Photography
Teddy TBride Online Columnist

Booking a Photographer

A skillfully photographed wedding album will be one of the most adored and precious items that is kept and loved many years after your wedding day. As well as conveying the emotions, romance and humour of the day, they are a testament to your relationship. Needless to say, such an important part of your lives should be captured by a highly qualified professional wedding photographer.

(Courtesy bjp-online.com)

Establishing open communication and a communicative and cooperative your wedding photographer is important because your photographer is an integral part of your wedding  day. The better photographers do more for you than simply take photographs. They help with planning, timing, and finer scheduling details. So before embarking on your search for your perfect photographer, it's important to have an understanding of the industry and basic business practices. 

How much should we budget?

When starting out, it is hard to know what wedding photography costs, because photographers are not prone to advertising their prices. An important factor to remember is that any price quoted will be a starting coverage or package price only. Every wedding is unique, as is every couple. Generally, the prices between different wedding photographers reflect their qualifications, experience, skill, and creative style. The quality of the overall product and level of service will also vary with price.

Basically, like many services, you generally get what you pay for. Therefore, the more paid, the greater the quality of photography and professionalism (usually!). Most wedding photographers will have a starting package or coverage which allows for the time that will be spent together on the day and will either include a basic amount of photographs in a basic album (package) or a credit that will go towards an album afterwards (coverage). Starting amounts are usually around $1500 and generally will provide only about 20 to 30 photographs. Remember these are basic or starting amounts only, and generally do not include all the extras you will want. Also, generally 20 to 30 photographs is not enough photographs to tell a full story of your wedding day, so most couples want more and better than the basic album.

You won’t really know what and how many pictures you will need until you see the images, so you need to budget for the extras of additional photographs and a better album. Prices can range anywhere up to $5000 for a full photography package. A decision to employ a photographer based purely on price however, and not skill, generally ends in heartbreak, so think carefully before choosing a cheaper option. You will invest a lot of money on a wedding and all will be for only that one day, except the photography. This will be the one thing that you will have forever that will bring all the wonderful memories of that one day back. If money is an issue however, organise to get a better wedding photographer, but spend a little less time with them on the day and choose a few less photographs. It will be the quality photography you remember, not the cost.

Why does wedding photography cost this much?

Photography today is expensive today because of labour and material costs. Good professional photographers use professional equipment, film, labs and albums, which are high in cost, and you additonally pay for their high overheads and time. Even though you may only see them for about 15 hours before, during and after the day, they will also spend at least 30 to 40 hours producing your album. In essence, you're paying for the value of a photographers style, experience, qualifications and expertise- not just for time, materials and overheads.

How should we choose a photographer?

A referral from family or friends is a good starting point. Check out your potential photographers' website and portfolio to get an idea of their style. An excellent resource is also, of course, our own  gallery- use it to check out premier photographers near you. Begin with focusing on two or three photographers- throwing any more into the mix will only serve to confuse you. You can either narrow down your photographer from this list or move along and pick the next lot of three to examine. The only way to establish the value of the photographer is to meet with them- not simply by viewing a select sample of photos on their brochure or site, or based on a phone enquiry. It's essential to make an appointment with the studio.

Many studios are now single operations, meaning there is only one photographer and they are usually the owner. Some have more than one photographer, and some are fairly high volume studios that call in part-time photographers to shoot for them. When choosing a studio like this, it's important to meet the person that will be photographing your wedding so you can establish a trust-based relationship before you even book with the studio.

Make sure the work you are viewing is that belonging to the same photographer you're meeting. Try to look at at complete weddings and a full set of the original images, and not just the best shots from various weddings.  Allow about an hour for all your initial enquiries to be answered and to be able to view the photos in a relaxed fashion. During this time, you should eb able to get a good feel for the style, creativity and quality of the photos and albums as well as the compatibility and qualifications of the photographer. As photographers work weekends and some have days as a break through the week, evening appointments can often be arranged. Try to select one near to your place so that arrangements can be made easily and will be much flexible. 

Are all photographers qualified?

One such qualification is the Australian Institute of Professional Photography’s (AIPP) Accreditation process. AIPP Full Members must go through an accreditation process where their portfolio is assessed to make sure their work is up to a certain standard. To find an Accredited AIPP photographer in your area, log on to www.aipp.com.au and go to their 'Find a Photographer' section.

Why should I even bother booking a photographer when my Uncle Harry has a great camera?

