You navigated the landmines of dating and finally found The One. But don’t put away your gut instinct just yet! You’ll need it to avoid new pitfalls while searching for the perfect professional to capture your wedding day.
YOU'RE JUST A JOB
Jeff Aldeghi and Tom Hopkins of Get Framed Photography once took on a client who found them after an unhappy meeting with another local photographer. “She said he talked only about himself, his services and his experience,” Aldeghi remembers, “but he didn’t ask a single question about her.” If your professional partner doesn’t seem to care about you, that’s your sign to move on. How else will they know how to capture your big day, your way?
YOU JUST DON'T CLICK
Yes, it’s a business relationship, and you may love their work, but as Diana Miller of Diana Miller Photography says, “If you can’t enjoy being around them for an hour, your pictures will reflect the unhappiness you feel.” Miller calls her bridal engagement shoots a “practice session” for both the photographer and the couple. “It’s a chance for us to get to know each other,” she explains. Spend enough time in the interview process to ensure your personalities mesh well. “Are they assertive, aggressive, slow, personable, positive?” asks Mike Jensen of Jensen Films & PhotoBooth. It also might be worth asking your other vendors about the photographer’s reputation as a team player. “Some of the most expensive photographers I’ve worked with bullied their way through the event, oblivious of the other professionals around them.” If they treat your vendors shabbily, how will they interact with your guests? “Your photographer should be someone you view as your photographer for life,” say Aldeghi and Hopkins, whose newlyweds often return for an encore . . . with their babies.
THE SHOOT AND BURN WEEKEND WARRIOR
Couples easily can be overwhelmed by the quantity of online wedding imagery and sheer number of imaging professionals all claiming to be, well, professional, Jensen says. But if their sole advertising location is Craigslist and they charge a surprisingly low sum for their services, it’s probably too good to be true. Find somebody who appears to have long-term goals; a polished website and updated blog are good cues. You may want to take a chance on an honest newbie, especially if you’re trying to save money. But don’t skimp too much on the one thing that remains long after the day is over (apart from your spouse).
SUSPICIOUS CONTRACT DEMANDS
Jensen recommends paying an initial deposit of no more than one-third of the total amount. “I’ve seen vendors require half of or even the total balance at the initial booking—and then close down or skip town, keeping thousands of dollars,” he says. “Under a contract dispute, the more you pay as a deposit, the more you stand to lose.” “One big waving red flag is a contract that claims they can be the only one there with a camera,” says Chantel Elder of Eleakis & Elder Photography. First of all, you go tell Aunt Marge that she can’t take her own photos. And, second, why tempt fate? “It would be a huge problem if the [professional] photography is destroyed by something catastrophic, like a natural disaster or a fire,” she says. The contract, incidentally, also should explicitly state who will work your wedding. Make sure it’s the person you think it is.
BEST OF . . . WHAT?
Beware of questionable “best of” awards, Jensen advises. Will you know whether the photographer or videographer won the award due to beautiful work or because their family and friends voted multiple times? “I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, and I know of one local wedding contest whose top three winners I don’t even recognize,” he adds. Your best bet (as it always has been) is to gather referrals from wedding couples and professionals you know and trust.
THE "WHATEVER YOU SAY" VENDOR
A good rapport should include the voice of honesty and realism. Your vendor is there to guide you; if she says something unexpected, hear her out. For example, Miller says, “I always hear: ‘I don’t want any posed pictures—I want allnatural, just candids!’ But do couples really think that brides and grooms spontaneously start running through a field, holding hands and laughing? I hardly ever get a couple so comfortable that they just start doing these things. Almost all photos online and in magazines are posed.” When she can help the bride and groom understand the difference between natural “great expressions” and candids (which is more like photojournalism, with people unaware of the camera), the couple realizes that posed portraits actually are what they are seeking. Then everyone can relax, Miller can get her shots, and the couple can get the look they want.
Beware the professional who doesn’t use a second photographer, have extra equipment at the ready or have a contingency plan; one person cannot be in two places at once. When Aldeghi found himself with severe vertigo the day of a wedding, he and Hopkins were able to call upon their network to make sure Hopkins still had a partner. Find out what system is in place to keep data from being lost in the event of a hard drive crash. Elder points out that any professional worth his or her salt will keep data in two separate locations: one in studio and one off-site.
If a photographer or videographer can’t show you sample coverage of a full event, including the engagement session, be concerned. Anybody can get one great shot, but can they capture the whole day? In fact, ask to see multiple albums and film clips, and for videographers, a complete, finished DVD, says Jensen. “So many brides get sold on the gorgeous frosting and end up disappointed with the cake.” (But that’s a whole other story.)
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