Saturday, December 13, 2008

Choosing the Right Wedding Photographer

There are many things that go into choosing the correct photographer.  I will try to go over a few things that might help you decide. 

1. Quality

2. Style and Philosophy

3. Package Offering

4. Cost

5. Location

6. Gimmicks

7. Equipment

Let us explain them a bit.

Often when a photographer tries to sell them self, the number one thing they often neglect is quality.  I personally think this is the most important aspect when looking for a photographer, which not only includes the creative genius of the photographer but the technical aspect as well.  Photographers will try many gimmicks as possible to gain your business.  They will charge less, but add hidden fees.  They will watermark their photos without telling you.  And so on.  What is most important to us is our quality of work.  We strive to make every photo a photo that you will enjoy.  One of our clients told us that each of our photos were worthy of being a postcard.  Now I'm not sure that is exactly what I intended, but we do stress the importance of quality.  More specifically, when looking at a photo we make sure each photo has the correct exposure, the correct color balance, the midtones are adjusted properly, etc.  We find that photoshop can be a great tool, but often times so many photographers will alter their photos so much, that the quality tends to fade.

The style of your photographer is very important to many people. There is much debate on what wedding photojournalism is. However, there are many photographers who are now concentrating only on the candid and documentary style photography of photojournalism. Wedding by Photo does take photojournalist type photos, but we do not wish to be lumped into one category. Many photographers use the label “wedding photojournalist” to attract business. However, what we try to do is take photos of your wedding in all aspects. That includes candid photos, documentary style photos, traditional photos, poses, artistic fun, all to capture your whole wedding by photo. Covering all aspects, not just one category, is how we choose to shoot and how we will shoot your wedding.  Our philosophy is to capture your whole wedding by photo, not just one aspect while neglecting another.  This is why we chose to give ourself the name "Wedding by Photo" as the term can be used broadly.

When selecting a photographer, examine their packages and make sure that they include what you are looking for.  If not, are they willing to create what you want.  With us, we create packages that we find are often requested the most.  However, if someone wishes to alter the package, then indeed they can.  We have an a la carte section they can choose from.  Also, we don't just stick with one type of album.  Today, not only do people want a simple photo album, a slip in album, but many people are transitioning to year book style, or flush mount albums.  If that is something you like, then we can do that.  We also seek to offer new ideas, and if anyone has an idea then we will add that to our repertoire.

This alone does not tell you how good a photographer is.  As a rule of thumb, most people will say this:
0-$500 - still learning, assisting, creating a portfolio (craiglist)
$500-$1000 - has some technical skill, but needs lots of improvement
$1000-$1250 - has a lot of skill, experience, and knowledge, but can still improve
$1250-$3000 - Almost the best
$3000 + - The elite of the photographers
Now, just because I said this it doesn't mean you can just pick and choose a price range.  The trap is by some photographers that if I charge more, I am better than everyone else.  Unfortunately clients fall into this game and get lousy photographers.  Another technical aspect in pricing will deal with your location.  Some cities you can't find a decent photographer under $3000 such as LA.  While just east of LA, where I live the average decent photographer costs $1200.  So location will have a lot to do with price.  We have positioned ourself in a price bracket that we feel doesn't undermine our quality.  We know we are better than most of the photographers in our area, but we still recognize that anyone can still learn more.  Which is why we don't consider ourself an elite photographer.  With that said, most elite photographers are only elite because they have connections or won some award that they paid to get on their resumé.  That's no joke.  A little thing I want to also mention, there are many new photographers looking to start.  They will charge awesome prices.  Some of these photographers will eventually be better than most.  So if you want to take the risk then by all means do, just make sure they have a history of being able to reproduce great images.  Experience means nothing if you don't have a history of creating great images.
Another thing to consider in cost is that photographers often charge a price because they have a lot of overhead.  If they have a failing studio, or horribly advertise them self at high cost, then they have a lot more to break even.  Just because they charge more to cover their overhead doesn't make them better.  We work from home, so we don't have a lot of overhead, which benefits you.

Location is an important topic.  It may be better to have a local photographer because you can talk to them in person easier.  Or also so they don't have to travel, and are most likely not going to be late to your wedding.  Also, if you read the fine print, most photographer charge a per mile extra for miles over a certain range.  We would like to let you know up front their is no charge for any extra mileage in the southern california area.  
Another aspect of location is destination weddings.  Many people think they need to find a photographer in the place the wedding is going to be.  If you are going out of the state, country, or region, then feel free to talk to us.  We have done weddings over a 500 mile radius before.  What we do is charge you just for the flight, if needed, and a night in a hotel.  That's it, except if you print extra photos.  We feel it is our vacation to go to different destinations and we don't feel the need to charge you the wedding package prices.  

This can be almost the most important issue when looking into a photographer.  Does the photographer watermark their photos, do they give you exclusive rights, do they charge you extra for exclusive rights, do they charge extra by the hour, do they charge extra by the mile, and so on and so on.  We don't watermark our photos.  We do give you exclusive rights at no extra charge.  We create our packages so that you have us exclusively for the whole day, at no extra charge for additional hours.  Remember it is the whole day.  Don't get caught up in how many hours you need them for.  This is probably the biggest trick in the book for photographers, because they know most weddings will go longer than you anticipate.  We don't charge extra for mileage, and if it is a destination wedding then as mentioned we arrange something a bit different.  When signing a contract each client receives a copy of it.  We don't try to hide anything, as it is an important document that you need.  It is our obligation to pull no gimmicks, as we want to gain your trust.

So many photographers instantly think they are professional because they picked up a DSLR.  This is far from correct.  Just because you have a camera, doesn't make you a professional.  Just because you have a camera, doesn't mean you have a good lens, flash, stands, storage, back up equipment, and so on.  We have spent tens of thousands on our cameras and equipment.  No joke!  We strive for every little advantage that can make us better than someone else.  With all that said, we have chosen to use Nikon.  I have used four different companies and have my likes in each.  I've used Canon, which are good, fuji, which has great sensors for skin tones, and olympus for everyday shooting.  In film I've used Nikon and Minolta's.  People think because they use a certain company that it is the best.  How do they know if they haven't tried it?  Canon does create nice competition for Nikon.  However, the build of the camera, technical aspects that are beneficial, the ISO, and now of course even MegaPixels have far succeeded them.  Plus Nikon's work with Sony stresses the importance to have great sensors, even far better than the sensors Sony uses them self.  This is why we use Nikon.  I know people who use Canon, and are great photographers.  I just know they could even be better with Nikon.  Now if I had $50000 to spend on every camera then I would go with a Hasselblad .  However, with a camera that price, the cost of package pricing would be reflected of that.  We like cameras, but not that much.  
With all that said, we have back up equipment, and even more back up equipment.  Just in case something fails.  We have no short fall of lenses, flashes, stands, and anything else you can think of.  

We hope this may be beneficial to you as you choose a photographer or as you choose to use us.  If it is beneficial then by all means tell anyone else you think it might help in deciding a photographer.  Plus I'm sure we will continue to change this as more things come to mind.

Here are some photographs I took a month ago:

Wedding by Photo 4
Wedding by Photo 11
Wedding by Photo 10

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