Getting married is a big deal and finding the right Michigan wedding photographer is just as big of a deal. You will never regret hiring the right person to photograph your wedding, even if you have to spend a little more than you planned. Here’s my advice on how to pick a wedding photographer.
These days anyone can walk into their local warehouse shopping club, buy what they “think” is a professional camera and call themselves a wedding photographer. In my area alone there are well over a five hundred wedding photographers in Detroit that I know of. Picking a professional wedding photographer in Michigan is not easy and picking a professional wedding photographer in Detroit that stands out is even harder. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a wedding photographer in Michigan or somewhere else – these tips are useful for brides everywhere.
So – do you want some insider tips? Grab a cup of coffee, glass of wine, bag of popcorn or whatever you need and read on.
Once you think you’ve narrowed your search down to a few lucky candidates. Here’s my advice.
Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio
First, you have to like the images they produce. When you look at their website are there a variety of weddings shot over a few years to show that they have been in business for awhile? If so – this is a good sign. When you look at their photos can you imagine your own wedding captured in the same style? If so – this is another good sign. What you want to watch out for – in my opinion is an amateur trying to pass themselves off as a professional. How can you tell? Well – honestly it can be very difficult to the untrained eye. You should look for images that are clean, crisp and timeless and consistent. If there are images that greatly differ this may be a red flag that this photographer’s portfolio isn’t legit – meaning they could have copied images from another photographers website and be passing off someone else’s work as their own. It happens A LOT – and I want you to look out for it. A seasoned educated professional will have consistent, clean, crisp images. When you go from one wedding to another, you can tell that the same photographer captured all of the images.
Let’s talk price – shall we?
How confusing is price when shopping for a photographer. My goodness – I know you are shaking your head and saying AMEN when you read that. I realize that price can be all over the place and you have no idea why this photographer charges this much and that photographer charges that much. You “think” are the same service and products. Let me break it down to you in the most honest, sincere way I can. You are not getting the same level of service, experience and products when you pay $1,000 as when you pay $4,000 or even when you pay $7,000. I don’t care what anyone says. It’s not possible. Essentially you will have a higher level of service, experience, education, equipment and products as your budget increases. Photographers on the lower end of the price scale may be busier and they won’t be able to offer you the personal service before and after your wedding that a higher end photographer can provide. A photographer at the lower end of the scale may also not be properly trained in lighting and technique. This is something to consider when setting your budget.
It’s important to set a reasonable photography budget before you start shopping. A budget of $1,500 is not reasonable if you expect to receive an engagement session, an album, 10 hours of coverage and digital files. If you find someone offering all of that for such a small rate, I suggest they may be out of business before your wedding. I would be very careful before booking and make sure they are a legitimate business and are insured. I would hate to see you place a deposit down on someone who will not be there on your wedding day. I would lose money and go out of business very, very fast if I sold collections like that. With that said – you can still find a photographer in your budget – but be reasonable about the level of service and products you expect for your specific budget.
How to set a reasonable budget
First is market. Where do you live? A wedding photographer in New York will cost much more than a wedding photographer in Ohio. My area is Detroit and on average a seasoned professional wedding photographer in the Detroit area will start around around $3,000. Some lower, some higher – but you get my drift. If you are in New York it’s safe to say your starting rate will be higher.
Once you’ve considered your market and created a realistic budge, it’s time to start shopping. You should consider photographers on the higher side and lower side of your budget. See who’s out there – what they offer and if your personalities fit.
Inspector Gadget…Investigate them!
So you’ve narrowed it down to your favorite three photographers. Now it’s time to do a little investigating. I know it sounds scary, but I don’t ever want to see a bride taken advantage of by anyone sly or sleazy. Say what??
Now, running a business is a big deal and I’m sorry – but there are too many amateurs pretending to be professionals and ruining wedding photos. I want you to investigate your potential photographer. I want you to feel good about who you hire – or better yet – not hire someone who is a fraud. I’ve had four brides hire me because their original photographer either went out of business before their wedding, gave them horrible customer service or produced really bad engagement photos that did not look like the photos on the photographers website. I’m telling you the absolute truth. One client recently hired me after finding out her original photographer had renamed his business a few times to try to stay in business because of the bad reviews he received under his “old names”.
