The wedding day is important of course, but what good is having a wedding if you don't have photos to remember it? Photography is one of the absolute most important elements of the big day because you will look at the result for the rest of your life! You don't want to look back ten years from now and say, "I wish I had taken the time to carefully choose a photographer." Forgo a little on the fancy decor. Don't splurge as much on expensive meals. If you don't plan a good chunk of your budget for photography, you are setting yourself up for disappointment later. However, it can be difficult to choose a photographer when money is already a little tight.
So how do you know the difference among the good, the bad, and the ugly?
First of all, figure out your budget. Keep in mind that some photographers have packages that include engagement sessions or bridal sessions that could cut down on overall photography costs. Travel expenses could cut in too, so keep in mind where photographers are located.
The biggest issue to think about in terms of cost is printing. Find out if a photographer is willing to sell you the copyright to your images. If you can get a CD with your photos, you can compare prices on printing at several different places. Shutterfly, Mixbook, and Snapfish are just a few of the many places where you can get good quality prints and create your own photobooks.
If a photographer will only allow you to buy prints or albums through their company, be prepared to spend a little more. Although a photographer can be very good at customizing albums, today's technology allows us to do that on our own. Some photographers even give you a time limit as to how long you have to order your prints, and that creates even more pressure. It can be less stressful to own the copyright if you are already tech-savvy.
Even if you are on a budget, you are still entitled to an artistic preference.
Traditional style: This is the formal more posed photography. This "old school" style is perfect if you want the straight-on group shots of all of your family and bridal party after the ceremony. However, this style doesn't portray as much emotion as the other styles.
Photojournalistic Style: This is the most popular style for today's weddings. This type normally tells a story with pictures by capturing candid shots. It captures the emotion of the day with very little direction. In this type of style, the photographer just snaps what he sees without being very intrusive.
Artistic Style: This style focuses more on the craft of unique camera positions and editing processes. It can range in different angles and use all different types of focus and lighting. Although it is stylish and modern, it could end up making your pictures look dated later.
However, a photographer doesn't have to stick to one style. In fact, the more variety, the better.
Big talent doesn't always mean big spending. All photographers have to start somewhere, and very new photographers need to build a portfolio. It can be surprising how much bang you can get for your buck. A photographer can have a "natural eye," just not the experience. Looking into photographers on Craigslist and classified ads can be very surprising. Many new photographers even start a business page on Facebook.
A photographer should at least have some work on hand for you to see. Having references is a plus too. Since some photographers are new and want to build their portfolio anyway, see if you can book an engagement session with one. Think of it as a photo trial. Be prepared to listen to your gut.
The Good: A photographer must be good at communicating, whether it's in direction for posed shots or in finalizing contracts, payments, and plans for the session date. He should dress comfortably but professionally for work. If you get a good vibe after that low-stress session and you see he has a photography style you like, don't be afraid to give him a chance for the big day.
The Bad: If a photographer is new, of course they will have some kinks to work out. They may seem a little nervous when communicating direction for posed shots, but they're trying. Learning is all about experiencing. Having some inspiration shots on hand to show him might help fine tune the vision you expect him to have. If you are willing to be patient, you could end up with some great work, but be prepared if it doesn't turn out exactly like you wanted.
The Ugly: If a photographer seems less than anxious to respond to e-mails or phone calls, he has little to no previous work to show, and he seems pushy or completely lost in a trial session. Run away! This guy needs to work on photography on a smaller scale before he can work his way up to weddings.
You can have beautiful photography and still be on a budget. Don't settle simply because you think your pockets aren't deep enough. There are great bargain talents out there. You just have to take the time to look.