This was a great article I found on http://www.matrixdigitalarts.com/ser_wed_undecided.htm
1. Is the Photographer Really a Professional?
With digital cameras becoming so popular, just about everyone owns one. Some individuals feel they are qualified to take wedding shoots and charge a fee, which technically means, “professional.” Wedding photography is like many other professional services where you have people working at all levels of expertise and experience. Here are some things you should consider in your search for a wedding photographer:
Does the photographer have his/her own web site or are the samples loaded on a third-party web site? Does he/she have an email address that depicts the photography business or is it “John Doe” @ yahoo.com? This may seem trivial, but it demonstrates how serious the photographer feels about his/her business.
Know the difference between an aspiring photographer and a professional photographer.
What professional photography associations does he/she belong.
Does he/she carry business or malpractice insurance? What is your legal recourse if they don’t?
What formal education and training has the photographer taken? How much experience?
Does the photographer have real honest photograph samples of his/her own work? Or are they borrowed from someone else. Can they provide references?
Does the photographer have a back-up plan in case of equipment failure? What is the professional level of equipment? Is he or she using a consumer camera, or a professional camera? What about illness or family emergencies? Do they have a substitute ready?
2. Understanding the Costs of Engaging a Professional Wedding Photographer
Before asking yourself how much you should spend on a wedding photographer, ask yourself the importance of one! This may seem silly to ask, but the average wedding today cost upwards of $15,000 to $25,000 or more. For a ONE DAY EVENT! Doesn’t it make sense to make the investment in preserving those memories forever? Who are you going to trust to do that? We have had many newlyweds tell us that they were so caught up in their special day, they don’t remember half of it, it’s a blur. Ok, point made.
A professional photographer’s work doesn’t end at the conclusion of your reception. After a full day of shooting, the work is just getting started. There is a lot of back end work that must be accomplished, from reviewing the photos, making selections, correcting or enhancing, to providing the final product for your review. On average, it takes three hours of back end work for every hour of shooting the event. If there are two photographers, the work is doubled. For a typical wedding day shoot of 8 hours, (including pre-ceremony, ceremony, formals and group shots, and the reception), a total of 30-40 hours will be invested in your wedding photography. So if you receive a quote for only a few hundred dollars, you have just found out what that photographer feels his/her time is worth, the value of their shoot, and the level of their expertise. This brings us to the next topic below.
3. I found a photographer that offered to shoot my wedding for $500.00
Go back and reread points 1 and 2 above.
If a photographer is willing to be commissioned for only a few hundred dollars, you may not be getting the quality of photos you had hoped for. A photographer that operates at this level is often either a beginner with very little experience trying to build their portfolio or a casual part-timer. Most professional photographers have invested thousands of dollars in their equipment, hundreds of hours in perfecting their knowledge and the artistic style they deliver. On top of that, if they offer to hand over their images, they don’t understand the true value of professional photography, which brings us to the next point below.
4. Some photographers offer to give me the originals on a disc.
Now go back and re-read points 1, 2, and 3 above.
A musician is an artist. They write music, play it, record it, and sell you the finished product of their work on a CD. Who owns the CD? You do of course. Who owns the music? The musician does.
The same is true of a professional photographer. You own the wedding photographs, the prints you contracted for, the albums, the discs. You have paid for them. But a professional photographer retains the rights to their artistic vision, what they saw in the lens of the camera, their style of shooting, the way they place or arrange you for the shoot. A photographer makes a living by selling his artistic vision of your wedding day. As pointed out earlier, that artistic vision has a price. Several thousand dollars in equipment, thousands of hours in training, seminars, etc. Plus the expense of insurance. Additionally, a professional photographer will be concerned on how their “vision” is represented or reproduced. Will he/she employ the services of a professional wedding lab to provide your prints, or will he/she run down to the nearest drug store. With all of this said, why would the photographer be willing to give you the originals for nothing?
This should tell you one of two things right away: First, he places no value on the quality of his work and how it is represented to other potential customers; and secondly, he needs the business so bad he is willing to give it way. “Buyer beware!”
5. Do not begin your search by asking the photographer’s price.
Let’s be honest. Would you call up any home builder and ask him what his price is for a home? Would you call a jeweler and ask him how much for a wedding ring? They will all tell you that it all depends upon what you are looking for. How many square feet do you want in your new home, or what size and type of gem do you want in the ring.
The same is true for your quest of a wedding photographer. Decide first the end product you want. Do you want prints, an album, a coffee table book, a large portrait, or maybe a DVD? When you meet a photographer, look at all the products they have to offer, decide what you want, and tell them how many hours you will need them at your special event. Only then, can a professional photographer quote you a price.
A more fair question to ask a professional wedding photographer: “What is your minimum engagement rate?” Many photographers won’t leave their studios for less than $5,000, while others may start at $1,500. Knowing this helps to save both the photographer’s and your time. If you find the photographer’s starting price is too high for your budget, perhaps he/she can make a recommendation within your budget.