Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer

Choosing a photographer can be one of the most difficult wedding choices to make. Your photographs are your one tangible memory from your wedding day so you need to be sure the professional you choose will do a good job at capturing them. So, here are some tips for helping you make a better decision.

- First, hire a Professional! I have heard stories from far too many ladies who were disappointed in their photography choice. Many brides will ask a friend or family member with a "good" camera to take some shots for them. Your wedding is a one day deal, which can't be repeated. It is the emotions and small quirks which make it truly special. You get one shot, make it count.

- Hire a WEDDING photographer. All photographers are not created equal. You wouldn't hire a preschool teacher to teach a bunch of adults about nuclear physics, right? Well, it's the same thing in photography. While a photographer may be skilled at landscape shots, or pet photography, it's not the same thing as shooting a wedding. A wedding takes a great deal of skill, from interacting well with people to being able to get the shot right the first time - there are no do-overs in a wedding.

- Good photography costs money! This may seem a bit obvious, but the fact is, there are many couples who prefer to put their money into a good alcohol selection rather than their memories. Truthfully, no one will remember how the cake tasted, how loud the music was, or what kind of food you served. However, you will always have your photos to look back on. (I do know that you are most likely on a budget, however, it might be a good idea to take from another portion of your bduget in order to get the photographer you really want.)

- Research, research, research. You need to know what you want in your wedding photography before you start looking. What style of photography do you like? Formal, casual, photojournalistic? Do you like natural poses, do you like posed formals, do you want a photographer who interacts with you or one that is silent? Do you like color, black & white, or even spot color? Do you like the strange faded candles/close up of the couple overlay thing that they did back in the 80s? Do you want a beautiful wedding album? If your photographer doesn't offer albums, make sure you get full rights to your images to have it made elsewhere. Do you want your photos on DVD? This is a very important question to ask yourself. There are many photographers out there who do not want to give up those photos. All of these things are important to know before you start looking for a photographer.

- Do NOT settle on the first photographer you come across. It never hurts to keep looking. I am not saying the first photographer you come across isn't a good choice. I'm just saying it doesn't hurt to look at a few before making your decision. For one thing, if you end up going back to your first choice, you will apreciate them a whole lot more.

- The photographer included in your venue's "preferred vendor" list is not always the most qualified. Believe it or not but many venues are cashing in on this. They have vendors pay (some are up to $500/month) to be included on the preferred vendors list. I feel it is a complete misinterpretation of a preferred vendor list. These should be people who have worked well with couples who have gotten married at the venue before, but that's not always the case. Again, be sure to do your research on this.

- Ask to see an entire wedding from your photographer. A good way to tell an inexperienced or incompetent photographer is one that only has an album with a random sampling from different weddings. If you choose a photographer who does not offer albums, they may offer to let you see an entire wedding through an online gallery, instead. Things to look for? Again, it depends what you want in a photographer.

- If you are booking a wedding photography company who has multiple photographers, be sure to see the work from the photographer who will be at your wedding. Also, be sure to talk directly with that photographer. There are some high end studios where the photographer is so busy they hire people to do all of the talking for them. It is important to meet your photographer to form a relationship with them.

- Try them out. Most photographers offer engagement sessions. Some are included in the wedding package, some are extra. It is a great idea to do the engagement session with your photographer as soon as possible. It gives you a chance to work with the photographer before your big day. If they have a bad attitude while photographing you, if they have trouble posing you, if they spend half of the time setting up the camera, these might be reasons to look for a different photographer. It is a much better idea to give up a deposit than to give up the quality of your wedding day photos.

- This leads me to probably the most important way to choose your photographer - PERSONALITY! It may sound silly, but you are spending quite a bit of time on your wedding day with your photographer. If your personalities aren't a good fit, most likely you wont be at your happiest and your photos will reflect that. It doesn't matter how good a photographer is, you can't photoshop disappointment. So, how do you determine a photographer's personality? You really need to meet with them in person. Most photographers offer a complimentary consultation to discuss your wedding day and the services they offer. If you are booking a photorgapher for a destination wedding, you can still get a good idea of personality on the phone with them.

- I feel that personality is so important, it should get two bullets. A photographer's personality and style will be combined to create your wedding memories. First, their personality combined with yours (and your guests) will create the moments and then their style will determine how those moments become photographed. If your photographer is in sync with you, you will get the memories you want. If, however, your photographer is not on the same page as you, you may not be happy with those photographs.

- This of course leads me to my next point - COMMUNICATION. You should communicate with your photographer a lot. Make sure you tell them what you want and what you don't want. On a personal note, I have had a bride email me every single decision she was making, from her shoes to the invitations. She kept apologizing for bothering me but, in all honesty, I loved it! I was able to get a very clear picture of who she and her fiance were, what was important to them, their likes and dislikes, and so much more. We developed such a strong relationship because of this.

- Read the contract! Every photographer should have a contract. They should be able to talk you through it if you have any questions. This contract is your life line. If anything bad happens (knock on wood) you have a legal document to back you up.

