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Top 10 Secrets to Choosing THE RIGHT Wedding Photographer no one else will tell you about

Article written & submitted by Mark Nicholas
SNAPP Wedding Photography & Video
Art Wedding Photography & Video


Secret #1.

Know your Wedding Photographer by type: Wedding photographers can be generally grouped into 3 levels and can vary quite a bit by price and quality though the actual packages and number of prints offered don’t vary that much until you understand what your exactly getting.


Expensive. The most expensive local wedding photographers usually have an excellent reputation, an impressive retail/studio, usually work larger, higher budget weddings and use assistant photographers and lighting crew, etc., They can charge from $3,500 - $10,000++ for their services and vary quite a bit in terms of style, artistic capability but mostly the quality is very good and availability on Saturdays in prime season is very low, they are booked at least 12-24 months ahead. Most engagements they offer with albums, prints etc., will cost you between $3,500-6500++ and they typically provide great results at a low risk if they fit your budget – but make sure you get the actual top photographer if your going to pay $5000++. 


Lowest cost. At the bottom end of the market are occasional photographers, students, and wedding studios that offer wedding photography through a hired team of part time photographers. Beware as these types of wedding photography shops usually have beautiful or decent retail locations and are impressive to visit. These type of studios hire many photographers (mostly weekend only photographers who work normal jobs weekdays and or are students), they pay super low rates (for example you pay $1000 plus, the photographer gets $15 an hour!) and these type of wedding photography shops offer the lowest cost packages with lots, and lots of prints and proofs and or a CD/DVD included at low prices. Costs for this type of studio/photographer for weekend packages can range from as low as $500 to $1500 and the artistic quality of this range of photographers is usually really poor – just look at most wedding photographers online portfolios and you can see way too many  posed, un natural images of brides and grooms with fake smiles and bad composition. Most of the time photographers at the low end give you your images as shot (most shoot only in low resolution jpg. mode even if using a 10mp pro DSLR cameras!) These types use every trick in the book to put in the least time per wedding after its shot, use automated software to enhance the images and book VOLUME - as many weddings every weekend they can– too many of these lower cost photographers simply don’t like their work and do it for a the money.  You normally never know which of their “photographers” you will get as most hop from shop to shop if one offers a $5 more per hour.


The Middle Ground  - Weekend coverage and package prices range from approx $1000 - $3000. Most of these types of wedding photography shops allow you to actually view and choose the actual photographer you will get for your wedding, the very best ones shoot in the high definition (RAW mode) and work on each print you order themselves (like us). In my experience it is always an advantage to choose a photographer whose work and style you love, who owns and operates their own business, who does not pay others to do work they book and most importantly, who spends the time after the wedding to work on your images and albums to provide a high level of quality and personal service. Don’t let fancy retail studios fool you, sometimes you can find excellent, quality photographers who do not operate out of a retail studio location and you get the advantage of not paying the $4K++ a month costs the retail studios typically cost.


Secret #2.

Avoid wedding photographers that are part of a large pool or group that is changing. There are photographers who own their business, partners they always work with and everyone else who are basically for hire. Most photographers getting paid by a studio by the hour or by the job don’t put the time needed before or after the wedding to put out the best quality work. The less established ones are paid (usually $15-25 an hour) an amount by the hour or event and make the owners major profits doing volume, low cost packages, and most never ever include any time to actually work on the images and only shoot jpg. image though their web sites call these “high resolution” images which may be true but certainly not even close to the resolution of “RAW” images. These photographers typically must keeping to the exact package approach and style their studio tells them no matter what you ask of them. Also, please note bargain hunters that at this low end (in terms of paying the “weekend” photographer) you usually get one that is less than mannered and charming! 


Secret #3.

