Okay so there are a LOT, lot of ways we could go about this, but I’m going to stick with the system I set into motion regarding the last bit of wedvice I gave you [and if you didn't read about it, click here to see what your budget looks like for hiring a wedding planner].
It’s obviously that photography is “the splurge” item for many. In fact, it’s likely the most important thing to a huge number of couples out there. But here’s me, on my soap box, one more time about this whole budget thing: please, please- do not splurge on a photographer so much that they have nothing to take pictures of on your wedding day [besides you]. Photographers get inspired by the settings that people like you and me set into motion. They thrive on working at your location, with your decor. They’re thrilled with your decadent centerpieces and hand-made details. But if you splurge so greatly on them [as in, 50% of your budget GASP], they will literally have such a hard time working around those “conference style” provided chairs and white poly linens [that reach about 1/4 of the way down the table and should technically be an overlay] that your images may not be everything you want. Gotta give ‘em something to write home about, people! [And, if you don't know, that's where I come in- to design your wedding while still taking into account all that is important to you in the world].
There. It’s painful, but I’ve jumped down from my soapbox and we’re back in the real wedding world. Now, that being said… splurge on photography. I’m serious. Splurge. It’s worth it.
The budget breakdown that I send out to clients typically suggests anywhere from 10 to 15 percent be spent on your photographer. A truly great photographic artist may be worth 17%. But don’t allow yourself to go above 20%. Obviously, the term “splurge” means different things to different budgets, and those percentages may need to be massaged accordingly to fit into these brackets, but just so you know- this is what you get for the money!
Tier 1 [under $1000]
You can find a superb newbie in this category. If you’ve already hired your wedding planner, they can help you with this! Consider booking a person who has a lot of experience 2nd shooting- someone building their portfolio, and willing to throw in an engagement session with you. Should you book far enough in advance [like a year to year-and-a-half out], you have a HUGE chance that your photographer will spend their time attending workshops, seminars, and gleaning from the wisdom of the photography community. That means if they’re great when you book, they’ll likely be fabulous when you wed! If you’re booking a photography right AT the $1,000 price point, feel confident in your choice but browse their catalogue carefully. Please keep in mind that these are newbies and they may not know the correct protocols, or be as experienced and proficient with off-camera lighting, shots at night time, or wedding party/family shots!! Give certain graces to that fact [because, I need you to know, this is well below the average price of a profession photographer- especially in this area of the country]!
My clients Christi and Daniel hired Jonilyn Photography, a total newbie, as a 2nd shooter for their 12/07 wedding. What their main photographer lacked [and it unfortunately ended up being more than we'd planned on], she picked up for and her images are GREAT- even appearing on my new website in the coming year. Jonilyn was contracted for hundreds of dollars and really ended up saving the day [because Christi went.to.town. on the details for her wedding!]
This is the image, below, that made my new site:
Photographer Wayne Toshikazu is someone I’m constantly touting as an up-and-coming great! From working with him [at his 2nd wedding, ever], I’ve got a boatload of gorgeous! Clients Caroline and Stephen hired him to 2nd shoot their day and it worked out well… wouldn’t you say?
P.S.- hiring a newbie to shoot as an independent 2nd shooter is a GREAT way to extend your photographic hours for the big day. Just make sure that you clear it with your main photographer first! Some may not care, but others may a lot- and either way, be gracious! Photography is a very personal art, and all the photographers I know take it very seriously!
Can you believe that this couple paid hundreds [not thousands] for this photographer to capture raw emotions in this way? Finding talent like this, when it’s still so new, may be tough to come by, but if you search [and ask for referrals]- you can find it!
Tier 2 [$1000-$3000]
A broad range but this is, what I like to call, the good basic starting point. This is where those new-comers are getting more comfortable with themselves as artists, their images, their style, and what they offer in each of their packages. I typically tell my clients that a good starting rate for a photographer is $2500. You can find some great experienced photographers and get a solid “low end” [as in, no album and limited hours on the day-of] for a price like this. Entertain the idea of taking what each photographer offers and seeing if you can go “a la carte” with their items to create a custom package. Maybe you don’t need a 2nd shooter, maybe you need only 6 hours on the day of the wedding, or you’re willing to forgo the engagement session. All of these options can be cost-savers to keep you in this range!
Photographer Krissy Davis blew me AWAY with her natural talent as a newer photographer in the industry back in August of 08 at Nicola and Nick’s LA modern beachy wedding.
There’s a certain feeling to her shots that just cannot be taught. You’ve either got it, or you don’t. And people pay lots of money, once you establish a name for yourself as an artist, for you to capture that feeling of theirs forever in photos!
[I could go on and on with images from Krissy!]
