"The Final Word
On Hiring A Pro Wedding Photographer..."
by Ben Michalski
Wedding Photography is one of the mainstays of our business here at
Every so often, and more times that I care to count I hear brides making angry comments about either the wedding photographer that photographed their wedding OR the wedding photographer they are about to hire or have just interviewed.
They go something like this; " My wedding photographer completely screwed up my pictures" OR "My wedding photographer has not delivered my images...and it's been six months...he/she said it would only take 30 days."
OR, " My wedding photographer showed up late, was very pushy, didn't take the pictures I wanted him/her to take and/or I only got back a dozen or so that where good." OR " I thought I hired this person top shoot my wedding and now I find out I have to pay again for all my pictures because all I got was PROOFS!"
My heart goes to everyone of these brides because all these complaints could have been avoided in the first place.
Choosing a professional wedding photographer today can be quite the task. Especially with the advent of "Digital Photography".
In the old days...and I mean only a few short years ago...and in some cases this still exists, a photographer had to at least know how to expose film. There was no looking at the back of a camera and seeing what was just shot.
A modicum of knowledge about the workings of a professional camera was required simply because film photography was way more expensive not only to buy...but to develop or process. This kept the amateurs at bay ( but not all of them) and it kept the wedding photography industry at a level that has now all but disappeared.
Today anybody with a bit of moxie and daring do...can get in the game and self proclaim them selves "Professional Wedding Photographers". And the industry is still reeling from the shock and will continue to do so in the near future.
So...how can one tell the difference?
How can someone who has never hired a pro before and may never again insure them selves that the person they hire will deliver the goods...and deliver them the way they said they would.
Clear, well exposed, sharp images with good composition and a flair for the emotional and dramatic...not to mention artistic!
Well the good news is...it's not that hard.
The bad news is...you have to do some homework and some leg work. First let's discuss the types of photographers in the world and how they stack up.
Lets start with;
1: The Artistic Photographer
Artistic photographers don't really care much about wedding photography...that is unless they themselves may be getting married. They mostly take pictures of stuff like flowers, animals, bugs on flowers, close up's of bugs, landscapes, seascapes, still life’s, nature, and some people and models in awkward and artsy poses.
I have even been known to take these types of pictures because in addition to specializing in wedding photography I also am an artistic photographer.
Artistic types do a lot of outdoor stuff. Shooting outdoors requires little if no knowledge of Flash Photography. Flash requires a great deal of skill and the ability to adjust settings on a professional camera beyond using automatic..( or letting the camera choose the speed and aperture).
Believe it or not, most photographers know little past the programmable or auto setting and know very little if nothing about metering or finding the correct setting for the two types of light...incident or ambient and reflective.
2: Sports Photographers
Photogs who just shoot sport events are qualified photographers. Shooting a sport event requires a high degree of skill. They mostly use LONG LENSES or Telephotos, reason being...they have to shoot from a considerable distance.
They know pretty much their way around a pro camera but usually shoot at very fast speeds...to stop motion. They also do not use much Flash simply because a camera flash can not send light out very far...about 10 feet is the max.
They also are not usually familiar with the rigors, techniques and methods of wedding photography...that is unless you get married on a Football Field.
3: The Photojournalist
Photojournalist depending just how much photo journaling they are doing...and by this I mean, a photog who shoots for a local newspaper is just as much a photojournalist as one who shoots for National Geographic, but don't ever say that to a photog who actually works for Natty G.
These types shoot news events, people in their daily routine, dramatic city/country and wartime coverage. This is a hard lot to sort since just about anyone like wedding photographers can proclaim themselves photojournalist.
4: Professional Wedding
They shoot weddings for a living. They are specialist at covering a wedding. Usually but not always, they can do just about anything with a camera, and most of the time they can do all of the above.
There are more things that go into making a truly professional wedding photographer than just dynamic skill with a professional camera. As a matter of fact a real pro could do a good job with just about any good camera ( single lens reflex SLR OR Digital Single Lens Reflex DSLR) not withstanding.
But lets give someone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they know how to handle a camera, how to use proper indoor flash, how to set white balance, how to meter a room or a subject, how to compose a shot, how to choose a lens, how to set up studio flash equipment, where to place the strobes or
mono-lights, how to pose a subject, how to handle various lighting conditions from hell, how to choose the proper
ISO, how to use a neutral gray card, how to use ambient light, how to use fill flash outdoors and how to use ( these days) a professional computer editing program.
Let's say that your choice of "professional wedding photographer" can do all these things blindfolded with one hand tied behind their backs...(just kidding)
NOW...lets ask the other important questions, ones that are just as important as camera skill.
Does my photographer have a studio? OR does he operate from his living room?
Does my photographer have more than one pro camera?
