Congratulations! You're getting married!
Now you have a wedding to plan and a budget to stick to. All of the major wedding planning resources agree on two things. NEVER skimp on your venue or on your photographer. NEVER. To do so can result in a less than perfect day and incidentally, can completely blow your budget due to last minute expenses incurred as a result of you not doing your homework concerning whom you've agreed to conduct business. I'll leave picking the perfect venue to another post, for now, let's focus on a bothersome trend I am seeing in my local wedding market.
Here's what you need to know...
Hobbyist & Amateur photographers are selling themselves as professionals using social media at their platform for knowingly and unknowing taking advantage of budget conscience brides and wedding planners.
Before you go getting your panties in a bunch, let me tell you, there are a good number of well-intentioned hobbyist photographers out there who are just looking to supplement their income or gain more experience before making the leap to being a professional. I commend these fellow lovers of creative imagery and wish them the best of luck! This article isn't meant to lump all photographers into the same category. The problem is that many are not communicating to their clients what their capabilities are or what kind of experience they can really deliver. And, unfortunately, there are those "photographers" who lack integrity and possess a questionable moral compass who take advantage of people lacking the knowledge to make an informed decision. This article is meant to serve as a guide to help safeguard potential clients from a bad investment.
Go to their website!
Envision the kind of imagery you are wanting to be captured at your event. Explore a highly respected publication and become familiar with what a good photograph looks like. Then, go browse their website (preferably not from a mobile device) and compare. Do they meet your expectations? Did you know that some photographers use stock images on their website? These are images purchased with a commercial use license for marketing purposes. I point this out because the images you are loving may not even be the actual work of the photographer you are considering for your event. Be sure to either ask them directly and/or cross-reference the images with their social media sites.
Use social media to your advantage!
Join LOCAL wedding planning groups and post a note to the group asking if anyone has used the photographer's services and whether or not they had a good experience. Post a link to the photographer's website and/or social media page. Ask group participants to personal message any issues they had with the services they received.
Ok, great. You've narrowed down your choices and you are well on your way to choosing a suitable photographer. You now have 2-3 choices that you feel pretty comfortable with BUT their prices vary and you are naturally inclined to lean towards the most affordable option. Before you use that as the deciding factor, consider the following...
***HAVE THEY PROVIDED YOU WITH A COPY OF THEIR CONTRACT?
***DO THEY HAVE A BACKUP PHOTOGRAPHER IN CASE OF EMERGENCY?
***WHAT PRINTS, ALBUMS OR OTHER KEEPSAKES ARE INCLUDED?
***HOW MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS WILL BE AT YOUR EVENT?
***Read their reviews!
If you can't find any reviews QUESTION them!
Side note: Facebook allows businesses to turn reviews off on their page. You cannot select what reviews will show, but you can make them invisible. Why would a business do that if there was nothing negative being reflected in the review? it Could be a red flag if you cannot find ANY reviews on someone or it could be someone completely new who hasn't received any yet. in any case, it's to your benefit to know this before booking one of the biggest events of your life. Legitimate business owners usually respond to a less than stellar review, take ownership of the complaint and address the reviewer in the public forum.
(Small weddings (less than 75 attendees) do just fine with 1 photographer, however, larger weddings (more than 75 attendees) often benefit from 2 photographers.)
Ask yourself, what distinguishes one photographer from the other? i.e., one provides a highlight reel set to music to share via social networking vs. online slide show to share without music; or one delivers all images via a flash drive while the other offers you unlimited online downloads.
In the end, I believe most people mean well and have good intentions, but when it comes to your special day, no matter what event it may be, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring you've picked the right vendor, from the florist to the caterer, to the photographer. Hopefully, you now feel better prepared to plan your event and make the most informed decision you can to ensure your day is every bit as amazing as you envision.