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Getting the Best Value for Your Wedding Photography Dollars
A Photographers Perspective

Bride Photo with Nanci KerbyBy Nanci Kerby

We all know that the cheapest product is usually not the best, but when we find a good product that is under market value we have hit the jackpot.  For your wedding budget it is your challenge to get the best possible photographer for a price you can afford.  Wedding Photography prices range greatly, depending on your photographer and after wedding products (goodies).

The following are a few thoughts / questions to consider when looking for the best value in a wedding photographer.

Make sure you are Comparing Apples to Apples

When you are making a choice between wedding photographers, first you want to look through lots of local photographer’s web sites. View many web sites and when you have the “AHH . . . that’s what I want my wedding to be photographed like” response, email the photographer with questions and see how they respond.

Check out all of the pictures on the site, wedding and otherwise to get a good idea for how the photographer sees life.  If the photographer is relating well with their client, then the photograph will show comfortable natural expressions. Don’t let the location deceive you; look at the people, not the location.  You are looking for how “YOU” will look in your location, not on a distant romantic shore somewhere with awesome secluded beach with wind blowing hair in the brides face. Everyone can get that shot.  Do see if the bride and groom both look happy and relaxed.  Does the bride look particularly pretty, happy? You want to like their image style, color, what feelings they evoke:  sense of fun, joy, beauty and the story.

Then take a look at their package pricing to see if they are in what your ballpark budget is.

Your “relationship” with your photographer is important!  How do you “feel” about one photographer from another?  You will want to be able to be yourself and smile truly and have a comfort level with this person that you are trusting to capture you at your best and most beautiful.

Tell the photographer about your wedding and ask for ideas.  Find out how they organize their day in shooting.  Notice if you can ask questions easily so that when it is your wedding day you can ask anything (reasonable) and be assured that the answer will be an easy “yes, we can do that”.   Make sure the package you are interested in is clear with its contents, and you might ask specifically what products you will receive and touch them for quality feel.

Now, here is where the apples to apples comes in . . .

When you visit a second photographer, make sure and ask the same questions and think about the feelings each are evoking upon you. If you do this for each photographer you will have a clear idea of the similarities and differences between their products.

Do you want to pick your products a la carte or have an inclusive Wedding Package?

A la Carte sounds great doesn’t it? You can pay less now for your wedding photography because you can choose what you want to purchase later!!  So you may be very excited to see a price tag for your wedding photography of $1500 and jump to say, yea, this is in my budget, let’s go for it.  But you need to think of the other half of your costs that you will be spending on your pictures later.  If you are paying for the photographer to shoot your wedding ONLY, they now hold all your wedding pictures and later, when the final pictures weren’t included in a package price, you could be looking at quite a bit more money (maybe double!).

So get yourself a price list for prints, enlargements, albums and whatever other products you think you might want later on if you’re deciding to go the A la Carte route. When you add up the cost of the products you would get in a package you're considering, you'll know if they're similar in total price.

Now, let’s discuss your other option of “Inclusive Wedding Packages”.  There are a variety of combinations available.  The variations will be in the number of hours a photographer is there photographing, and the professional products that come with it (actual prints, albums, CDs, etc.).  Package prices will also vary due to factors such as the style of album chosen, touch up work, and the print quality.

Most Wedding Photography Packages include an assistant that is a second shooter covering shots from the side or a different vantage point, or other happenings when the main photographer is with the couple.  Choosing a package that gives you what you would like to have will determine what your cost will be.  If you are having a small wedding you could ask the photographer what the savings would be if there were no assistant and get some input there.

Packages are a place where you can “Save Some Wedding Dollars” in a couple of areas.   If you love the photographer’s style and they know that, and your personalities click, this can be where you could ask for substitutions or eliminations in their packages to get closer to your budget.

Do you want a wedding album?  Most likely the answer to that is yes, so you need to decide what kind? There’s the Traditional Matted Album, Flush Mount style, or a Coffee Table Press Printed Original Book.

A Traditional Matted Album can be bonded leather, cowhide or leatherette.  Other options such as metal and wood covers are also vogue. Leather needs some upkeep and sometimes does not feel as good as quality imitation leather that will require no upkeep, and can look just as good.  If this is a “dollars” upgrade question I would opt for leatherette, as most people would never know a good quality album.  Traditional Matted Album means each page holds an individually printed picture, or two, or four.  Each page has a mat that puts each picture in a frame of black, ivory or brown.  It is a stylish and beautiful collection of your selected images.

A Flush Mount Album is one in which some more up to date design style can be added — like a magazine layout where one picture can be overlaid on another. Each page can be a montage of many pictures or just one panorama stretching across a small gutter.  These can be quite stunning if designed by a talented designer.  When deciding what you want, look at your photographer’s samples and ask if your album would be done by the same artist/or lab – this can be very important to make sure you get the same look as the sample you are looking at as the “artists” and labs that put these together can make a big difference.

Press Printed Coffee Table Books are among the most expensive books as each one is a custom designed, printed and bound book.  Acrylic or metallic covers are the hot ticket, and quite stunning. Also leather and silks are available.  Pages are thicker than a regular book and can have metallic, photographic paper, or a linen textured finish.  Family copy books are rather reasonable as the expense is in the original design and print and cover.   You can also get small versions as gifts for the wedding party and other special people.

Do you want a CD of the whole wedding?  If so, will the images only be viewable or printable as well?

If it is included, you have a bargain and have made a good choice for your wedding dollars spent.  If not, then you may want find out how much it costs.  Since you can only choose so many pictures for your album, it is nice to have a story of your whole wedding with all of those picture sequences of people having fun.  So if your photographer includes a CD for viewing of your wedding, you will probably be happy.  If you think about giving photos of you or your family and friends as thank you gifts, then you will want a printable version, will probably cost extra as it is an extra value.

Should You have a contract  — A Price List?

Always!  Make sure your contract spells out how long the photographer will be shooting for you, and if he comes late, what then, and if he gets ill, what then.  Not only does this “cover” you, but the contract will spell things out so you know what you are paying for.  Are you buying time and talent plus an album and five pictures, or what?   Also, be sure and get a price list so you know exactly what extra products will cost.

So make yourself a list and start searching for best deal for your photography wedding dollars both in talent and products!


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