Over the last few weeks, I've been helping you figure out how to go about hiring your next photographer. In part 1, we discussed personality and the effect it can have on your big day. Next we discussed the importance of not just a portfolio of the photographer's best images, but requesting to see an entire session or event gallery. This lets you see beyond that one great shot they posted from that one wedding. You can see what the REST of the wedding or session looked like and if the photographer's skills were consistent throughout the various issues, surprises and light variations.
This week we move on to our third topic in our four part series - priorities.
When you're searching for the right photographer for your needs, you should first spend a little time figuring out your priorities for that event. What you decide in this area will lead you in the appropriate direction.
1. Quality images?
2. Service? Wall art? Digitals?
I assume most of you will say yes to #1. No one really searches for a photographer hoping to find a low quality service. And yet, in our digital environment, that is what you'll need to weed through. Just about everyone has a fancy camera now and our lives are inundated with low quality images. Snapshots from your iPhone are perfectly acceptable for social media and even your scrapbook...but not your living room wall. If you're going to invest time and money in a session, get the best quality you can find for your budget range. And if you can't find the quality you desire within your budget, find a photographer who will work with you on reasonable monthly payments. There's really no reason to sacrifice in this area.
If you're looking for a professional who will walk you through each step in the process, from choosing your outfits to hanging your wall art, then set the record straight early in the process. In the digital age, personal service is no longer a standard feature in a photographer. All too many clients are left with a disk or thumb drive of digital images and no idea where or what to print. 90% of you probably need to go ahead and admit to the thousands of images that are sitting on your computer right now, untouched...including the last session you put all that time and effort into. But there are very good professionals who are client-focused and will hold your hand the entire way through your experience...even go shopping with you to choose the perfect dress, and all the way through to installing that gorgeous canvas image of your beautiful daughter and her beloved horse. She'll even be there for you six months later when you need holiday cards designed and labeled. Don't settle for less than a living room wall filled with images of your most cherished moments. Digital images on your hard drive are useless.
Yep, this one is huge for most people. It's so big that our last in this blog series is dedicated solely to that topic. Rarely does a client say, "Spare no expense, only the most expensive for me!" Of course you have a budget. What you need to decide is, "Is it reasonable?" If you know ahead of time that your budget is simply not a reasonable amount for a quality professional, you have two choices: 1. Look for a photography student or new photographer who is trying to build their portfolio. They may not be able to accommodate all your needs, but you can find decent amateurs who will create acceptable images. But do yourself a favor - first ask them if they shoot on auto or manual. If they say auto, then keep looking. While this person may have a future in photography, they do not yet know how to use their camera's functions and their photos will be hit or miss. 2. You can find a quality professional that will work with you on payments in such a way that you CAN fit their service into your budget. I promise, this is doable. I know several photographers (myself included) who truly want you to have gorgeous images on your walls and will work VERY hard to make this happen for you. Personally, I let you set your own payment plan for any print or product you purchase from me. You can even make payments on the session if you set it up enough in advance. You can't afford NOT to take me up on that.
When you hire a photographer, they should be licensed and insured, and they should be legit - pay taxes, etc. If your photographer is charging you money like a professional, and they aren't set up as a professional, that's sketchy. Aside from the legality of it (or lack thereof), many venues flat out won't allow an uninsured photographer to take your wedding pictures. And most photographers I work with (as well as me personally) hire a SECOND photographer to back them up at weddings. I also bring an assistant in addition to my second photographer - I leave zero excuses for missing a single important moment at your wedding. (For regular sessions, I don't bring a second photographer but I ALWAYS bring an assistant.) Reputable photographers will also bring back up equipment. I have two cameras, multiple lenses, four lights, four flashes, and more. Equipment failure may be out of my control, but planning for it is well within my process.
The right photographer for you will be able to meet all your needs and fit within your budget/payment plan, so there really is no reason to settle for anything else. And when it comes to family or wedding pictures, it's a risk you don't want or need to take.
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