Wedding Photography Tips

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A Wedding Consultant's Secrets to Selecting a Photographer

by Linda Kevich

The photographer you choose to capture the moments of your wedding on film will play a highly significant role in what is likely to be the single most important day of your life. Long after the band stops playing, the guests have gone home, the flowers have wilted, and all is said and done, all that will remain are memories and photographs.

With this in mind you'll want to take great care in selecting a photographer. Many couples underestimate the importance of carefully selecting a good photographer, randomly picking a name from the telephone book, believing that one photographer is as good as the next. Later, when the day they have waited a lifetime for has come and gone, and the pictures are developed, all of the disappointment begins to set in. Follow these simple guidelines when selecting a photographer and you might just save yourself from some unexpected heartbreak.

Start Looking

It is advisable to begin shopping for a photographer as soon as you become engaged. Take the time to visit several different photographers in their studios and examine wedding pictures they have taken in the past. Ensure that you are specifically shown samples of their wedding photography. Looking at pictures of babies, pets, or sunsets won't give you any indication of the photographer's ability to take good wedding pictures!

Style of Photography

Every photographer has his or her own unique style. Look for a style of photography that "speaks" to you. A good wedding photographer should have the ability to capture a mood of romance, emotion, and sentiment within his photographs. The shots shouldn't just sit there, they should stir you in some way! They should provoke a reaction within you. Keep shopping until you find a photographer who speaks to you through his work in this way.

Wedding Experience

In addition to viewing samples of his work, be sure to find out how long the photographer has been shooting weddings and how many weddings he has done. Experience is important, not just for the quality of photograph, but also to ensure that your photographer knows how to professionally conduct himself on the job and to deal with the intensity of a wedding. An experienced wedding photographer will know how to position himself without becoming a distraction to your guests while taking photos and should also know how to work in harmony with a videographer. He will be able to keep up with the pace of your wedding day, and be able to deal with the fact that he will have an atmosphere of excitement and emotion swirling around him as he works.

Studios Which Employ More Than One Photographer

If you are dealing with a studio which employs a number of different photographers, you'll want to be sure you are viewing the samples of the photographer who will be assigned to your wedding - so be sure to ask whether that is the case! It might seem obvious, however you might be surprised by how often studios have clients view the work of photographers who will have nothing to do with their wedding day! You'll also want to request a meeting with the photographer who will photograph your wedding. Remember, this is a highly personal occasion and you will be working very closely with the person taking your photograph. He will be following you around for the entire day, so it's imperative that you have a chance to meet in advance to ensure that you are compatible and that there is no likelihood of a personality clash.

Who Keeps the Negatives?

You will also want to make sure you understand how re-orders of photos will be handled. Will the photographer keep the negatives as many do, or will he turn the negatives over to you as part of the package? Traditionally, photographers have always kept the negatives, meaning that any additional photos you may require in the future would have to be acquired through the photographer. However, today it is becoming more and more common for some professional photographers to turn over the negatives with the customer's purchase of the first set of prints. Be sure that you are clear on whether or not you will be given the negatives. This is important so that you know precisely what your package price includes and will therefore be able to accurately compare the cost of one photographer to another.

Finalizing the Arrangements

You should strive to actually book your photographer as soon as your wedding date has been firmly set. Good photographers are often booked as much as one year in advance, so don't put this off. If left for later, you may become so entrenched in tending to all the various details of your wedding that you are unable to set aside the time required for booking a photographer as the date draws nearer. This is one wedding detail which deserves to be given top priority .

Money Matters

Your photographer will likely require a deposit to hold your wedding date. Never agree to pay the entire fee for your wedding photography package up front.

Price ranges for photographers vary dramatically. In hiring a photographer, you are paying for his or her experience, style, reputation, as well as overhead costs. Select a photographer who is within your budget and whose quality and style of photography is consistent with your tastes. Don't despair if your budget is limited, just keep looking. While some photographers who work out of studios may charge enormous fees for their services, plenty of good freelance photographers are available for significantly less. Sometimes the price difference merely accounts for the fact that many freelance photographers are "home-based", meaning that they don't have the same overhead costs and operational expenses as large studio photographers, and can therefore price themselves more affordably. Just remember to shop carefully. Check your newspaper and telephone directory for listings of photographers, and ask people you know if they can recommend a good one. Once you've found a photographer who suits your budget, evaluate their work carefully and ask for three references of former clients. Before finalizing any arrangements, be sure to check those references!

Get It In Writing

When booking your photographer, always make sure to get everything in writing. A written agreement or contract with your photographer, itemizing all of the important details will protect you and prevent the potential for misunderstandings. It should be signed and dated in duplicate by both you and the photographer, and you should each retain a copy. It should list all fees, taxes, and extra charges, as well as what the photographer is to provide (number of hours of coverage, number of proofs, number of photos in the package, sizes of photos, etc.) The agreement should explain when deposits and balances are due. It should also clearly list the date of the wedding, and the location or locations the photographer will be required at, and the times at which he or she is to be there.

The Wedding Day

When it comes to actually shooting your wedding, it is a good idea to have as many photos as possible taken before the ceremony when every one is fresh, before the flowers start to wilt, and the dresses and tuxes begin to show wrinkles - and, of course, while faces and makeup are still perfect and no one has puffy eyes from crying! If you do not wish to see your fiancé before the actual ceremony, save any pictures where the two of you will appear together for after the ceremony.

Keep a small bag containing a mirror (perhaps two mirrors so you can check the back of your hair and veil as well), hairspray, powder, a brush and comb, extra hair pins, face powder, blush, and lipstick close by at all times during picture taking. Check your mirror from time to time to ensure that there is no need for touch-ups. If you will be having photos taken outside on a sunny day, make sure your photographer is skilled in techniques to minimize squinting problems. Examine a large number of photos he or she has taken outdoors to ensure that there is not a predominant problem with squinting of the eyes among the subjects in the photographs. To be safe, use a combined approach of pictures taken both indoors and outdoors.

The "Wish List"

Sit down with your photographer before the wedding and discuss the types of pictures he will be taking, and roughly how many of each. Don't be shy to let him know specifically and exactly what you want. Present him with a "wish list". For example, you may want to request a close up shot of the wedding cake, pictures of you with certain guests, and so on. Make sure that you request multiple shots of any important moments in case a shot does not turn out. In other words, request more than one shot of the cake cutting, the first dance, etc.

After the Wedding

The length of time it takes to get your photos back may vary from one photographer to another. Some photographers will provide you with proofs within a few days of the wedding, while others can take up to several months. Make sure you find out what to expect when choosing your photographer. Once you have received the proofs it is typical to allow five days developing time for every large photo you've ordered. Final Word

Once you have invested the proper care and attention into selecting a photographer to capture your big day, the only thing you'll have left to do is look up, watch the birdie, and say "Cheese!".

Article supplied by Linda Kevich
  Professional Wedding Consultant Editor, SuperWeddings.com

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