How To Do a Vancouver Wedding on a Budget: Picking a Photographer

How To Find A Wedding Photographer

Image from Flickr by tychay

Be sure to check out the complete Vancouver Wedding on a Budget series of posts.

We’re trying to do this wedding on a budget, I’ve explained that already.

$7 000 is what we have to spend for the whole day, so when I started my search for a Wedding Photographer, I wasn’t thrilled to see most packages starting at $2500 and moving up rapidly from there.

Most photographers we have seen offer very nice packages. Engagement photos, proof books, prints, montages, hard bound books etc.

We don’t want that.

We’d like to pay a photographer for their time to come and shoot our wedding, say 5 hrs, then retouch a couple dozen images that we’d like to get printed (on our own) and then hand us a cd of all images taken on the day with a Creative Commons license attached to them. Our wedding pictures will be for personal, non commercial use. I have no problem signing an agreement to that effect.

This is 2008. I don’t need to pay a premium to a photographer to get the prints done for me. I can create my own scrapbooks with iPhoto on my MacBook or through a variety of websites. We’ll be using the pictures for thank you cards, creating brag books for the parents and printing off a couple of small photos for our living room. That’s it. We don’t need to be tied into any Silver Deluxe Honeymoon Couple’s Package of 8×10s, 16×20s and more.

Photographers are very skilled people, I get that. But I’m only looking to pay for their time shooting images and retouching the ones we like the most. All the extras are nice, but they’re really unnecessary and just part of the inflation that happens to any price tag when the word “wedding” gets attached.

My budget for a photographer is considerably less than the rates I’m seeing quoted, but Jen and I will be considerably less effort. Take some pictures, touch them up and hand us a cd with full res quality of all 500 images you took that day, cash the cheque and done.

Am I out of touch with what I’m looking for?

Maybe you know someone who fits that bill and is available July 4, 2009 in the afternoon?

The Blog According to Buzz. Spread the word, ya heard?

Comments:

2 Comments

  • Buzz says:

    Because this post was lost in a site failure I had in 2009, the original comments didn’t follow with my reboot. I pulled them from the Internet Archive [http://web.archive.org/web/20090705023437/http://www.buzzbishop.com/blog/2008/10/01/wedding-on-a-budget-picking-a-photographer/] and have reposted them here:

    Vanessa says:
    October 1, 2008 at 8:57 am
    Hi Buzz. Try Carol-Ann Photography: http://www.carol-annphotography.com. I met her on the Wedding Bells forum. Her prices are quite reasonable ($1200) and am sure that she can customize a package for you if you don’t want some of the extras. She’s definitely worth contacting. Good luck!

    Jen says:
    October 1, 2008 at 9:16 am
    I can’t say I know anyone specifically who fits into your price range, but when we were interviewing photographers we did notice that most had an hourly rate they would charge for extra time at the wedding and/or extra projects.

    The biggest challenge I see you having is finding a photographer who’s willing to only work a few hours mid-day, on a Saturday, in prime wedding season. They can really pick and choose their work in June-July-Aug. and if I were them, I’d certainly take a full-day/package contract over a few hours.

    Perhaps look to fashion photographers (or those who don’t normally shoot weddings) to see if they want to pick up extra work, or search Craigslist (etc.) for up-and-coming photographers who are looking to build a portfolio.

    Good Luck!

    John Biehler says:
    October 1, 2008 at 9:56 am
    Don’t forget that unlike some services you pay for (like a graphic designer or a web developer), photographers usually have ridiculously expensive camera gear they have to bring to your wedding which adds to their costs, in addition to their skill set (and their computers & software). Plus they have to be skilled in post processing the photos as well.

    Sure they could show up with a point and shoot camera and still get great shots if they are good, but you probably want something a little more than that.

    So one way to think of a photographer’s rate is that you’re also (somewhat) renting their gear too. I’m sure some will disagree with me but I know photographers that factor those items into their rate.

    I know that doesn’t make the cost any more palatable, but it’s one of the realities people sometimes overlook….that and dealing with bridezillas.

    Gregg says:
    October 1, 2008 at 10:14 am
    I’d say “Pick me!”, but I’m not an actual wedding photographer, though I’ve done it for a couple of friends that couldn’t afford more. For an important day like this, you probably want to get someone that has a lot of experience behind them doing weddings, but that’s where the price premium comes in. Similarly, I can think of of a couple of local blogger/photographers that are good, but like me lack the wedding experience.

