For a lot of couples, making the leap to spend money on a photographer can be either the easiest thing they’ve ever done or they are literally blind sided, terrified and possibly traumatized by the experience of trying to figure it all out. I’m here to (hopefully) make that a little bit easier and give you a good sized list of pros and cons to look for when making a decision.
If you do your research you can often times tell the difference between a talented newcomer who is still building a portfolio or a total rookie who just picked up the camera. This can be researched in a number of ways.
Pricing - Of course, Amateurs are good on the budget. But you must also look at the cost-efficiency and outcome. A seasoned professional might cost more but they have knowledge, skills, reviews and most importantly, tons of photos and work experience to back up their pricing. In all honesty, the price might look great, but it is a red flag if you see someone new offering to shoot weddings at a low cost by themselves if you happen to know that they just got a camera. A true upcoming talent will very selectively shoot a wedding by themselves. Someone who is taking their craft seriously will second shoot with professionals first, to get a good idea on how they want to do things until they feel comfortable on their own.
Portfolio - Touching off pricing, this isn’t to say that every amateur is bad, but rather, might be lacking experience. The difference between an amateur and an upcoming talent will show in the shooting and editing skills in their portfolio. An upcoming talent will most likely display just that, talent. While an amateur will go through the motions. The key to looking at a photographer’s portfolio is looking at how well their creativity shines with cohesiveness and consistency.
Branding and Website - Straight up… Is it professional? Up to date? Does it make you feel like you’re inquiring with someone serious about their job? Do they give you a good picture of what you might be getting? A lot of couples won’t dwell on these few things once they see wether a photographer is in or out of their price range but they are possibly the few most important factors. Photographers who are serious about their craft will be serious about their entire business. Their site will look good, stay current, up to date and un-jumbled.
Communication - Verbiage used in comments and responses on a photographer's social media posts and website will be correct and not confusing (yes there is always room for the possible typo) but if the entire site looks or reads weird, you may want to reconsider. You can tell a lot about how a person communicates. The more you ask questions and talk to your photographer, the better idea you will have on what kind of service they will give.
Editing - A good photographer will have a heavy understanding on how to edit. Professionals will have a cohesive feel, look and color to their photos that will not change. They understand highlights, shadows and how to work their camera the correct way to be able to edit flawlessly and cohesively. This can be a dead giveaway that someone is playing the role of photographer but doesn't have the skill set or equipment to capture shots in the same way a seasoned photographer can. If you can tell that the majority of a photog’s photos have been given 100% total makeovers, you may want to keep moving. (This is why we professional photographers usually have super aesthetic, pleasing to the eye, instagram feeds!)
Gear - Some people say the gear doesn’t make the photographer, and to that I can agree. Photographers should make the most out of the gear they have because let's be real its a freaking expensive career choice for us to make. However, a real photographer will know what to have and to expect on your wedding day. A seasoned professional will most likely have a second camera body as a back up and at least 2 different lenses. Amateurs and even some upcoming talent may forego many of these options due to start up costs. Some upcoming talents may rent bigger cameras and nicer equipment for your day if they have the funds. However, keep in mind, hiring this route comes at a cost of possible gear failures and having no backups - which you can imagine, is not a good scenario to have on a wedding day.
Knowledge - Do they have a degree? Are they self taught? Have they attended workshops? Are they shadowing a professional? Do they know how to work their camera systems and shoot in the correct mode? Do they use things like light and angles correctly? An amateur may shoot in portrait mode or sport mode, buy and use presets and hope they get their exposures right in order for their photos to look good. A professional photographer knows their gear, uses the heck out of it to its potential and is constantly learning and getting better every shoot. An upcoming photographer will most likely have tons of potential and it starts with understand their camera system and the basics of photography.
I'm using myself as an example, the photo on the left is a 2018 engagement for my best friend. It has taken me 5 years of knowledge, shooting and understanding of lighting, saturations and tones to get my shots to look that good. The photo on the right was taken maybe a year into getting my first camera. You can see the differences, I don't have to point them out.
To wrap this up, as a photographer, I 100% understand that everyone starts somewhere (obvi... see above photo comparison)! I can say that before I went to school, and even during my education my photos really kind of sucked! But there are ways to go about getting into the Wedding Industry specifically, and ways to learn how to be a great photographer. Some people seriously take advantage of them, work on the craft and get super good! And some people just want to make money to move on to their next job in a couple of years.
Here are 3 lists of Pros and Cons that I've put together to "sum-up" each Type of Photographer you might look into...
As an engaged couple, there are so many benefits to hiring a professional wedding photographer or up-comer who you are confident is going to stick around for a long long time! You are helping support our dreams and reach our goals! Doing your research truly pays off and if you read this article I hope it helped you in some way wether you are newly engaged, behind on your wedding planning or stuck between a decision on a couple of different photographers!
Signing Off Peeps.. Peace and Blessings!!