If you had a friend who went to church regularly would you let them conduct your wedding ceremony? How about a friend who listens to some music, perhaps they can whip a band together for the night? Know somebody who likes flowers? Well, let them do your bouquets. Have a friend with a big tent lying away in a loft? Perhaps he can sex it for your reception. No, that would be ridiculous.
Photography seems to be the one area where an alternative can be found yet the Photography should be one of the top priorities regarding any wedding.
Because your friend has a camera it isn’t enough to qualify him to be a photographer, sure, he may be able to rattle off some snaps but can really understand the dynamics of the day and articulate those dynamics in a coherent way? A way that will tell the story of your wedding day?
I recently received an enquiry which went along the lines of “we’re looking for a photographer but we may let a student do it or perhaps a family friend but we also know a local guy who is cheap”. So there was a student. The family friend. Cheap local guy. Then me. I made a decent offer with regards to their budget. My offer was clearly rebuffed. As far as I was concerned, here was somebody who put no value whatsoever on their wedding photographs, they just didn’t get it. Or perhaps they were thinking that “lets get a family friend shoot the entire day rather than get a pro for just a couple of hours”, which may be fair enough.
If you want a collection of pictures that are all over the place (sometimes the bride & groom have no ankles or feet in these pictures. This is poor composition in my book, sometimes they are blurry, blasted out highlights can be a common “effect”, or just dark pictures, all bad) and have no flow. And if you have spoken to the “cheap local guy”, then why contact me, a specialist in documentary photography? The student option is weird full stop. Is this my competition? Certainly not, never will be.
I don’t think somebody like myself has a chance when these options are on the table.
Personally I have always been very fair. If a couple love my work and know what I can do then we’re really half way there. But you have to inform yourself of what I do before you send that email. I have a Price Guide which really is a guide. Perhaps your wedding is a Civil Ceremony, perhaps you may have 28 guests. Maybe it is all being held on the same venue and a more intimate experience.
When it comes to pricing I judge it on what I would call a normal Days shoot. Brides House, Church, Reception Venue, somewhere in the region of 110 to 150 guests and a general shooting period which would start anywhere from 11:30 in the morning right up until 6:00 in the evening, this covers morning preparations until the couple sit for their meal and you’re looking at a set of 300 – 500 images, the final set all depends on what happens on the day, each day will will have its own energy and flow, but that figure is a good ballpark.
While I get many enquiries that are very positive, engaging and get the ball rolling towards a booking, there are times when I rarely get more information than the “Getting married send price guide” type. It is quite frustrating, and is so because I take what I do very seriously to be the best I can be. The one line email and no further reply leaves me with little to work with, and with some concern. I send out price guide and then the couple probably make a comparison with what they have viewed previously and book on the cheapest option, rather than “Well, we like this work the best, lets see if we can get a deal”.
What I try to do is get them to answer more questions about their day. Such as Have you a budget? Have you viewed the extensive galleries on my website? What style of photographer were you looking for? How do you see your day moving? A couple of years back a couple made a booking on one image on my website. They were viewing the galleries and then it hit them, that one image captured everything they needed to know about me and my photographic work. That is something I get excited about, I love that interaction. But when a pile of us get tossed into a pot then I get worried.
As an example, a while back a couple dropped the name of a photographer and the price he was willing to shoot for. A full days shooting right up to the dancing (and calling on both bride & groom on the morning) as well as a photo book. And images on DVD disc (100 I believe which sounds paltry in my opinion). They asked me would I match his price. This Photographer was willing to travel from the Connaught area down to Kerry, shoot until the first dance and for €700.
Now, at first glance at the images on the photographers Facebook page (no website, well, it didn’t work) it was clear that this photographer was using equipment that was at least eight years old, and zero editing software was used so the pictures were flat and very inconsistent. Mind you, the composition wasn’t too hot neither.
There is not a hope in hell I’d start playing that game. Did the photographer value his/her work? Did he/she value the couples wedding? Did they value the images that could be gathered from their wedding day? Or do they just want to make a quick buck?
Put me up against a photographer who I admire, somebody who is actually very good, similar competition. Somebody you know is dedicated, super and with a similar style and then I’ll definitely do my utter best to get the gig. And in general, this is how it is done.
So why can’t I work for that price if the fella from up the country can? Well, first off, I am a professional. Secondly, I keep all working tools up to date, tools like Photoshop will be updated as soon as they have a new product out. Nikon software is updated as soon as they have updates and both these tools help me produce the most dynamic final images that I can produce. Right now I have the best and most up to date editing software available.
Once a new generation of DSLR is available I make that a priority, at the end of each year I’ll send off equipment for calibration and servicing, I’m insured, I pay my TAX, equipment can get damaged (I recently dropped a €2k lens on a very hard floor). Equipment is backed up, all this is built into how I charge, and my prices are not exuberant. Photographing weddings is my full time job and I devote my time to producing the best work I can. I give each shoot 100%. I don’t photograph anything else these days but weddings, documentary weddings. I bring a consistency, a good reputation. And like so many professionals out there I know what I am doing and make sure everything is up to speed.
A little education and information would help when selecting a photographer, thankfully many inform themselves and have a good eye for an image but to me it is shocking that a couple can put more value on a chocolate fountain and sacrifice their wedding by allowing a cowboy to photograph it, I know this even from the few email emails I get telling me who they are also looking at. How can a couple look at a good photographer and then a poor photographer, and subjectivity is out the window here, and then make a judgement based on saving a few hundred Euros? And sometimes I’ll get an email back stating they got X photographer for X money and I usually shudder a bit because they just have not seen the bigger picture.
Right now and suddenly there is a hell of a lot of part time wedding photographers out there, and a couple of times a year I get to view some of this work to “fix”. These fixes are not cheap, if fixable at all. Now, don’t confuse an aspiring photographer with a Chancer, a budding photographer will always show dedication and a will to learn, they should have a body of work that is coherent and they should be articulate enough to put you at ease without resorting to the old “your special day” diversional nonsense, the Chancer will offer you the world for next to nothing.
Go for a great set of images, speak to your photographers, speak to me, if you think paying somewhere in the region of €1500 to €2000 is too much then imagine the pain of paying peanuts and getting monkeys, recently I heard a story where a couple accepted a CF card at the end of their wedding day, and I am positive they got what they paid for.
There is often the attitude that “Sure, aren’t cameras so good now that anybody can use them”, I hear this so often that it forces me to explain why this is not so. I have never seen a camera record a photograph well regardless of how abject that person behind the camera, yet I have seen some horrific images from those who assumed that they could do it with ease. The camera is a tool, but don’t let one behind it thinking he can use it. Just because somebody has a camera that does not make them a photographer.
At the end of the day when the dust settles all you will have left from your wedding day is a set of images, make sure they are great ones.