Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Expert tips on selecting a photographer from Elizabeth Beskin, President of Fifth Avenue Digital

10 Important Tips to Remember When Choosing a Photographer for Your Special Event!

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning photography for your special day. You will only get to make this important decision once. When the wedding or other special event is over, the pictures are one of the few things that remain, apart from the dress and the rings. The photography is there to remind you of all the fond memories of the day, the intricate details you planned and of course all of the emotion.

Here are the top 10 things to consider when choosing your wedding photographer:

1. Every photographer has his or her own unique style. Look for a style of photography that "speaks" to you. A good wedding photographer should have the ability to really capture mood, emotion, and sentiment within his photographs. The shots shouldn't just sit there; they should move you in some way. They should provoke a reaction within you, whether you’re looking for romantic shots, a fashion-forward portrait session, outrageous candids or artistic photojournalism. You’ll probably find yourself drawn repeatedly to a certain style, which will help you define the style of photographer you want for your occasion.

2. Question the photographers about their styles. What sets them apart? How do they approach the wedding? Do they enjoy shooting weddings and events or are they really a fashion photographer or journalist making extra money for now? You want someone that loves everything about weddings: the romance, the fashion, the emotion and the traditions. Make sure you trust them enough to create something special for you.

3. If you are working with a studio or a company that has multiple shooters, ask to meet the photographer that you will be spending your important day with. Make sure this person is someone you would like at your wedding. You may spend more time with them than family and friends on your wedding day. Is the chemistry right? You want to be on the same page and click with them!

4. How much experience does the photographer have? This is probably the most important question. It’s very easy these days to find someone with a website and an inexpensive camera who will offer to shoot your event for a small fee. Experience matters! You have thought out every other detail about your occasion; don’t leave this one to chance.

5. Don’t judge photographers’ work by their website alone. If your interest in a particular photographer is serious, ask to see an entire job. It’s relatively easy to find a few outstanding shots in every job. Photographers today sometimes shoot over 2000 images at a single wedding. Make sure you see a large number of outstanding shots within one job, and consider how many images you need to go through to find those killer moments. You want the photographer’s images to reflect the caliber of work you expect, with each and every wedding they’ve already shot.

6. What kind of lighting do they use? When photographers say they shoot portraits using natural light, this is another way of saying, “I don’t own portrait lighting.” This works fine if you are planning an outdoor wedding or will be doing portraits near a window, but if you are having your portraits done mostly in a ballroom, or in any other indoor location, you need portrait lights! Even if your wedding is outdoors, it never hurts to be prepared.
7. Ask about backup equipment. Again, if you get a blank stare you know they are not prepared to shoot your wedding. They should have at least two cameras for each photographer and multiple lenses and flashes. This sounds trivial but digital cameras do fail. There are many photographers who do not have sufficient gear to shoot weddings, so make sure to ask what they use.

8. Ask your photographer if they have a backup program on their hard drives. Digital photographers rely on hard drives to archive your images. Anyone with a computer will know that computers frequently have problems. If they give you a blank stare or can’t explain how they store their images, then you know they are unprepared. Your photographer should have your images backed up in multiple places and perhaps a copy off site. These things cost money so be prepared that photographers with good back up plans will cost more.

9. If they get sick or another emergency arises, what happens? If they can’t talk about it then they haven’t thought about it. Granted, the chances of this are rare. In my 22 years of representing photographers, it’s happened only twice. One year, a photographer’s wife went into early labor. A few years later, the death of another photographer’s father occurred the morning of a wedding. In both situations, the bride and groom preferred a focused replacement, rather than a shooter who wasn’t really focused on their day. Both were thrilled at the way it was handled. Other acceptable answers to this question: the photographer belongs to a professional organization such as PPA or WPPI which can provide a replacement or he has emergency “on call” arrangements with other professional photographers. Make sure they will replace themselves with someone of a similar style and price point. At 5th Avenue Social, we have a team of shooters that are all artistically different, but have similar work styles. Happily, photographers who work for me perform even when under the weather. Only the most extreme emergency will keep them from a job.

10. When it comes to pricing, make sure you understand what you are getting up front and that you are comparing apples to apples when evaluating different photographers’ packages. Many photographers have introductory pricing that is tied to what you buy after you see their images. They know that they can up-sell you after the wedding. Find out what you receive with the basic package, how many hours the photographer is hired for, how much the extras cost, who owns the high resolution images, and how long it will take for you get them.

And finally, one more tip for good measure:

11. Do you know anyone who has used this photographer? Can they get you a reference? Have you looked online to see what other brides say about them in reviews? Were they recommended by your other trusted vendors? Ask for references from your photographer and speak to their past clients. These are all good ways to make sure your important day is artistically covered.

Elizabeth Beskin is President of 5th Avenue Social, a high-end photography company providing talented photographers for weddings, mitzvahs and other occasions, in various price levels and styles. She also has an online album company called albumboutique.com to help brides make an heirloom album with the images they own from their photographers

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