- A photographer's office, whether commercial, residential, or even Starbucks, typically does not reflect on their expertise, competency, or value. I have seen insanely good photographers work out of Starbucks. Although, if you happen to go to an office with a storefront in an extremely prestigious part of town, you are most likely going to pay for it.

Your wedding photography is probably the single most important decision to make, besides when you say "YES!" Your photographs are your only tangible memory from your wedding day. They will show you years from now what an amazing day it was, so you need to be sure you make the right decision when choosing your photographer. If you do need further help in choosing the right photographer, feel free to email me to ask any and all questions you may have.


Jennifer Duval is the owner of Duval Digital, a Colorado Springs based wedding and portrait photography studio. She loves outdoor weddings and homemade wedding favors, preferably food based. She has been asked on occasion to help with wedding planning because she loves to focus on the little details and is a photoshop wiz. However, her primary love has always been photography. You can see more of our wedding photography work here: http://duvaldigital.com/home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Oh, crap, I haven't chosen a location yet!

We were at a bridal fair recently and I was blown away by the number of brides who were telling me that they hadn't booked their ceremony or reception locations yet. And more importantly, their dates are within 10 months. If you are one of these brides without a location, you might be thinking this is an "oh, crap" moment, but don't settle for the first hall that is available, just yet.

Did you know that you can negotiate with your ceremony/reception site? Not all are willing to entertain offers, but consider that if they don't book your wedding, they may not have any income coming in that night. They are just as desperate to book you as you are to book them. Since most brides book their venues 8 - 18 months in advance, you may be able to score a discount by booking your location less than 6 months out. Sundays - Fridays are often less popular than Saturdays, many places have discounts for these days, but if they don't, ask!

If you haven't even started looking at locations, these are a few things you need to consider to help narrow down your thousands of choices:
- Do you want to be married indoors or outdoors? If indoors, at a church or in a ballroom? If you want total control over your decor and the weather, an indoor location might be a better choice. However, if you are flexible and don't mind postponing the wedding a few minutes due to weather conditions, outdoors generally has better lighting and will give you much more color on a limited budget.

- Do you want a location that provides everything, just the space, or something in the middle? Some locations provide everything from the food to the flowers, and everything in between. Some locations will charge you what is called a site fee and you have to bring everything yourself including tables and chairs, waitstaff, etc.

- What time of year do you want to be married? If you want to be married in a snowy setting, choosing a November date in Denver might not be the best choice. (Colorado is probably one of the flakiest states when it comes to snow.) Likewise, if you are set on getting married outdoors and you hate the cold, April is probably not a good choice. You can't count on the weather being similar to the previous year.

- Of course you need to make sure your date is available, however, the choice of venue should be more important than the date (unless you have chosen a date for a specific reason, like being a grandparent's anniversary date). If you know you want to be married in June, the venue may not have your perfect Saturday available, but Sunday might be open, and, sometimes, CHEAPER!

- Do you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same location? If there is a location you dream of being married, but they are out of your budget, it may be possible to have just your ceremony there and travel to another location for the reception. Consider the distance between the locations... the further it is, the more likely your guests may get lost.

- Do they have what you need? Do you need dressing rooms for the bride, bridesmaids, groom, groomsmen, parents, anyone else? Is there a bar if you want alcohol, dance floor, buffet table, cocktail hour space, room for your DJ or a band, places for great photos indoor and out, etc?

- Do they provide chairs, tables, linens, etc? And is there an additional fee for those? (I talked to a bride who told me they got a great price on a location, but then they charged her like $10 per chair they set out.)

- If you choose an outdoor location, try to visit it at the time of year when your wedding will take place. You want to make sure the types of trees, flowers, grass they have will be beautiful for your wedding. Also, if you choose an outdoor location, it may be a good idea to make sure they have alternate plans in case of inclement weather.

- Ask your location if there will be another wedding at the same time as yours. I have unfortunately been a part of a wedding that was starting at the same time as a wedding about 200 feet away. The officiants were trying to talk over one another, you could hear the music from the other wedding. It was just terrible.

- If you are getting married in the summer, ask when their air conditioning was last serviced. There is nothing worse than getting dressed in a 90° room, going outside to do formals in 95° weather and coming back into your reception area to find it is also at 90°.

- Does the style of the location go with the style of your wedding? For example, you would not want a rustic barn if you are going for high class elegance. Does their decor go well with your wedding colors? Some locations have out of date carpet and curtains that clash with almost everything.

- Finally, ask to see photos of the areas set up for weddings.

Your venues set much of the theme for your wedding day, make sure it is what you want. And, as I always tell my clients, do not let them push you! It is your wedding day, if you want to be married outside, their staff can go wipe the rain off the chairs 10 times, if that's what it takes.


Jennifer Duval is the owner of Duval Digital, a Colorado Springs based wedding and portrait photography studio. She loves outdoor weddings and homemade wedding favors, preferably food based. She has been asked on occasion to help with wedding planning because she loves to focus on the little details and is a photoshop wiz. However, her primary love has always been photography. You can see more of our wedding photography work here: http://duvaldigital.com/home.