The internet is bursting at the seams with information and advice for a bride-to-be planning her wedding; but sometimes, it can be challenging to separate the good advice from the advice that's... well, just plain dreadful.
4 Ways NOT to Try to Save Money on Your Wedding Photography:
1) Advertising your wedding as a "styled shoot" to try to get photographers to shoot for free-- or worse, pay you to shoot your wedding.
A styled shootout, or shoot crawl, is a meticulously planned and carefully designed photo op event marketed to photographers. It utilizes professional models working in a gorgeous venue, with top-tier, carefully-curated professional floral designs and decor. Professional photographers purchase tickets to the event and show up for the opportunity to shoot images featuring high-quality, aesthetically curated content for their portfolios, social media accounts, and websites.
A styled shootout is nothing like an actual wedding. In a shootout, multiple photographers will be shooting the same angles; the models will stop and repeat the same poses over and over, with interjections of "can we get them to turn the other direction now?" and "hold up-- I need the kiss again." There is no time or space for guests, celebration, or the actual events of a wedding, in a styled shoot. It is a highly structured production brought about by skilled professionals for the purpose of creating marketing content for photographers.
I (and other photographers in my networks) have been shocked to see brides attempting to pass off their weddings as "styled shoots" that they invite photographers to shoot for free-- some even going so far as to attempt to sell photographers tickets for the privilege of shooting their wedding. This scenario is a disaster in the making that may well ruin a bride's wedding day, should she be unfortunate enough to actually have photographers take her up on her "offer." Please, for the love of your wedding, do not do this.
2) Lying to your photographer about the event you're booking them to shoot.
(I mean, we could stop at "lying," right? Just don't lie to your photographer...)
One bad "wedding photography budget hack" still popping up occasionally involves the suggestion to book your photographer for another type of event (such as a party or a reception) to save on the "premium price tag that comes with anything wedding-related" and then, when the photographer shows up-- surprise! They're actually shooting your wedding! (Haha, gotcha sucker! ) This is a terrible idea, and one that could result in your photographer packing up and walking out as soon as they realize what you've attempted to pull, leaving you without any wedding coverage at all.
Wedding photography is often more expensive than other types of photography, but that's not because wedding photographers are greedy-- it's because they're experts in a very specialized, highly demanding field. Most wedding photographers devote hours of preparation to understanding (or helping you plan) your wedding timeline ahead of time, so that everyone is in the right place at the right time to get the right imageson your big day. Providing competent photography coverage on your wedding day requires an extensive knowledge base, specific (very expensive!) gear, years of experience, lots of advance planning and preparation, and then a metric ton of extremely hard labor and expert in-the-moment problem solving from your photographer.
Out of all the pros who will be helping to make your wedding day everything you've dreamed of, your photographer is the one who will be participating in every single part of your day, and making magic happen behind the scenes. Your wedding photographer is dedicated to making your wedding day perfect for you, and more than likely genuinely cares about you and the success of your wedding-- please don't try to pull something like this over on them to save a few bucks.
3) Asking the photographer for "just the RAW images" from the day.
First-- I don't know who got started tossing this terminology around with brides, because you actually would have zero interest in or use for RAW files from your wedding day. RAWs are the unprocessed data files captured by a pro camera, and they require special software to process into JPEGs that can be opened and viewed on other devices. RAW files are also the proof of authorship in a copyright dispute, and most professional togs would never consider surrendering their RAWS to anyone, ever. But in fields where ownership of RAWS is transferred (typically in commercial work,) that purchase carries a very hefty price tag. It's the opposite of a way to save money.
I assume that whoever writes this advice is actually suggesting that brides ask for unedited JPEGS. And while it's true that editing time is a large part of a photographer's work on your wedding, it's also an integral part of the product they provide. Unedited images don't represent a photographer's work-- any more than the raw steaks in the cooler at a five-star restaurant represent the finished meal that chef would serve his customers. And the quality of their finished work is, (or should be) the reason that you hired them. A photographer's reputation is built on the look and feel of their images, and seasoned wedding photographers will have no interest in sending you a partially-finished product in the form of unedited images.
4) Hiring an eager amateur while demanding professional results
Please note that I am NOT saying that you should not hire an amateur photographer to save money on your wedding. Depending on your budget, and whether or not you place a high value on photography, hiring an amateur photographer might actually be the ideal solution for your situation and priorities.
Where I see couples get into trouble frequently is not in hiring an amateur, but in hiring an amateur with the unreasonable expectation that they will produce professional-level results. This is unfair to the amateur photographer, and sets everyone up for a negative experience.
A couple should not hire an inexperienced wedding photographer with the expectation that they are going to be able to anticipate all the challenges that routinely arise on a wedding day. The amateur's equipment will also not be as capable or reliable as a pro's gear, so a couple hiring a rookie has to go in comfortable with the risk that an unexpected equipment failure could result in permanent loss of images from the day.
Amateur photographers are often inexperienced with challenging lighting situations, for which weddings are notorious. A couple should understand that the same beginner photographer who can produce beautiful images of families in fields at sunset, may flounder entirely when faced with a dimly lit ballroom filled with dancing guests.
Amateur photographers are unlikely to carry liability insurance, which many wedding venues require. Managing, posing and directing the wedding party and families is a separate skill set that an amateur photographer likely will not have mastered yet, so couples should anticipate that all the wedding portraits will take longer and be less efficient, and that poses may have a tendency to look a bit stiff or awkward in the finished images.
Again, depending on your situation and priorities, an amateur photographer may be the right choice for you-- as long as you go in with expectations that are fair to the photographer who is still learning. But if you want professional service and professional resulting images-- you're going to need to hire a professional.
Now that we've gotten some of these bad ideas out of the way-- let's talk about some great ways to afford the photographer you love in our next post-- Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget.