A fellow professional photographer and I were chatting and a topic that always makes the blood pressure rise is the "photographers" who advertise on Craigslist.
This is not to disparage Craigslist - more and more, people use it to sell and barter, and as a believer in the capitalist system and a fervent supporter of that great American tradition, the small business, I am all for it. But to advertise your services on it is free and with that comes the need for the consumer to be quite, um . . . discreet when choosing a vendor. And especially so for wedding photography.
A quick search for "wedding photography" on my local Craigslist showed a lot of offerings. I was surprised to see some that are very good. And some are horrible. I am not going to link to any of the offerings, but I can see how a couple with a limited budget might think "$500? And we get all the photos on a disk? Sounds like a deal!"
And that is what my friend sheepishly admitted to me - he was one of those guys who said, "Hey, not bad - $300 and that's another thing checked off the list." The price was right,a photographer was needed, and so what could go wrong?
As it turned out . . . a lot. He told me the pictures came back to them after several months and were not simply awful, but pretty much unusable. Out of focus. Bad lighting. Weird poses. So oddly composed that you just look at them and say, "I . . . can't even . . ."
I did not believe him, so I asked him to send me some, assuring him I would keep his and his lovely wife's anonymity protected and use them for a blog post to warn others.
And here is the train wreck, in all the glory as it was delivered.
But you don't have to make the same mistake. Here are a few pointers when looking for a photographer:
- Know your venue first. Your photographer must be aware of limitations and be able to accommodate them. So, if you are going to get married in the perfect little chapel, but it is dark inside and there is a strict policy that no flash can be used during the ceremony, you need someone who can work in low-light situations, which means having professional grade cameras and lenses. Knowing the venue allows a photographer to do some scouting to find spots for photos, rather than just "running and gunning" on the day of your wedding.
- Ask to see samples of a wedding they have shot, from soup to nuts. How do they handle all points in a wedding, from bridal prep to the final exit from the reception? Also, ask to see samples of albums they have designed. Are pictures placed randomly or is there a flow that tells a story?
- Know your style and expectations. When you're viewing a photographer's portfolio, and you want high-key, very bright almost-fashion photography and they shoot with warmer tones and prefer traditional poses . . . then there is a mismatch. Don't expect a photographer to match your style. Find the one who does.
- Look for signs of professionalism. Do they have a nice website? Can they offer a contract for you to review? Do they have insurance? Are they a member of a professional organization like Professional Photographers of America or Wedding and Portrait Photographers International? A professional photographer understands the cost of doing business and should be willing to meet to answer your questions, as well as allow you to get a chance to know them, even if it results in no sale. Avoid egos.
- Be ready to do some work on your end if professional photography is not something you've looked at since your high school yearbook picture. Attend bridal shows. Look at the ads in them. Contact several photographers. Meet them. If they are too expensive, ask if they can recommend other photographers who don't cost as much - or look for ways to afford them if you really like their work. As an example, maybe you really want them for a few hours to do your bridal portraits and you'd be content with letting your brother's college buddy "try his hand" at shooting the rest. The more you can define what YOU want and expect, the easier it will be to shop for a wedding photographer.
Fortunately, this couple are the type to be able to laugh about it, but maybe you wouldn't. I can tell you, I have "fixed" wedding photography for other photographers where they messed up, but the images above cannot be helped in any way.
So, do your planning. Give me a call, I would be happy to sit down and talk about how we can work together to make your wedding photography great!