Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Choosing and Negotiating a Fabulous Photographer

After posting our engagement pictures here, here and here, I thought I should post some tips I picked up from searching for our oh so fabulous photographer.

Photography was super important to me; without a great photographer- how would you get wedding porn??

I had seen and met* Anna Kuperberg before we were engaged, and loved her work. So the bar was extremely high. Yet, I quickly learned that producers of fabulous wedding porn with the splashiest websites would require Mr. Spice and I to lose either an arm or a leg, or both.

So I did what every budget bride does (or should do), I did a ridiculous amount of research. I highly recommend checking out Project Wedding or Yelp for vendor reviews (and don't be afraid to search for photographers on Craigslist). Read the reviews, and if you find a vendor you are interested in, email the bride/client who reviewed said vendor. This almost always gave me better insight into the photographer and a couple times the bride even emailed me a link to her wedding pictures, score.

Next, I emailed a ridiculous amount of photographers. Often just to see if their price point was within my budget, and if it wasn't, I would send a polite email back stating, "thank you for the email, but unfortunately at this time your packages aren't within our budget." This is key.

Not only is this a polite thing to do, but a few of the photographers emailed me back and asked what I was looking for, what my budget was, and maybe they could work something out.

One photographer who was willing to work with us was Carmen Alvarez Photography. She has fabulous energy and an insane ability to capture emotion. I also learned a great lesson once I contacted Carmen, don't judge a photographer by her/his website. If you think you might like a photographer's work, email them for a link to their current work- it is often better than you can imagine.

Don't be afraid to negotiate. As long as you are respectful, vendors understand that every bride is on a budget and they are often able to be flexible.

If that doesn't work, find out if a photographer you love has an assistant in the wings or knows of an up and coming photographer that they'd recommend. I loved a photographer who was well out of my budget, but she was willing to offer the job to her assistant for a price I could afford.

That goes to my next tip, don't be afraid of new talent. Especially the ones right out of school. We really enjoyed meeting Cathryn Lovecraft, who was just making a name for herself in San Francisco because she seemed to know all the latest tricks of the trade.

Next up, once you find a few photographers within your budget, set up meetings with all of them. I recommend setting up your meetings as close together as possible. This way you can compare apples to apples and ask all the same questions. I also VERY STRONGLY suggest that you make sure both you and your Fiance go to the meetings together. I met with one photographer that I thought would be fantastic, but I was alone and the chemistry was off; plus, I found the website she used to display her photos to be very cumbersome. Don't forget to ask for a link to a complete set of a recent wedding- check out the layout and pay attention to how expensive it would be to order pictures.

Finally, book your photographer ASAP. This is to ensure you get your photographer at this years price and not next years!

In the end, go with your gut. We chose Mandi because we both totally enjoyed being around her. We both left the meeting excited about our wedding and impressed with her knowledge of the area near where our wedding is going to take place. Plus, since reading Anna Ruthmann's post about becoming a green photographer, I think Mandi fits the bill!!!

As a final thought, one last engagement picture:

I think we kinda look like school kids with a secret crush on one another in this one.

Photo by Mandi at Blueberry Photography.

So what negotiation tips do you have? How did you end up choosing your photographer??

*She photographed our beloved Huckleberry for the book Designer Dogs. If you or a loved one is on the hunt for a loveable mutt- you gotta get this book.

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