How to choose wedding photographer

For many of us, wedding is a unique once-in-a-lifetime event, one of the best days in a whole life. However, your ceremony will last somewhere between 15 and 90 minutes and only the wedding photos can last forever. So choosing a right wedding photographer is an important job for a couple or their parents. Let’s discuss important points you have to take into account doing your search for a photographer.

Budget considerations. What is a market average price for a wedding photography service? Around $1500-2000 for a whole day packages in Texas. Wedding photography cannot be cheap. It requires a lot of expertise, best equipment and hours of serious work. It does not come easy as someone could think. But many people cannot afford spending even more than $200 on the photos of the most important event of their life. Yes, the US economy is still bad so this is understandable. And various people have different quality standards. But $200 (highly requested price for wedding photography in Houston TX) is something not realistic. What you could expect for $200 budget? – Novice camera operator (it is too early to call him/her a photographer) with a cheap entry level DSLR and a cheapest kit lens or even point-and-shoot camera, bunch of cheesy blurry photos and shattered memories. If this is your quality standard, keep looking for $200 wedding photography packages and good luck to you…
$5000-8000+ packages: another extreme. Yes, in this price range you will generally not have to worry about the technical quality of your wedding photos. At least you will not notice any flaws after massive post processing. This is a price range for a highly established super exclusive photographer who has a special unique style completely different from others. This price normally includes huge hidden advertising cost too. If you are looking for the celebrity level wedding photos and exclusive style, shop in this price range.
But let’s talk about the typical realistic budget for a wedding photography. As previously mentioned, the market average rate is within $1500-2000 range for the entire day coverage. This rate normally includes a disk or USB drive with all the photos (well, normally all the pics that passed through photographer’s quality control filters), 50-200 prints or a photo book. Amount of digital edits and size of prints varies largely depending on particular photographer or photography company. Actually prints and other extras provide a huge room for the price negotiation (many real customers do not need all of these features), but many photographers have fixed packages that cannot be customized. But if we remove the prints from the package, the resultant price would be much more affordable. You can make prints or photo book yourself sometime later, right? However usually it is not so easy to find a photographer who has adjustable packages (prints give extra profits, it’s a business). What you do really need is the whole wedding day coverage with all the digital images. And if we exclude prints and all other extras, the realistic budget for a good wedding photographer might be as low as $500-1000 (especially if you need only 5-6 hours of coverage). Too good to be true? Not necessarily. This is still risky price range to find a good wedding photographer, but there are much more possibilities in this zone than below $500. However be ready to do serious research. Many reputable photographers with good prices are completely booked within 6-12 months in advance, so hurry up.

Technical quality. This is a controversial topic. Photography is a creative, not technical job. There are no clear quality standards in this field. But at the same time we always talk about the technical quality of photos. If customers do not have particular requirements for their wedding photos, they want at least consistent technical quality. What are the minimal ‘quality standards’ for the wedding photos?
1) The primary subject of the photograph is in focus; 2) Exposure of the photograph is correct so there are no prominent overexposed or underexposed parts; 3) The color of skin tones is believable to a reasonable person; 4) Overall image sharpness; 5) People’s eyes on individual, couple and group portraits must not be closed;
So photographer’s work has to meet at least these criteria consistently. At first glance these requirements are easy to meet, but in a real wedding event a photographer has to deal with multiple challenges such as rapidly changing shooting conditions including transitions between completely different lighting situations (from low light inside a church to harsh ambient light outside, etc.), fast pace of the event, stressful environment, unexpected incidents and so on. You need a photographer who will not screw up most important moments of the ceremony (the hardest part of the wedding). Even super pros make mistakes and wedding photography requires a lot of expertise to maintain technical quality of the work consistently. Actually it is hard to compare quality of photographers’ work side by side, but at least pay attention to the photographer’s portfolio and its diversity. Most photographers of course demonstrate selected best images on their websites, but large diverse portfolio would increase chances of consistent quality of your wedding photos.

Style. This topic gives a lot of room for the discussion. Normally style should be a key factor for choosing particular photographer. Everyone has own style preferences. Normally photographer’s portfolio should give you a clear answer of what to expect from this professional. If you are unsure, ask the photographer if he(she) can work in the particular style you want, share your ideas/sample pictures you would like to get.

Reputation. Every year produces thousands of new camera operators. Some of them will become real photographers. Your wedding is one of the most important events in your life, and are you sure you can settle for an unknown person to be your wedding photographer? Do your search carefully, check social media for the reviews, ask for the references if needed. Many newbie camera operators who pretend to be wedding photographers use stolen portfolio photos on their websites so be careful.

Calendar. Choice of a wedding photographer depends not only on your budget and photographer’s style/experience, but on a photographer’s availability too. Many people do bookings within 12 or even more months in advance, and the photographer of your dream might be unavailable on your wedding day.

General tips:

1. Look for the portfolio diversity. Consistency is a key. Good wedding photographer must work consistently well in any environment and different lighting conditions. Some photographers exhibit only few selected heavily edited pics, but who knows how their average photos look like…
2. Make sure that photographer’s sample works are not stolen from somebody else. This article is a good food for thought:
3. Check social media about the photographer you are looking for.
4. Geographical clues in photographer’s portfolio. If you are looking for a photographer in Houston TX you are expecting to see some environment typical for this particular area in his pictures. No mountains or snowy landscapes, right? But one of the major chain photography companies operating in Houston demonstrates photos mostly taken somewhere in Southern California. Yes, they demonstrate the same portfolio in any city they operate in.
5. Work with an individual photographer, not a chain company. Because chain photography companies employ many photographers and there is very low chance you will work with that particular photographer whose style you like.

Thank you for reading! Your comments/feedback on a Facebook are greatly appreciated!

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