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Tips On Picking the Best Photographer for Your Wedding and What To Avoid | Albuquerque Wedding Photographer

You have the ring (and the cutest fiancé)!

You have the date picked. You probably have the venue secured.

You have a rough idea of the budget.

Now the fun part... picking the perfect wedding photographer! It may seem like a daunting task--there are SO MANY to choose from--but I'm here to help make it a bit easier for ya. Here's a list of both red flags and green flags to consider when narrowing down who to book.

Married couple exiting their reception with sparklers

Red Flag: There are no weddings in their portfolio. You wouldn't want a plumber to fix your car, right? They're both contracted labor to make repairs, but they have widely different skill sets. Same with photography. There's such a different amount of work (and length) of a wedding day vs a newborn session or senior portraits. Your wedding day is not a learning session or practice. If you're going to be spending a good chunk of change on a wedding photographer, make sure they know how to shoot a wedding ;)

Red Flag: Their editing style is hella inconsistent. Each photographer has their own unique style of editing, but pump the breaks of their portfolio is all over the place. What I mean by that is if there's a variety of dark/moody + light/airy + desaturated greens and super warm skin tones + true to life styles. This shows that they aren't sure of themselves in editing, so you won't know how exactly your images will be edited. This can also be a sign (not always!) that not all of their images are theirs. Unfortunately image theft is common in the photography community. This segues into my next red flag...

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Red Flag: They won't show full galleries. This may be the most important red flag of them all. Please, please, please ask for full wedding galleries from every photographer you meet with! Portfolios typically show the best of the best, but wedding days aren't just portraits and golden hour. It's hugely important to see how the photographer works in different lighting conditions. You need to see that their work is consistently edited and has a variety of different lighting scenarios since no two weddings are the same.

Green Flag: They not only will happily show off full galleries, but they'll have glowing recommendations and reviews to back them up. You can view past client reviews on places like WeddingWire/The Knot/Google/Facebook. Don't be put off by a business having a couple 4 star reviews, though. Photographers are humans too; we make mistakes sometimes. What's important is how the situations are dealt with and that there are more good reviews than bad. If there are no reviews, ask if they will refer you to past clients.

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Red Flag: They don't use contracts. This is probably the second most important one, maybe even tied for first most important. Contracts protect both you as the customer and the photographer and their business. Contracts are a NEED. Ask to review the contract and make sure to read the clauses carefully. Don't be afraid to ask questions. As I like to say to my clients, there are no stupid questions when it comes to legal matters. Does your photographer have a back up plan in case they can't make it to the wedding? How long is turnaround time to get your images back? Do you get a refund if they lose your images? Do you have the print rights to your images? What's the cancellation policy? When is the remaining balance due? A good contract will cover this and more.

Green Flag: They have a solid contract and are fully transparent when it comes to the clauses, pricing structure, potential added fees, etc. You can feel secure moving forward when all of your questions are answered before signing on the dotted line.

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Red Flag: They offer everything under the sun for $1,000. I know it's tempting when you see things like, "All Day Coverage + Engagement Session + Bridal Portraits + USB + Canvas + Second Shooter + Albums" all bundled together, but keep in mind: quality over quantity. This isn't to say that you absolutely have to drop $5,000+ on a wedding photographer. I understand that it's not feasible for most people, especially nowadays. But there is a reason why seasoned professionals charge what they do. They have professional equipment + backups (camera bodies, lenses, flashes, memory cards, batteries), computer(s) + external hard drives for safe storage, etc + the experience to back it up. None of those things are cheap. That's just the equipment. Hiring an experienced second shooter can run anywhere from $300-$800 per wedding. As much as we would love them to, professional photo albums don't cost $100 or less. The cost isn't about the tangible items you receive, it's the peace of mind knowing that your photographer has got you. Keep reading to learn how to save some $$ with a pro.

Green Flag: They have packages that fit your needs and budget. This one is pretty obvious, but most photographers book up 12-18 months in advance, so you gotta be like Sir Mix-a-Lot and jump on it! If the package you've been eyeballing is slightly out of budget, be transparent with your photographer. A lot of the time, we can work together to create something custom that works for you. For example: book 6 hours of coverage instead of 8. With 13 years of experience, I am confident that I can capture the most important bits of a wedding in 6 hours. Is it easier with 8? Of course. Is it completely necessary? Nope. When I think of the most important moments on a wedding day, that includes the ceremony itself, family portraits, wedding party portraits, couple portraits, first dances, and toasts. If having prep photos aren't your priority, have your photographer start at the first look (if you're having one) or right before the ceremony starts. If your reception extends later into the night and coverage doesn't cover those later hours, fake your grand "exit". Your photographer can capture the sparkler "send off", then the DJ can make the announcement that the party is still happening and you just go right back to dancing the night away. Win-win! Another thing to ask your photographer is if they offer payment plans. A lot of us do! I require a 25% non-refundable retainer to book and hold your date, then the remaining balance is due no later than 30 days out. I can adjust the invoice into multiple payments where the balance is broken up and as long as it's paid in full by the due date, it's all good. I totally get that making small monthly payments is easier than paying the lump sum at the end. Let's say you book my Full Day package 12 months before your wedding; the cost of the packages is $3,600 without taxes. The retainer would be $900, leaving $2,500 to be split into 11 months (remember, the remaining balance is due 30 days before the wedding). Your monthly payments would be about $230, which is less than the cost of a mini session.

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I hope this has been helpful! For those of you who want more tips and tricks for wedding planning, follow along on this blog and our social media accounts! If you like what you see, slide into my DMs and let's check "book dream photographer" off your to-do list.


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