In this day and age many people are looking online to find professional photography services. I fully understand and embrace the digital age, however the computer does not allow the bride and groom an intimate look at whom it is that they are hiring. After finding the photographer that creates images that you love, I recommend starting with a phone consultation. After phone consultation if you are interested in finding out more, then I recommend a consultation at the photographer’s studio. This is known in the industry as a pre-bridal consultation. This will allow you to learn more about the photographer’s personality, how they dress and will also tell you a lot about how they will treat your guests. Remember, a bride usually hires the photographer six months to a year in advance. That is a long relationship with someone you may not get along with. Take time to get to know and build a relationship with your photographer. Also know that the photographer is also interviewing you. I am positive that they do not want to enter into a contract with someone that is hard to deal with. Many brides do not realize that they are also being critiqued.
Another important note to remember is that a photographer with an actual business location is usually a more dependable option. They are committed in a lease or mortgage on the property and therefore show a solid foundation in the industry. A firmly planted photographer is less likely to disappear on you just before, or after, your special day.
During your search it is also important to consider that price should not be your only deciding factor. When doing your research you will find photographers from $300 to $10,000 for what looks like similar services on paper. Often times the cheaper photographer is a part time photo business owner and has a full time job in another industry from which they derive their main income and benefits. Many of these photographers are great artists but normally they do not have their retirement invested in your wedding but rather just a side income for them. Most often they are not professionally trained but rather self-taught photographers. Look for a photographer with many years in the industry and/or a degree in professional photography. This will allow you to hire photographers that are skilled to handle any Circumstance they may encounter at a wedding. Many photographers do not have Liability insurance or the proper business licensing. If someone at your wedding trips over the photographer’s camera gear and is injured, you the bride and groom, may be liable for the persons injuries if the photographer is not licensed and or insured. This is because you have hired them and are now acting as the contractor.
Photographers who do not have a Tax Id number are operating illegally. Please do not support illegal business practices just because they are cheaper. It is a federal offense on the photographer’s part if they get caught. The tax ID number is absolutely free and a business license (in Pinellas County) is $65. This is a small price to pay to get legal. I always feel that if the photographer is unwilling to pay the small fee to get legal what will they try to get away with doing or not doing on your wedding day.
The cheaper photographer does not usually have top cutting edge professional equipment. Today anyone can go to an electronics store and purchase a $500 camera, create a $100 web site and print out business cards on their home printer and say they are a pro. A professional photographer will have invested many years in education and at least $10,000 in equipment. High-end professional cameras are $3000 to $5000 a piece just for the camera body and they should be carrying two or three to ensure they have back up gear in the instance something were to fail. This cost does not include the assortment of lenses varying from $1500 to $3000 each. The photographer will have to purchase new camera bodies at least every two years due to technology changes and camera wear. It is very expensive to be in business as a photographer. The expenses mentioned here do not include the expense of operating the studio building, payroll, furnishing the studio, office equipment, insurance and the computers, editing programs and the advertising to reach out to you and much more.
Be even more leery of those that do not have a web site but rather only use Facebook or a site like Flickr or Smugmug to market their work. Again, if they are not willing to pay for a real site they are probably not a full time professional.
Any photographer that says they specialize in natural light photography is also a red flag. Natural light photography is the first and simplest form of lighting. This tells me that they are unable to use studio lighting or on camera flash in a way that produces great results. Wedding images can and will be created in a variety of lighting scenarios throughout the entire event. Your photographer needs to be prepared to create great images no matter how much or little light is available. I personally always use my lighting even when the main source of light is the sun as it can add dimension to the subject.
Please understand that just because your friend or neighbor takes great landscape images does not mean that she or he can create timeless wedding photos. I have been in business for almost 20 years and covered over 500 weddings and events. To this day the most challenging thing I do is create wedding images that will preserve these once in a lifetime moments. The responsibility on the photographer’s shoulders to properly document your wedding with passion is huge. There is only one opportunity to get it right. The next day the cake is gone, your dress is packed away and the tuxes have been returned. Not to mention that your family and guests have boarded the airplane and gone home. Why trust this once in a lifetime event to some one that is untrained, under prepared, and a liability risk in order to save a few dollars. I have heard too many brides weep after-the fact about how they wished they had made a more serious investment in their photography.
Professionals are often involved in professional photographers associations. The Professional Photographers of America is a great place for photographers to continue their education in this fast changing industry. There are also state and local guilds they should be involved in. The associations are also a great place for the bride and groom to find a professional. I am a member of all three.
Most of the things mentioned here are very helpful suggestions to consider when hiring a professional photographer for any event in your life or business endeavors. A few examples are:
Corporate event photographs
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
Professional food photography for restaurants
List of things to look for while searching for the right photographer:
Business License (in the counties that require it)
Tax Id number
Professional equipment and back up gear
Professional web site
Studio location (or a professional home studio)
Professional photography Association memberships
There are so many different areas of photography to serve all walks and or endeavors in life. When there is a need for more than just cell phone snaps to preserve those special moments please consider hiring a full time professional. You will be glad you did.
I pray this information is helpful in your search for a photographer. If we can be of assistance please feel free to contact us.