Photographer Fine Print

photo by Dan Power Photography

I love photography and as a planner, seeing great photos of a wedding we’ve worked on is like opening gifts on Christmas morning. I love reliving the day and seeing all the special moments and great details. As a bride, the photos are the only thing you have (well, other than your hubby) to remind you of your wedding day so you want to hire the best photographer you can afford.

I’ll repeat that last sentence as I think it’s that important – “Hire the best photographer you can afford.” Do not hire someone because they are a bargain. You get what you pay for and chances are, you’ll be disappointed if you hire based on who is the cheapest. But be realistic about your budget as well – I’ve seen clients spend $12,000 flying down a photo team but having only $10,000 to spend on the rest of the wedding, leaving very little in the way of decor or details for the photographers to shoot.

Look at a number of photographers’ sites carefully. Whose work ‘speaks’ to you? Whose photos elicit a positive emotional response from you? What is their style and is it what you want (ie photojournalistic or more posed)? Whose work makes you go ‘yes, that’s the one!’. Once you’ve decided, book them. Right away. Good shooters are in demand.

photo by Mark-Brian Photography

Great, you’ve decided on your photographer and have emailed them to book. Before you check this task off your wedding to-do list, make sure you have the following answers from your photographer in a contract:
* number of hours they will be shooting for with a clear start time and end time. Most destination weddings find 6 or 7 hours of photography will give full coverage of the day. There are a couple of photographers who offer ‘unlimited photography’. I recommend you negotiate a clear start/end time as ‘unlimited’ is so vague. I’ve worked with a photographer who offered ‘unlimited’ yet was always asking to move the cake cutting and first dances to pre-dinner so he could head out by 7 PM. Or saying ‘I’ve got all I need” and saying good night at 8 PM, only to miss Granny cutting a rug with Uncle Harold at 9 PM. Having your expectations stated upfront avoids problems and disappointments down the road.
* who will be shooting your wedding. Some photographers are sole-proprietors while others are a studio, with a staff of photographers. If there is one photographer you want in particular, make sure you have them confirmed in the contract.
* who will be shooting your wedding in case of an emergency/illness. Most photographers will honor the booking unless they are coughing up a lung but it’s always important to have a Plan B since ‘life happens’. A good contract will include a clause about the photographer finding a suitable replacement. I recommend asking for who the Plan B is so you are in agreement ahead of time.
* clothing expectations. Not that the photographer needs to wear a tuxedo at the beach or anything but be clear about what your expectations are as some photographers here show up in shorts and flip flops. If you’re particular about their clothing, let them know.
* will they have an assistant or second shooter. If you have a large wedding (say 80 or more), I recommend hiring a second shooter to ensure you get full coverage. Sometimes, a photographer may bring along an assistant – it’s good to have this information upfront so you can let the catering staff know how many vendor meals you’ll need (and if a vendor is working through dinner, you need to provide a meal for them).
* estimated date of arrival of photos. Most photographers will take 60 – 90 days to process the images and send them to you but again, get it in writing.
* written permission of release. You will need the photographer to send along a written release with the photo disc so you can print copies of your photos at a commercial printers (like a Kodak shop). The photographer retains all rights to the photos and you, as the client, have the right to use them for personal use.

We’re very lucky to have some incredible wedding photographers living and working here in Costa Rica, charging a fraction of what they’d charge for a wedding shoot in North America. Who are you hiring for your big day?

photo by Comfort Studio

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