    However, I do know 3 different people that were recently married and the pros they hired only provided a royalty free CD; nothing else in the package. I’ll ask around to find out who they used and what they paid.

    buzz says:
    October 1, 2008 at 10:31 am
    Thanks all for your comments.

    @John I agree, I am renting the gear … I’m just not interested in having that rental fee be mandated into markups on prints I can do myself. I will pay a solid hourly rate

    @Jen I was hoping the timing of our wedding would let them sneak out and get to double dip by doing an evening one as well since we’re only noon-three type thing.

    @Gregg that would be great if you could pass along the info

    We’ll see .. thanks for your thoughts.

    Chris says:
    October 1, 2008 at 2:28 pm
    ….I hear Chris Loh of Chris Loh photography is really reasonable and paticularly awesome… 🙂

    Jen says:
    October 1, 2008 at 3:28 pm
    buzz: something you may not have factored – wedding photos generally start much earlier than the wedding. For our 4:30pm wedding, photos started at 2:00pm, going until 10:00. I also know a lot of wedding photographers who only book 1 wedding a day, since it’s hard work, and transportation logistics can often be tricky.

    You may try a photo studio where they have lots of shooters available, rather than independent photographers. Multi-photographer studios are where I’ve seen more flexibility toward hourly work.

    I agree with Gregg though, that most of the photographers I interviewed were charging for their time and expertise only. No extras. The royalty-free disc is an extra charge, and as for prints, we got a credit toward specialty products that are above and beyond basic prints.

    Also, check out the West Coast forums at http://www.weddingbells.ca – I remember lots of the ladies on there looking to put on weddings on a budget, they probably have some good leads.

    Laina says:
    October 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm
    Hey Buzz, Check out a girl named Larissa Addison

    http://luxephotography.blogspot.com/

    She is a local photographer in Langley, though I have never met her personally, I have seen some of her work through mutual friends…. I think she is extememly talented. No idea what her rates are. It might be worth checking out her & others in the area who are not “professionals” as they may have cheaper rates & do just an amazing of a job.

    Duane Storey says:
    October 1, 2008 at 7:05 pm
    I shot a wedding last summer, and I basically did exactly what you are asking. But even still, that meant:

    1) preparing all my gear the night before for a few hours (charging, cleaning lenses, etc).
    2) getting to the location at noon and shooting photos until around 11pm
    3) touching up about 50 photos
    4) upload and final review
    5) mailed a CD full of final images

    I spent about 30 minutes per photo during the touch up phase, and spent considerably more time in post production than I did shooting photos. By comparison, I spend about 2 minutes per Flickr photo I upload for casual shots. I would estimate that shooting that wedding took about 30 hours for me, and that didn’t include any books or fancy deliverables.

    So yes, you need to factor in renting expensive gear (I have close to $10k worth of gear now), and the photographers time, both shooting photos and touching them up, which is why many photographers are so expensive. But I don’t think it should be hard (I would like to think at least) to find a photographer willing to give you the final CD.

    buzz says:
    October 1, 2008 at 7:51 pm
    thanks for the comment, duane. that’s the stuff i’d like to know so i can better value this cost in our budget. appreciate you dropping that in.

    Kat says:
    October 1, 2008 at 8:44 pm
    You could also try contacting Melissa Gilbert

    link

    She has all kinds of pricing for different packages and will do custom packages.

    I haven’t used her as a photographer, but I used to *ahem* babysit her when I was younger 😉

    Derek K. ghMiller says:
    October 1, 2008 at 10:55 pm
    Photography, and wedding photography in particular, is one business that has really had to adjust to the realities of the new digital world. There is still a lot of money to be made at the high end, but overall that industry is moving a bit more slowly than perhaps it should.

    That said, it seems that you have a price in mind, though you don’t state it. $1000? $1500? $750? Look at Duane’s efforts above, figure a reasonable hourly rate ($100? Just guessing, but if the photographer brings an assistant probably more), and then figure out what that might get you. Maybe you can only afford a couple of hours of photo time for formal pictures of the wedding party etc. and some post-processing time — perhaps the rest of the event should be covered by all your photo-happy friends and relatives. Maybe you can find another compromise.

    You can have friends or students do the shots, but while you might get some good stuff, a skilled wedding shooter will probably capture more, will be able to help you through the process, should be faster, and may be better and staying out of the way.

