When looking for a wedding photographer, most people focus on Price. How much will that photographer cost me? While it’s very real to have to live within an overall wedding budget, I’d like to suggest there are 4 other Ps you need to consider first.
Before we dive into what the 4 Ps entail, it will help to visualize them as they impact price. Imagine these 4 Ps as the four sides of a square or rectangle, the area of which defines Price.
If you reduce one or more sides of the square, you also reduce the Price.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ll be trading off that four-sided set of Ps, and you will prioritize them in some way or another. Let’s have a closer look at each of them.
The first P is Personality. You will be working for many hours with your photographer. They will be directing your poses. They will be working with you on the run, often under a lot of stress and a time crunch. You want someone who’s not going to make the day any more stressful for you, and you want someone who will make you feel comfortable and at ease in front of the camera. Consider all those intimate moments your photographer will be sharing with you: who will you trust and allow him into those moments? As a wedding photographer serving the Los Angeles area, I also take time during my client meetings to make sure my personality and that of my clients are compatible. Yes, I also want to feel I can work smoothly with my clients, and I want to “get” them on a personal level because I think that directly reflects on the quality of images and moments we will capture together. You appreciate this. You may have worked with difficult personalities in your own job, and usually you just have to get along as best you can, but why would you want to add that stress to your wedding day?
The second is Professionalism. Along with feeling comfortable with your photographer on a personal level, you must also know they are going to act professionally toward you. How long will he take to reply to a phone call or an email? Are the wedding agreement and wedding packages descriptions written clearly and cleanly, so that you can understand how they apply to your wedding day? How clearly will she communicate with you, explaining how she works and how she approaches her photography, and how well will she coordinate the many details of your wedding day with you? Will she show up on time to your engagement session and your wedding, or will she make you and your wedding party wait? Will he know how to be flexible and adapt when your wedding day timeline shifts? Will he be reliable and on time for the products he delivers to you? You get this, too. You are professional in your own job, and you should expect the same of your wedding photographer.
The third is Proficiency, by which I mean the skill and know-how required to make, take and process your photos. Although many people don’t think so, wedding photography is one of the toughest types of photography anyone can take on. Why? Because it’s many types of photography, all wrapped up into one on-the-run, no-second-chances, gone-before-you-know-it day. A wedding photographer has to be good with natural light, and know when to enhance the light. He has to be a portrait photographer, a product photographer (for details), a landscape photographer (for those cool outdoor shots), an architecture photographer (for the interiors of beautiful churches and venues), a photojournalist for capturing all those story-telling moments… and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. A wedding photographer has to bring all those skills, and he has no time to think or ponder how best to pull off the shot.
Fourth, related to Professionalism and Proficiency is Product, which covers deliverables such as photo discs, prints, and albums your wedding photographer produces. What products you want out of your wedding photography is up to you, but you should definitely choose a photographer who can deliver these products. If you just want a disc, few should have a problem with this. However, make sure the style and processing of photos your photographer has produced in the past line up with what you expect from him or her. When it comes to printed products, I always recommend to my clients that they get at least one large print they can display at their home. You can print these yourself from the disc, but your photographer should be working with professional labs that can guarantee consistency and quality of product that exceed what you can get from local outfits like Costco and Walmart. Your choice, but I recommend you use your photographer’s expertise and connections in this area to get you the quality results you deserve.
In short, wedding photography is a tough assignment. Make sure you give it to someone who can perform throughout your wedding day, and in the days that precede and follow your wedding day, with an engaging personality, professionalism, and proficiency, while turning out the quality product you want. Put all that together, and now you’re ready to adequately determine how much value you assign to such a wedding photographer’s vision and work, so that you can discuss that other P, Price.
Since I may a little biased and self-interested, instead of telling you what a wedding photographer is worth to you, I’ll leave you with a couple of questions to consider as you determine your photographer’s compensation. Of all the things you are paying for on your wedding day, which will be with you past the first month after the wedding day? How much are those other things costing you compared to your wedding photography, which you and your family will treasure the rest of your life?