Ten Minute Wedding Tips | How to Find a Wedding Photographer On a Budget: Myths vs Facts
“How much should I spend? What kind should I be looking for? Where do I find the most for my money?”
It can be complex and scary, and it is made even more complicated by the fact that every person will have a different budget, a different style, and different needs. How can you make an informed decision- one you will be thrilled with?
Let’s kick this off with a comparison: Personally, I will never be able to afford (nor do I need) a Ferrari, as much as I would love one. It’s a fact- it’s just not going to happen. But on the other extreme, I know that if I try to get a broken down $100 pinto, it’s never going to run right… and very soon I’ll have to pour WAY too much money into it if I want it to run at all. The truth is, I would need to find a middle ground between an inexpensive car and a quality car: one that is within my budget, and will continue to make me happy as time goes on. Is it possible? Of course!
Wedding photography is the same way. Although cost is an important factor, you know that you need to find a photographer that meets your needs and will provide you a quality product that you will continue to love!
Now, does that mean you should throw all caution to the wind and go into debt for a ‘$5,000 over your budget’ photographer? No, (just as you shouldn’t just go out and buy a Ferrari when you just can’t afford it) but you do have to be realistic about what you really want your photographs to look like, and how much you can reasonably expect to pay for it. “You get what you pay for” holds true in this situation, as with most others. The key is making an informed decision, no matter what you decide to pay in the end.
So, how can you find a wedding photographer on a budget, and avoid the common pitfalls involved? Let’s look at some myths and facts to consider when Photographer-shopping. I’ll continue to use the familiar “car buying” illustration for clarity.
Myth 1: “I can just hire an inexperienced person / friend / family member who has a camera.”
The “car buying” equivalent: “I can buy a car I know nothing about, as long as it’s cheap.”
The facts: Just because someone has a camera may not always mean they know how to use it at a wedding. Photography in itself is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to learn. Please consider carefully if you want someone to be learning how to shoot a wedding at your wedding. Some feel that they are comfortable gambling on the quality of their wedding photography if it’s for the right price. If that is how you feel, it is absolutely your choice. But remember the car illustration: you get what you pay for. For those who want to be sure of good photography, though, what can you do?
Do this instead: If you want lower the cost by hiring someone starting out in the business, be sure to examine their portfolio to make sure they have skill in photography in general. Even if they have not yet shot a wedding, can they create photographs that are clear and bright? Are they aesthetically appealing and in a style you enjoy? A good way to be sure of a beginning photographer’s skill is to have an engagement photoshoot with them. You will be able to see them in action and view their work first hand. If they do have wedding experience, but are new to the game, ask to see a wedding that they have shot from beginning to end, instead of the cherry-picked best.
Ask yourself: Am I comfortable with what they can and cannot do? Have they been open and honest about their lack of experience? Even if they are starting out, have they properly registered their business with the government, and do they pay taxes for it? (it may seem like a small thing- but without the assurance that they want to do things right, you have to wonder how much they are willing to invest into doing a good job) Do they seem knowledgeable and respectful about the amount of work involved? Do they have backup equipment, or if something breaks, will I be without photographs?
Please remember, however, that a wedding is a very different animal than photography in general. Be realistic and be informed about what to expect from an amateur. Ask friends and relatives about their wedding photography, and what they would have done differently, and use what you learn as you look.
Myth 2: “Maybe If I let them use the photographs in their portfolio,
they will charge me less.”
The “car buying” equivalent: “I will give the dealership a great online review in exchange for a free car!”
The facts: Legally, (in the USA) any photograph someone takes is instantly copyrighted and protected as belonging to them. I know of only a few photographers among hundreds that would even consent to shooting a wedding if the couple had a problem with them using them online or in print in their portfolio- and only then if they had a good reason, such as being international super spies or something.
Many times, offering this to a photographer in an attempt to lower the price is a turn-off. Photographers are eager to please clients, and often will respect your privacy by removing photographs that you feel uncomfortable with specifically. However, since almost all of our income depends upon showing our work, the ability to do s is simply part of the deal.
Do this instead: If you want to lower the cost, find solid ways that you can really help the photographer you are considering. With the web readily accessible, most photographers will not be swayed by a promise of publicity. What else do you have to offer?
Photographers are people too! Do you have a skill or access to a product that they would be willing to trade? Mechanical services, home repair/building skills, tech help/computer building are all things that can possibly be offered in exchange for a reduced package cost. You never know if you might offer something that it so happens the photographer is looking for! Just remember: what a professional photographer does is of value, so offer something of value if you truly want to bargain.
Myth 3: “It can’t cost that much to shoot a wedding / Be a photographer!”
The “car buying” equivalent: “I shouldn’t have to pay thousands for a car that costs them $50 to make.”
