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Things to Consider
Your wedding is an event that cannot be done over. The moments are real and unscripted, the emotions are not rehearsed, therefore they have a priceless quality to them. You owe it to yourself to have someone who is truly qualified to document this once in a lifetime experience, someone that has the experience and expertise to help you to relive those moments, YOUR moments, through beautiful imagery.
Over the past decade there has been a very disconcerting shift that has been occurring within the photography industry. The number of self proclaimed wedding photographers has exploded! Since most people posses a digital camera and they know how to push the button many have thought how hard could it be to become a wedding photographer and make a nice side income. Since all they need is a nice website with a few good images, business cards and their camera, they can simply set up shop. DON'T BE FOOLED! Many of these new photographers are pretenders and have little to no professional training. Think of them as either hobbyists or enthusiasts. There seems to be a mentality of "fake it until you make it" by many of these newcomers and you are the target of their training. I have seen a lot of questions posted on numerous forums and Facebook photography groups that tell me they don't even have the basic photographic skills necessary to operate their equipment. The advice of "buyer beware" is truer in our profession today than at any other time that I have seen. You need to ask questions and be knowledgeable as to what a good answer is. You can find a good photographer and weed out those that lack the necessary dedication by asking the questions listed below and gauging them against appropriate answers.
Q How many years of experience and how many weddings have you photographed as the main photographer?
A As with any profession they'll get better with time and experience. Some may only have 2nd shooter experience or photographed events for friends and relatives. While everyone has to start somewhere the amount of experience they'll have is something you'll ultimately have to find a comfortable threshold with.
Q Do you have back up equipment?
A This is an absolute MUST! Even new equipment can fail so not having 2 sets of camera bodies is grossly irresponsible at best and at its worst is a ruined wedding day.
Q What type of cameras do you shoot with?
A At the very least mid-level DSLR's are needed. Nothing other than Canon or Nikon are used by professional photographers. Digital Rebels and Nikon D80's or lower grade cameras are not up to the demands that weddings can create.
Q What lenses do you have?
A Professional grade glass should have a minimum aperture (lens opening) of f2.8 (or smaller number). Kit lens that come with the cheaper cameras have very wide focal length ranges (18mm-200mm) and variable apertures like f3.5-6.3. These are not acceptable for wedding photography but are fine for amateurs.
Q Do you have liability insurance?
A Any serious professional that intends on staying in business would not even consider walking out his front door without insurance. Many venues wouldn't allow a vendor on their premises if they suspected they weren't covered. A one million dollar policy is common and frankly is not that expensive. A cheap photographer will try to get by without this necessary business expense.
Q What formal training, workshops or photographic conventions have you attended?
A If the answer is none, then run in the other direction! Continuing education is paramount in ALL professions, so at the very least they should be attending WPPI, Imaging USA or state PPA conventions often as well as getting additional workshops under their belt to help them continue to improve their skills.
Q Do you have a trade name affidavit (DBA), business or sales tax license?
A While the state of Colorado does not require any type of licensure like an electrician or realtor, not having at least some sort of business entity recognized by the state is another indication the photographer is flying by the seat of their pants. A sales tax license IS required by law, no matter how they spin it. If you receive ANYTHING tangible that item is subject to sales tax, plain and simple. Any photographer that says otherwise is cheating the system or getting very bad advice from his accountant.
Q Do you shoot in Raw or Jpg?
A Raw is a format that allows for greater latitude in exposure and tonal changes than Jpg. Although the files are larger, require more CF cards and larger hard drives as well as time to process the files it is a necessary business expense for the serious professional.
Q Do you have a colorimeter and calibrate your monitor often?
A Ever notice at Best Buy they'll have 20 TV sets tuned to the same channel and the colors all look different? Which one is right? A colorimeter is a device that every photographer that processes or retouches his own images has to have so that his monitor displays the correct color. If they don't use one how can he properly adjust his images?