In a market absolutely flooded with photographers, clients often wonder what exactly they are getting for their money, and many wonder how to choose a wedding photographer.
It’s not an easy choice. I know, I’ve been a bride in your same position, and it was overwhelming even for me. But I knew what key points to look for and that really helped narrow it down. I hope these help you on the quest to find the right photographer for you!
It’s ok, I know not everyone has a big budget for wedding photography. It’s difficult to quantify the worth of images because everyone values them differently, so all I can quantify is how much my time, experience, and equipment is worth to me. Did you know most weddings take up about 40 hours of my time? That includes consultations, planning the timeline, going over last minute details, photographing the wedding, editing the images, and preparing them for delivery. All of this adds up to the number that I charge for my work, and the fact that I do not bargain or adjust my prices for anyone; you know you are paying the same price as every other one of my clients.
In terms of a wedding, some clients value the dress they will wear higher than the DJ, photographer or florist, so that’s where they invest their money (and that’s ok!). The cake will be eaten, the music will fade, the flowers will wilt and die, but the photographs will remain as heirlooms to pass down to your children and grandchildren.
But once you decide on your budget, that will help you narrow down choices just based on cost. Then comes the creative side of the decision!
There are soooo many photographic styles out there. Do you like the light and airy look? The saturated/contrasty look? Vibrant and crisp? Maybe dark and moody? Do you like all Black and White, some B&W or none at all? Do you like to be posed, or are you looking for a photojournalistic photographer who will just kind of follow you around and photograph the moments as they happen? Take some time, look at galleries, search websites, peruse Pinterest, and as you start to notice a trend in the type of images that jump out at you, you can narrow down your preferred style.
Then, start looking for a photographer who embodies that style. I cannot stress this enough: ASK FOR FULL GALLERIES. If a photographer is posting 1 or 2 photographs per wedding on their website/social media, you can bet those are the very best photographs from that event. But, what about the not-so-very-best images? Those images are still ones you might receive as a deliverable. So ask for those full galleries and make sure you are ok with what past clients have gotten, because that’s the best way to judge what you can expect to receive. Also make sure that the photographer has a consistent editing style.
If you are having a wedding on a beautiful partly sunny or overcast day with a gorgeous venue, then congratulations, you are lucky. Also, a less experienced photographer would probably fare ok there, because there’s no significant lighting challenge. However, if the weather is anything but perfect, or if there’s bright overhead sunlight, or if you are going to be celebrating into the night in a low-light environment, you might really want to consider finding someone who really knows how to manipulate and work around any lighting challenges. This includes too much light, not enough light, rain, snow, etc.
Additionally, I think part of my job is to manage any family members who may be disruptive during valuable portrait time. I am super diplomatic, yet very effective at telling Uncle Bob that he really needs to step out of the way with the iPad so I can complete the formal portraits and allow you and your wedding party to enjoy cocktail hour. Not everyone is comfortable doing that and precious time gets wasted.
One true sure sign of a true professional photographer is not just having the right equipment, but having backups. When I am working on site at a wedding, anything could happen. I might drop my camera. One of my flashes might just up and die. One of my lenses might stop focusing properly. I might lose a locking pin out of my light stand. But you know what? None of that would be a big deal, because I have backups of everything. And those backups are just as high quality as the main piece of equipment, so rest assured that no matter what happens to my gear, you will still get awesome images.
Don’t hesitate to ask if the photographer is shooting with a full frame camera. Does the camera have dual card slots so that if one card fails, the other card has a copy of all the files on it? Sometimes you can get a bad memory card, or damage the card when pulling it out of the camera. It sure would be a shame to lose images that way.
Will your photographer set up flashes/lights on light stands to illuminate your reception with off-camera flashes? Not all photographers do. That’s such an important question to ask.
Does the wedding coverage fee cover an engagement session, any digital files, prints, albums, or just the wedding photography itself? Are you limited on how many images you’ll get at the end? Do you receive the print release for the images so that you can print them at will, or do you need to print them through the photographer? If you’re on a strict budget, this is especially important to understand so you don’t have to splurge on deliverables after the wedding is paid for (or so you thought anyway).
