Let’s talk about weddings. They are expensive, and beautiful. You want that perfect wedding that all your friends talk about for months and months. You want to have that perfect wedding that gets pinned hundreds of times on Pinterest onto other people’s dream wedding boards. You’ve spent years dreaming of what dress you would wear, what the cake would look like, what types and colors of flowers you would have in your arms. And the ring. Every girls big dream is that perfect ring. Have you thought about a photographer? You know, the one that will give you those photos that everyone will swoon over? Have you found the perfect photographer that will take the photographs that will turn all your friends green with envy?
If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with photos. All growing up I loved to look through old photo albums of my parents and grandparents, even great grandparents. I loved their photos so much I even displayed my favorite of each of their wedding photos at my own wedding reception. I love seeing those old black and white portraits of my grandma looking radiant in her wedding gown and my grandpa looking handsome and so in love. There’s nothing more amazing than looking at a photo and being transported back in time to actually see those details of their dress, hairstyle, bouquet- everything.
Lately it seems everyone is looking for a “reasonable” wedding photographer. Everyone wants the best deal out there. But what is reasonable; what’s a good deal? And why are all these photographers wedding rates just way across the board? Some offer the whole wedding package for under $500, while others are at over $2,000+ for the just wedding day or even more for a package that includes engagements and bridals. How on earth will you choose which photographer to go with? It seems like an easy decision, doesn’t it? $500 means you that can afford that more lavish wedding cake that will feed 300+ people, or the fancier Vera Wang dress you ripped out of a magazine last year when you started dating your fiancé, or maybe even be able to do those huge floral centerpieces for every table like the celebrities do. You will possibly even have enough left over for that super expensive hair and makeup artist to make you glamorous for all your photoshoots.
Smart, right? That’s good wedding budgeting and you dodged an expensive bullet there pal. Pat yourself on the back, you got an amazing deal. Right? Wait a minute…
Your photos are ALL you get to keep (beyond the dress if you didn’t rent it or don’t decide to sell it after). The flowers will wilt and die no matter how stunning they were, the cake will have been eaten (or gone moldy if you went with that one that fed twice as many people as you invited. Ick.), the awesome DJ you hired to play all the perfect songs will have packed up his equipment and gone home. Your beautiful linen tablecloths will be returned back to the rental place and the venue will have redecorated the space for someone else’s dream wedding. Your day is over and done. That gorgeous Vera Wang dress you saved up your pennies for is now zipped up in a bag to hang in the back of a closet. Time for those post wedding blues to hit. It’s all over.
The cake, the dress, the flowers and all the little details that make your day yours and show your personalities are still very, very important- don’t get me wrong; but what do you have left after all is said and done? Buyers remorse?
Do you have those Pinterest worthy photos of you and your friends? With your mom and dad? What about that beautiful cake, are there perfect shots of it before it was cut and devoured? What about the fun and beautiful candids of you and your spouse shoving cake up each other’s nostrils? The dress you so painstakingly found after weeks or months of trying on dress after dress, do you have portraits that show the details in it, or does your dress just look plain white? Do you have those beautiful, hopelessly head over heels in love photographs that you want to plaster all over your walls and online and beam with pride as you someday show your children and grandchildren the start of your family?
I hope so. I truly do. Wedding photography is SO important. I really can’t stress this enough. You can’t redo the day. Yes, you can always get dressed up and get more portraits retaken later on (which I have done several times for couples and thus the reason for my feelings on writing this post), but do you get the wedding day back? Do you get to retake the family photos with your parents, or the group shot of everyone who attended your ceremony? No. You don’t. You can’t get that back. Those opportunities have flown out the window so fast, you blinked and you missed it.
I’ll be honest with you- you likely won’t ever use that group shot. You won’t hang on your wall and half the people who came won’t matter to you in a few years if they weren’t your blood relatives. Friends come and go. But you still want a good, clear shot where you can see everyone’s faces and how happy they are for you. You still want it in a photo album for the memory. You want that photo of your dad and mom hugging you and whispering how beautiful you look. You want those candid moments with your friends admiring your dress or your details. The laughing faces of your friends and family as they share horribly embarrassing stories about both you and your spouse. You want good photos of your details! Why bother putting all the effort and money into your wedding if you aren’t ever going to see any of it again?
Most people really can’t tell the difference between a “good” photo and a “bad” photo. When it’s someone you love that is in the photo, it’s hard to not be biased about it. You love seeing photos of you and your beloved. It’s so magical and exciting that you may be willing to overlook a lot of things about it that you will hate later on- bad composition, lighting, maybe an unflattering pose, or out of focus. Possibly the location of choice wasn’t that great after all. But you know what is? You and your fiancé are in it! That makes it exciting and unique right? You are legitimately a couple and get to show it off to the world! You post a hundred photos on Facebook and Instagram and everyone is gushing over them. A lot of them are likely thinking that they aren’t perfect photos, but they support you so they ooh and ash appropriately. And everyone has a camera nowadays right? That means you were able to get those photos for cheap! The girl down the street in your ward has a nice DSLR camera. She offers to do your wedding for a fabulous price. She has a nice camera, so the photos will turn out perfect right? All she has to do is click the shutter button and magic comes out. Or maybe your uncle Bob just got a new camera and told you he will just photograph everything for you- but then he got busy talking with family members for half the night and since you were busy greeting guests that wanted to congratulate you, you didn’t notice that nothing was being documented. You now have hardly any photos from your wedding. What do you do?
