Getting the Best Value for Your Wedding Photography Budget
A Photographer's Perspective
By Nanci Kerby
We all know that the cheapest product is usually not the best, but if you can find a package of good products that is below market value, you've hit the jackpot. To stretch your wedding budget, it is your challenge to get the best possible photographer for a price you can afford. Wedding Photography prices range greatly, depending on your photographer and after wedding products (the goodies).
The following are a few thoughts and questions to consider when looking for the best value in a wedding photographer.
Make sure you are comparing apples to apples
When you are making a choice between wedding photographers, first you want to look through lots of local photographer's web sites. View many web sites and once you feel that, “AHH . . . that's what I want my wedding to be photographed like!” response, email the photographer with questions and see how they respond.
Check out all of the pictures on the site, wedding and otherwise to get a good idea for how the photographer sees life. If the photographer is relating well with their client, then the photograph will show comfortable, natural expressions. Don't let the location deceive you; look at the people, not the location. You are looking for how “YOU” will look at your wedding, not on a distant romantic shore somewhere with an awesome secluded beach with wind-blown hair lying wistfully across the bride's face. Everyone can get that shot, when it's staged. Instead, look at whether the bride and groom both look happy and relaxed. Does the bride look particularly pretty, happy? You want to like a photographer's overall style: design, colors, what feelings they evoke. Personally, I always look for a sense of fun, joy, beauty and a whole story.
Next, take a look at the wedding photography package prices, to see if they fit within your ballpark budget.
Your “relationship” with your photographer is important! How do you “feel” about one photographer from another? You will want to be able to be yourself, to smile sincerely and achieve a level of comfort with the person that you are trusting to capture you at your best and most beautiful moment.
Tell the photographer about your wedding and ask for ideas. Find out how they organize their day in shooting. Notice if you can ask questions easily so that when it is your wedding day you can ask for anything (reasonable) and be assured that the answer will be an easy, “yes, we can do that.” Make sure the package you are interested in is clear with its contents, and you might ask specifically what products you will receive and touch samples to feel the quality.
Now, here is where the apples to apples comparison comes in...
When you visit a second photographer, make sure and ask the same questions and think about the feelings each are evoking upon you. If you do this for each photographer you will have a clear idea of the similarities and differences between their products. However, what you get in a photography package varies wildly from one professional to another.
Do you want to pick your products 'a la carte' or have an inclusive Wedding Package?
A la carte sounds great, doesn't it? You can pay less now for your wedding photography because you can choose what you want to purchase later!! You may be very excited to see a price tag for your wedding photography of only $1500... you might jump to say, "Yes! This is in my budget, let's go for it!" But you need to think of the other half of your costs... the dollars you will be spending on your pictures later. If you are paying for the photographer to shoot your wedding ONLY, they will let you purchase individual photographs and albums at high retail afterward. You will discover that, when final pictures are not included in a wedding package price, you could be looking at a LOT more money than you anticipate (and often double!).
So make sure you have a price list for prints, enlargements, albums and whatever other products you think you might want later on if you're deciding to go the 'a la carte' route. When you add up the cost of the products you would get in a package you're considering, you'll know if they're similar in total price.
Consider inclusive Wedding Packages.
Now, let's discuss your other option of “Inclusive Wedding Packages”. There are a variety of combinations available. The variations will be in the number of hours a photographer shoots, the number of people photographing, and the various professional products that come with the package (actual prints, albums, printable DVDs, etc.). Package prices will also vary due to factors such as the style of album chosen, how much touch-up work is included, and the quality of the printed photos.
Many Wedding Photography Packages include an assistant, a second shooter, covering shots from the side or a different vantage point, or documenting other happenings while the main photographer is with the couple. Choosing a package that gives you everything you want will determine what your final costs will be. If you are having a small wedding, negotiate for a custom package. Ask the photographer what the savings would be if there were no assistant, or how much it would cost for 4 hours instead of 6, etc.
Packages are a great way to stretch your budget, because you often get extras at a highly discounted rate.
If you find a photographer you really love, who is a good fit for your personality, then ask them to work with you by building a special package for you, based on what you really need and want, to get closer to your budget.
Do you want a wedding album?
Most likely the answer to that is yes, so you need to decide what kind. There's the Traditional Matted Album, Flush Mount Style, or a Coffee Table Press Printed Original Book.
A Traditional Matted Album can be bonded leather, cowhide or leatherette. Other options such as metal and wood covers are also en vogue. Leather needs some upkeep and sometimes does not feel as good as quality imitation leather that will require no upkeep, and can look just as good. If this is a “dollars” upgrade question, then you might opt for leatherette, as most people would never know the difference when it's a high quality album. Traditional Matted Album means each page holds an individually printed picture, or two, or four. Each page has a mat that puts each picture in a frame of black, ivory or brown. It is a stylish and traditional collection of your selected images.
A Flush Mount Album is a contemporary style — like a magazine layout where one picture can be overlaid on another. Each page can be a montage of many pictures or a single panorama stretching across the pages. These can be quite stunning, if designed by a talented person. When deciding what you want, look at your photographer's samples and ask if your album would be done by the same artist/or lab as the samples — this can be very important to make sure you get the same look as the sample you are looking at as the “artists” and labs that put these together can make a big difference.
Press Printed Coffee Table Books are among the most expensive books, but very attractive. Each one is a custom designed, printed and bound. Acrylic or metallic covers are the hot ticket, and quite stunning. Also leather and silks are available. Pages are thicker than a regular book and can have metallic, photographic paper, or a linen textured finish. Copy books for family members are rather reasonable, since the main expense is in the original design, so if many family members want copies, this higher end model can become quite reasonable. You can also order small versions as gifts for the wedding party and other special people.
Do you want a digital version of all the photos? If so, will the images only be viewable, or printable as well?
If a DVD is included in your package, congratulations! You have found a real bargain and made a good choice for your wedding dollars spent. If not, then you may want find out how much it costs. Since you can only choose a few pictures for your album, it is nice to have a story of your whole wedding with all of those beloved people having fun. If your photographer includes a CD for viewing only of your wedding, this might be enough to make you happy. If you think about giving photos of you or your family and friends as thank you gifts, then you will want a printable version, will typically cost extra as it has a significant increase in value.
Should You have a contract — and a price list?
Always! Make sure your contract spells out how long the photographer will be shooting for you, and if he comes late, what then, and if he gets ill, what then. Not only does this “cover” you, but the contract will spell things out so you know what you are paying for. Are you buying time and talent plus, an album and twenty-five pictures, or are you buying a whole package with album and DVD and second photographer? Be sure and get a price list so you know exactly what extra products will cost.
I hope this helps you begin your search for the best deal for your photography wedding budget!