CHOOSING THE RIGHT VENDORS

PART 2 | Completing Your Photography Search: 
Brief Technical & Creative Advice for the Non-tech/creative

Candid moment during Anne's portrait with her parents. The Chanler at Cliffwalk, Newport, RI. Medium Format Film. 

Candid moment during Anne's portrait with her parents. The Chanler at Cliffwalk, Newport, RI. Medium Format Film. 

January 9, 2017

I suggest reading Part 1 | Starting Your Photography Search: Deciphering Your Needs and How to View Websites to preface Part 2.

For any important purchase, we need to ask the right questions in order to make the best personal decisions. Part I concluded with: make notes and questions and select 3-5 photographers you’d like to learn more about. But if you don't know a lot about photography already, how do you form the right questions? Here I will attempt to make some sense of the basics and help guide you in your next steps towards choosing the right wedding or event photographer for you.

1. After you’ve emailed and/or spoken with a few photographers, meet with your top 2-3 choices: Purchasing products and services via internet/phone is standard these days, but wedding and event photography is not something you can “return” if you later learn that your photographer or their product(s) did not meet your expectations. View complete sample photo albums, loose prints, wall and table display options and meet and talk with us, in person. If this is not an option, Facetime or Skype will suffice, and most can ship you an album to view. Photos and albums can look incredibly different on a monitor, so it’s important to truly see the quality of the prints, display and album options, etc. Do the pages feel sturdy or flimsy? Is the cover made with thick, quality board or thin board that can easily dent over time? How is the quality of the photography itself: is the color and density true or do the whites look blown out or do the blacks often appear muddy, lacking detail?

2. It’s important to know for sure that your photographer brings backup gear to your wedding or event: extra cameras, lenses, batteries, memory cards, etc. This is very basic but unfortunately not a given: gear is expensive, so less reputable and/or less experienced photographers may not be thoroughly equipped. Years ago, one of my cameras failed just minutes before the ceremony. I grabbed my spare and was good to go - no worries. Any responsible pro will do the same.

3. Quality pro digital cameras have two card readers in the camera: so as we shoot, we are backing up our files in real time. This is extremely important. Cards can fail, and this is beyond our control - so if your photographer is backing up while shooting, it could potentially make the difference between having or not having photos at the end of the day. Furthermore, make sure the photographer you choose will backup your files to external drive(s) and/or Cloud service during or afterwards. Most of us do both, providing a total of around FIVE copies of each original file within hours of your wedding or event (two original cards from cameras, main computer drive, external drive(s) and/or Cloud).

4. Professional wedding and event photographers who strive for utmost photo quality and file size shoot RAW files (and/or film). In a nutshell: RAW is layered, the equivalent of a negative, meaning it includes the maximum amount of file information possible; JPG is flattened, (or let’s say “cooked,”) a final version to print from after processing the RAW file. Some photographers may argue that the visible difference between shooting in JPG and RAW is so slim that it’s not necessary to shoot RAW. Some may believe this to be true and although I strongly disagree, that is their opinion. Keep in mind, though, that there are photographers who may say this simply to increase their profit margin because it’s more time-consuming to process an unprocessed RAW file than it is to work with a processed JPG file. Furthermore, it takes a “meaner” machine to process RAW: hard drive space, speed and quality hardware/software is costly. We photographers who work in RAW are using (and backing up) TERABYTES of space via internal, external and cloud storage.

5. Pricing Structure: Be careful not to define a photographer's pricing on coverage alone: ask those you are interviewing to provide a total estimate for you, including albums, loose prints, your digital files if applicable, etc. Make sure you understand and agree with any additional fees that may be applied to ensure no unwelcome surprises: S/H, sales tax, travel fees, processing fees, additional coverage, second shooter if applicable, etc. and be attentive to the bullet points or fine print for "all inclusive" packages. 

Extras:

6: Arrival: If we’re not early, we are late. Reputable photographers will arrive no later than 20 minutes prior to scheduled time (ideally 30-60 minutes).

7. Attire: Ask what the photographer (and our assistant(s), if applicable) will wear to your ceremony or event. We should blend in, no sneakers, not too tight/low/high, no loud shoes (you don’t want to hear flip-flip or clunk-clunk during the ceremony). Most of us have different outfits for different types of jobs, like beach wedding vs. black tie event. I learned this the hard way: by wearing all black to a beach wedding! Not only did I stick out like a sore thumb, I got a mean sunburn!

8. Availability: Make sure that you are guaranteed to get the photographer you have interviewed and not an associate. If you are hiring an associate, interview them directly. In addition, what is the photographer’s policy if he/she is unable to photograph your wedding or event? A responsible planner can rely on Plan B in case of emergency.

9. Lawsuits: Although I’ve personally never experienced a lawsuit, I do have reputable photographer friends who have been sued one or two times over 20+ years in business. Maybe their fault, maybe bad luck - I wouldn’t necessarily hold this against them. But if a photographer says they’ve been sued 3, 4, 5 times, I’d consider that a red flag.

10: Turn-around: It’s important that you understand the turn-around time for your wedding and event photography, and that this information is clearly stated in the photographer’s brochure and/or agreement. If there are unforeseen issues with turn-around on the photographer's end, which can happen, they should simply communicate this with you and keep you updated.

It certainly takes attention to detail, patience and research to make the right decisions for your photography needs and budget. But enjoy the process, don’t get hung up on the small stuff and have faith that you will make the right choices. Learn more by reading Frequently Asked Questions. Email me anytime for topic suggestions and feel free to comment, ask questions and share. Thanks for reading!

Peace, Love & Happy Planning,
Dana Siles