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Finding that perfect wedding photographer can be quite a task. It takes ages to sift through profiles. And by the time you have shortlisted one, chances are your favourite photographer is booked already. Here are a few pointers that might help speed up the process. You, the decision maker, must know what you are looking for. The Internet is a good resource. Look at friends' wedding pictures, ask for recommendations and take a close look at portfolios of the photographers you've shortlisted.
EQUIPMENT? VIDEO? WHAT ABOUT THOSE?
Are you more concerned about Nikon, Sony or Canon - equipment being used for your wedding - or the end product? No photographer will hold back his best equipment for a project. If you still want to be sure, ask questions. It doesn't hurt to know (examples of professional and high-end cameras wedding photographers use: Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III, Nikon D700 and D800, Sony Alpha 77 and A850). Remember the weakest link in a photograph is the photographer, not her/his camera/lens.
Video, err. 'I am a photographer, I do not shoot video'. Get used to this phrase. In India, for a very long time, wedding photography meant the guy shoots the wedding, gives you an album, a video DVD, some prints, and sits with you and talks about the payments later. Things are different now. A lot of photographers offer photography services only and you will very likely have to find another specialist who makes videos for that part of the deal.
WEDDING PHOTOJOURNALISM OR REPORTAGE-STYLE PHOTOGRAPHY?
Wedding photojournalists have a candid, documentary approach. Typically, a wedding photojournalist might give you 200-300 pictures over five to six hours of photography. Their pictures are about you, about your day and how it unfolds, in the most organic, un-directed way possible. They will charge for the hours of work they are putting in. The flashes won't fire every other minute. It's your wedding after all, not a fashion week shoot! If you are likely to miss the father's sister's best friend's daughter's picture because she just came in for five minutes, skip this photographer.
They are probably the most versatile and flexible in terms of budgets, hours and working styles. If you are looking at thousands of pictures of your wedding, and choosing what pictures you want edited, this is the right person for you. They may give up to 1, 000-3, 000 pictures a day of shooting, are likely to be there throughout, and will even give you the un-edited pictures. Staged or posed pictures are not their forte, candid moments are.
FINE ART, CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHER
This kind creates artistically pleasing pictures of your wedding. Each fine-art or contemporary photographer brings in their own creative focus - some are more people-oriented, some focus more on details and action.
If you are expecting multiple photographers to cover each and every aspect of your wedding in a candid and/or traditional style, the studios are your best bet. Skip the three categories listed above and find the studio near your home. Any photographer coming with anything more than a second photographer and a flash unit is from a studio. Expect them to have light stands, with umbrellas, soft-boxes - the works! They will have every aspect of your wedding covered - right from pictures of guests entering, talking, looking at each other, eating, drinking, meeting the bride and groom, posed, candid, stage, group - you'll have all kinds of pictures.
WHAT ABOUT MONEY?
Good candid photographers charge Rs 25, 000-50, 000 for a day's work. A photojournalist, fineart or contemporary photographer might charge anywhere from Rs 50, 000 to Rs 1, 50, 000 per day and more. A studio can start from Rs 15-20 thousand a day and go upto Rs 3-5 lakh per day, bringing in a truckload of equipment and cameramen.
Don't expect a photographer to hold your dates, just because you sent them an email or spoke to them on the phone. A wedding photographer will ask you for a booking fee (generally 50 per cent of the entire photography fee) and reserve your date based on that. Most photographers will also take the entire fee amount (yes, 100 per cent) before they have taken even a single picture. This might not be true for most studios, who work on a 'token' or 'booking amount' only.
OKAY. ALL DONE. IS THERE ANY FINE PRINT?
If you have vendor policies for food/water - inform the photographer before hand so that they can plan their breaks accordingly.
If you are hopping venues, keep a separate dedicated cab/taxi for your photographer (unless the photographer is taking care of it on her/his own). You don't want your photographer to be stranded at the venue just because the shared cab/taxi went off.
Tell your family about the photographer's working style. Most wedding photojournalists appreciate it if the family doesn't direct them to do/capture things the way they want it.
The writer is a contemporary wedding photographer
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