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How to select your wedding photographer

By Tom Tracy
March 24th, 2008
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)


WEST PALM BEACH, FL (Catholic Online) - It is a Friday night before a two-wedding weekend I have coming up in South Florida and my camera bag is packed, batteries charged and I am taking it easy because I will be on my feet at least 8 hours both Saturday and Sunday.

Best I can tell, both my couples are entering Jewish-Christian interfaith marriages with a rabbi presiding at beachfront resort ceremonies.

Like a lot of my clients, the couples started their search for wedding vendors by Internet, probably in conjunction with checking out resorts and considering word-of-mouth advice. One client is an American couple working in London, and they found me online and booked me after several phone and e-mail exchanges. Then we met in Florida just before Christmas for a beach engagement photo session ó a great way for photographer and couples to break the ice and set the stage before the big day.

My other couple is a referral ó I shot the brideís older sisterís wedding a year ago, and this family in particular likes me. Last week I was sitting in their kitchen in Fort Lauderdale eating scrambled eggs and bagels before we shot that coupleís beach engagement session ó just one week before the wedding!

Get to know your photographer

Any way you can get to know your wedding photographer on a personal level and brief him about the wedding details is a good idea. (It also doesnít hurt to make sure he gets fed well the day of the wedding.)

These days, itís all about the Internet and online resources, but a substantial number of couples planning a wedding still put high value on word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals when choosing churches, locations and wedding vendors. Otherwise, future brides are sitting down at the computer or with the wedding magazines combing through the expanding number of wedding vendor portals and online advertising vehicles.

Discuss the price tag

Then comes the hard work of deciding what you want from your photographer and how much you are willing to pay. We hear of photographers charging as little as $500 and as much as $30,000.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly what you are getting when you sign up. Know who will be shooting the wedding, the timeframe that the shooter will be with you, and exactly what products and services you are getting. Whenever I hear someone complain about a wedding photographer experience they had, I wonder how much of it is really a function of the client not having understood the arrangements, or conveniently not remembering.

Check past work online

Most couples approach their search first with a general style of photography they want, and the Internet makes it easy to see samples of the work and read the photographerís bio, as well as see testimonials, custom wedding book designs, movie slideshows, online proofing and specific places that photographer has worked.

Having working in a particular venue is good, but not necessary for a photographer. My couple tomorrow was for some reason extremely interested in knowing that I like and enjoy working in their resort location, and I assured them I did.

Book well in advance

Donít wait to check if he or she still has your date available, as some popular wedding dates are booked over a year in advance. Call and schedule a phone conversation and then a sit-down if possible to review photo packages, pricing and the products.

Customizing your album

A lot of couples today simply want to pay a photographer to shoot the event and hand over the images on a disc. Photographers donít like that scheme for a variety of good reasons, and there are surveys which show those pictures almost never become part of a true wedding album. Today, the trend is to utilize digital technology to create a custom-designed, coffee-table style or flush-mount book.

Communicate well

Once you have hired your photographer, treat him or her like a part of the event, like family, and make sure he or she is on the inside track the day of the wedding.

I always tell brides who ask my advice that the single best thing they can do is get in that dress and be ready for pictures a little early. It always pays off in terms of more and better photos. Likewise, running late and being hurried never fails to diminish photo opportunities and create stress for the photographer and yourself.

(Tom Tracy is a wedding photojournalist based in Palm Beach, Fla. His website is www.tomtracy.com.)

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