Choosing the right photographer is one of the many, many important aspects of planning a wedding. During the process of finding a photographer that meets your needs, you may end up looking at 20 different photographers, all while making yourself crazy. But by keeping a few guidelines in mind, you can spare your sanity and find a photographer that will beautifully capture your wedding day.
The good news for New Jersey couples planning an upcoming wedding is that there is not just one, but two experienced photography studios willing to share their tips on how to narrow down the field and select the photographer that’s right for you.
Reputation is Key
Asking the venue you’ve chosen for recommendations is the best place to begin. Nelson Pinheiro, photographer and co-founder of Milton Gil Studios in Nutley, told Best of NJ, “Venues recommend photographers for a reason. They know these photographers and want them there.”
Do your Research
Once you have a list, check out different studios’ web sites. Look for places with published photos that appeal to you. “The first thing that will bring you to a studio is the images,” said Christina Robinson, team manager at Gabelli Studio Photography and Cinema in Verona. Photographers and studios can vary in their style and aesthetic.
Meet in Person
Once you find a photo studio you like, Robinson advises asking which of its photographers is available for your wedding; and then meeting with that person. According to Robinson, “Many cheaper studios are shooting 10 or 15 weddings per day, and will send whoever they have available. So it’s really important you ask to meet with the photographer who will be shooting your wedding.” Also, make sure your contract with the studio specifies the photographer.
Bonus tip: Ask if an engagement photo session with the same photographer assigned to shoot the wedding is included in your package. Robinson said it’s a great opportunity to break the ice and get to know the person.
Get Rights to the Images
Always ask if you have the rights to the photos from your wedding, specifically the hi-res images, said Robinson. Sometimes, studios charge an additional fee for this. Having the rights to the hi-res images gives you the legal right to reproduce and print any photos the photographer takes at the wedding. This way, you can create something like an anniversary album on your own, without having to go back to the photographer.
Pinheiro and Robinson advise asking photographers when they will start and when they will leave. You should also inquire about the payment schedule and ask if the deposit is refundable. Robinson said Gabelli’s deposits are non-fundable, in case couples change their mind about using the studio.
It’s also important to find out how long you have to order your album. Robinson mentioned that many studios, Gabelli included, are released from their contract a year or two after the wedding. Be aware of your contract to avoid missing an opportunity to get your album.
Robinson and Pinheiro also shared a few ideas about what to watch out for when selecting a wedding photographer. Avoid someone who advertises a really cheap price or who does not have a web site at all, said Pinheiro. He and Robinson say to expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $9,000 for the shoot, depending on the package.
Having only a few samples online, or photos of the same couple everywhere suggest the photographer lacks experience, Robinson cautions.
Photographers should also look professional the first time you meet them. “If they are not dressed to impress you at first, they may not present [themselves] in a professional manner at the wedding,” said Robinson.
Including too many prints, albums and other add-ons in a photo package could be another red flag, Robinson points out. “It’s good to have variety in your photo package, but too many add-ons can be a cover for not-great photos.”
When it comes down to it, it’s about experience, Robinson said. “On the wedding day, it’s like herding cats! There are so many moving parts, and sides of both families may or may not like each other. So you need someone who can do disaster control with a smile on their face!”
All Photos: © Gabelli Studio Photography and Cinema