The wedding industry is a funny business. There are a lot of very big and costly decisions to be made. All this is complicated by the fact that emotion plays a huge role in the process. It’s a pretty steep learning curve to become familiar with industry norms and to make sense of the array of options available. The best advice that I can give you is to find vendors whose work you love and who you can relate to on a personal level.
After finding a venue for the ceremony and reception, one of the big, early choices you’ll make will be who to hire to photograph your wedding. The internet is a wonderful tool to find a photographer and view a sample of their work. That said, you’ll do well to ask your recently-married friends and family who they worked with and what they enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about their experience. You might even decide that you’d like to see whether their photographer would be a good fit for you, too. Even if you don’t, you’re going to be able to formulate some good questions and criteria as you search for your photographer.
To help you along, here are some questions that I get from clients:
How far in advance do you book? You just never know how far in advance a date will be booked. It usually varies between 6 months to a year, but there are exceptions to that. I don’t take commissions more than 18 months in advance. What I can say is that the likelihood that Saturdays during the busy season from May through October are in high demand.
Can you pencil us in for our date while we make a decision? The short answer is, “Sorry, no.” The longer answer is there’s just one of me and I get a lot of inquiries, so I can’t hold a date for someone while they decide. To reserve your date I need a signed contract and a $1500 retainer. Your date is locked in once that’s in place. If anyone else inquires about that date I send them a nice message stating that I’m already booked and will likely include some recommendations for other photographers who I know and respect.
We love your storytelling images, but we also want some family photos. Do you do those, too? Absolutely. I think that those are very important. We do a good, careful job with those pictures while still being quick and efficient. If you’re interested, I can send you a full gallery to see the results. Which leads me to the next question…
Can I see a full gallery of all of the photos that you delivered to a client? You certainly may. This is one of the most important things that you can ask a photographer. What you’re looking for here is something beyond the top 20-30 hits of the day. The work of an experienced professional should be at a consistently high level throughout the day. The coverage should be complete and include portraits, moments, photos of the details that you worked hard on, and well-exposed dancing photos that reflect the energy of your party.
Have you worked at my venue before? If I have, then I’d be happy to share some photos from those events with you. The thing is, though, while I’ve worked at almost all of the larger venues in Pittsburgh I do my best to look at your event with a fresh set of eyes. I do several destination weddings every year and they’re always at venues that I’ve never even seen before the wedding day. Here’s where experience comes in. The ability to quickly get the lay of the land and figure out, for instance, where a good place for portraits would be is a skill I’ve developed after years of being a professional photographer.
What if it rains on my wedding day? The climate around Pittsburgh isn’t like Southern California, so if you’re planning an outdoor wedding it’s important to have a Plan B in case of rain. Flexibility is the key here. In fact, the more you’re able to roll with things the happier you’re going to be on your wedding day. Things are bound to happen that will cause you to have to deviate from your plan. One thing I learned while working as a photojournalist is how to adjust very quickly to changing conditions. I’m prepared if, for instance, we need to move portraits inside or to a different time during the day.
How many images can I expect? How long until I get to see them? Ok, so that’s two questions but they’re closely related 🙂 I don’t have a set number of images that I deliver. Every event is different, but rest assured that you’ll receive the photos will tell the story of your day. Usually, that number works out to be between 400 to 700 photos – it just depends on things like how active your reception is, or if there are one or two photographers. With that many photos, it takes me anywhere from 6-8 weeks to do a good, careful job on your images so that they’re ready for you to enjoy.
Do you have backup equipment? Definitely. I have a couple of Nikons on me throughout the day. I’ve also got another camera with me in case something happens to the main cameras. My digital image backup system is robust and redundant. The cameras and computer system are a large, but necessary investment to ensure that I’ll be able to perform the job and deliver the photos to my clients.
What if you get sick or injured? Yikes! What an awful thought. I can’t believe you just asked me that! 😀 Seriously, this is something that my friends and I talk about because it’s a concern that we all share. We all want to take good care of our clients, but since we’re human there’s always a chance that something will happen. I’m glad to be a part of a large network of friends and colleagues all of who stand ready to fill in if someone in the group gets sick or injured. Someone is going to be available. Further, if the collection you choose has a second photographer then you’ve got that level of protection built in, too.
What about that second photographer? I usually have the same person with me for each two-photographer wedding. She’s a trained professional in her own right. If you look through the archives on my blog you will see that I give her credit for her images that make the website. One of the advantages of a second photographer includes having coverage of both the bride and groom getting ready, especially if you’re getting ready in different places. The second photographer is able to provide alternate angles of the big moments during the ceremony and reception. She helps to carry my lights and set them up, shoots details, photos of your guests, and all sorts of great stuff. If you’re having anything more than a smaller wedding, then I definitely recommend the collection that includes a second photographer.
Oh yeah, how much do you charge? My starting price for coverage is listed above. If you call or get in touch with me through the contact form I will send you my complete pricing guide.
We’re having a small event with just family a few close friends. Do you photograph shorter, more intimate events? I get this one a lot. I love to photograph small weddings and can offer a discounted rate for shorter coverage. I can’t do them on Saturdays during the busy season, but other days are fine as are Saturdays from November through early April. Your wedding is on a Tuesday? Heck yeah! Just contact me for more details.
We’re considering a videographer. What are your thoughts about working with them? I’ve worked with some very good videographers. I’ve also worked with some whose methods are counter to the approach that I take to documenting a wedding. I can remember a few occasions when I was waiting for a quiet moment to happen and the videographer began trying to direct the action, or asked the couple to repeat something because they wanted to get a shot of it at a different angle. I am respectful of other vendors and realize that they’ve got a job to do, too. I ask the same from them. The best videographers that I’ve worked with tend to work in the same unobtrusive way that I do. They don’t bring a large crew, lots of bulky equipment, and they don’t try to take over the direction of the day. I’m happy to recommend someone if you’re interested.
Do you do this full time? Yes, I’ve been a full time professional photographer for almost my entire adult life. In addition to weddings, I enjoy doing work for editorial, corporate, and institutional clients. There’s a lot of cross pollination that goes along with photographing a variety of things that makes me a better photographer for all of my clients.
I’d love to move forward. What’s next? If you haven’t already done so, please fill out my contact form. There are a few basic questions and a place for you to tell me a little bit about yourselves and your event. I love reading that part, so please let me know who you are and tell me what attracted you to my photos. You can also reach me at 412-999-7363, to talk about your wedding or set up a consultation. I’ve got a quiet and comfortable office in Highland Park where I meet with clients. I’d love to talk with you.