Finding the right wedding photographer is difficult, almost as hard as finding the perfect man to marry. The relationship is built on mutual trust and a single vision for the big day. After many letdowns, my fiancé and I finally found the perfect match for our looming wedding — but the process was not without its stressful moments, disappointments and astronomical price tags (in a world of i-photography, it is a wonder that photographers are still able to slap a $5,000 price tag on capturing your big day). Here are the valuable lessons I learned over months of painstaking searching for and interviewing wedding photographers. I hope they can help you keep the focus on your Big Day!
In the world of wedding photographers, there are two types of shops: the “churn and burns” and the “independents.” The churn and burns are larger scale studios that do anywhere from 48-75 weddings a year; they have numerous staff photographers, but you’ll have to shell out big bucks to work with the owner. The independents are one-person shops that pick about 20-40 weddings a year; they vary in cost depending on level of expertise, but there is very little negotiating room on price.
So how do you know which model to pick? Unfortunately, I have no definitive answer for this question. The photographer-bride relationship is very intimate and requires a lot of communication. Make sure you sit down with your fiancé and decide on your style, theme and vision for the day — or you might experience our saga.
My first go at finding a photographer was a disaster. We met with a larger churn and burn shop, immediately felt like we were all on the same page, and left giddy with the promise of finding our photographer on the first try. A few days later, I called to confirm the details only to be informed that the photographer we’d selected was no longer available. Apparently a handshake did not have the same finality as the deposit offered by another couple.
Our next photographer date was an independent, Rebecca Wood. She’d come highly recommended and I now understand why. Her bubbly personality, über-cool vision and client dedication is unreal. Just walking into her vintage office will have you wishing you could have your engagement shoot then and there. For budgetary reasons, we weren’t able to seal the deal, but I still highly encourage anyone (based in Toronto or the GTA) hoping for timeless wedding photos to contact Rebecca.
Our third try was the charm. I met April Maciborka, owner of Olive Photography, and immediately loved her laid-back and ladylike charm. April worked with us to develop a package that met our budget and requirements without ever compromising on our vision. Her journalistic style fit our style in a whimsical way, without being too hipster.
What did I take away from all of that? A lot! Turns out that wedding photography is high on the priority and the budget list. Still, as we discovered, there are some easy, cost-effective tricks for saving time and money when it comes to wedding photography, and here are three of them.
Tip #1: Pre-Ceremony Photos
Instead of abandoning guests for two hours to take bridal party photos, schedule the shoot before the ceremony even begins. The benefits for this unconventional idea are huge: the afternoon light is better for photos; you don’t have to work with a tight time allotment; and you don’t leave your guests for hours. It also means that when the dancing gets going, you can let your photographer go, and use Tip #2 to save you a few pennies.
Tip #2: Polaroid Paparazzi
Photography packages usually include seven hours of coverage. Instead of hiring a photographer to stay late into the night to capture every hour of dinner and dancing, get your guests to help. Spread disposable or Polaroid cameras around the room with a cute note à la “Say Cheese!” Guests will enjoy the opportunity to capture favourite moments from your wedding for you. This personal touch is a fun and cost-effective way to shoot late-night fun.
Tip #3: DIY Wedding Album
Photographers offer numerous packages that include custom-made wedding albums; the price point can be anywhere from $500-$2000 per book. The first time I heard this, I actually laughed. You don’t need to be craft-savvy to make your own wedding album. There are dozens of easy-to-use software programs and websites that allow you to customize and create your own wedding album. These albums typically cost between $30-$100 per book and can be ordered by family or friends as well. (They also make great Christmas gifts for Grandparents or close family that missed the celebration.)
What are you own tips for finding the right wedding photographer, and keeping the budget in control?
Amanda Garbutt is a bride-to-be living in Toronto. Amanda is an entrepreneur who runs The Hot Plate, an online cooking resource and recipe development company. Her upbeat attitude and attention to detail keep her busy whether she’s in the kitchen or planning her urban Toronto wedding. Follow her @TheHotPlate.