“Looking for a reasonable wedding photographer.” Someone posted on Facebook. Friends and family chimed in with recommendations and advice. Some bemoaned the expense of wedding photography. One commenter offered advice that seemed innocuous enough: “There’s no such thing as a reasonably priced wedding anything. Remove the word wedding and the prices get reasonable. ‘Hi, I need an event photographer.’ Good luck!”
Oh my gosh! No, no, no, no. Do not take this guy’s advice. I realize it might be tempting – I felt similarly when I was a bride and before I was a photographer. It seemed like everyone in the business saw dollar signs when they heard the word “wedding.”
Indeed, photography will likely be one of the biggest expenses of a wedding. It came in right behind catering on our big day. I could go on and on about the value of photography. About how that picture of my grandfather is treasured now that he’s gone. About how when times get tough, I can rest my eyes on the photographs of our first dance and our vows… but that’s another topic.
I think couples discern what value they will place on each wedding service and budget accordingly. With the assumption that you value wedding photography and want more than guests’ snapshots, I’ll wrap up this post with the right way to find a “reasonable wedding photographer.”
But first, 4 reasons you shouldn’t ask for simple “event photography” when researching wedding photographers:
- It’s shady and you’ll end up with a pretty miffed photographer. They might even have grounds to walk out and keep the retainer because you created a voidable contract by virtue of fraudulent inducement. Most photographers will bend over backwards for their clients, but if you pull a fast one like this, I doubt they are going to do what they can to make your day as beautiful as possible.
- Missed shots. Shooting a wedding is a huge undertaking and requires a photographer to exercise all their creative muscle, technical skill, and is an exhausting day. You are hustling the entire day. If a photographer isn’t prepared for a wedding you will miss key moments. First dances, toasts, the groom’s face during the processional, all that will be left up to chance. And because you haven’t worked out a detailed timeline, you’ll probably be sacrificing that romantic bride and groom session and all group photos of your family members and bridal party. We work with clients before the wedding to determine when, how long, and who we will be shooting. We come early to scout locations that will work well with that particular time of day.
- Lower quality. Not only will you miss shots, but the ones you get will be sub-par. Wedding photographers bring specific tools to shoot in funky light and limiting circumstances. Scrims, reflectors, flash, diffusers, off-camera flash set ups, long lenses, short lenses, primes, zooms- each photographer works differently to conquer the challenges of wedding photography. And perhaps, one of the best tools- a second shooter or assistant. A photographer that thinks they are shooting a family reunion may only bring their 50mm lens.
- It’s a plan for failure and stress. More important than the gear is the planning. We don’t just show up and spray and pray. We have sent the client questionnaires, pouring over the details, drafting multiple timelines, and connecting with vendors. We find out the venue restrictions and work within that world. If your photographer does decide to salvage the wedding instead of walking out, you’ll be scrambling to answer lots of questions while your mom is trying to secure your veil.
But do not fear! You are not bound to choose between camera phone pictures or a second mortgage.
How to find a photographer in your budget:
In all honesty, there are a million photographers out there. There are more and more people interested in wedding photography every day. Every wedding photographer that you call can probably list off 5+ photographers that are just dying to shoot their first wedding. And while they might not have the skill sets of a seasoned pro, we all had to start somewhere. In fact, all the images in this post are from my first full length wedding and I only charged like $300 or something.
If you are floored by the quotes coming from wedding photographers, ask their advice. It’s not rude, it’s a referral. Give them your budget. They might be able to work out something in your range (fewer images, less coverage time, etc.) or they can refer you to someone that is in your price range and similar in their style. For the most part, the photography community is very supportive and doesn’t mind helping couples find the right photographer for their needs. Most of today’s photographers ascribe to the “community over competition” framework and honestly won’t mind pointing you towards someone who might fit your needs.
Good luck out there, couples!