Flower girl walking down the isle | Dean Sanderson Weddings

How to choose a wedding photographer…


Great Advice on how to choose a wedding photographer…

You realize the value of having really great wedding photos, or you wouldn’t be reading this.  We all know wedding photos are the ones that end up on the mantel, not just of your home but in all likelihood those of your parents, grandparents. And then as time passes, children and their children too.  In fact its probably the only photo of our parents taken before we were born that we EVER display. And together with the rings, the photos are really the only tangible commemoration of your wedding day.

Nonetheless, so often Dean and I find ourselves answering the question whats the difference between a professional wedding photographer and resort photographer or a family friend who takes good photos?  Why is it so expensive? What does the money actually pay for? And how can you actually tell if someone is any good as a photographer from the myriad of websites?

Let’s face it, when you get married is probably the first time any of us even consider hiring a professional photographer and to be honest, it’s a minefield, as well as an expense that perhaps you wouldn’t think to factor in at first. Then, as you start to explore the idea further and really think about it you realize how important it actually is and you often need to convince your partner / family of the reasons why.

In this blog post, with Dean’s help, I hope to start to shed some light on it all. (No one will be more surprised than I am if I succeed.) As well as tell you how to spot someone who knows what they are doing and is likely to deliver good photos for you from someone who won’t.

Whether you choose to work with us, or for whatever reason you decide to work with someone else we want you ALL to have some really spectacular photos that capture the love and emotion of your special day.

And, hands up, guilty, I confess, before I worked with Dean I also thought “its just another photo“, then I saw the shots he took of my mother in natural light, with some bobbi brown bronzer, mascara and lip gloss in the car park of an apartment building and now I like, get it!

Below are some common questions (from me) and answers (mostly from Dean), please let me know if I have missed anything.

Question: What is the difference between what Dean does and a Resort photographer?

It is really difficult to explain the difference between what Dean does and what the company on the resort does in text as tone is so much of how we communicate. But let me give it a try and please know that we obviously prefer what we offer, however, at the same time understand that the resort company is the right decision for a lot of couples and our goal is always to make sure people make the decision that is best for them.

Dean used to photograph for the largest image collection in the world (www.gettyimges.com) which is known for representing some of the top talent in the world and has been photographing for almost 10 years. His university degree is in psychology and he learned photography by training and working with some of the best in the world. His focus is people and he is a master in the craft of photography and his art is to use a camera to capture peoples personality. So with Dean you are choosing someone who loves working with people, understands all types of group dynamics and wants to capture the real you.

With the photography company, many times you are not able to choose your photographer for the day and my understanding in talking with photographers that work on the resort, they get paid $250 to $500 on average for a wedding. Now this is not always the case as some do get paid more, however, much of the time this is the case. Another reason people find the resort photography companies appealing is that they include prints and/or albums in their packages. We believe the most important thing is to get quality images first. Once you have these great images, you can then get those products because honestly an 8×10 photo or a photo album is only as good as the photos in it. So with us, we try to give you the best photos possible, then give you the right to choose us for your prints or you can go elsewhere it’s totally up to you.

In conclusion I think the difference between choosing Dean (or any other outside photographer) and the resort company is that with Dean you are really choosing an artist. A specific artist? that is going to spend the day with you to capture your day they way you want it captured. Whereas when you choose a resort company, you are choosing more of a product and there will be much less attention to detail and/or personalization of your imagery. Again, I obviously prefer Dean (or an outside photographer) over the resort photography companies so I am a bit biased, so sorry for that but Dean and I find that 5 Star resorts often don’t offer 5 Star photography and it really perplexes us and it is something we have been working on as we have been in contact with resort management in hopes that we can help train or even become one of these resort companies, but we are really not there yet.

Question: How do I spot a good wedding photographer from a bad one?

