Richard Tallent’s occasional blog

Advice to Models for picking a Wedding Photographer

Reposted from my reply on a modeling forum thread._ This advice is particularly for models, but there are some general principles here too that are important for anyone choosing a wedding photographer. While I admit I’m biased in what I think is important (as a wedding photographer myself), I know most of my blog audience isn’t local and won’t think of this as an advertisement._

My own prices range from about $2k to $5k. Most weddings I book are in the $2,500-3,000 range and generally include an engagement portrait and bridal portrait session.

Questions to ask prospective photographers:

  • Ask if they have professional liability insurance, including errors and omissions, and ask to see proof. Proof of insurance doesn’t mean you are litigious, it’s the same as if you were hiring a contractor to work on your house. Anyone without the insurance shouldn’t be in the business, period. For instance, what if a family member trips over a light cord and breaks their wrist?
  • Ask if they use professional-grade equipment AND bring professional-grade backup equipment.
  • Ask if you will be the only wedding they book that weekend. Photographers who overbook are more likely to lose focus, show up late or unprepared, and have technical drama. (Some photographers can hack it, but many can’t, and I can guarantee it’s a bad idea if you’re at the low-budget level.)
  • Ask about their data backup strategy. The words “DVD” and “RAID” and “off-site” are good words to hear.
  • Ask if you’ll get a copy of the photos, in full resolution, that you can make prints from, post on Facebook, etc. If the answer is “no,” expect to pay out the nose for any prints, you won’t have a digital backup for safekeeping, and you won’t be able to legally post any photos online for friends and family to see.
  • Since you are focused on formals (a mistake IMHO–most people could care less about formals beyond the one “fireplace mantel shot” after the wedding), ask about what lighting they bring for formals. Lighting for a group photo should resemble a studio modeling shoot — bigger umbrellas and boxes.
  • Look at an ENTIRE wedding they shot, not just choice photos from a few different weddings. Some photographers do great with flash or in outdoor or well-lit settings, but can’t shoot crap in a reception hall with poor lighting.
  • Ask them the speed of their lenses. If they respond with a blank stare or if the numbers greater than f/2.8 comprise more than 14 of the lenses they say they bring, ditch ’em.
  • Ask for references. Check them.
  • Ask yourself if the processing they are using will be timeless to look at in 50 years, or if it’s a cheap trick to create a trendy look (“vintage” film looks, cross-processing, etc.) and overcome lack of good exposure and composition. Just went to my wife’s grandparents’ 60th anniversary party, and sadly, their photos have kept their timeless quality better than some of my friends (still in their 20s).
  • If they are qualified, ask photographers you’ve worked with as a model! I give model discounts since I know I’ll get a bride who isn’t camera shy and who I already have rapport with. If nothing else, they probably know the local market and be able to tell who is good and who is blowing smoke.

You get what you pay for, and the current climate of wedding photography is, unfortunately, like everyone with a decent oven opening a wedding cake bakery. There is a difference, no matter how much Cake Boss someone watches and tries to imitate.


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