    You might want to listen to this episode of This Week in Photography for a discussion of the topic so you can make your bids even better informed:

    http://www.pixelcorps.tv/twip039

    buzz says:
    October 2, 2008 at 6:12 am
    I have heard that TWiP, but had forgotten about it. Scott makes some great points, and I dont want to diminish the skill of photographers at all.

    My issue with the rates had more to do with a lot of the extras that seem to be tossed in to fluff up the packages, and the fact future prints usually have to be bought back through the photog.

    I’m willing to properly pay for the time it takes to do a job, I just dont want to be roped in to photo and book packages – I can do that on my own.

    Duane Storey says:
    October 2, 2008 at 10:49 am
    I actually didn’t intend to make any money off the prints, and gave my friend a complete CD full of the original + touched up images. But I also put all the touched up photos on my professional smugmug account, so that friends and family from the day could view and potentially purchase them. Since many of the people were from out of town, it allowed them to buy photos from the day without involving the bride and groom, and I made a few extra $$$ that way. I think it’s a good model, and I’d do it again, since everybody wins really.

    Robert Nelson says:
    October 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm
    Hi Buzz,
    we spent a lot on our photography, we found the best photographer we could afford. He happens to be a member of PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada). He teaches Wedding Photography courses to Photographer’s.

    Our Wedding Day was 12 years ago… and a lot of the other details, flowers, food, etc have long been forgotten…but we still have the most beautiful framed photographs and wedding album to enjoy!

    I would suggest ypu shift some of your budget from other items and spend more on photography!

    Wishing you and your bride to be .. all the best in 2009!

    Rob

    Martin Chung says:
    October 5, 2008 at 9:30 am
    Hi Buzz,

    I think Duane is right on the money there. It’s not simply the time shooting the wedding, but all the preparation work as well as the post-processing work. You’re looking at maybe 10 hours on the day, and certainly 20-30 hours after. If you have a good one, then there’s some initial consultation time, location scouting beforehand, spending the night before cleaning, charging gear. Factor in having to cover other expenses of a studio, gear, marketing, courses, vehicle, gas, etc., the actual hourly wage of a photographer might actually be lower than you think.

    As you noted, the new reality is certainly moving towards providing just images to clients. Pre-digital, photographers used to be able to charge little or nothing for showing up to the wedding, and making their money in mandatory album and print sales. Today, the business model is one where they are charging a rate for their services as album and print sales aren’t the priority for some clients who simply want the files to share or turn into photobooks themselves. Therefore, the prices for wedding photography have probably actually stayed the same over time despite shifting priorities — one still needs to eat!

    The barriers to becoming a paid photographer are much lower these days, and that’s a good and bad thing. There are a lot of great photographers, and there are a lot of not-so-great ones on the market. So the trick would be finding a good one (that isn’t going to be booked with paying gigs already during wedding season) that is willing to work this way in exchange for the publicity and reference. You may find an up-and-comer with talent that is looking to break into the wedding photography market and offer you a discount.

    Let me suggest a few things in your search. You need to choose a photographer based upon his or her work and whether it resonates with you. There are lots of approaches and stylistic variations — is the photographer one that purely observes and documents your day, or does he direct the B&G around to pose? Do you like over-the-top, cheesy, kitschy, or realistic? Also find one you can get along with and have fun on the day, as relaxed pictures are the best pictures.

    I will put in a personal plug — I’d be interested in doing your wedding as I think it would be a lot of fun. I have no issues providing the image files as my deliverable to you, but I would not want, from an artistic reputation point of view, to give you the files directly off the memory card without personally processing each one of them. A painter wouldn’t give you a half-finished picture with a box of watercolours for you to fill in. Half the work is done when the shutter is fired; the other half is processing.

    All the best to you and Jen in your search!

    Martin

    Arne says:
    October 16, 2008 at 12:29 pm
    Yeah – I do weddings on a part time basis as well – and I don’t buy into the whole “I’ve got so much invested into equipment” line – as an accountant would say – it’s a sunk cost and everything else is variable.

    Over 5 hours I’ll shoot 750 – 1000 images or so – many are variations of the same shot so that melts down to 300 or so. Post production as a regular process doesn’t need to take 30 minutes per shot – some take 5 many take 1 or 2.

    If I’m not working I don’t get paid – every time I’m working and getting paid at the same time is more money that I have in my pocket than I did yesterday – so I totally love the model described by Duane as noted above.

