Not too long ago a family friend was looking for a wedding photographer and asked me for some help finding one (I had prior commitments on her wedding day). She was overwhelmed with the number of photographers to choose from, and the wide range in prices and services they were charging. She had every right to be confused. Here in Austin, Texas there are nearly 300 Craigslist advertisements for wedding photography services (and this doesn’t include the photographers you get by searching Google) with prices ranging from $200 to over $4,000. I’m not going to get into how much money you should budget for your photographer, and how we wedding photographers are one of the most important aspects of your day — plenty of other wedding photographers have written about that. What I will do is give you a list of things to think about — questions to ask yourself — BEFORE finalizing your budget:
What do you want your photographer to capture? Photographers can spend as little as two hours or as many as 14 hours (or more) photographing your wedding. Decide if you want your photographer there for all of the festivities or maybe you just want (or can only afford) somebody there for the ceremony and some formal portraits afterwards. Including your photographer throughout the entire process from engagement photos to the rehearsal and through the end of the reception has its advantages, but will cost more than having somebody for only a few hours on your wedding day.
Do you want your photographer to bring along a second shooter? When your photographer is taking photos of your first kiss as a newly-married couple, he/she cannot be photographing the expressions on your guests’ faces at the same time. Those are moments you will not see but may not want to miss. There are a lot of details that a second shooter will be able to capture, but may or may not be included in your photographer’s fee.
What do you want from your photographer before the wedding? Some couples want an engagement session to send out “save the date” cards or to have a photograph printed for their guests to sign at the reception. An engagement session is also a great way for you and your photographer to get to know each other better. Some photographers include an engagement session with their wedding packages, and some do not. Find out, from your list of potential photographers, if an engagement session is included or if there is an additional fee.
Do you want your photographer at your wedding rehearsal? I highly recommend this, because it gives the photographer the opportunity to choreograph (for lack of a better word) their movements with the flow of your event. It can also, if at the same time as your wedding, give the photographer a chance to prepare for the available light at your venue. You will have to find out from your list of potential photographers if attending the rehearsal is included in their package price.
What do you expect from your photographer during the event, and what does your photographer expect from you? You and your photographer should work together to formulate some sort of timeline. When/where is hair & makeup? When/where are you getting dressed? Are you and the groom seeing each other before the wedding? All of these should be included in the timeline, even if your times are flexible, to make your day run more smoothly. Some photographers offer same-day slideshows of the ceremony to be played at the reception. Some photographers offer photo booths. Some photographers include these in their packages, some offer them as add-ons, and some do not offer these options at all.
What do you expect from your photographer AFTER the event? Do you want prints, digital files, albums, an online gallery, canvases, all of the above, or some of the above? Some photographers offer only high-resolution digital files which allow the couple to make prints wherever they’d like. This is a very flexible and popular option, but honestly ask yourself this: Am I ever going to get around to making that wedding album? Even if you are internet-savvy and creative, life has a funny way of speeding right on by. It might be worth it to have your photographer design and print an album for you and your family. And again, some photographers offer these goods and services in their packages, some offer them as add-ons, and some do not offer these at all.
How do you expect your photographer to interact with your guests? Some photographers like to be part of the celebration during the reception. Are you ok with your photographer having a couple, or few, drinks? Personally, I advise against it. There are too many things that can go wrong when alcohol is involved. Either way, make sure you are clear before hiring your photographer so there are no surprises on your big day.
Now that you have thought about what kinds of services and goods you want from your wedding photographer, look at what you have budgeted for your photographer. Have you budgeted a reasonable amount of money? If so, hire the best photographer your budget allows, and hire right away as wedding photographers book well in advance.
Of course, if you are looking for a wedding photographer in the Austin or San Antonio areas, give me a call or email me. I would be happy to go over my wedding packages with you. And, if you are NOT in the Austin or San Antonio areas, let me know. I am available for travel or can recommend a photographer near you.