Let’s talk about how to choose your photographer.*
Here’s the ideal: You find the photographer you love, money’s no object, done deal.
The reality? Very few of us have unlimited resources. Suddenly your years of playing resource management video games are put fully to the test. Except in this game, you can’t just mine for more resources.
“Budget” becomes the word you repeat so often you start to say it in your sleep.
So your wedding needs a photographer. What do you do?
Good thing you’re reading this, because I’m going to tell you. (Spoiler alert: The answer isn’t just “hire Studio Orange,” although that *is* a great idea…)
Step 1: Determine the importance of photography to you, then allocate a portion of your total budget accordingly.
Basically, that’s just a complicated way of saying you need to figure out how much you want to spend on your wedding photographer.
Regardless of how much your total budget is, it’s important to determine your priorities. Is photography more important to you than, say, food and alcohol? Or is it the other way around?
Figuring out how much of your budget you want to spend on any particular aspect of your wedding is just common sense. It applies whether you’re dealing with a $10,000 wedding or a $100,000 one.
Try not to commit to so much of an exact dollar amount, but a range. For example, if you’d feel comfortable spending about $3000 on your wedding photographer, you’ll be better off if you say that your range is $2500 to $3500.
And be realistic.
Make sure this is not only the amount you can allocate to your photographer, but the amount you want to allocate for photography. You should feel confident and comfortable with whatever you decide.
Step 2 (the hard part): Once you’ve got your budget allocated for your photographer, FORGET ABOUT THE MONEY.
This is the part that trips a lot of people up. Most of us are able to figure out step 1 pretty easily. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
But not focusing on the money when it comes time to actually start your hunt for a photographer, that’s when it gets tricky.
Here’s the thing, though: Once you know how much you can spend, the only thing that matters at that point is whether or not you love the photos.
All too often I see couples fall into the following trap: “You know, honey, I really love [Photographer A] and they are in our budget, but [Photographer B] is $200 cheaper.”
And I get it. Weddings are expensive, and so opportunities to save money are seductive.
But 10 years from now, you’re not going to care if you saved $200. You’re going to care if you love the photos. Or more to the point, if you DON’T love them.
Choose your photographer based on the work. Based on if you think you’ll get along with them on your wedding day. Based on experience. In short, based on the things that will matter.
Saving a little bit of money by choosing someone slightly less expensive won’t necessarily get you better photos. Basing your decision at this point on who is cheaper is really often only a race to the bottom.
This is why it’s important to not only be realistic with the range you allocated in step 1, but to also be comfortable with spending within that range.
Make sure you really can afford the amount you set so that when it comes time to make your decision, it isn’t about nitpicking the money you’re spending, but about focusing on the work you’re getting.
* I’ve focused this on photography, because that’s what I do. Really, though, this advice applies to every aspect of allocating money to your wedding planning.