CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHER



FINDING MR. RIGHT GUY or GAL PHOTOGRAPHER

This is a guide for the Bride.   What "to ask" should eliminate many problems.  It is also a guide for the shooter to know what he or she might be asked.  The questions here start and really pertain to medium to high end, multi contingent, or structured, moderate to EXPENSIVE, weddings. Not to say a small private affair with a Justice of the Peace doesn't warrant the same careful attention.   

But being realistic, the $200 package shooter isn't about to meet the qualifications or demands you would expect from a $5000 plus affair with assistants and video. The shooting teams size, capacity, training. 

Wedding director coordination, planning, appropriate equipment, experience, familiarity, enter into this size affair. Both size weddings however do require a backup if the primary photographer doesn't make bail, can't start his car, does a financial disappearance act, goes out of business, or fails to show for any other reason.  I have heard and seen all of the above.  So take a few of the questions from the selection and see what your budget and qualifications are. I think if you used all the questions below you would scare a large percentage of non-ranked Photographers away. 


QUESTIONS

  •  How many years have you been in the business?

  •  What are your qualifications, certifications, organizations associated with.

  •  What further training, seminars attended and what other formal training have you had? 

  •  Is this a full time occupation, just a weekend part time job and what do you do the rest of the week? 

  •  Do you have a studio or registered pace of business with a tax number and the proper business certificate?

  •  Have you handled many events of my type and size before? 

  •  What are the reasons you think we should hire you?

  •  Will you personally be the photographer for our wedding?   

  •  Will the person you are talking to be the actual shooter. 

  •  Some pro's have associates during peak seasons to cover duplicate dates. You want to meet that person and discuss those same topics with the actual photographer. 

  •  If the party uses his wife as the assistant, generally it's nice to have a woman around the chaos and she can go where the photographer can't. 

  •  Ask yourself - How comfortable are you with this person? You will have intimate and stressful moments with this person. 

  •  How does this person fit in with the total picture of the Wedding? 

  •  Simple, do you have clothes for (tux) for a formal wedding? 

  •  Can you afford this person? Ask yourself.

TERMS
Nothing more to be said here except what are his terms. Read what my terms are, to use as an example. They are fair to both parties. 

  •  What if any Value added options? 

  •  Is he willing to put everything in writing? 

  •  When will you see your proofs, how long?

  •  Is he providing the album? 

  •  How much for extras, incidentals, time constraints, travel fees and other costs?

  •  Does he have packages, or shoot by the picture, picture purchased, etc.

  •  When will you see the proofs?

  •  After it is in writing ask for a copy and you'll study it overnight. Get someone who understands legalese to decipher it. 

  •  Hidden Costs ? Are there extra fees for staying late, traveling, tolls, parking, and so forth.  Who will do the processing. 


PICTURES K-MART OR THE REAL LAB

Their Lab, just who are they? Pro Wedding labs have a higher bar as to quality and professional work. They may also use different papers and textures than they find down at the local drug store, Sam's Wal-mart and K-Mart Wal-greens.

Their machinery is calibrated to Wedding work where there are more whites and blacks than regular labs who deal with blues and greens of water and grass. The cheapest cop-out is the computer CD-Rom. If you are paying for the photographer shooting CD-Rom disc alone, what exactly will you get, L0-res, HI-res, NEF, RAW, DNG, or any other proprietary formats like PSD from Adobe. 

If you do not understand what this is all about, get someone on your side who does. Also who did or does the correction or Digital Workflow the newer equipment sometimes requires. Some photographers take too long to deliver. This could be GOOD or BAD. 
There is no reason for this other than poor time management or they sent it to a cheaper out -of -state lab -OR- one of the better busier commercial labs that specialize in Weddings only and knows skin tones and cropping.

That's why you ASK who does their work. References: Get names and addresses from the photographer and check them out personally. Sisters, brothers and friends don't count. Ask for a few business references that he deals with too. Tells you whether he pays his bills on time. (Bet you never heard of that angle). See if his name is on the public records somewhere. Surprising what this turns up. 

SIMPLE QUESTION 

Digital is the most common medium for Weddings though I think in the next few years Digital Video will take over. Read more in my introduction to digital in another section. But this has opened the door to the low-ball wedding shoot.   Digital also means you might be getting a CD ROM for the do it yourself prints. Unless this is a specifically budget wise decision, you are heading in the wrong direction. If you go digital you must insist on high resolution files, 300 DPI or the CD-ROM will be only good for viewing on a monitor and CD-ROM as an option is OK but should not be the primary.

You would think this would drive the costs of weddings down. In a sense it should. Digital saves you the cost of film and processing –BUT- the gear costs four times as much. It has also increased the competition in this arena with the promise of taking good pictures is as easy as pie. 

So now you have Tom, Dick and Harry now posing as "professionals" and popping low cost CD-ROMS and goodby. Digital in the hands of an artistic practiced wedding professional is art. Digital in the hands of a hack is still “JUNK”. “The camera doth not maketh the pictures”. The single most ridiculous question I ever hear in a photo-related question forum starts off with; “What camera did you use, what was the shutter speed and F stop, or what lens was that.  It really is a clue to someone being a newbie in the club. 


A ONE CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT
It’s simple, all those variables don’t mean a thing as soon as the light, the poses, the backgrounds, the players, the location and a hundred other things change. Put the same gear in that persons hands and you can have a disaster. Just common sense. 

  • Back to the prints. The point here is that quality prints from DIGITAL are printed at .300 Dots per Inch. 
  • CD-ROMs for viewing are represented at .72 dots per inch. It is literally four times less resolution. You want to see the work at the printing resolution and that's where the quality is based, not the cartoon show some of these guys deliver, because when you go to print them a .72 DPI photo is ghastly when enlarged. 
  • The real important questions are your criteria for choosing what you would shoot with at my Wedding? 
  • What would you photograph at my wedding? 
  • How do you know how many pictures to take? 
  • What makes your photographs better or different than anybody else's? 
  • Have you photographed in this hall, Church, Mosque, Synagogue before….
  • Does you have backup equipment?   Let them tell you they never have problems and don't need backups and you walk out. Simple. He's not what you are looking for. 

EAT ME!

  • Food for the crew. Who eats or doesn't, when and where do they sit etc. This is numero uno on the after the Wedding Report card. Get this settled way in advance. The Wedding is no place to negotiate. This seems to be a bigger problem than you think especially with large weddings and caterers who count by the head.
  • How many people will cover the event? 
  • Is your crew there to work or are they trainees getting practice? I attended one wedding where four trainees were just a pain in the ass, all sat down to a fine meal, and the photographer tried to sell the Wedding couple his associates work and bump the bill. The Bride with a little Chutzpah told him the judge would straighten the whole thing out.   She won. It's good to be the niece of an attorney. Its good to have a photographer God father…me.
  • I'd love to do all my nieces and nephews but I am smart enough to stay out. I don't need the grief.