Remember, it’s not the great camera that takes the photo, it’s the photographer. Although a friend or family member may be a great amateur photographer, they will not have the experience, equipment or knowledge of a professional photographer. Quality wedding photography does not happen by chance. It is created by a specialised professional who has a creative eye and a genuine love of people and wedding photography. Your photographer will also need to co-ordinate the flow of the day, know all the types of shots that need taking, and must be able to do all of this in variable weather and sometimes difficult time constraints.

A specialist wedding photographer can provide a fantastic story telling role and will be able to help you before, during and after the day. Before you dismiss the thought of using a professional photographer for financial reasons, perhaps look at ways you may be able to afford one. You may be able to re-prioritise the wedding budget, or you could ask guests to provide money towards the photography as a gift. Some photographers have credit vouchers and you can include them on the bridal gift ideas register. Most wedding photographers also offer layby to spread the payments for you.

When should I book my wedding photographer?

It is a good idea to start looking and booking your wedding photographer as soon as you have decided on a wedding date. It is common to book a photographer 12 to 18 months (or longer) in advance.The busy wedding times are from September to May and Saturdays are highly sought after. Remember, it is worth booking this far in advance to get the photographer you want. When you have found the photographer that you are comfortable with, pay the deposit to ensure you have the photographer that you want, on the day that you want.

Should we sign a contract with our wedding photographer?

Most definitely. This is your assurance that the studio will honour its commitment to you. A contract is nothing more than an agreement confirming all the things the photographer has explained to you. There should be no surprises and therefore no reason not to sign. Before you do sign, make sure you have all the relevant information as to individual print, album and page pricing, cancellations, payments etc. Make sure you understand everything that you're signing.The wedding photographer should have all the information in writing for you (called full disclosure). If there's anything that you're unsure about or that hasn’t been explained, don’t sign, and don't book. Wedding photography is very unique in that there's a lot of trust you place in your photographer for their future performance, and vice-versa. The contract covers both yourself and the photographer for your upcoming wedding.

The written contract should specify:

  • The total cost of the album
  • The size and the amount of prints to be received
  • Who keeps the negatives and for how long
  • The additional cost should you want more prints than the number initially agreed to
  • How many hours the photographer will spend with you on your wedding day
  • How long it will take to deliver the proof album after the wedding.

 

Why do we have to pay up front?

It is normal practice for your photographer to ask for a deposit, and the rest of the money before your actual wedding. The booking deposit is usually 50% of the package or coverage, and sometimes more. The reason for this up front payment is that you're ensuring that the photographer you have chosen will be exclusively available to you for your chosen day. The photographer starts working for you from the day you pay the deposit. Similarly, the upfront payment acts as the photographer's insurance. The remaining amount is due before the wedding, so that you will be able to view your photographs when you return from your honeymoon. Remember that your package is not all you will spend on photography, as you will be investing more on your album afterwards.

What happens after I book?

You should receive written and/or verbal communication regarding the procedures the studio will take to ensure that you get what you paid for. If there are any aspects of the wedding that you think would affect the photography, ensure that you tell the studio prior to arranging details. If you wish to have pre-wedding photographs taken, you will need to advise your photographer several months prior (depending on your photographer). The pre-wedding photographs are a fantastic idea, especially if you haven’t any photographs of yourselves and are a great way to start your album and have some lovely wall portraits.

The studio should contact you prior to your wedding day to make a pre wedding appointment to discuss the fine details with you such as timing, locations and any special photographic styles or techniques you would like. When deciding on how long you will require your photographer on the day, remember, the longer the photographer stays, the more photographs are taken. If you want to save, then keeping the photographer up until the start of the reception is ample.

How much time should we set aside for photography?

The amount of time will vary with each wedding, however it is a good idea to discuss with your photographer what would be appropriate prior to booking your ceremony and reception venues. Things to keep in mind include:

  • the size of your bridal party and family, 
  • the length of service
  •  travel time needed and 
  • the type of locations where you'll be holding your ceremony

You'll need around one and a half to two hours free photographic time (excluding travel) after the service in order to do family groups, bridal party and your more personal shots at one or two locations.

Finding Time

Some photographers may try and organise your wedding-day timetable around their shooting needs. Don't assume that this is usual protocol, because it is most certainly not. Ensure that your photographer will not pressure you into conforming to his schedule, and if they do, shop around until you find someone that won't!

But we hate posing for photographs!

Many couples prefer to have their wedding captured candidly. That is to say, they don’t want to pose for photographs. However, there is a misconception that a wedding can be successfully photographed totally candidly. Candid photographs can be taken whilst your attention is elsewhere but there are times during the day that you will need to be directed or posed. It actually requires more time and takes a very skilled photographer to capture  the atmosphere, mood and feeling that creates a great candid shot.  A good wedding photographer will make people feel comfortable and will be able to "pose" you so your images will then look candid or unposed.