The Internet is your best friend. Google your candidates, check them out for complaints with the BBB, make sure they are running a legal business by checking with the state or county they operate in. Ask your other vendors if they know the photographer you are considering. A professional who cares about their reputation and respects their industry will be respected in the community they live and work in.
*** A word of warning here about reviews. If you find negative reviews on a photographer you are considering I want you to read it thoroughly. Does it sound legit? Did the photographer respond to the complaint in a professional way? What type of complaint is it? If the complaint is because the photographer didn’t get enough photos in the rain – well that might not be a legitimate complaint. If you see multiple complaints about the same thing – then you need to ask the photographer about it. They should have a solid answer that doesn’t sound like a bunch of fluff. How someone handles complaints is almost more important than someone who claims to have never received one. If you have a complaint you want to know that it will be responded to in a timely and professional manner.***
Interview them on the phone
Pick up the phone and call them up. I know it’s old fashioned these days with email and texting, but your time is valuable. There’s no need to waste time with an hour long in person visit before having a quick ten minute phone conversation. You can learn a lot about a person and their business in ten minutes. Ask them about their style, how long they’ve been in business, what is their ideal client. Ask them what they love about photographing weddings. You will be surprised at what you hear.
Meet them in person
After you’ve had your phone conversation make an appointment and meet them in person. Be prepared to spend about 40 minutes with them and think of questions to ask in advance. There are tons of questions on the internet (most of which are silly) that you can take to ask your potential photographer – but if you’ve done your research, investigated them and have a reasonable budget in mind – the meeting is the easy part. How do you feel with them? Sometimes people click and sometimes it’s just a dud. If you feel a connection, tell them. If you want to book, then do it.
Top Eleven Questions to Ask when Meeting a Wedding Photographer
- Equipment and backup equipment. Whether your photographer shoots Nikon or Canon is not important. If I were hiring a wedding photographer I would make sure they professional grade camera bodies and lenses. A professional grade camera body will have dual slot technology. This means that your photographer will always be saving a backup at the time they take a photo – so there is very little risk of corrupt data – meaning your images should always be safe. (I use the Nikon D4 and D3s – both of which have dual slots).
- Ask about credentials. Why are they a photographer and how did they become a wedding photographer? Do they specialize in just weddings? What type of training, education and experience do they have?
- Backup plan in case of illness. No one can promise you an emergency won’t happen. But ask and understand what your wedding photographers plan is should something happen.
- What type of retouching do you do to the images and are the images retouched before I see them? Some photographers will do minimal retouching while others offer the whole kit and caboodle. Ask them what they consider retouching. Is it just blemish removal or is it object removal or manipulation as well. Know what level of retouching your photographer offers. Also it’s important to know if all the images are retouched or only a set amount.
- Do they carry liability insurance? This is very important. It protects both you and them and some venues won’t let vendors work there without liability insurance. I carry 2 million dollars of liability insurance.
- What is their preferred method of communication? It’s important to know if they prefer email or phone calls. I have many clients who like to text or facebook message me. I have to kindly remind them that it’s difficult for me to keep those straight so I ask that my clients either call me the old fashioned way or send an email.
- How soon will you see your photos after the wedding? What’s their timeline for finishing the project and how will the images be delivered to you? Some will offer an online gallery and with some you might need to go to the studio for a viewing session. Make sure this is clear so you know what to expect.
- What is the retainer and is it refundable? Most photographers will have a non-refundable retainer for their services. This is normal.
- What is your payment schedule? When is the final payment due? It is completely normal and standard for the final payment to be due before the wedding date.
- Have they ever had a complaint and how did they handle it? I think this is a very valid question. How someone handles a complaint is almost more important than the complaint itself. The truth is if you are meeting with an established professional they probably have had an unhappy bride at least one time. I would suggest that someone was not being truthful if they told you otherwise. Listen to their answer and go with your gut on it. Does it sound sincere?
- If you want an engagement session, talk about schedules now. Most wedding photographers are very busy in the spring and fall and that’s when most couples want an engagement session. Ask what days they are available and how far in advance you need to schedule the session.