For my latest blog post, I did a ton of research on how to find the perfect photographer on a budget.
I knew from my own experience that Craigslist could be a life-saver. (I found my fabulous photographer on here, and she gave me some deep discounts. I had already gone through tons of bad apples, though.)
That said, though, Craigslist can also get the unknowing bride into some deep doo. We have to remember that anyone can post there, and that not all of them are professionals.
So, here's an abbreviated form of my 1500 word guide for you all. For the full info, click the blog link above, but prepare to read an essay. :)
Before you contact.
Know your style. You need to know what kind of photography you are after. Do you want traditional? Photojournalistic? Artistic? Edgy? Posed?
credit Erika Ellis Photography
credit Wagner Bros. Photography
credit Garrett Nudd Photography
Check their pictures. You've checked the listings on CL, you see a photographer advertising "FULL DAY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY! $400!!!" You think, This is soooo good. I can't pass this up.
Well, if their photos are not good, you have to pass it up. So, before you contact, check out their online portfolio, whether on a website, blog, or even something like photobucket.
They don't have an online portfolio? This is your first clue to run, run away. Fast. With it being so easy (and FREE) to set up a simple online photo blog, if they haven't done this, they aren't invested enough in their product/work.
Shoot an email. Okay, so you've figured out their style, and checked their online portfolio (and liked what you saw). Now it's time to send them an email. Request that they come to your favorite coffee shop on some Saturday afternoon to meet you.
Also, ask them to bring all of the pictures they took at a particular wedding, from the first to the last and everything in the middle. Digital files are okay, too, if they don't have print-outs. If they hesitate, or tell you that you'll have to pay, run even faster than you would have run before.
Conduct an Interview.
If your wedding were a company, and you were the CEO hiring a new employee, you would interview that person before hiring. Well, that's what this is. The rest of this article will give you hints on what to ask.
Check the pictures. First, you should check out those pictures you requested. Flip to random images, and check those. Don't just look at the first few and the last few. This will give you a true idea of what their photography is like, instead of just seeing their best images.
Ask about the package. Have them spell it out for you. What is the package, and how much does it cost? If it seems a little out of budget, but you are in love, tell them how much you can spend and ask what they can do with it. Make sure to talk deposits, too.
Ask about experience. Where did they learn how to take pictures? Remember that self-taught doesn't mean bad. It often can be better than formal training. Find out how many weddings they have shot, why they got into the business, etc.
Ask about equipment. Even if you know nothing about cameras or lenses, ask this question and take note. When you get home (DO NOT SIGN THE CONTRACT AT THE FIRST MEETING), google the name of the camera and read a few reviews. If the reviews are no good, the photographs will probably be no good.
Ask about style. Ask the photographer what their personal photography style is. They should be able to answer this question. You may have to jog their verbal creativity by listing our style words: photojournalistic, artistic, traditional. If they still can't answer, run. :)
Ask about rights. If posting your pictures on facebook or PW is important to you, make sure to clear this up. Find out if you will have rights to the digital images, or if you will have to pay extra for this.
Also, find out if you will have print rights. Photographers often make extra money by selling the prints, which means you will have to contact them every time you want another 8x10, and they will probably charge you an arm, a leg, and maybe even your first-born. If they do require you to get prints through them, check their print charges from the get-go.
Making the decision
Trust your gut. If your gut says no, keep looking.
Do that engagement session. Don’t take off the engagement session to save money. That session is so important. It allows your photographer to get to know you before the wedding, and for you and your fiance to get to know your photographer, making for better wedding day images.