Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Choose the Right Photographer for your Wedding Day. (Series Post) - Part 2

This post is the 2nd part of the How to Choose the Right Photographer for your Wedding Day (Series Post).

How do I work with a budget with a photographer for my wedding?

It may seem simple, but its not. The sad truth sometimes we need to choose a less expensive photographer that can deliver as much as the more expensive photographer. As a photograpehr myself I always ask the soon-to-be married couple is "What do you need from my services?". Such as prints, albums, or photographic products (i.e. gallery wraps, mugs, calendars, etc.). Based on their answers I provide them with an existing package I already have in place or create a custom made one for their needs.

This is important for you as the bride/groom preparing for the wedding. What do you want or need from a photographer? Which can be difficult if you are an inexperienced buyer of photography services. Some tips are as follows...
  1. Know if you need printed photos/album(s)/products from the photographer
    1. If you do not want printed photos/album(s)/products from the photographer you will need to find a photographer who provides "High Resolution" aka "Print Resolution" digital files.
    2. You will also need a license to print. Some photographers may or may not provide this and note some that do provide this may have a limited license as to very specific printing labs. And please be aware to not upload the high resolution images online on websites like Facebook because these images are not meant to be shown on these websites, of course this will depend on the contract and terms of service agreement you have but I do not want high resolution images I've taken online as anyone such as strangers online may save the image and print a high end print and then cost me money.
    3. If you do want printed photos/album(s)/products from the photographer you will need a photographer that provides these. I recommend also asking them if they print from a high end printing lab and ensure they are not printing from chain stores like Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Staples, OfficeMax, etc. But be prepared for the time to order and ship these items as they do come in from an outsourced lab and far from your own state sometimes.
    4. Know if you need an album or photobook. This may sound confusing to some as they're technically both books. But look at some samples of the differences (I will post some here at a later time). As you can see albums (depending where its ordered from) can look very, very different vs. a photobook is basically a bound book. Now there is many, many different kinds of photobooks and albums and sometimes prices are similar. So I recommend seeing and touching the differences of your photographer offers this. Sometimes the photographer may only offer one or the other and sometimes both. Ask for samples to look and touch from what they have and what they can offer.
As you can see above most of what I've mentioned is photos/album(s)/products. That is the majority of your cost and the photographer's costs to materials/goods and outsourced services to provide that. So decide and research do you want or need a photographer to provide you the files or the actual prints. Let's compare the two of what is done and needed if you go with either route.

If you choose the route of no prints and just digital photographic files and printing these on your own cost/time and energy you will need to do the leg work on everything or mostly everything, such as...
  • Resizing the files for best quality files and fast transfer rates. Such as if you need to upload your image for a 5x7 print online or local chain store printer, you should resize the image itself literally to 5x7 (if doing full bleed) plus ensuring the dpi/ppi resolution is still at 300 (minimal). And at times you'd need to crop the image, with the right software you can do this on your own. DSLR cameras (what most professional photographers use) shoot at a ratio of 4x6, 8x12, 10x15 and further, if you need a 5x7 you'd need to crop the image. Now if you simply do not resize/crop the image this is what going to happen (especially if its online and it does not allow you to crop on the website), it will be auto-cropped and generally is poorly cropped by a machine. Plus the upload time will be much longer as photographers will offer a "original resolution" or max pixel ratio the photograph was taken so this makes the files much larger than it needs to be.
  • As you see from the above tip, you may be already lost from some of the words and phrases I used. If you are not already informed on how to do this on your own it will costs you some or a lot of time and energy which can be saved by having the photographer to handle this. I know I may sound like I am discouraging you from this route because I am. I am a photographer, prepping digital photos for printing is whole other level of work and skills you'd need. 
  • Another aspect of receiving files, generally from a non-professional photographer that provided too many images and did no selection process. This is the part on your end to ask how many photos you receive. Generally you will assume more and more, than more is less, but in reality trust me, more is less because it will make us photographers work to eliminate the X of images and then deliver the best of the best to you with large diversity. A pro photographer will do this already. So when selecting a photographer just think about when (or if) they mention a specific number of delivered images and think less is more.

Prints vs. Coverage
For those who want to receive prints from photographers in this part I'll give you tips on rather you should have more prints than coverage, or more coverage than prints, or a balanced approach. This will be a deciding factor as to your budget as I've mentioned prints will cost more but it will save you a lot of time, energy and potentially costs to materials of printing services and as to the more coverage could provide either more important personal moments captured. 
  • For coverage think about needing a photographer for prep, generally prep (in my opinion) is the best opportunities for a photographer to really capture true emotion of a bride and groom.
  • For coverage think about needing a photographer more for prep, ceremony, between ceremony portraits, and some reception photos such as cutting of the cake, first dance, last dance, daughter/son dances, etc.
  • Depending the type of wedding you are having generally the reception is the most difficult area for a photographer to capture great moments. In my honest opinion there is no point in spending another 4-7 hours worth of coverage for the photographer because the amount of potentially great images to be generated here are minimal for traditional American weddings. So this will save you a lot of coverage time for those photographers that have packages based on coverage time (such as myself).
  • So the tip here is clear, concentrate on photographers that shoot from prep to the last dance keeping the coverage for the most important moments anticipated plus to generate the most images for possible prints you are either ordering or selecting for your package. This will save you money from the coverage and then invest more into the printed products either albums, products or prints which will be with you and your family for at least a few generations (in physical form).

More Tips to Saving for Your Budget!

Payment Plans
Some photographers offers payment plans. Some are pre-payment plans or some are both pre and after the event payment plans that are available. I strongly advise for wedding photography I would opt for the pre-payment plans to break your payments apart. But be aware of any additional costs if they do apply, myself I do not charge an APR or extra fees because its a pre-payment plan and not a payment plan for after the wedding has taken place. Also for many photographers who have a pre-payment plan you can lock in a certain price as you should know prices go up generally as a photographer gains more experience.

The Extras
Some photographers will include a ton of extras into packages or services, some don't. And when I say extras I mean different products of the photos such as keychains, calendars, mugs, etc, or a video slideshow of your images. This may or may not be already added to your cost of goods and services so ensure to review your contract and terms of agreement with the photographer if they do to save yourself money if you choose to do so.

The next part will be another part in budgeting for wedding photography, more specifically 2nd shooters and video coverage.

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