Does my photographer have good references...more than 3? and no family members.
Does my photographer have good communication skills; does he/she have a personality?
Does my photographer have a good track record in the industry?
Is my photographer well dressed for an appointment, clean shaven, well groomed?
Does he/she drive a wreck or a nice car?
Do they have the latest in camera equipment...the good ones ALWAYS DO!
Are they humble and soft spoken or loud and arrogant. Pride in one's work is OK!
Are they just plain arrogant and condescending?
Do they drink on the job...your wedding is no place for any vendor to imbibe.
Do they have an air of confidence about them? Confidence is good.
Will they double book the day and possibly bump you for a bigger ticket shoot?
Do they have a contract...a professional contract?
Can they deliver the package in less than 45 days?
If your photographer can pass this muster...then they are probably good at their
Anything less is a BIG RED FLAG!
So now you may be saying or thinking " holi moli...if I ask all these questions to during my interview with a wedding photographer...won't he/she get mad???"
The simple answer is...if they do...say thank you and move on to the next.
A professional ANYBODY won't ever get mad, arrogant, nasty, mean, insulting, roll their eyes or condescending. Professionals don't do that. That's why they are professionals.
You are their bread and butter. You are the reason they are who they are. All TRUE PROFESSIONALS WELCOME QUESTIONS NO MATTER HOW SILLY, HOW DUMB, HOW PROBING OR HOW
If they don't then run for the hills! Hit the bricks and get out of there...you are about to get led down the golden path.
These are the one's to avoid like the plague, no matter what. But let's just say that your interview was cordial. You hit it off. Your chemistry has come together and you like the person. You sign a contract on the spot.
Now you get home and read the contract with a bit more focus. You find out that your contract only says that the $2000 is only for him showing up and taking pictures...that the actual pictures are going to cost more money after it's all said and done.
Can you call and cancel?
Does the photographer give you three business days to back out and get a FULL DEPOSIT REFUND like the law of the land says?
And will the photographer do it graciously or nasty?
I can't say this to much to brides young and old...READ THE DANG CONTRACT...AND READ IT WELL.
Take it to a lawyer if ya have to.
Because more lost monies and more grief and more sadness comes from brides not reading wedding vendor contracts than anything else in the business.
Now let's say that the contract looks good. You get your pictures...not just proofs. OR you get them on a CD (digital negatives) to do with what you want.
Most pro photographers will retain copyright though...this is OK as long as you can copy or print as many as your little heart desires, you just won't be able to sell them to the media, news print, TV or Hollywood...that is unless you get the photographers permission. This is standard in the industry.
And you feel just "Peachy" about the whole deal. Then we get to the last of the "how did I do with hiring my photographer" lesson.
So now it's a few months before your wedding. You want to contact your photographer and you email him or her. You wait patiently one day...two days...THREE DAYS and no response.
You start to feel a sense of panic but you think “maybe they are real busy" and you email again, but no response. So now you feel a little panicky and you call on the phone...but all you get is a voice mail.
You leave a message, and several days go by and no call back. Now you are thinking,” well maybe there is a family problem or maybe something happened." but time and again no call back no
Now you are really worried. You gave a 1/3 deposit maybe $500.00 and you are thinking the worst.
You finally get a call a week to ten days later and you hear something that goes like this " gosh I am so sorry, I was so busy, my mother, aunt, dad, brother, sister died or was taken to the psych unit, my car broke down, my phone got broke, my computer crashed, my son had to go to rehab, a telephone pole fell down on my house, my basement got flooded,
I moved, relocated, had a baby, I was ill, sick, on my death bed but am now OK, I just got back from vacation and I forgot my email password, I got divorced, I got mugged, my life is a total mess so on and so forth..."
Well dar'lin...you may be in for a huge let down. If this ever happens, and it does more than I care to say, and we have heard it all. Then the only thing you can do now is pray.
How can this HORROR STORY be avoided?
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
If you check them out the way I said to, digest the info in this report, read between the lines, then the odds are you will do very well in hiring a good photographer. If you get in a jam then you may have to pony up a few more bucks to get out, and it may be worth every dime.
These are your wedding pictures we are talking about.
The ONLY LIVING MEMORY of what may be the best day of your life.
After the flowers have died, the gown put away, the food eaten, the guest gone home, the honeymoon over...these remain. Don't trust this event to just anybody that say's “Gee! I'm a Pro!" “I’ve got this really cool digital camera and boy was it expensive."
Trust it to someone who really cares, someone who can prove "hands down" that they not only know what they say...but they CAN DO what they say.
And for one last tip...don't believe that what you see on a website is what you get delivered. Go and see it in person.
Ben Michalski is a respected professional wedding
photographer. He can be contacted at www.benmichalski.com
To return to
the articles home page, click