You’re doing your wedding planning. You’re choosing a wedding photographer. And to prepare yourself friends gave you questions to ask, on top of which you’ve made a list from wedding blogs. You’re looking at wedding photography websites and reading wedding photographer reviews. You’re ready to take copious notes as you meet photographers, do your due diligence, compare, but all the while you’re thinking:
Oh my goodness – isn’t there an easier way?
There is. I’m a wedding photographer and frankly, whenever I’ve interviewed photographers, I’ve never ever asked the questions you see in bridal magazines.
The reason’s simple. Those questions don’t give me what I really need to know.
When I got married some years back, we needed to find a photographer in a different state where I didn’t know a single soul. We were forced to start from scratch. So we went about choosing our photographer using three simple steps. And this made it so simple to find the best match for what we wanted.
Since then, I’ve told others about this method when they were choosing wedding photographers and it’s helped them too. So if you follow these same steps in sequence, you’re going to have an easier time with less legwork finding the photographer who fits you best.
Here’s why: I bottom-lined the selection process to what I know are its three most important priorities guaranteed to give me the best outcome. Then I set those priorities in their proper order.
They don’t teach you this stuff in magazines. So let me show you what we did.
Top Priority: The Photographer’s Portfolio.
Many couples place this at a lower priority. That’s a mistake. They compromise their photos by getting someone who’s “good enough.” But good enough isn’t good enough. Call me fussy, but it’s another way of saying, “they’re merely adequate.”
I’m saying you have to love, love, love the work. So much so that if the portfolio you’re looking at were your wedding photos, you’d be beyond thrilled.
Every delighted couple I’ve ever spoken to has always said it was all about the photos for them. Couples who felt indifferent, or worse, didn’t enjoy their photos after their wedding, always seemed to have compromised on this one point. That’s the consequence of compromising on the wedding images and that’s the one area which isn’t negotiable.
They compromised for all sorts of reasons. It could be budget considerations. Or the photographer’s personality trumped their work and won them over. Or maybe the photographer was chosen primarily because he or she was recommended by a friend, relative or the venue. Or gave a “good deal.”
But here’s the reason why loving the portfolio has to be the non-negotiable top priority:
No matter what else is involved, the photography’s going to be the thing you end up with.
I reasoned that after the wedding we won’t care what we paid except to either view it as money wasted if we weren’t thrilled or money well spent if we were. But we’re sure going to be looking at the photos. And for a long time. They’d better be more than great so that we’re thrilled. Otherwise there isn’t any point to it.
I’m not saying we disregarded our budget or that you should disregard yours. Obviously if someone’s way out of what you can afford, you’re not going to book that photographer. But I know that if we started our search by only looking based on a budget number, we would be excluding ourselves from seeing probably better photographers that may turn out to be only be a few dollars difference more. And here’s the key: Those dollars would come from another part of the overall budget we could easily reassign. A part of the wedding budget that’s not the same priority.
And if all we need to do is amend the wedding budget then our total wedding budget wouldn’t change — only the parts of it allocated to photography. So it made sense to keep an open mind but see only photographers whose work thrilled us.
The added benefit is we got a better sense of what kind of budget we’d realistically need for the caliber of photographer we truly wanted, instead of hoping for a price or guessing at a price or running around town wasting our time trying to find a price that fit a predetermined number.
Once we had that list my next priority was to meet them and see if we all felt a good connection. Because there needs to be good rapport.
This is another area that people mis-prioritize. They end up with a photographer that may fit their budget, whose photos seem good — but the photographer mars the experience with their presence, sad to say. And that taints the wedding photos forever because it’s difficult to separate the memory of the photo with a bad memory of the photographer who took it. After the wedding, pricing is no longer an issue but a lingering bad experience can continue to be an issue. Just ask any bride who’s been the victim of an obnoxious, unprofessional wedding photographer.
That can easily be avoided by making rapport a higher priority over budget. Which is why I placed it second in my priority order.
The other mistake many wedding couples make at this stage is they prioritize the photographer’s personality over best photo quality. But again, after the wedding, I’m not looking for the photographer’s personality when I look at the photos. Make no mistake. I want the personality to have been pleasurable, but I want the photos to be the best.
So if you’ve found a portfolio you love from a photographer who you connect with, now is when you narrow that list to where you’re comfortable with the budget.
I save price for last priority and here’s the big reason why: You can’t change the photographer’s talent, skills, expertise, and all that goes into the photos. You can’t change looking at your photos and saying “this seems okay” to “wow, this looks amazing!” You can’t change the photographer’s character and people skills from poor to excellent.
But you can change the budget. And you probably also can have the photographer customize something to better fit a price you can afford.
Fact is if you get the first two priorities right but don’t exactly get the price you want, odds are you’re still probably way better off and will be happier with the results than couples who get the price right – but mess up the first two priorities.
So it’s really that simple. Find a portfolio you love. Make sure you’re comfortable with the photographer. Then nail the price. Anything more than that, such as album choices, turnaround times, should fall into place – because there’s nothing which beats making sure you’re thrilled with your photos and choosing the best wedding photographer.
**G.E. Masana (portrait artist and Huffington Post contributer) As Seen In HUFFINGTON POST | MARTHA STEWART WEDDINGS | THE KNOT | NEW YORK MAGAZINE | BRIDAL GUIDE | BRIDES | STYLE ME PRETTY | ELEGANT BRIDE | GRACE ORMONDE | WELLWED | TOWN&COUNTRY **
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