Camera settings and file type are VERY IMPORTANT to the quality of the images you will get. Avoid any photographer who tells you he/she wants to shoot your wedding in jpg. only mode on their cameras even if they tell you this really is “high resolution”. Any photographer who cares about the quality of their work shoots at all the important digital photographs of the bride and groom and or family in RAW mode. RAW mode is the highest, super high resolution mode possible on any professional camera but it is avoided or not mentioned by most as it requires a lot of additional work after the wedding to convert files and enhance the selected images manually, in other words it can take twice the time per wedding to shoot in RAW mode (typical time we allocate to work on prints is 6 hours plus per order for 50 images). FYI. Did you know that on my Sony digital camera 12 mp RAW images take 19 MB of space, while the exact same image in “fine” jpg. mode takes 4MB of space!!! That means almost 4 times the amount of “dots” (pixels) detailed picture information stored...YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENCE!   Avoid photographers who offer to give you all the images shot at your wedding on a DVD! (in other words all your images shot in jpg. only mode and never actually worked on individually).


Secret #4.

Choose a wedding photographer with a people oriented personality who cares and wants to capture the smallest details of your wedding, your religion and your culture! The fact is weddings in Southern Ontario usually involve couples who come from different religions, cultures and backgrounds! In my company I train each photographer to really focus on understanding these differences and capturing the details of each religious ceremony, and culture in our wedding photography – no detail of your wedding you want captured is too small. We spend a lot of time understanding what is important to you both, and your families and making sure your guests at the wedding feel like they can request images from your photographer too. You get way more and better images when we do that well.  


Secret #5.

Don’t get fooled by beautiful retail studio locations – your paying for that overhead and results vary tremendously from one studio to the other and the photographer they happen to assign to you. Your best bet is choose the photographer by the quality of their actual work by checking it in detail and finding out how long, how many weddings they shot last year and before how many years in the business.  If they shot over 100 weddings they are very very busy and may not be your first choice if you also want a very personal level of service.


Secret #6.

For the best price and package value deal with the specific photographers you want to meet in person. Review their work online, speak to a short list on the phone to see if they are the type of people you want to spend 12 hours with on your wedding day. Don’t try to negotiate in emails until you see their work in person – it is a sure way to get a good deal but be disappointed after.


Secret #7.

Don’t just choose the same photographer your friend or relative did. Do you love your best friends art? Would you love their furniture in your home?? Friends, family or not. style and taste vary a lot. If you absolutely love the wedding album from your friend’s wedding with a specific photographer, great. But choosing a style and personality is important as finished work for a lot of people. It is worth seeing and meeting with at least 3 photographers in person before deciding as in many cases referred photographers end up taking advantage of the “referralee”. (Yes, I know that is not a word, smile).


Secret #8.

If your budget is limited you can save big (10-25%+) on photography, facilities, limos, and all the other costs of your wedding by choosing a non weekend date. A great way to do this is picking a Monday/Friday on a 3 day weekend for your wedding or getting married off season in the colder times.


Secret #9.

Make sure you ask the photographer to review an actual wedding they shot with you in detail – not just a few images that were the best ones shot. In other words ask to see the as shot proofs on a computer screen, plus the images selected by their clients, check the difference between the proofs of the selected images and the enhanced print versions. The best photographers using digital equipment will shoot approx 60-100 images per hour on average and give you many selections of each type of image to choose from.


Secret #10.

The best photographers also shoot medium or large format film cameras (or medium format digital cameras like a Hasselblad) in addition to their professional digital cameras. These film cameras produce amazing images that are 20-30 MP + once scanned and turned into digital files but images/prints are way more expensive. If you and your family wants amazing large prints (16” x 20” or larger) or spectacular black and white or colour portraits larger film cameras still can be the best way to go (with digital photography also) for a number of reasons. If your photographer offers medium format film options to the wedding package you know they are usually very good, experienced and care about the quality of work they offer. These cameras are not used much any more mainly because of cost.


Article written & submitted by:


Mark Nicholas
Snapp Wedding Photography & Video

Mark Nicholas
Art Wedding Photography & Video

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