Hey there, I’ve been looking forward to this chat! Photography and videography were one of my favorite aspects of our wedding day. I have memories that I will treasure forever because they were so expertly captured.
It’s a big topic and it can be a bit overwhelming, both mentally and financially. I’m writing this post purely from the bride’s perspective, because that’s what I know. However, I’m trying to take into account your photographer’s and videographer’s perspectives so that my advice is as well-rounded as possible. This post covers what I wish I knew when planning paired with what I learned from my photographer & videographer friends along the way.
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEOGRAPHY IS AN INVESTMENT
I know that this whole series is devoted to DIY’s and budget weddings–that’s exactly what mine was. But I do hold to the opinion that some things should be considered an investment rather than automatically going the cheapest route.
This topic fits into the investment category.
I want to share how you can save a little bit but also invest and get some bang for your buck.
As I mentioned before, this part of the wedding was perhaps the most important to me personally. Some people only want some shots taken of the highlights and don’t mind if it’s from a Kodak disposable by a wedding guest. If you don’t mind the risk, that’s a great way to save money considering that this is one of the areas that requires the big bills.
But before you go that route, let me share why I think investing in a good photographer is important, and then you can decide where you wish to go.
It’s what you have after the wedding is over.
In my mind, I saw the photography and videography as most important because that was what I would have left as tangible memories from our wedding–apart from a husband and in-laws. I didn’t mind putting most of my budget towards something that would hang on our walls, decorate our photo books, and shared with our kiddos when they were old enough to care.
You’ll probably care about the results, even if you think you won’t initially.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends I’ve talked to that very much dislike their photos after it’s all over. The reasons vary from going with the “cheaper photographer” to not being specific about what they wanted. In the end, I highly encourage you to carefully consider your options rather than making a quick decision due to finances or the pressure of “getting everything done & quickly.”
Most importantly, it’s one day that you’ll never redo.
We’ve talked before about how the wedding day is “only one day of your life” . But at the same time, it is only one day that you’ll never relive. So on the important things, don’t spare the expense because you won’t have a chance to take better pictures or hire a videographer once it’s all said and done.
On that note, a word on videography.
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VIDEOGRAPHY
Video captures moments that a photographer can’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved our photographer and I’m not saying one is better than the other. But photographers capture moments in one shot that’s great for a photo book or frame. Video is an ongoing shot capturing words and actions. There are so many funny, priceless moments of toasts, dances, and vows that I forget about over time, I can literally relive that moment with video. If you can afford, I highly recommend hiring both. They both serve different purposes and work best together.
Don’t dismiss it before you check it out.
None of my friends or family had ever had videography in past weddings, at least the way that my videographer did it, so it was all unfamiliar territory. I had never considered that a possibility or even added it into a budget. But when I found out that my engagement photographer, Kent, specialized in video I had to check it out. And dang, he and his wife, Ashleigh are good. I was convinced right away that it was worth the investment.
You’ll have a personal “movie” to share.
Our video was a big deal with the family. We watched both the short and long (1 hour long) version with both families and best friends over Christmas break. Not to mention that I’ve probably watched the short version about 100 times myself. Every once in a while, we’ll whip it out and get all mushy & romantic as we reminisce (or maybe that’s just me). It’s gives me all the feels. It’s great. You can check out our wedding film at the end of this post.
Now, I can talk all day about why it’s great but that doesn’t make money appear in your wallet. When you’re trying to make every cent count, this can seem like the best spot to penny pinch. So let’s think about what you’re paying for.
WHY IT’S SO EXPENSIVE
You’re paying for skill and experience.
There’s a reason that the cheaper photographer is cheaper. I’ll be blunt, typically, the price tag matches the skill. You want someone who has amazing portfolios, has worked with weddings in the past, knows how to help you get the best shot, and can edit those pictures to perfection. There is real talent (and lots of time and practice that have gone into honing that talent) behind a great photographer. Anyone can snap a picture, but it takes talent to snap a great picture. At the time of extreme budgeting and planning, it sounds good in theory to save and settle for decent pictures rather than great. But this is me telling you that it’s a great idea to invest a little more for great. Remember, you should want to hang these pictures on the walls of your home, seeing them every day. I’m not saying that you should hire the highest paid photographer but maybe you should budget more than $500 and look around for that photographer that suits your personality rather than your budget.
You’re paying for time and labor.
When we consider the photographer or videographer and their required salary, it’s a bit mind-blowing at first. Andrew kept saying that we need to get into this field because “it’s where the money is at.” One full day and they walk with thousands of dollars, or so it seems. You can’t compare their job to a standard 9-5, the hours vary and they’re not getting a consistent, taxed paycheck. So don’t feel like they are walking away with loads of your money in some con scam. When you break it down, it makes more sense:
- their unique talent and brand.
- the time and travel on the day of the wedding.
- the wear and tear on their equipment.
- the time that they put into editing your photos/film.
- the salary they pay their second shooter.
- the income tax that they have to set aside from that money.
- the “package deal”–CD/shipping, online album, or any other complementary additions that they might offer.
There is a lot more involved than snapping a few shots during your wedding day. Before the wedding, they are preparing and maybe even more nervous than you. It’s their mortgage, utilities, and car payment after all. They want to live up to their reputation and exceed your expectations on a huge life event–talk about pressure. After the wedding, they have hundreds–even thousands–of pictures to sift through and edit. I’m not a photographer but it takes hours to sift through and edit pictures for just a few blog posts, so I can appreciate and respect the value of their time and effort.
I don’t say that to make you pity them but to better understand the seemingly high prices. Personally, it makes me feel better to understand the value of my money.
So now, how do you pick?
WHAT YOU SHOULD REMEMBER WHEN HIRING
Don’t be afraid to look around at your options.
You don’t have to hire the first person that you talk to. Don’t commit to something that you don’t love or feel right about. It’s your wedding, your money–you have the right to say yes or no. Look at the work of several artists: their galleries, testimonials, package deals, and pricing. Contact a few people (make sure they’re actually available first), review their packages, do some comparison, and see what will work best for you.
Consider experienced connections or “friends of friends.”
Our wedding photographer was someone that I worked with at camp years ago and kept tabs on her photography over the years. I always loved her stuff and planned to ask her to be our photographer when the time came. She had schooling for photography paired with years of experience and raw talent. What worked in my favor financially was that she hadn’t established a business at that point, so it was much more affordable than your standard rate. So I got lucky, I got greatness on a budget. Granted, that won’t happen in every situation. But keep your eyes peeled for or ask friends if they might know a skilled someone that is just starting out or operates as more of a hobbyist. Don’t lower your standards, just be willing to consider all options.
Go local if you can.
Some people have a long-distance friend or favorite photographer that they are willing to pay to fly in to shoot their wedding. But if there is no such person for you, GO LOCAL. Or at least as local as you can. If they’re local, you won’t have to pay for the hotel, the travel expenses, etc. It’s one way to clip the extra expense.
Make sure their style matches yours.
Ultimately, the photographer/videographer will capture the sort of things that are important to you. But remember that they are an artist with a particular bent. They’ve worked to find their niche in that industry, that’s what they specialize in, and that’s what their product will take on–customized to your chosen poses and requests. But don’t pick someone and expect them to change their entire style. Pick someone whose style you admire, whose style you don’t want to change.
Schooling doesn’t necessarily matter.
Just because someone graduated with a degree in the arts, doesn’t mean they’re great. The arts are something that everyone can be involved in to a certain degree. But those who can make a living off of the arts are those that truly love what they do, have a natural knack or talent, and that “eye” that catches things that others don’t. It’s important to find someone that lights up and loves to talk about their job. The more they enjoy and care about what they’re doing, the better your product will be.
Consider how long you’ll need them.
For me, I wanted the photographer for the entire day. My photographer spent the morning with myself and the bridesmaids, while her second shooter captured the morning with the guys. They both stayed until Andrew and I left so we have every possible highlight and detail captured on camera. I paid out of my own pocket for the videographers and couldn’t afford to have them there the entire day, so we went with 6 hours which captured our first look all the way to the sparkler exit. We only missed out on the “getting ready” part and honestly, I don’t even miss it when I watch our final video. Of course I would have loved to have them there longer but it was something that I just couldn’t spare. It’s definitely worth the money if you can afford it, but if you can’t, think through what you absolutely want captured on your day and compare that to their price chart. It’s typically by the hour.
Communicate and ask questions.
Do some research on their website before calling so that you have a better idea of what ask, clarify what may not be obvious on the website. Each photographer/videographer should have a list of packages so make sure to ask for a list. This conversation will tell you what you can expect from them. Don’t assume that the photographer does what you think the photographer does. Some questions to think about:
- What do you consider your style to be?
- How many weddings have you shot in the past?
- Will you help me with posing, where to stand, and what to do?
- Do you take requests or work exclusively from a shot list?
- Do you bring a second shooter?
- Do you mind working alongside a videographer?
- Would you be willing to travel to multiple sites? (bridesmaid brunch, getting ready off-site, local scenic opportunities)
- How many hours are included in your package? (If it’s not already stated)
- How much would it cost for an extra hour?
