Spring is here and so many couples are getting ready to tie the knot in the next little while! It is known that planning a wedding can be extremely stressful, and there is a lot to keep track of. It seems that there are always more things that have to be done. Since I’ve been around the wedding industry, and specifically photography, I figured it might be helpful to give a little advice to those couples who don’t have time to call around to 50 photographers to understand how the wedding photography industry works. It is hard enough to understand the generalities, and it’s even worse to know that every photographer will work and charge completely differently than another. Because of this, I’m trying to offer a few key things to look out for so that you can get a better understanding of what you need to pay attention to before you contact any photographers.
*Just as a disclaimer, I am not an attorney. I cannot be held liable for anything in this post. It is just my opinion that I have gathered from my experience. If you or anyone else is in need of legal advice, I recommend speaking to your attorney.*
1. Sign a contract
Yes, this is actually important. It is important to know what you are signing, but I’ll get into that in some of the following tips. The contract should protect both you and the photographer. Without a contract, there is no guarantee that after you’ve paid the photographer, to whom you’ve paid a chunk of you life savings, will even show up. If something goes wrong, there is no option for you to get your money back. If the photographer doesn’t have you sign a contract, it is usually one of two things: 1) The photographer is really inexperienced, which is all the more reason to have a contract when something goes wrong, or 2) It’s a scam.
2. Understand when you will get the pictures
Make sure there is a deadline for the photographer to return your pictures. A month turnaround time is not unreasonable. I shoot film and have to send it off to get processed, and I shoot digital that I have to edit myself. A month is still plenty of time for me to complete this. Some photographers guarantee one-day or two-day turnaround, but this is usually all the unedited shots, then after you select your shots, they spend some time editing them. So make sure you know how the turnaround time works.
3. Understand how you will get the pictures
Each photographer delivers their images differently. Some give digital copies, some only give prints. Some give full-resolution images with every package, and some only give the full resolution images on the more expensive packages. Now, before you go and ask for the full-resolution images, understand that only about 20-25% or less of newly-wed couples ever even use the full resolution. If all you plan on printing is a maximum of 8 x 10 or 11 x 14, maybe all you need are the medium- or even low-resolution images. My full resolution images can be enlarged far larger than 24 x 36, and you won’t even notice the slightest lack in quality. So unless you are planning to print that large, which most people don’t, you don’t need that large of resolution.
Another thing to understand is how the photographer is going to give you the pictures. If all you are getting are prints, that’s easy: mail. If you are getting digital copies, though, there are a number of ways that you can get them. The two most common ways that I know of are on a CD/DVD and on the photographer’s website. I have client galleries on my website, so that anyone that they give the password to can view and download the pictures. For a sample client gallery, click here. The password is “password”.
4. Know how many pictures you will get
Once again, each photographer is different. Some photographers promise a certain number, like 150 pictures. Some only give you whatever you ordered prints of. Usually the inexperienced photographers will do what’s called a shoot-to-burn. That means that after shooting everything, they just burn everything on a disc. I am going to go into this more in another blog post, but in terms of the contract, just make sure that you know what you are getting. Most people really only use 50-100 pictures, most of which just go into an album, so don’t worry if your photographer limits the amount of pictures you get. And if your photographer has more that they think you’d like, they’ll let you know. Anyway, the point is to know how many pictures your photographer will give you out of all the images that they will take.
5. Worst case scenario
Contracts usually have something about worst case scenarios (ie., loss of images, travel problems, extreme weather, death, etc.). Even though we hope nothing like this happens, it’s best to know what will happen for most situations. For example, I shoot a lot of film, and I have to ship my film to another state to get processed. Even though it has never happened to me, there is a possibility that it could get lost or destroyed. Since I also shoot digital, there is a backup and so the couple will still get great shots to choose from, but I will give a partial refund, since I couldn’t fulfill all of my part of the contract. You don’t necessarily need to know by memory what happens in each case, but at least go over them to at least know that you’re covered.
6. Model releases
Most wedding contracts contain a release that gives the photographer permission to use the pictures for advertising, like on their website. Most couples don’t mind this, and even like this. If you don’t want to be put up on the photographers website, let the photographer know before you sign the contract and see if you can change this.
7. Just some more tips
- Get a copy of the contract that you signed. An emailed version still works.
- Make sure that you have all the photographers contact information and that he/she has yours!
- If your photographer will do more than just your wedding (ie., bridals, engagements, etc.), set the dates and times right away! It is easier to change a date if needed than to go back in time to do something that was put off for too long.
If you have any questions about this or any thing else related to photography, feel free to put it in the comments below, or email me: email@example.com