Choosing a Photographer Part #1 – Is it worth going cheap?

One of the biggest things to consider when choosing a photographer is going to be the cost. Often times I have given a price for my services only to be told “I will just have my friend do it”. Later I will see the photos on Facebook and I can tell that “a friend took them”. I am not trying to be mean but when people can go out to the local best buy and pick up a decent Canon T6i with an 18-55 kit lens for $599 I can see the appeal in wanting to be a photographer. This is not to say that you can get great photos with that camera. For a long time this is what I started out with and took great photos. What I am saying though is a lot goes into photographing an event. Lets consider a few things before we look at options when choosing a photographer.

1.) Photographers spend a lot on gear. With decent bodies between $1,600 and 6k it is not cheap.
2.) Throw on a couple good lenses and you can easily spend close to $1000 a lens. 3.) Once you take the photos you need to edit them. Photo editing software can range $500-$1k a program.
4.) Now lets consider the photographers time. On average you are looking at $50 – $300 an hour for the photo session. But it does not stop there. Many photographers can spend several hours editing photos. On a typical wedding of 8 hours I will deliver about 400 photos to the client. Each photo takes around 3-5 minutes to edit if not more depending on the photo. So now I have not only shot your wedding for 8 hours, but now i have spend another 25-30 hours editing. So at the end of the day you received 40 hours worth of work.

Its easy to see that a lot goes into a photograph and ensuring you get the best deal and the best quality is always the most important factors. I classify photographers into three categories. Lets take a closure look at these a little closer.

The beginner: This is the person who just bought a camera and started dabbling in photography. This is the friend who got a new camera for Christmas who offered to shoot your wedding for dirt cheap. Normally they will show up with their kit lens or maybe two. They will normally be a 18-55 and 75-300. A good set of lenses to start with out in bright light but once you go indoors or night hits, these lenses are not able to perform like more expensive lenses. So your friend or the beginning goes to the wedding and stands where they think are the spots, they point the camera and shoot. Sweet you got your photos. But the light might be too direct or maybe they are too dark. Maybe there is blur some blur. Or maybe the photos come out great but then they edit them butsince they just started out they are not sure the proper techniques. I am not knocking beginners by any means. I too was a beginner and so were all the photographers I aspire to be. My point though is do you want to have them take photos of the most special day of your life? Everyone has to start somewhere but they should be able to find small jobs, family photos, children etc before branching off into weddings. Finally one way to spot a beginner is someone that gives you a CD of all the photos they took. I was this person for a while. I wanted to give the client 1000+ photos cause I thought quantity was best. I did not value my time and was only looking for the sale.

The Part-Time Pro: This is the person who has been taking pictures for a longer time and decided they could make some extra cash selling their gift. They have better cameras, better lenses, some flashes and some good software. They don’t do photography for the money. This is why they have their day jobs. They don’t shoot 20+ weddings a year but they put a lot of time into their work and ensure you have the best possible product. The Part-Time Pro’s prices will be more expensive then the beginner but you will also get better quality photos. Their editing time will be increased and they will deliver a finalized product to you. When I say finalized I mean you will receive prints, photo books, canvases etc… The Part Time Pro knows the value of a hard copy and the feeling you get when you hold your photos for the first time. The Part Time Pro probably wont offer you all the photos on a CD but might offer them for an additional cost. You also wont get 1000 photos. Instead you might get 200-400 AMAZING photos. They take the time to throw out the ones that don’t make the cut and ensure you only have the best of the best. The final big difference with the Part Time Pro vs the beginner is their ability to interact with people. They have taken more photos, been to more wedding and interacted with more people than the beginner. They will help lighten the moods of grumpy guests, they will interact and have fun with guests and most importantly they will help you. They will help you by relieving the stress that comes with events.  I consider myself in this class of photographers. I spend a lot of time editing, I spend a lot of money on my gear and I love making clients happy.

The Full-Time Pro: These are the photographers that do it for a living. Often times their prices will be the highest of the 3 categories however you are getting the best of the best. They have many years of experience and they are great business people. They shoot several events a year, turn around lots of clients and have the best of the best gear money can buy. Your photos will be beautiful and unlike anything you could have asked for. You wont get the pictures on a CD, instead you will need to buy a pakcage and choose your photos accordingly. You will not be disappointing with the Full Time Pro but keep in mind you will pay a premium price.

Hopefully this starts to help you narrow down your search of photographers. I know it can be a daunting tasks but hopefully you now can determine the type of photographer you are looking for. This will help save time and stress. Before I close i would like to mention one thing. I did not mention the what I call “One stop Shop” services. These are the ones where you can get your picture taken while shopping for groceries or shopping around the mall. I ask that you consider any of the three photographers above before going to one of these places. Support local business, support local photographers and help build better pictures for our future.