Groom Duties

How to Get a Photo/Videographer That Doesn’t Suck

You will pay more for your wedding photographer than you probably realize. He or she will be a professional, and professionals don’t come cheap. Thing is: you don’t want to go cheap here. If you do, your photographs will suck.

See also: The Plunge Crystal Ball – Your Wedding Day Itinerary

If your fiancée charged you with this task, or if you’re doing it together as a couple (which, to be honest, isn’t entirely unreasonable), or if you actually care about your photo album \ and you’re looking for advice, here it is.

Rather than go into what you should do to get good photographs, we’re going to tell you the things you shouldn’t do: the things that will make your photographs suck.

While we’ve written these to help you choose the right photographer, they also apply to your videographer, should you choose to go that way. (Whether you should is another question…)

10 ways that your photos might suck (and how to avoid these mistakes):

1. Will Suck If You: Pick a disgruntled artist

This matters. Some wedding photographers consider themselves “artists” and prefer their edgier, more provocative, less commercial pet projects. So they despise this job. They’ll gobble up your money without even hiding their contempt. Remember, this person will be a key chess piece that interacts with you, your friends, and your family on the most over-hyped important day of your life. So don’t hire Billy Walsh from Entourage.

2. Will Suck If You: Forget to look at samples of their work

It’s not complicated. Would you go to a doctor without first interviewing his prior patients? Would you ever eat at a restaurant without first nibbling some free samples? Would you ever get a haircut without leafing through your barber’s portfolio? No. Never.

Alas, the irony of the above paragraph will be lost on your fiancée. Weddings are different. They don’t follow the normal rules of human behavior. You are expected to flip through these photo albums as if the fate of western civilization hinges upon this very decision. (To your bride, it may.) Roll with it. There actually is merit to inspecting the photographer’s goods—you should like what you’re paying for—but it’s more important that they have references you trust.

3. Will Suck If You: Use your buddy

If he happens to have actual wedding photography experience? Fine. Use him. Otherwise, there’s a 99% chance that he will be inadequate. The downside isn’t just mediocre photos, but awkwardness at the party. There’s a fine art to crowd control, arranging group photos, and knowing the key permutations. A good wedding photographer is good with a crowd.

Then again, to play devil’s advocate…IF your buddy’s charismatic and IF your fiancée isn’t that stressed about the photos and IF he can actually snap a good shot…there are worse places to cut corners.

One last compromise: you can have a pro do the ceremony, some formal portraits, and a few key shots that will serve as your “framers”…and then leave the reception to amateurs.

4. Will Suck If You: Make a Hallmark commercial

Look, almost by definition any wedding video you make will be a little sappy. Fine: it’s a sentimental occasion. But there’s a difference between “Ahhhhww” and “Ewww.”  Watch the videographer’s samples. Get a sense of his or her style. Some are cheesier than others. It’s possible to have a relatively tasteful, toned-down video that still delivers on the emotional goods. Alarm bells should be ringing if you see a pink DVD cover, gratuitous use of slow-motion, or too many shots of cute puppies.

5. Will Suck If You: Grill them about the “specs”

Let the photographer do their job. Don’t ask about the camera. Don’t try and sound smart and ask about the “aperture” or “shutter-speed.” No, this won’t doom your wedding or anything, but you’re just over-complicating something that’s pretty damn simple.

6. Will Suck If You: Don’t get any candid shots

As your fiancée has probably told you by now, there are two flavors of wedding photographs: posed and candids. (We won’t insult you with a definition.) Make sure you get some candids. Those are the shots that are the most interesting, the most memorable, and the most full of life. Warning: Candids require a little more artistic skill and experience, so make sure you like what you see in his or her portfolio. If the budget’s tight and you’re looking to trim nickels, this one’s not a deal-breaker. (Note. As for the non-candid shots, the photographer will probably have a list of what he/she provides. If you really want to geek out and request your own specific shot list, you’ll find a comprehensive one here.)

7. Will Suck If You: Leave the photographer stranded

You know that hour when everyone has to pose for 548 different shots? As unlikely as this sounds, it will be even more hellish if you forget to appoint someone to corral all the people who need to be there. Get someone you trust—ideally the best man—to organize the crowd and assist your photographer.

8. Will Suck If You: Stress

If you’ve been dreaming all your life about the perfect wedding photo album, we think you’re at the wrong site. You’ll feel more comfortable here. Let’s say the HORROR STORY comes true and you have a crappy wedding video. Oh no! That means that…well, um, nothing. If any reader of The Plunge ever watches their wedding video more than twice, e-mail us and we’ll refund the money you spent on this article.

9. Will Suck If You: Forget the hidden costs

Wedding photographers are sneaky. When you review the price structure, make sure that you ask about the negatives and how much they will cost. When they own the negatives, they will charge you for additional reprints. Don’t worry, this isn’t abnormal or unusual, but you don’t want any unpleasant surprises after the wedding. If at all possible get the rights to the negatives in writing, and if shooting digitally try to get the rights to the files (and get the files). Here is a site that has some interesting legal issues to consider.

10. Will Suck If You: Choose a vendor that goes out of business or scams your deposit

How many times do you think this will happen this wedding season? After plunking down a deposit the happy couple waits and waits for their photographer to show-up at the designated time and place. Guess what? If you bought wedding insurance you might get your money back—of course, that doesn’t produce a photographer for your wedding. Check with your local BBB and try to use someone that comes recommended by a friend.

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