Avoid The Biggest Mistake On Your Wedding Day
What YOU Should Know About Wedding Photography Prices
By Rick DeLorme, Master of Photography, DeLorme Photography, Lapeer MI
As you are researching wedding photography prices and making plans for the wedding of your dreams, the selection of a wedding photographer will be one of your most important decisions. This may be the only day of your life when all of your most important relatives and friends are together for you. Your wedding day will be remembered though the eyes, the heart, the talent and the hard work of your photographer.
You should first decide what kind of priority you will place on your wedding photography. If you don't mind that your wedding photographs will look like point-and-shoot snapshots, then a small investment shouldn't be a problem. Even a friend or relative may be able to provide photographs that are good enough.
Given the current economy, there are many newcomers who are making some quick money by offering photographic services for a thousand dollars or less. However, given the photographer's limited education, limited experience and minimal entry level equipment, the usual result is snapshot quality images with amateur, flash-on-camera lighting recorded to a CD . So the low price reflects the photographer's perception of the value and quality of the photography.
What has happened to wedding albums in the past few years? With so many photographers offering only files on a CD, fewer professionally prepared and composed wedding albums are being produced. Gorgeous wedding albums with a wow factor are becoming the rarest and most spectacular way to see and share your wedding day. The best wedding albums are composed by hand, page-by-page, without the use of templates. For wedding albums that stand out against all others, DeLorme Photography is the place to go.
So many wedding couples have regreted their choice of a wedding photographer that top photographers now offer a second chance photography package to recreate photographs at the church, outdoors and even at the reception venue if possible.
So do it right the first time! If you want beautiful wedding memories, you may choose to have a well-trained, talented, experienced, Master of Photography create your wedding images and produce a creatively composed wedding album of enhanced photographs. Excellent wedding photography requires years of investment and study by a talented photographer.
For photographers who offer the best work, what happens in the camera is only the first step, even with beautiful lighting. The second step is photographic enhancement including facial retouching, scene-enhancing art work, body shaping and other tricks of the trade. The third step is to create beautifully-composed page collages placed in an archival, flush-mount, panorama-style wedding album. Photographers who produce this kind of work want only the highest level of photography associated with their name. The best photographers make the additional investment to have their work printed as real color chemistry photographs by a professional imaging company and then have their creations bound by a top book binder. An exquisite wedding album is a huge project and a beautiful storybook of your wedding day is an investment that will last for generations. You should expect to invest a minimum of $1500 to $2000 for photography at this level.
Some photographers offer wedding packages for $1000 or less. However, no photographer can work at a professional level, provide professional quality products and stay in business in this price range. Cheap wedding photographers would earn more for their work if they could. No one works for less than they are worth.
So .... It is important to ask the right questions before commissioning a wedding photographer. After your wedding day has passed, all you will have to remember this most important event will be your photographs. If they are less than you had hoped, there will be no way to repeat them. Your photographer will have just one chance to create your memories and such an important responsibility should be entrusted only to an experienced professional. Among wedding photographers, there is a wide range of training, talent, style, professionalism and willingness to put forth the extra effort to create the most beautiful images.
It is very important to visit photographers and see their work. A less effective method to select a photographer is to call many photographers to ask for price lists. Price lists give you only numbers and very limited information about the real value of photography and service.
The following questions are provided to help you interview and select the photographer that will best suit your needs. A comment follows each question.
THIRTY-FIVE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
1. Do you offer the lowest prices? Comment: The best photographers do not offer the lowest prices. Please keep in mind that every photographer wants to earn as much as his/her work is worth. So what kind of photographer offers the lowest prices? Will you be happy with that kind of photography?