I know I would cry. A lot. It’s upsetting and can be heartbreaking. But with everyone having a “nice camera” it makes it hard to distinguish real wedding photographers from someone who just owns a camera. It’s hard to explain to people why a more expensive photographer is still “reasonable and valuable” when there are more inexpensive options out there. Have you thought about whether these photos are good enough quality to print a really large portrait?
Weddings are expensive- that’s just a standard fact of life. But you do it once. Why would you risk not having a reliable and consistent photographer? Why not do it right the first time? We want you to love your photos, to squeal with joy about how beautiful you look and how perfect your dress and flowers really were. We want you to still be going back months later to re-look through your photos and keep swooning over how perfect they are (am I the only one guilty of this?). We want you to remember the hopelessly romantic feelings you had as your husband kissed you on the nose after smearing chocolate cake on your face. We want your day documented so well that when you look through, there are things that you didn’t even know you missed! Your wedding photographer is there to preserve your day for you. It takes passion to do it and I definitely get emotionally attached to every wedding.
We aren’t trying to rip you off. I promise. So much work, time, talent, and money goes into becoming an artist worthy of photographing weddings. It’s a huge commitment. Wedding days are long for photographers. We are there before the dress is put on, always on our feet, always observing everything around us and we stay until after the dress comes off. Not only that, but professional camera equipment is expensive. The $3,000+ camera bodies, all the lenses- you know, the ones that give you that gorgeous blurry background- that are $2,000+, the flashes/strobes and extras to make sure if something breaks you have more. The time spent learning your camera inside and out and always learning new tricks to make each wedding photo magical. The days and long nights spent at the computer sorting through thousands of images and editing to perfection your wedding story.
Uncle Bob with his “nice camera” or that girl that is just starting out and has amazing rates is nothing compared to what your professional wedding photographer can deliver. Does uncle Bob understand lighting a whole room? Does he know how to manipulate settings in his camera to achieve different things? No. He’s got a kit lens that came with his camera and is shooting on auto setting most likely.
I am not writing this to discredit beginner photographers. We all start out on the same level. Some have more raw talent than others, but we each have to work hard to continue to grow. It takes a lot of time and effort, but everyone can succeed if they really want it bad enough. My thoughts behind writing this is more to educate brides to make sure to look through portfolios and that you have a good relationship with your photographer. If you want to hire that girl down the street, you can. That’s totally your decision and yours alone. But, in all honesty, beginner photographers can gain experience by second shooting weddings with the pros. It’s a great way to learn and not at the risk of your own wedding day. You need to be able to trust your photographer and you need to know that you will have beautiful wedding pictures as the end result. Trust me, you want good pictures. No bride loves to look back on her wedding and feel embarrassed about their photos! I see these stories almost weekly online and it just makes me so sad.
I’ve had the opportunity to re-shoot wedding portraits for several couples who had hired someone for their wedding and didn’t get the images they are proud of. You know, like we talked about above. It always breaks my heart to hear their stories and how they wish they could go back in time and change things. You want to be able to think back on your wedding and have happy memories for everything. You want to be able to have beautiful shots of your cake, your rings, your flowers, all the decorations you put so much time and thought into carefully arranging. Weddings are a lot of work. You want all those little details to remember everything by.
And most importantly, all you really want after your wedding are those beautiful key images. The ones you have a beautiful 20×30 metal print of the two of you hanging above your mantle looking so in love. That image that makes you go “awwwww” and your heart flutters. That gorgeous canvas for your parents and inlaws home. Photos you are proud to be in. You want to be able to look at them and say, “Wow. We look amazing.”
I love what I do. I love love. I love to photograph love. It’s an amazing thing to witness and capture every couples unique relationship. It’s special and I know every other wedding photographer out there would agree with me on that. I love being able to make a bride feel beautiful and confident. I love capturing those little moments and inside jokes.
I’m proud of my success (although ashamed to admit I took on several weddings when I first started out that are way less than perfect- if I could turn back time). The number one piece of advice I give to up and coming photographers is do NOT take on a wedding, birth or newborn without second shooting with other photographers first. You can not get back those precious memories or moments for someone. They are lost forever. Some photos are better than none, but why chance ruining someone’s best day ever? Family photos and engagements can be redone if you don’t like them, but your wedding day can’t. You can get portraits done- like my gorgeous bride and groom who’s photos will be featured with this blog, but I know without any doubt they would give just about anything in the world to go back and make a different choice and have better photos of their actual wedding day.
As one of my couplse so quaintly put it in their experience- YOU ARE FRAMING YOUR MEMORIES, NOT YOUR DOLLAR BILLS. You don’t want a dollar bill hanging on your wall- you want that crisp, clear, beautiful portrait front and center on that wall.
Talk to your photographers. View their portfolios. Ask to see their photos big and full size to see the details they have. Research photographers in your area. Ask them for recommendations on other vendors. Ask your other vendors about which photographers they like to work with. It’s a wedding community and we love to help you find exactly what you need! If you feel you can’t afford a photographer, ask about payment plans! Ask for tips on where you can maybe cut some other costs. We really don’t bite- hard. Ha.
And remember, the bitterness of bad photographs remains long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten. The money you spend on a photographer is a temporary investment, but the photos you’re left with will last a lifetime. Invest wisely.