The wedding is over, the images are taken, and you can’t wait to see them. But how long will you actually be waiting? When you sign a contract with a photographer (please, please sign a contract…it will protect both you and the photographer!), it should outline the amount of time you will be waiting to see your finished images. Some photographers are 12-14 weeks. Some are 3-6 weeks. There’s no wrong or right answer, we all work at different paces, and all have different workloads, but the worst thing is when a client doesn’t know they will have to wait those 12 weeks, and 2 weeks after the wedding are wondering where their pictures are. For the record, my contract promises finished galleries within 30 days.
I am a full time professional photographer, which means I am fully committed to my clients and they are my only priority. At any given photo session, whether it be a 25 minute family mini session or a 10 hour wedding, I have thousands of dollars of camera gear, investing thousands of additional dollars a year in the newest and best equipment. I earned a 4 year Bachelors of Arts degree, during which I took lots of photography classes, and I’ve also spent considerable time and money furthering my own education. I think even though I am established as a business, it’s important that I take time to learn new skills that will improve both my photography and my clients’ experiences as any good professional in any field would want to. This means that behind my images there’s not just knowledge of camera settings and light, but of composition, lighting, and posing for all body types.
Many times when I am first talking to a perspective client, they take the price of my photography packages and divide by the number of hours of coverage each package comes with. The thing is, my services do not start and end with the actual photography on your wedding day. Included in the services is all of the education and preparation that has gone into my craft. Truly no one can just pick up a camera and instantly be an excellent photographer. People are born with an artistic eye, an affinity for working with their subjects and making them feel comfortable in front of the camera, and maybe even a good sense of how to make a business profitable. They don’t inherently know how to choose the best settings for any given lighting situation, make a dark, select the right lens to make small room appear bigger and brighter, or process RAW files to be the best JPG’s they can possibly be. All of those are skills that I personally feel are vital to my profession, and thus I’ve taken the time to grow and hone those skills. Fun fact: I am also really, really good at pinning boutonnières and folding pocket squares.
But mostly, I work my butt off to give you my best work. Every time I am out there working, I am working like it’s the last wedding or portrait session I will ever do. I am giving it 200% effort and all of my attention. Because this day is all about YOU and your SPOUSE. It’s not about your bridesmaids, or your parents, or your annoying cousin who’s insisting on bringing her kids even though you are having a kid-free wedding. Nope, it’s about YOU TWO LOVEBIRDS. Thus, I am there for you. I will listen and care about what you want. I will give you my honest professional feedback on any ideas you have, aiming to make it all work in the unique situations at your wedding. I do not take this responsibility lightly!
Polar Square Designs is:
I think it’s very important to give back to the community, so I volunteer my design services for the Rhode Island SPCA every year, designing a logo for a large annual event they host. I am also an official Magic Hour Photographer and am on the list to be contacted by this incredible organization if a local family affected by cancer would like a complimentary family portrait session.
What does all of this mean for my clients?
My clients can expect the most professional service, highest quality images, most beautiful archival prints and products, and my commitment to their happiness. I have spent years building my business and reputation, and want each of my clients to feel like they are my most important clients. My clients know exactly what they can expect as a finished product, and I work with them through the planning process to set expectations and timelines so that there are no surprises on the wedding day. I partner with a professional colour lab that produces prints and products for professional photographers only, which means that your images will be printed with a level of quality that no non-professional has access to. I stand behind my work and guarantee that you will love your prints. If for any reason you are not totally satisfied, I will re-print at no charge. I work with other vendors, including your venue, DJ and Videographer, to present a harmonious and professional team that’s never clashing or competing for your time or space.
Most of all, I am totally, 100% transparent. Want to see full galleries? No problem! Want to talk to a former client to hear exactly what they thought? Sure! Want to meet in person to see if we mesh? I’d love that! Have any questions about anything at all? I am happy to answer them or refer you to someone who can! My prices, packages and exactly what they include are all listed on my website.