2. Are you a full-time MASTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY in business for fifteen years or more and is 100% of your income derived from your photography business? Comment: A Master of Photography has demonstrated a high level of competence to some of the most critical individuals in the field of photography. Only three percent of the 22,000 members of the Professional Photographers of America have earned this distinction. And a full-time photographer who owns his/her business is far more likely to have a passion for photography and take great pride in his/her work. Through experience and continued education such photographers constantly strive for new and better ways of creating images and wedding albums. On the other hand, there are a lot of newcomers who have recently picked up a digital camera, a lens and a flash and think that they can make quick money photographing weddings.
3. During the initial consultation, will I be shown complete, real wedding albums that are produced by the photographer who will photograph my wedding? Comment: Of course you should. And each album should represent a complete wedding day, not just a few lucky shots from several different weddings.
4. Do you attach a flash to your camera in any way whatsoever? Comment: Light that comes from the camera makes everyone look wider and flatter, washes out detail in the bride's dress, makes foregrounds brighter and makes backgrounds darker. Flash-on-camera lighting makes photographs look like they were made with a point-and-shoot snapshot camera. Multiple, off-camera sources of light are more flattering, produce much more detail and make all photos look more three-dimensional.
5. Will the owner of the studio photograph my wedding or will I get a staff photographer? Comment: Of course, the studio owner will be better than a staff photographer.
6. Do you use an assistant for your wedding assignments? Comment: Quality photography and professional lighting require an assistant.
7. Will you be flexible and meet with me to plan my wedding day as I want it to be? Comment: Good photographers should have only two rules: 1. Give them enough time to do what you want done AND 2. It must look GOOD. Your photographer should be flexible and accommodating.
8. A few days before my wedding day, will you have a planning session with me and my fiancee so that our wedding day will be as we want it to be? Comment: Planning is critical to a smooth-running, stress-free wedding day. A photographer should know how to make your day flow just as you want, with a minimum of stress.
9. Will you then produce many copies of the itinerary produced during our planning session so that I may distribute them at my rehearsal dinner? Comment: The answer should be yes.
10. What percent of your photographs are posed? Comment: The only posed photos made on your wedding day should be those you request during a planning session. Everything else should be caught in the act.
11. Will you do almost all the formal photography before the ceremony and help me plan the photography so that I will not be late for my reception? Comment: Even if the bride and groom do not want to be together before the ceremony, most of the posed photographs can be completed before the ceremony when they fit better in the flow of the day.
12. Do you do posed photographs at the reception? Comment: The reception is the worst place for posed photographs. The reception is party time when a photographer should capture all the fun as it really happens.
13. Do you do photojournalism and black and white photography? Comment: Most wedding day photographs should not be posed and black and white photographs should be made at no additional charge.
14. Will you provide unlimited time on my wedding day? Comment: Many photographers set up their packages based on the amount of time they will spend with you on your wedding day. Others offer unlimited time for nearly all their wedding packages.
15. Will you provide an unlimited number of images from which I may make my selections? Comment: Why not? The entire day should be well covered from start to finish.
16. Do you usually produce more than seven or eight hundred images during a full wedding coverage? Comment: The answer should be yes.
17. Do you include a CD of all photos with your least expensive package? Comment: The best photographers do not do this. Why? Because they care so much about the quality of their work. Images taken straight out of thecamera and printed at a department store will be a poor reflection of the quality of a photographer's work. Photographers who work at the bottom of the profession offer their images on a CD. So what you would get are snapshot-quality images straight out of the camera. Photographers who offer images on a CD rarely perform creative enhancements to the images. Remember that photographers make a living by selling the images they create, not by giving them on a CD with inexpensive wedding packages. Why must some photographers give away everything for a relatively low price while others are able to earn more for their work? How good do you want your photographer and your photography to be?
18. Do you use the latest, state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line, highest quality professional digital cameras, lighting, computers and software? Comment: The best photographers do. Others may skimp in this area. Let your photographer personally tell you about his/her gear. Photographers who have to work in the lowest price ranges typically use a minimum of entry-level equipment (and place the flash on the camera).