The directed photographs are important in an album, as they gather and include the family and bridal party. It is rare to have you and all of your family, or friends or bridal party and even the two of you in a candid situation looking good at the one time at a wedding. You'll need to cooperate with the wedding photographer and allow yourselves to be comfortably directed by them. That is the skill of the better photographers and this is what you should look for. It's also what you are paying for.

What happens after the wedding?

In most cases the studio will produce a set of viewing prints (either proofs, previews or originals) to assist you in making your purchasing decisions. There have always been many ways that these prints are presented and you should ask to see samples. Remember that there is no such thing as the proverbial free lunch, and if the studio includes the set of prints in the initial package deal, you've already paid for them. These prints are costly for a studio and if you are to keep them, then expect to pay for them later down the line. Most studios will expect that you purchase an album, although some studios have options where you don’t have to. Studios will be very well set up to help you with the album making process, and most photographers view it as a major part of the creative process. Your album can generally be personalised to an extensive degree, and there are generally many variations to choose from.

The album planning process generally takes four to six hours. This is generally done at the photographer's prior to the initial prints leaving the studio. This is because they are usually loose to make it easy to move the photos around, and the photographer can help you with the creative design of the album. An album is a excellent way to finish the creative process and the final product is immensely rewarding. It keeps your photographs safe and clean and allows you to view your wedding in a logical sequence. The photographer's album is an excellent way to keep your treasured memories together and display them in the form of a coffee table book.

So what if I have a problem with my photographer?

If you do encounter a problem, try to discuss this calmly and rationally with the photographer or the studio. If you feel your problem has not been rectified, then put your concerns in writing. If there is still not a solution by this stage, then find out if the photographer is a member of an organisation such as the AIPP. By contacting the organisation and detailing your problem in writing, they will in turn contact the photographer if they are a member. The organisation can also help with advice, and view the work and act as a mediator. If you discover that your photographer is not a member, the organisation may not be able to help. It will still be beneficial to record a written complaint as it will tarnish the photographers record if they wish to join in the future. If after this course of complaint, your problem is still unresolved there is the Office of Fair Trading (Consumer Affairs) and after this the small claims tribunal. However, by choosing a qualified specialised wedding photographer, you are very unlikely to encounter problems.

24 Tips on Achieving Gorgeous Photos

1) Book a qualified specialised wedding photographer early (usually 12 to 18 months prior).

2) Establish an open communication and discuss what you want, your budget, and what can be achieved.

3) Be aware of limitations and have realistic expectations.

4) Be on time, so plan well and allow extra time for unexpected delays.

5) Rehearse the ceremony and work with the priest to obtain professional photographs.

6) Plan positioning and organise a coordinating person for civil ceremonies.

7) Have earlier services in non daylight saving time, ie. the end of March to the end of October, to allow for light for the photography (book usually one to two pm services).

8) Have wet weather alternatives for photos and out door ceremonies.

9) Allow enough time to comfortably do the photography (usually one and a half to two hours).

10) Involve the family and bridal party, working together to cooperate with the photographer.

11) Plan the times and meeting spots with family for the photography locations to avoid delays and disappointment with missing people. Supply Melway map numbers prior to the day to help find the locations.

12) Plan transport for family and bridal party to get to these locations quickly.

13) Supply Melway map numbers and photography locations to the car drivers.

14) Designate key people from each side to help coordinate the family involvement for the photography.

15) Don't allow family and friends to shoot in front of the photographer as it spoils your professional photographs.

16) Organise some drinks and snacks for the photography shoot and bring them with you.

17) Plan, obtain permission, book and if required, pay for any special places you wish to go for photography

18) Book a professional makeup artist and go for a trial. Ask to keep the makeup a flat base to avoid shine. Don't do it yourself, be pampered on the day.

19) For the groom and attendants - shave on the morning after a couple of days growth.

20) Provide cover up for the groom and attendants to blend in shaving rash and blemishes.

21) Book a professional hairdresser. Go for a trial. Keep the hair off the face with no loose pieces. Use lots of pins and spray to keep control in the wind. Loose hair blowing across your face spoils your photographs.

22) Use lots of pins and spray for the veil to avoid falling out.

23) Coordinate with the florist to have buttonholes (and a spare) and the brides etc. flowers, delivered to the correct locations before the photographer arrives. Have the florist identify whose flowers are whose.

24) Most importantly, because of the little detail pre-wedding planning, relax, enjoy and have fun with your photographer.

 

This information has been supplied by the AIPP’s new Certified Professional Photographer program in the interests of better photography.

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