Selecting a Photographer

Etched in Time 2

2014 Engagement Session at the Boston Public Library

A photographer can make your wedding day really special. After all is said and done, a lot of your memories of that day will be a bit blurry. Whether it is being pulled in a million different directions, being really excited, or being on your 5th White Russian, many things and people will come together to sabotage any sharp memories you may have of your wedding . All you will have left will be the pictures. And no matter how sharp your memory is, you can’t be every where at once so it will be nice to have an idea of what your guests were up to when you weren’t around. This is definitely an area I would recommend you don’t skimp on or delegate to just anyone. Since we loved our photographer, I think we can share some tips on what we found worked for us.

  1. Let their work speak for itself: You must absolutely have a wide enough sample of the photographer’s work. Don’t settle for a few pictures, particularly not random ones. Ask for at least one album made up of an entire wedding. Why? Because if you take 2,000 pictures at 5 weddings, you can easily find 10 of them that are top notch. This doesn’t tell me anything about your ability to have great shots from start to finish at one event, it doesn’t tell me anything about your photographic style (candid? journalistic? combination?) and it doesn’t tell me how you perform in a variety of lightings. But seeing a whole wedding tells me all of those things. I will know how open you are to taking candid shots, how well you adapt to the different lighting as a result of the sun setting after taking pictures for 5 hours and it pretty much tells me if you totally suck.
  2. All work an no play makes for dull pictures: Find out if they know to have fun. If you hire a stale cracker of a photographer, you could end up with a wedding album full of stiff poses, forced smiles and no real story being told. If you get a fun photographer like we did, you will seem more relaxed in your pictures, everything will look natural and you can transition from traditional pictures, to candids and staged but fun shots that allow the real you to shine through. Remember, you will not only have this for the rest of your life, your children and grand-children will also be looking at them. It will be easier to convince them grandma knew how to get down back in the day if your wedding album has a bit of personality. The pictures will definitely give you some level of credibility!
  3. Have an engagement session: I cannot stress this enough. No matter how many selfies you take for your Instagram, nothing compares to having a stranger follow you around with a camera asking your to kiss your significant other. Having it happen for 5+ hours on your wedding day as all your relatives watch is kind of creepy. This is where the engagement session comes in. This is your opportunity to get familiar with your photographer’s personality and style, get used to being followed around with a camera and learn what works best for you. You can learn a lot from your engagement pictures: your most genuine smile, your best side, new poses etc. They are usually an hour which is just enough time to get a good set of pictures but not so long that you feel overwhelmed. Just because those pictures will not end up in your official wedding album, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously. We got so many great shots that we ended up using our engagement pictures everywhere we could. They were on our save-the-dates, our programs, and large canvases we had printed as part of our reception decor.
  4. Make sure you have the copyright to the pictures: Some wedding vendors love to nickel and dime you. They will quote you a “great” photography price only for you to find out after it’s too late that you have to pay an additional fee for the copyrights to be released to you. Photographers will sometimes give you a CD or website full of watermarked pictures that become essentially useless unless you pay them more money to unmark them. Furthermore, be aware that unmarked pictures do not automatically mean you are in the clear. You need to make sure that your right to the pictures are noted in your contract. From my experience with Walmart and other printing stores, they will not print pictures that they believe are professionally taken without the explicit permission of the photographer. The contract stating that you have the rights to the pictures is your most readily available ‘permission’. Call it the work of the photography lobby if you wish, but there are now several hurdles to printing your pictures  at a reasonable cost. Not having that permission could potentially mean you have hundreds of digital files you can’t frame or you might be force to shell out some bucks for a photo-printer.
  5. Make sure you are aware of all their fees: and act accordingly. My photographer charged $150 an hour PER photographer for any time over the contracted time. I had 2 photographers which would have resulted in an $300 charge (plus tax) if we were behind schedule. Knowing this steep price motivated me to keep things on schedule. I communicated that to all interest parties and stressed the importance of being on time. As a result everything was ready on time, yes, even the bride.



Florist Tip

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After unwinding from all the stress on a beautiful beach with warm blue water and bright white sand as far as the eye could see, I came home and started catching up on emails. One of them was from my venue asking me when I was going to pick up my flower vases. I was very confused why I still had 30, yes, 30! flower vases waiting for me almost 3 weeks after the wedding. I called the florist asking why they didn’t pick them up. Come to find out, they didn’t need to because I now owned them. Confused, I asked if I could return them for a refund because, let’s be honest, unless I open a glass shop, what am I ever going to do with 30 cylindrical flower vases? Absolutely not. I could not return them. They are now mine to keep.

It turns out that I contracted to buy rather than rent the vases. So my florist price, which I thought was so great, would have been even better if I had taken 5 seconds to ask: “Do you rent them or do I have to buy them?” Since I didn’t, I now have this tripping hazard in my basement waiting to cause an injury. It also means that I didn’t get the best price I could have. This goes to show that even if you’re normally a stickler about contracts and spending, you can never get too comfortable in the planning process. Towards the end, there is always something that can fall through the cracks because we are certainly way too busy to be on alert about every detail.

My tip today? Ask if you’re buying or renting the vase. Try and negotiate a rental (while keeping in mind that you’re on the hook if it breaks) to save money and storage space after the wedding. I promise that once, your registry items start coming in, the last thing you’ll want to waste space on are flower pots.

Do you know anyone looking for vases? I’m willing to unload mine for a marginal cost… Call me! 🙂