Dean: There are a lot of things you want to look for and for me the number one would be how you feel when you look at the photos. Are these the type of photos you want to show your family the day after your wedding, one year after your wedding and 10 years after your wedding? Then there are technical things like color, focus and other aspects of the photograph that really make a difference. And sorry to say, here’s the bad news for you. You can’t look at a website and determine focus. The images are too small and you can cheat when it comes to focus on digital images that small, so that one’s out when looking for a photographer online. Then there is color. Again, from a distance on a website you can’t really determine color as monitors vary and if your monitor is off, then you will not be able to determine color correctly. However, look for consistency as your monitor should be reading every image the same, so look for consistency (and use a newer computer as the newer the monitor the more likely the color will be accurate). So since many of the technical things you would look for in a photographer are not available to you when you are looking at work online here’s a little gem for you.  Look at the horizons. For the most part horizons should be straight. Sure having photos where the horizon is on an angle every now and then is fine and maybe fun, but when you go to put these photos in a frame if the line of the frame does not match the line of the frame it will look very off balanced. Even more so, if you decide to make a photo book, when you put several of these photos together with the horizons off they will look really silly and unprofessional. So when you look through a website, look for horizons being straight. Even if they are off my a tiny bit, it shows either a lack of attention for detail, or the photographer simply is not experienced enough to know and because you can fix this later, it really is an attention for detail. So there you go, a little gem for you. O and if you doubt me, pick up a magazine and look for a photograph where the horizon is on an angle. Because as soon as you start putting text around a photo that has the horizon off it looks horribly amateur.

Question: What terms and conditions should I ask for from the wedding photographer to make sure don’t get messed around or find myself with a larger bill than I anticipate?

Dean: Make sure you are able to get all the high resolution photos YOU want from a photographer and no extra cost. You should not have ‘find’ your photographer in 10, 15, 20, etc.. years to get prints. You should own theses.

O and listen, a photographer might shoot 2-3,000 images on your day and it’s not fair to ask them to edit all of them. And if you do, it is very likely that you will not get great editing. And I also understand that a photographer might want to choose the first images that they want to give you. That makes sense because you will love those photos and be excited about your day. But you should also be able to get that not so great photo of grandma as, sure from the photographers perspective it’s not technically a great photo and she is kind of making a funny face, but it is the best one that has been taken of her in the last 10 years and you only have her around for so long. Not to mention she is always making that laughy-smiley-weird-face-thing and that’s why you love her… the photographer does not know that, only you do and you should be able to choose that photo. Or anything similar….

So long as you have your high resolution files you should be able to make prints on your own and do whatever you want to do with your photos afterwards….

Question: What does my money actually pay for?
Your money pays for the photographers time, on the day and the tremendous amount of production work that goes on to make sure you get the very best photos of your day. This is in many ways one of the biggest differences between a good photo taken by an amateur and one taken by a professional. A professionally shot wedding will have at least 12 hours of selection and editing work factored into the cost, and more the longer the wedding. A break down of how these hours are spent is in the next question and answer.

Question: How long will my photos actually take to get to me? and what actually happens once they are taken? Why cant they just be ready the next day?

Dean: Make sure this is in the contract. At our studio we promise 3-4 weeks and for every week we are late we give you $100 off your package.

They are not ready the next day because this is our process:
They are downloaded, renamed and double backed up.
Then they are initially selected by an editor to choose the best 40-50% of images.
Then a photographer looks at every one of these images at 100% to make sure they are technically correct and will print well.
Then an editor looks through them again and chooses just the best images as well as subsection ideas (like what is best for emails, blog posts, Facebook posts, etc.. )
Then a photographer or tech edits each individual photo by for proper colour, density and a tone of other technical attributes like correcting all the horizons.
Then a they are exported to .jpg files.
Then they are reviewed again by the editor to make sure colour is consistent and that they have chosen the best files as now with the new colour correction sometimes photos that looked OK before are great as it still amazes me how a photo can go from OK to amazing with some colour correction.
Then sample photos are emailed to the clients, posted on Facebook and/or the blog.
Then photos are uploaded to server for download.

Question: If I hire another wedding photographer is there anything I should know that might really affect me that they will not tell me?

Dean: Yes, the biggest error our there is that DVDs/discs will last forever. THEY DO NOT… they only last 5-10 years on average and some last 15-20 years. Please DO NOT store your photos on discs. We did not know this when we started using discs so even please tell your friends that have been married this as well. Get those photos on your computers. And not one computer/Hard Drive, but at least two.

I hope this helps demystify the process and explains things somewhat. If nothing else you might have read this and have a clearer idea of what the right photography options for you are and at least be able to make sure you know what to look for when booking with someone, or perhaps be able to explain to your partner more eloquently why you think hiring a professional has value and most of all I hope you have a wonderful wedding!

Anna (+ Dean)