Posted by Rachael VanWagner- Studio Manager at Leah Jean Photography | March 21, 2017 | How to Find the Right Wedding Photographer for You
I hate stereotypes. I always have. In middle school, I thought this was something that would go away when we all grew up and realized that people are far too complex to be labeled and split into groups. But the reality is, it’s gotten worse. The older I get the more I catch myself doing the very thing that I hate.
As I sat down to write this post I was going to write about the two different types of brides that the wedding industry has classified as transactional & relational. My goal was to point out the differences and politely say that if you are a transactional bride looking to pay as little as possible for your wedding photography then you’re on the wrong blog. This would lead one to believe that if you’re a boutique bride willing to pay premium prices then you’re on the right blog. But that is not true either.
As I began writing about both “segments” of people, I realized that it’s not so simple. Yes, it’s true that there is such a thing as a “Budget Bride” and they’ve gotten their name in the wedding photography industry for a reason. These brides tend to fall under the transactional category because it is understood upfront that they are looking for the lowest prices that will get the job done. They want someone to show up with a decent camera, take decent photographs, upload their images and cash their check. To these gals, saving money is their goal and “may the cheapest man win” is their motto.
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have identified, “Boutique Brides,” who tend to be more relational and value customized products, stellar customer service and premium quality. The overall experience with their wedding photographer from start to finish is highly important to them. In fact, one could say that their experience is never really “finished” because the relationship is built to last. Chances are their wedding photographer becomes a friend who is just a phone call away when the need for newborn & family photography arises over the years. Chances are also high that these brides will see their photographer again at future weddings of their friends and family who they referred their photographer to. Their photographer’s personality and all of the small things that happen in between to make their experience special are game changers for these gals and the boutique experience is worth investing their money into no matter the cost.
Sounds simple right? Except it’s not. Especially if you’re a bride reading this post and feeling like you don’t completely “belong” in either one of the stereotypes above. If that is how you feel then that is a good thing and chances are you’re exactly the kind of bride we want reading our blog! And you’re not alone.
There are A LOT of brides out there who are a unique hybrid of the market segments described above. These brides care about quality, relationship AND budget. Despite what some wedding industry guru’s say about target marketing, I don’t believe as wedding photographers we are limited to making a choice between transactional and relational brides. I believe It is possible for these two values to co-exist within our brides and I’d venture to say it’s more common than not. The key is to find each other.
So, where is the balance in it all? How do you navigate through an industry that wants to draw a line between us? Most importantly, How do you get in front of leading photographers who won’t write you off because your budget is too small? And how do you avoid booking a photographer whose agenda is to milk you for money just because they think you have it?
- Start with an accurate perspective of how much wedding photography costs in your area. We found this study released by The Knot very helpful: The Knot Real Wedding Study. If you are a math person you can crunch some basic numbers pretty quickly and you will notice that Boston brides spend an average of $44,028 on their entire wedding. That is almost 28% higher than the national average. If you increase the national average for wedding photography by that same %28 you will see the average Boston bride spends approximately $3,500 to capture her wedding day.
- Know what to look for when selecting your photographer. Keep in mind the 3E’s. Experience, Equipment & Emotion. You want to know that your photographer has lots of experience that comes with a strong portfolio and positive reviews from previous clients. You want to ensure that your photographer is using top of the line equipment and understands photography lighting indoors and outdoors. You also want to make sure that they have everything needed to capture the best images in both environments. Lastly, you want to know that you have an emotional connection with your photographer. Nothing creepy but definitely a connection that allows you to feel relaxed and invites you to have a good time in their company. After all, they will be spending more time with you on your wedding day than anyone. If you do not jive with your photographer’s personality then you will be hard-pressed to create great images when it comes time to stand in front of their camera.
- If your photographer does not pass the 3E test this is a red light and you should stop immediately. Take another direction and find a photographer that meets the quality standards you’re looking for. Your wedding is not the time to settle. On the other hand, If your photographer passes the 3E test and their prices are within your budget then awesome and high-fives all around! It’s a green light and you should move on it before another bride passes you and books your date. Good photographers who are reasonably priced book fast. Now, if your potential photographer passes the 3E test but their prices seem higher than you are comfortable with then this is a yellow light and you should proceed with caution. Look closely at the value in what they are offering. Make sure your photographer is listening to your wants and needs and is willing to create a package that works best for you. You want to know that your money is going towards the things that matter most to you. Even if you have an unlimited budget your money could be better spent building a well in Africa than giving it to a sleazy photographer whose agenda is to thin out your wallet because they think you’re a bottomless pit of cash
- Do your research and make sure the price being quoted to you is competitive with other photographers who offer similar quality of work. As a rule of thumb, you want to be the cream in the Oreo cookie…right in the middle. You don’t want to be paying the highest and you don’t want to be paying the lowest. And now I want some milk.
- Be smart. Listen carefully and be on the lookout for hidden costs that add up along the way. This is uncool and unfortunately, it happens too often in the photography industry. A ‘La Carte pricing is typically more expensive than purchasing a package so make sure you crunch your numbers. Consider the big picture. If you know you want an album and you want to order prints post wedding make sure you understand the price upfront and are not locked into ordering through your photographer’s printer if their prices are ludicrously high. Obviously, a professional printer is going to cost more than your local pharmacy but if you find yourself paying more for product than the cost to shoot your wedding there is a problem. This is how a lot of photographers make their money. They will offer low upfront prices to capture your images and when it comes time to do anything with the photos you are blindsided by the expense and your hands are tied because your contact ensures you have no rights to your images. I will say it again. Uncool.
- Be fair. It’s important to understand that higher quality does come with higher prices. Before you “pffff” at the price list, ask questions and give your photographer the opportunity to share why certain things may be more expensive than others. Often times a behind the scenes peek at what it takes to create incredible art puts things into perspective and your blood pressure can come back down. Now, you can intelligently decide if the value is worth it to you.
In summary, find a photographer you can trust who offers amazing work at competitive prices. They may be harder to find but don’t give up and don’t settle. They are out there looking for you too. Best of luck!
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