19. Can you bring to the church an entire portrait studio with a hand-painted canvas background and multiple studio lights to do spectacular portraits of all the important people? Comment: Classic portraiture will always be in style. Good photographers should be able to do classic portraiture as well as posed photography in sanctuary scenes and outdoor scenes. And you should be able to choose.
20. At my reception, will you use several, tiny, radio-controlled flash units hidden around the room to make my reception photographs really spectacular? Comment: Quality lighting is done with very unobtrusive, radio-controlled flash units. Flash should not come from the camera.
21. When you show me my wedding pictures for the first time, can I see them as wall-portrait-size images on a professional digital video system with music? Comment: What a joy to see your wedding photographs on a large HD screen!
22. Will any proof-quality photographs be placed in my wedding album? Comment: The answer should be no. Quality wedding photography typically involves twenty or more hours of facial retouching and other enhancements as part of the production process.
23. How many hours will you and your assistants work on my wedding? (Before, during and after my wedding day) Comment: Quality wedding photography with quality wedding albums typically requires 50 or more total hours.
24. Does my package include an engagement photo session with indoor and outdoor settings photographed in Michigan or on the beach in Florida? Comment: Why not!
25. Do all of your packages include quality flush-mount, panorama-style custom made albums such as Leather Craftsmen, Zookbinders, Pictobooks or Millers? Comment: The answer should be yes.
26. Do your wedding packages include retouching of faces, scene enhancing art work, page collages and body shaping to make people look their best? Comment: Yes again.
27. Will you help me plan my album (and the parents' albums) to tell the most beautiful story of my wedding day with a selection of creative album composition techniques? Comment: The best photographers don’t just give you images to review on your own. You should not have to try and struggle with what to include and how to compose your wedding album. You should have final approval of your wedding album design.
28. How much will I pay you before the wedding for the coverage that I want and how much more will I be likely to pay after seeing the images to make the best album possible? Comment: This is a reasonable question that should be answered directly.
29. Are the retainer and my other payments refundable? Comment: After paying your retainer and making the agreement for photographic services, you should have time to change your mind if you want to.
30. Has your photography won state and national awards? Comment: The best photographers go to a wedding assignment with the hope of creating something so spectacular that some images may be entered in international competition. The best photographers have earned national merit awards and have earned the title of Master of Photography.
31. When you make the portraits of my fiancee and me, will you do a facial analysis to determine the best way to light and pose us? How will you do a facial analysis. Comment: Ask, listen and judge the answer.
32. What is your educational background? Have you achieved any advanced college degrees? How have you been trained in photography? Comment: Again, ask, listen and judge the answer.
33. Are you an active member of professional photography associations including the Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, The Professional Photographers of Michigan, The Detroit Professional Photographer's Association and the Mid-Michigan Professional Photographer's Association? Comment: The answer should be yes! These associations and their affiliated schools set the standards of excellence and education for professional photographers.
34. Has every photograph on your web site been created solely by yourself? Comment: Most definitely, YES! And many should be available as wall-portrait-size photographs in the photographer’s studio. Some photographers buy their web site images from stock photography companies or from the company who produced their web site. Look for many photographs from the same wedding rather than one "lucky" capture or one image that a photographer purchased to show as his/her own. Also, if a photographer is located in your area, you should see a lot of familiar scenes in the photographer's work. You can always ask where a photo was taken in an attempt to verify that the photograrpher actually created the image.
35. What kind of car do you have? Comment: You want to be sure that your photographer has dependable transportation. Photographers who must work in the lower price ranges may not only have poor photographic equipment and limited training but may also have unreliable transportation. Keep in mind that all wedding photographers would like to make a good living photographing weddings. So why do some photographers offer low prices?
I wish that everyone could hear the disappointing stories of brides who have visited my studio lately. They have been bridesmaids in other weddings and have seen what happened when a friend selected a photographer based only on price. It seems that quite a number of brides have been unhappy with their photographer and their photography. Brides who choose DeLorme Photography will never have this worry.
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