The facts: Most everyone (myself included!) has at some point in their lives said something like: “Psh, that’s crazy what _________s get paid. I could do that myself for 1/16th the price!”… and you can fill in the blank with ANY profession, from plumbing , to waitressing, to photography. It’s human nature to never realize how much goes into a profession… that is, until we try it.
Do this instead: Knowing WHY professional photographers charge what they do is a powerful weapon in making an informed decision. Arm yourself! Click here to see the article “Why professional photographers charge so much.”
Myth 4: “I can get the RAW files and edit them myself for a discount.”
The “car buying” equivalent: “I can put the engine together myself, all I need is the parts.”
The facts: When a photographer edits the photographs they give to you, they are creating a piece of art- similar to how a painter adds layers of color on a canvas. A great photographer takes a stellar photograph, and then tweaks it until it is perfect- and that’s a skill that is vastly underestimated. Most photographers are not inclined to allow someone to edit the photographs they take- they view it the same as buying a painting, and then painting over it. They may say, “Why hire me if you don’t want me to do my job?”
The other major underlying issue is this: most people who think they can edit photographs really shouldn’t. Yes, most photographers won’t tell you this, because they (rightfully) don’t want to offend anyone, but they are scared of letting someone else edit their work! (What if someone butchers it, and then presents it to all their friends? Photographer’s nightmare!!)
Now, just like the above car equivalent, there ARE some who could definitely pull this off beautifully. Some brides or grooms just happen to be in the photography or graphic design business, for example, and really could edit their wedding photographs skillfully. Sadly, though, they are not the majority.
Do this instead: Are you truly capable of editing your own photographs? You will be much more likely to find a photographer who will allow you to do so if you are able to show examples of your work. Send them a polite e-mail, asking if they would possibly reduce the price if you do the editing, and make your case by showing what you can do. (But keep in mind that some photographers may actually instead charge you more for the right to edit.)
…and the big Myth 5: “I can’t afford a great photographer.”
The “car buying” equivalent: “…looks like I’m walkin’.”
The facts: You know that a great wedding photographer is an investment, and you agree that it’s worth it to have a great photographer capture your wedding! But, you have a budget that you have tried to stretch, push, and pull- and you have nothing extra to work with. Now what? Are you forced to let a friend try their best at taking some photographs and hope for the best?
Do this instead: In addition to the other ideas above (IE, offering to barter items or services of worth, looking for a up and coming photographer), try a few of these suggestions:
Suggestion: Get married on a weekday
The facts: Since many photographers base their prices on how many weddings they are able to photograph, it is in their best interests to make full use of the Saturdays available to them. Saturday weddings are easy to book at full price, so it is hard to discount them. But a weekday wedding doesn’t fill a “prime” spot, and gives the photographer an unexpected day of income.
Suggestion: Try a Photography Registry or Wishlist
The facts: Many photographers are now offering what is called a ”Photography Registry” or “Photography Wishlist”. If you are able to pay the base cost of the photography, but are hoping to get an album, DVD, or prints, a Photography Registry or Wishlist will allow friends and family to contribute to the cost.
Suggestion: Ask for a referral
The facts: If you found a photographer you love, but simply cannot afford them, ask them if they know of other photographers in the area that are within your budget and similar in style. Good photographers network with each other, and most have a list of great photographers they trade clientele with.
Suggestion: Ask for a custom package
The facts: If it is not already listed on their pricing list, ask the photographer in question how much a bare-bones package would be. Do they have an hourly rate for more budget conscious couples? A package will usually be a fabulous deal, but may contain things you can do without. Find out what the base cost is, and ask how you can add what you want without getting unneeded things tacked on.
Suggestion: Pay in segments
The facts: Many photographers will allow you to pay your package price off in segments before the wedding date, which may make a higher price easier to manage. Now, this is not to be construed as “Put it on credit and worry about it later” (bad idea!!), but it may help to ease the pain of one big check.
Suggestion: Just Ask!
The facts: Wedding photography is a field with a huge number of variables. Some photographers will work will you on price, and some cannot. When in doubt, you can always ask (nicely!) if there is anything you can do to bring down the price. (Note: be sure not to sound like you are demanding that they meet your budget- you wouldn’t like someone to do that to you at your workplace. Remember: you are asking for a favor- and they may require something of you in exchange.)
Suggestion: Consider ways to save in other areas
The facts: Other than your marriage, the photographs are the only part of the wedding day that is meant to last a lifetime. I will soon be writing an article called “Stretch Your Wedding Dollar”, detailing some realistic ideas I came across while working my wedding budget. Stay tuned!
Do you have more suggestions for ways to find a great photographer while on a budget? Please comment below!