|* * *|
Uncompromised Quality Photography
By Photographer Dan Harris
A home-studio photography business in Jacksonville, FL
1124 Riviera St. Jacksonville, FL 32207 (904) 398-7668
Then review what their wedding photography packages contain and their pricing. Be sure to have a clear understanding of what is really included and what is extra. (Read the fine print, get a copy of the contract in advance) Some photographers contracts are written so they don't have to give you what you pre-ordered and pre-paid for. Beware of ambiguous or fluff words: some say "unlimited time" but they really have a limit --noted in the small words on the contract. Others say includes a 'proof book' but it isn't a book of standard proofs, it is actually several pages of thumbnail prints, velo-bound together, printed so small you can't tell if someone blinked or not. Others may include proofs, but they are unuseable because they are stamped 'proof' across the front. Are they adaptable and flexible enough to give you just what you want? Is the package really complete? What are you really getting? Do they have minimum order requirements? Do they avoiding talking about the real cost of the ala carte' wedding photography add-ons or album costs? Can they tell you what everything will really cost? Or do they 'gloss-over' the subject?
Are there any hidden charges or undisclosed fees? Is their pricing 'out-of-line' with other top-quality professionals? What are they going to skimp on because they aren't charging enough to do it properly? Some say 'Art Leather' albums but they aren't the 'top-of-the-line' albums but are Art Leather's cheapest album (which only holds 8 x10's in the vertical position) or are they calling the proof book an 'album'? Will you be wasting good money on inferior quality products or workmanship? Plastic non-archival photo sleeves will ultimately harm the photographs and collect moisture-causing mildew. Will they work with you or are you going to get hit with big surprises later? Will you be pleased with the end result or will you have to fight tooth and nail just to get what you were promised? Are they going to force you and your family into a high- pressure sales presentation in an attempt to force you into buying more? Will they collect e-mail addressess of you and your friends and bombard you with junk mail?
The bitterness of poor quality, inferior service and bad coverage will long be remembered after the sweetness of low price is forgot. A cheaper price seldom means a better value, but usually comes with poor quality. MOST EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEIR TIME AND SERVICES ARE WORTH AND CHARGE ACCORDINGLY. In the end, you will get what you pay for. I don't know of any legitimate businessman who gives away their time, service or products for 'free', there's ALWAYS a catch. We would love to 'have it all' but the true laws of nature prevail when it comes to SPEED, QUALITY and PRICE ultimately one of them has to be compromised to achieve the other two. (Anyone who tells you differently is lying.)
I would rather have a top-of-the-line uniquely customized 30-page awesome album with phenomenal photos than a ridiculously large cumbersome poor-quality 60-page 'scrapbook' full of mediocre 8 x10's. (Don't pay for a scrapbook or cheap digital photo book when you can make your own!) It really shouldn't be about the largest album, the biggest/ cheapest package or the most 8x10's. It should really be about QUALITY more than QUANTITY! First and foremost get a GREAT photographer that will take GREAT pictures at your event, no amount of additional items or extra enlargements will make-up for bad photographs. Great Wedding Photography is an art, a science and a personal experience. Only a few of the best wedding photographers can deliver on all levels.
Get a lot of input from lots of people and read the helpful hints sections of wedding magazines and wedding websites, they will give you good ideas about questions to ask that you may not have considered. Take all the good advice and pointers you've received and edit them down to the essentials of what is really important to you. Remember, a magazine may leave out some hard-hitting questions because they don't want to upset their advertisers. Adapt their questions into ones that are most important to you and develop some of your own based on what you and your fiancé feel are truly important to you then setup a few appointments to meet with your potential photographer. When you meet with photographers share with them the type of photos you like or dislike. If they don't specialize in that style, they probably know someone else who does.
Can I state the obvious: every photographer is going to try to sell you what they have to offer, the 'bride and groom must see each other 2 hours before the ceremony' guy will say her way is better, the guy who spent thousands of dollars on a certain lens or camera will tell you why it is the best thing since sliced bread, someone that spent a lot on contests and awards will brag on them, some even promote nationality, race or gender as an 'advantage', etc. (The next thing you know someone will try to promote sexual orientation as an issue or gender -- give me a break!) Just be sure to keep focused on the issues that are truly important to you! Don't hire a photographer with a 'realistic' style of photography if you prefer 'fantasy' photos. No one photographer is right for everybody. An informed decision is always the best one.
