After booking the reception venue, finding a photographer was the most important/stressful task on my wedding to-do list. I’m an extremely nostalgic person (just thinking about how there will never be a new episode of Charmed again makes me tear up), so I know I’ll be looking back at our wedding pics all the time after it’s all said and done.
Image via charmed.wikia.com
My two fave things: weddings and Charmed. By the way, I kind of love her dress.
I’m also worried about PWD—I took a quiz in Brides magazine to see if I was susceptible and I am!—but I think having lots of amazing wedding pics to peruse after it’s over will help a lot with that. They’re the only tangible thing left over from the day (actually that’s not true at all—what about the dress that you can never wear again, the favors that guests left behind, the dying centerpieces, the freezer-burnt top tier, and all the other junk I’ll have to haul back home and figure out what to do with?), so they’re pretty important.
I don’t want to be making this face after the wedding!
To begin this part of the wedding planning, I turned to Google Docs, natch. (No, they don’t pay me to promote them. But they should! I could do so much for their exposure! [That was sarcasm.]) The tab was artistically titled “Photographers,” and it included cells for name, email address, website, date contacted (very important for all Google Doc spreadsheets for vendors!—especially if your email client deletes things at will!), and a bunch of other cells.
I blurred out the names in case some of my data was incorrect, or if they’ve changed their policies since I created this doc. There are a lot of question marks in this spreadsheet, so I didn’t want any vendors to get pee-issed at me.
As you can see, before you can decide who would make a good photographer, you have to decide what you want in a wedding photographer. Here’s what I (we!) wanted:
- The entire package had to be $2,000 or less.
- We needed 10 hours of coverage, from getting ready to our send-off at the end of the night.
- We wanted two photographers, or at least the option of adding a second shooter (while staying under budget).
- Similarly, we wanted an engagement session, either included or tacked on for a price under budget.
- I also wanted rights to the photos because I wanted to be able to edit them, post them all over the innanet (like here, for example), and most importantly print them at the cheapest photo-printing place I could find. (Hi, Walgreens! Hey there, Vistaprint! Wassup, Shutterfly?)
- Surprisingly enough, we didn’t want prints or an album included. I’d much rather get a cheaper package without any actual prints or an album than pay more for an overpriced photo book that I could make myself for cheaper. (Be prepared to hear a lot of that nonsense throughout my posts, by the way.) I’ve heard of people spending more than $800 on a wedding album! While I get that those albums are extremely well made, and I did just rhapsodize about how important photos are to me above, I don’t really care that much about the quality of the album (at least, not $800 worth).
We also included cells in the Google Doc for our opinion of each photographer’s photos. This is most people’s main concern when booking a wedding photographer, but to be honest I didn’t have much of an opinion about it. Most wedding photography looks the same to me as long as it’s done professionally, and I usually just get caught up in the content of the pics, rather than the photographer’s composition/skills/what have you.
Image via Awkward Wedding Photos
This is my idea of a bad wedding photo. Then again, if the bride weren’t riding the groom like a damn animal, the pic might be quite lovely.
So this was more of Mr. Unicycle’s domain because he is really into photography from a photographer’s standpoint. He likes to take pics of flowers and spiders and junk, so he knew what to look for more than me. (True story: when we finally met our photographer, I asked her if her black and white pics were shot that way or if she Photoshopped them. Mr. Unicycle laughed at me because apparently you don’t take digital pics in black and white. Who knew? Uh, everyone except me, apparently.)
So after I scoured The Knot, Wedding Wire, Weddingbee, Google, and even some old fashioned magazines for photographer listings, emailed everyone, and filled in my precious Google Doc, it was time to figure out who met enough of our criteria to warrant a meeting. The spreadsheet included companies like Timothy Whaley & Associates, as well as individual photographers like Victoria Sprung. I started to realize there wasn’t really a need to do any kind of statistical analysis like I did for our venue search. I didn’t have to assign a value to each pro and con and calculate which photog would be the approximation of perfect for us because they were mostly…not even close to perfect for us. The ones we could afford didn’t offer what we wanted, and the ones who would do what we wanted cost an arm and a coupla leggz.
Image via mychinaconnection.com
Granted, my idea of an arm is like, $10. A leg is maybe $15. I’d pay you to take my firstborn.
We went from having too many photographers (fo’ realz, we had about 40) to no photographer at all. I found myself telling Mr. Unicycle that it was kind of ridiculous for us to expect to get a decent photo package for under $2,000. “We’re kind of being cheapskates,” I told him. “Looks like you just can’t find anyone that cheap anymore.” (Yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes. I know I was an idiot. I mean, that’s almost what I spent on my car.) But we kept looking and filling in our Google Doc, still not finding anyone under budget. Until…
Image via The Demotivators
We found one that was cheap n’ easy (as I like to say)! She had a cute website with pretty pictures (they passed Mr. Unicycle’s test, anyway), her price was well under budget, and she met every single one of our requirements. That photographer was Jennifer Shaffer Photography, so go check out her site (after you finish reading this post, of course). Here are some of her super cool pics:
All photos from Jennifer Shaffer Photography
I was ready to book her on the spot (you’ll notice I like to do things without thinking them through too much, [like the time I purchased Bump-Its (no, they don’t actually work)]), but Mr. Unicycle convinced me that we needed to meet her first. We met up with Jenn at a Starbucks and talked to her about her wedding packages, her photography style, her business philosophy, etc. She showed us some wedding pics she’d taken and went through each one to explain what she liked about it, how she framed it, why she chose the location she chose, and a bunch of other photography lingo that I just smiled and nodded along with. This meeting made me realize just how important it is to meet with vendors ahead of time:
- Instead of just looking through Jenn’s portfolio and seeing beautiful brides and pretty shoe closeups, I was able to hear directly from her why she took the pictures she took. You are most likely not as surprised as I was to discover the amount of thought that goes into each shot. When I take pictures I just hold up the camera and press the little button thingy.
- We also learned that Jenn was a really nice, outgoing person, which was a column we hadn’t even thought to add to our Google Doc. But having a photographer you get along with and like being around is so important (It’s true—I’ve read it on legit wedding blogs before, like this one.)
If we hadn’t met Jenn first, we wouldn’t have learned either of those things! In the car on the way home from Starbucks, I was once again ready to book her on the spot. Mr. Unicycle thought we should try meeting with other photographers first just to make sure we were making the right decision. “But she’s perfect!” I whined. After about three seconds of me whining, Mr. Unicycle had one of those “Oh duh, you’re right” moments, and we decided to book her for our wedding date!!!
Do you make impulsive decisions like me? Are you cheap like me? (I had to throw in a little more self-deprecation. This post didn’t have enough.)