I wrote this article for the premier issue of SHE! Gets Married .
I’m a professional photographer, but I don’t shoot weddings. So when my best friend’s son asked me to photograph his wedding, I decided to hire a photographer as a wedding gift. The wedding took place over 300 miles away in a rural area where there are hardly any photographers to choose from, so I relied on word of mouth. Finally, I settled with a part-time photographer who worked with “a friend of a friend.” Being busy with work and wanting to enjoy the wedding, I put my faith in the “friend of a friend.” I knew this was wrong from the beginning.
The day of the wedding, the photographer showed up, dressed professionally, and corralled groups of bridesmaids, groomsman, mothers, cousins and other relatives into the front of the small wooden church for group portraits. The photographer moved about the reception capturing the couple cutting the cake, groups of well-dressed guests filing through the serving line, and beer cans being tied to the back of the car. Near the end of the reception, I wrote the photographer a check for $700 dollars. She vanished.
After three months of the bride trying to find out when she was getting the photos, the “friend of a friend” photographer blocked the bride’s text messages and would not return phone calls. I had to call the photographer and threaten small claims court if we didn’t get the photos in 48 hours. The photographer met the bride and gave her the images on a thumb drive (she didn’t get any of the prints that were supposed to be included), and on inspecting the files, we found the photographer had been editing the images right up until an hour before she gave us the thumb drive. Most of the photos, outside the church and at the reception, were not even edited.
I blame myself for the nightmare. I know better. But I got lazy and didn’t do my homework. Here are a few tips to help you select a professional wedding photographer and receive good service. The rules I didn’t follow:
Initial Meeting and Portfolio Review
Make sure you are comfortable with the photographer because you will be allowing this person backstage access to your most special day. When viewing the photographer’s portfolio, make sure you see a large, representative group of photos over several jobs. Look at photos that cover several WHOLE weddings. Don’t be dazzled by just a few cherry-picked photos.
Shooting weddings is hard work. A good photographer has the right equipment and knows how to shoot in any lighting situation. You need a professional for this job. You should budget at least $1500-$2000 for a small/medium wedding. Generally, the photographer will require half of the payment at the time of booking and the rest when you get the images. If you hire the $400-dollar photographer from Craig’s list, you will get what you pay for! Photography is not the place to cut corners in your wedding.
A contract will lay out the amount of time the photographer will be at the wedding, the price, the terms of payment, what kind of products will be delivered and the delivery date. A professional photographer has excellent, quick editing skills and should turn all your images over to you no more than 4-6 weeks after your wedding.
This is your wedding. You should have photos that you will treasure forever.
This is not the time to hire a “friend of a friend.” Do not take a chance on having bad photos, or worse, never getting any images of your wedding at all.