Tier 3 [$3000 to $5000]
When you hit this tier, you’re in a great place. You’ve found yourself a photographer that is confident and seasoned. They’ll work well with other vendors. They’ll consider your budget, and make suggestions accordingly [instead of needing you to make them, which may be the case with a less experienced photog]. They’ll be learning consistency in shooting- and I don’t mean that by saying they’ll pose each couple the same or similar… I mean that they’ll learn how to consistently knock off 50 killer shots in a 2 hour session. They’ll be paying attention to the facial expressions that you’re making in their images [something that a newer photog may miss or overlook because "the lighting is great"]. At this level, you can have expectations, and they’ll be met with professionalism and courtesy. They’ve found their niche as an artist and are truly excelling as a self-employed, respectable individual. You can say that they’ve got it down pat- what they offer and bring to the table should jump out at your immediately. And since photography is so personal, when you meet with them, pairing the personality with the portfolio should help you find your perfect fit rather easily.
Erin and Justin chose the fun loving duo of Mathieu Photo to snap their story and their images prove that photography is FUN and personal!
Photography should make you feel gorgeous and confident- and it’s clear that the engagement session this couple took part in with Matt and Molly gave them the boost they needed to make their wedding pictures WOW-worthy!
Tier 4 [$5000 to $8000]
What separate the “men from the boys” if you will- is artistic nature. Some of my favorite photographs, from weddings or life, are from people whose talent cannot be explained or replicated. It’s seeing life through their lens. To spend this amount on any artist at this level [designer, videographer, florist, photographer] is to experience the wedding as they did. The pictures will be framable. Immaculate. Irreplaceable. Remember what I said about getting what you pay for? This should be your experience, beginning at this tier. From the moment you encounter a vendor of this standard, you should feel it. Your needs should be met, exceeded, and with a cheerful smile. They’ll make you feel comfortable instantly. They’ll shoot very consistently. They’ll joke with your mom. And then, the images will be blogged quickly and the gallery will be up in a matter of weeks. At least, that’s what I think. That’s what I expect. The hands-on service should be noticeable.
Elaine and Brian booked Jan Garcia, who shoots with his wife Tey. The chemistry that they share as a couple who shoots together is incomparable! Their detail shots are totally killer and 100% artistic [just visit their site to see]. Plus, they include a same-day slideshow that plays on loop during the reception! Nothing like instant gratification!!
Image above made the new blog header. Thanks for being such a ham, Brian!!
Another shining example of work [and a photographer who I've gotten to see grow a LOT in the past few years] is Yvonne and Mike’s wedding, shot by Sarah K. Chen. Holler if you love Sarah, and her work!!
And Yvonne knows- she worked it OUT with the “smize” tactic [freely given to the world by Tyra Banks via America's Next Top Model]! Plus, um, she’s gorgeous so that helps too!
Tier 5 [$8000+]
The creme de la creme, if you will. Not only are these artists, but they work with grace, class, and efficiency. The experience you’ll have with them will only be topped by the images you’ll receive. You cannot put a price on this type of art. These vendors are so well seasoned that they can overcome most obstacles and still come out of the situations with mind-blowing images. It takes a LOT to work a wedding [I should know]- but finding yourself in an unfamiliar venue, while being at the mercy of the God-given lighting and the timeline/flow of the event [plus depending on every other vendor to do their job in a timeline fashion so that you have ample time to do yours, as a photographer]- it takes a true professional to navigate these situations and come up on the other side breathing, with great images, and with happy clients. You can imagine the pressure on any artist in this range, as with money comes expectations, but most that I’ve met have no problem at all meeting their clients’ needs and still surpassing them. Again, worth their weight in gold. Or rather, gold-framed pictures that will sit on your mantle for the years and years [and years] to come.
Clients Nick and Tina splurged appropriately on world-class and seasoned pro Becker, whose infectious personality is an instant-hit with any wedding party!
He goes for natural, relaxed portraits of the bride and groom [and wedding party] and nails them, consistently, with ease! He’s got his signature “look” and “feel” down pat, and his client care is superb!
The high-end professional look is real moments, genuine smiles and stellar images!
Whew! Now that that’s done with… I just love watching photographers raise their prices! I know that may sound totally off-base [because who doesn't love a good deal, and when I'm inquiring for my clients to a photographer I always pray that the budget will work it's magic], but I do. Watching someone grow and succeed in their business is possibly the biggest blessing ever. And giving those industry new comers the experience and confidence they need is priceless!
**A couple choice words from your fave coordinator [that's me, btw]- I shoot for solid photography packages with my clients. Although I don’t consider myself a “master’ of negotiations [those I am hard-nosed with a few things], mainly because I think that people tend to charge appropriately for their art, I am a stickler for what I think should be included in a solid photography package. For my clients, I suggest:
6 to 8 Hours [or more] of photography- this is for timeline reasons, as I like to have a cushion of time for photos of the couple while still fitting in the cake, garter, and etc.
2 Shooters- I think it’s important to get things from two angles and I cannot reasonably expect someone to be everywhere all the time. 2 photographers gives you that important healthy balance for expectations and reality.
Engagement Session- I personally find it crucial that you truly connect with your photographer, and the best way to establish that comfort and connection is through spending a few hours with them pre-wedding and getting in front of that lens for a while! Plus, hello, who doesn’t love photos?? OF PEOPLE IN LOVE! I know I do!
Really, those are my only requirements. But, it’s something to think on before you start meeting with photographers so that you can go in prepared!