    $750 – $1000 for shooting the wedding – delivering a CD with a CC license is a good sweet spot.

    ps. I don’t need to clean my lenses the night before because they are always clean 🙂

    Family Photos at Cypress Bowl | The Blog According to Buzz Bishop says:
    November 24, 2008 at 6:11 pm
    […] started a series of posts about how to do a Wedding on a Budget. One of the posts, choosing a photographer, received many comments with great ideas. In the end, Jen and I settled on a friend of mine who was […]

    PatB says:
    November 25, 2008 at 5:38 am
    Hi Buzz,

    I hear where you’re coming from, however, since starting wedding photography as a Semi-Pro (for now) I have come to realise there is so much more to it than the photographers time on the day.

    A days wedding shoot works out to be around a weeks actual work. This starts with marketing so you can find us, then consultations, preparing equipment before wedding, wedding day, cleaning equipment, uploading images, back up copies, processing, putting on line, and then of course all the work associated with making an album.

    Photographers are reluctant to give CD because we have no control over the quality of images/prints you will make from the CD. When I do sell a CD I ask a lot of money for it – I have to as that will result in loss of print sales.

    There is also the adage that you get what you pay for. I respect that you’re on a budget and I am sure you will be able to find a keen amateur or even Semi-Pro for under a grand. This is fine as long as you accept that the images will not be anywhere near the quality of the Pro charging $2.5K upwards.

    Good luck in your quest to find a cheap photographer – it looks like you have a few offers from Semi-Pros that fit your profile. I just wanted to put things a little in perspective as I thought exactly the same way two years ago 🙂

    Tanya says:
    January 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm
    Hi Buzz,

    How is your search for a photographer going? I was married a few years ago and my photographer charged me for the hours I wanted and gave me a CD with all the images. It took us a long time to find a photographer that would do this for us! I was not interested in paying $4000 for photos. I paid $1500 for my coverage and I was really glad. You can check out her site at: http://www.charlenephoenixphotography.com

    I hope you found someone for your big day. It will go by so fast!

    Hilary Stephens says:
    February 2, 2009 at 8:04 pm
    I’ve been a photographer for over 30 years. My work has focused on nature, landscapes and I’m now moving into weddings, portraits, families. I have all the gear and the talent. You don’t indicate how big your wedding is – that would help. For 5 hours, I’d take unlimited photos, burn them to DVD so that you can retouch them yourselves for $1000 (plus GST). If you do want some photos retouched that would be extra as the time involved is outside of the original a5 hrs. I’d like permission to use your photos in my portfolio. Let me know.

    Kathryn says:
    February 9, 2009 at 11:39 am
    Hey Buzz,

    Did you find a photographer? If not please email me as I might be able to help you out but would need to know the specifics of your wedding.

    EEP says:
    March 11, 2009 at 5:58 pm
    You just HAVE to check out this talent…she is currently getting into the whole photog thing…she has great shots and takes her time with touch-ups…call her…she’s your gal! And she won’t charge you outrageous rates…AND…she just LOVES weddings and babies…such a great fun spirit to her…you’d be silly not to contact her!

    Good luck and happy wedding day!

    http://mikaphotography.blogspot.com/

    Daniel says:
    March 12, 2009 at 2:02 am
    As a wedding photographer myself, I have to say that a good photographer it worth every penny. Sure there are some cheaper photographers out there, but your wedding day isn’t something you want to take risk with. Just don’t go too cheap on your photographer. You’ll never get a second chance to make it right.

    That being said, when you contact a professional studio that you really like, even if they’re outside your budget, ask them if they have a second shooter or someone on their team who can shoot your wedding for less. You won’t get the principal photographer, but getting someone who has trained under one may be one way to get someone who will act professionally and be able to give you some half decent photos. Just a thought.

    Hope your search goes well.

    Daniel
    Studio d’Soleil
    Vancouver wedding photographer

    matt&nadia says:
    May 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm
    It’s likely you’ve already settled on a wedding photographer by now, but if not we’d like to give you the name of the photographer we’re using. Your blog has been a big help to us – from the engagement ring (we got ours on blue nile) to the officiant (Jenn is going to marry us) Thanks!

    We also were surprised by the prices for photography and wanted to keep to a budget. We want the proofs and a disc to make our own photos. We’re going with Lisa Petkau and she’s really good.

    http://www.lisapetkau.com

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