A few photographers consider the initial package price as HALF the amount they plan on forcibly extracting from you. I have talked to couples who a year later are still fighting with their photographer because their proofs are being held hostage! Some photo studios bank on the 'extras' and 'post-wedding' sales. They lure you in with some type of enticement only to then 'nickel-and-dime' you to death. (When all was said and done how many people really just got that advertised 'free' 8x10 or only spent the low-priced advertised 'sitting fee' at the national mug shots photomills? Don't fall for that trick again!)
A photographer who offers a 'complete package' may initially look more expensive, but in actuality will be the 'complete-price' disclosed upfront. Determine EVERYTHING you want and then get the complete price in advance. What if the price increases before your wedding? Is your package price locked-in at the original price you booked? If you ask your photographer, when all is said and done, what will it cost and she says "that all depends", better watch out! Some places have lots of 'EXTRAS' that they charge additional for and that is where they make-up for their 'lower' upfront price.
Find out in advance what are considered 'extras' and what they charge for those 'extras'. (For example: our 4x6 archival reprints are $8 each with no minimum, some studios charge $20 each with a $100 minimum; our additional matted album pages are $60 after the wedding. I know a photographer who provides a lower-quality, non-archival album and charges $120 per additional album page after the wedding because they know many people will forget to consider the 'extras' when they are price shopping.
Many a bride has been surprised later to find out the 'album price' didn't include any photos in it! Some photographers buy their yearly supply of albums and frames at the year-end, close-out sale so if you make any change to their 'close-out' package they will have to charge up the wazootal for the custom item. Others offer an album that can only hold 8x10's that only face in one direction so you have to turn the book when you come to a horizontal photo (as that is the cheapest album made) and when you want to change the page designs, it adds a lot more to the price because you have to upgrade the whole album.
We don't charge extra for: a second back-up photographer at your event, True black and white film, you keeping your archival reprints, a top-of-the-line ArtLeather Wedding Album (including the photos), a customized album, standard photography re-touching on enlargements, digital alterations and special effects on enlargements, custom picture framing, UV coating on all album photos and album engraving just to name a few. Some say they will throw in 'free bridal photos' or 'parents photos' when what they really mean is you won't be charged extra for the 'sitting fee' --you will still have to pay for any photos you want to keep!
Is the photographer charging more than their regular prices because it is 'a wedding'? I believe a package price that you pay for up front should cost less than the individual items sold separately. Too often the complete package price looks 'expensive' because it is more than you originally wanted to spend but if you can get everything you want with a comfortable payment program you will be much happier. Beware the 'low-price' up front bait and switch ploys that ultimately cost you more for less! Because I am flexible with what my packages contain most my couples choose their package based on the size of the album they want and the number of hours coverage they need then we mix and match the rest to give them exactly what they want.
What may sound similar up front can actually be very different --if it sounds too good to be true IT IS! Have you heard about the contest you enter to win a free wedding or free photography? If what you want doesn't really matter, go for it! In the end the free wedding will be worth exactly what it cost you!
I talked to a couple who (under the influence of too much wine and cheese) decided to use one of those nationally advertised inexpensive 'package specials' that was about one-third the price of what many independent photographers would normally charge for a similar package. This offering looked impressive 'on paper' because it offered 'adequate' time coverage, quite a few enlargements AND a large-page album. (Not taking into consideration the capability, skills, personality or style preference of the photographer they would get! -Too often 'free-lance' "rental" photographers are the jack-of-all-trades but the master of none.) If you look in the newspaper want-ad section you can see the ads of photographers who hire inexperienced help.
The reason for the 'cheap price' became obvious after the photos were delivered. They were poorly done (nothing like the few samples they were originally shown), the photos looked like they came from the corner drugstore as they were not color-corrected, cropped, re-touched, weren't digitally mastered or UV coated. The enlargements were chosen by the company clerk and were all made to 'one-size-fits-all' so they could be slipped into the 'do-it-yourself' dime-store cardboard wedding 'photo-album/binder'. When all was said and done the few dollars they saved had actually cost them their complete photographic memories. (Of course any complaints were referred to the major corporations well-staffed legal department --'we legally fulfilled our obligation based on the terms of our contract' -bye-bye now ...next).
I know other wedding photographers who are getting their reprints made for one-third the cost of what I pay for mine. They tell me I could make more money if I did the same as them... problem is the prints are NOT professionally printed with professional materials, not on Kodak Endura paper, not cropped or professionally color corrected, not of consistent quality or durability. I only offer uncompromised top-of-the-line quality in ALL of the products I offer. Anything less would be a waste of good money!