didn’t just buy a camera one day and decide; “I’m going to photograph weddings!”
Professional photographers invest a lot of time and money on education. That includes courses, seminars, workshops, books on-the-job training etc
Even after gaining the knowledge, they spend years perfecting their practical skills. Things like lighting techniques and posing etc.

e) Business

All good photographers invest a good portion of their time and money in marketing and professionally running their business, if they dint they wouldn't survive in the long run. For this they would they would need to hire experts to do it for them. A professional website designer, an accountant and a social media experts are critical for running the business

So you can see how top end wedding photographers invest a lot of time and money developing their skills. They invest in their business to provide a reliable wedding photography service. And they do this because they are passionate about photography and your wedding.
They take great pride in their work. Most will go above and beyond to capture moments in the most artistic, creative and meaningful way.
Considering all this, can you really place a monetary value on memories?
Most newcomers are equally passionate and skilled. But they may lack the necessary experience and knowledge to cope with the pressures of photographing a wedding. Will they know what to look out for? Are they able to anticipate when certain moments will happen? Can they communicate with guests of all different personalities? Do they know which piece of their equipment to use in different situations? But most importantly, will they know how to capture everything in the best way to reflect the mood of each given moment?
Next time you receive a quote and think it’s a bit high, take all the above into consideration, before making a decision.
Ask the photographer key questions and find out more about them and base your decision on that.
* Check the photographer’s portfolio. Are the photos up to the standards you require?
* Do they use professional equipment?
* How much experience have they had photographing weddings or events?
* Are they passionate about your wedding and their work in general?
In the end, it is your wedding day, and you should go with what you feel is right for you. Remember, hiring a photographer is not a purchase, it’s an investment. As with any kind of investment, you get what you pay for!
If you’re struggling with the budget, try cutting back on other parts of the wedding. Not the photography. When the honeymoon’s over, your photographs are all you’ll have left to remind you of your special day.
You need to ask yourself “How important are memories of your wedding to you and your family?”

8) Attitude

Personally this is one of the most important point. Can you trust your wedding photographer completely. You want your wedding photographer to be very flexible and adapt to different situations with ease because weddings are always chaotic and if you have a photographer with complaining attitute then they will be a pain to deal with. 

9) Contract

I know this is still not very important for all the brides but having a wedding photography contract makes it absolutely clear to each party of the expectations in black and white. This ensures that there are no misunderstandings later on.