- Would you consider shooting my rehearsal dinner as well?
- Would you be willing to tour the wedding site beforehand to familiarize themselves? (could be included as part of the rehearsal dinner opportunity)
- Will you shoot more than one event on your wedding day? And if so, have ample time for both? (if you’re not booking them for the whole day)
- How much is the deposit?
- When is the balance due?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Do you bring/need room for lots of lighting equipment?
- Do you use a shot list, can I review it?
- What is your back-up plan if you were to become ill or unable to attend?
- Do you provide a high resolution picture/film album? Online, CD, or hard drive?
- Do you offer printing?
- If so, how much is your average printing cost?
- Do you edit the photos?
- If so, is there a limit to how many you edit?
- How many pictures (edits and non-edits) will I walk away with?
- When can I expect to see photos after the wedding?
- Is there anything that you need from me? (outside of the wedding day schedule)
ONCE YOU’VE MADE YOUR DECISION
Do your research.
You’re not the photographer/videographer but it doesn’t hurt to do some research on “how to pose” or best time of the day to shoot. Most photographers will help you with all of this, especially if you ask them to. Still it helps if you already have a working knowledge on what works. Browse Pinterest for some tips on posing, it’ll be good to keep in mind as you’re showing off your special dress.
Make an idea board.
I’ve read that photographers don’t like you looking at Pinterest and asking them to duplicate picture ideas, because you need to trust who you hired, it’s your unique wedding experience, and some things are just out of their control. I sincerely apologize to my photographer if I was like that or came off the wrong way. But my reasoning was from a good place. And while I understand the logic, I still think the picture idea list is a good idea. Pinterest or otherwise, look through what others have done for their weddings. Make note of what you like and compile that into your arsenal of ideas. It’s good because it helps to have a visual to convey to your photographer your unique ideas and style. I had always loved this idea of a roster sort of photo featuring the bridal party taking goofy headshots. So I was able to show my photographer that photo and she included a goofy shot with each of the pretty ones. With that said, be flexible on the “idea” part and trust that your photographer will do what they do best when it comes down to it.
Make a detailed list.
This is important. A good photographer/videographer will ask you what matters to you to most, what is a must-have in your pictures/film. Prepare for that question by setting some time aside to compile your idea board and your wedding schedule into one, “must-have” list. After our wedding, there were some things that weren’t captured that I wish would have been. But it wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine because I failed to communicate that I wanted that. I did cover the main parts, as most do but don’t feel weird asking for pictures of favors, specific ring pictures, certain candids OR even the set-up of that picture (where it’s taken, certain props, or whom with). They will shoot the general, common shots, certainly. And the best photographers will shoot in the moment, not exclusively posed. Still most photographers or videographers aren’t telepathic, so don’t assume they’ll “just know” what you want in the moment. Be specific and communicate. You can check out my photography checklists on Pinterest.
Schedule a time to meet-up.
Most photographers/videographers will initiate a meeting with you at some point or have a survey for you to complete as a means of communicating wishes and desires. I highly recommend making the time to meet up with them in person so that you can easily communicate what you’re looking for and touch base on things. This typically happens a month out from the wedding.
OTHER WAYS TO GET PHOTOS
You can always go the traditional route and leave out disposable cameras to get candids from your guests. This is much less popular with smartphones in the mix but it’s still a viable option.
But if you don’t want to spend the money on extra cameras, create your personal wedding hashtag and ask people to Instagram your wedding. Not everyone will have a smartphone (even nowadays) but you’ll have your avid, smartphone users raring to go. Once you get back you can search your hash-tag, download the pictures or have them printed into magnets, etc. They will probably turn out better than a disposable, with all of the effects of Instagram and clarity of a smartphone.I made sure to advertise this everywhere that I could, on the main reception sign, a sign on the greeter’s table, in the programs, as well as mentioned by the DJ.
Also, using either a rented or makeshift photo-booth will not only capture pictures of all of (most of) your guests but is also a fun activity for your guests. We had so many great comments about our photo booth, people loved the opportunity to dress up and make silly faces. We’ll talk more about these things later when we get to the DIY’s.
I didn’t want to make this post any longer, so I wrote a second post on “Why I chose a First-Look.” Yes, the ever controversial topic.
And just in case you were wondering, here’s some quick links to our photographer, Marisa Albrecht, and videographers, Kent & Ashleigh Mast. They were all wonderful to work with, I couldn’t be more happy with our pictures & videos!
Last but not least, our short wedding film, it’s my favorite:
That’s a wrap on photo and video, already looking forward to our next chat!