Achievement Unlocked: Photographer

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

When last I ranted wrote about the thoughts and search for a wedding photographer while planning a budget-minded wedding I was faced with seemingly few choices:

  1. Spend half our entire budget on a wedding photograher (conventional wisdom)
  2. Pay what we could afford but not be able to actually choose our own photographer (going with a photography group)
  3. Wait until a couple months before the wedding and try and score and up-and-comer on Craigslist or Facebook (last ditch before handing a friend my camera and hoping for a decent photo or two)

Seriously, that’s what the landscape looked like.

But I’m a little more stubborn than that, and I started searching afresh for someone out there who took good, no-nonsense photos without charging an arm and a leg. To do that, I did something a lot of people don’t: I went beyond the first page of search results. I clicked on every link listed in the WeddingWire photography directory and about midway through I found my glimmer of hope: Pink Shutterbug Photography.

Not only did she take straightforward photographs without a lot of over-processed filters applied, but she’s personable, quick with an email reply, and understands that not everyone has a photography budget of $2500+ but that everyone deserves decent wedding photos.

What makes her able to offer such affordable wedding packages is that she’s primarily a family photographer. She might do only one or two weddings a year, but she tells me she likes it that way–she gets to enjoy the shoots more than always wrapping up one to go straight off to another.

After a few dozen emails back and forth, we met for an in-person meeting and signed the contract then and there. I couldn’t see finding someone a better fit for our budget and we got along swimmingly. Better yet? She includes an engagement session in her package–great opportunity to work together before the actual wedding day–and delivers strictly digital files, just what I was looking for.

She wasn’t the only photographer I reached out to, of course. There was another who did her best to work with our budget but it meant one shooter for half the hours and no engagement session and was still 50% more than we really wanted to spend. We could have made it work, but I’m glad we didn’t have to.

Our engagement shoot was in January, and I’ll go into more details in another post, but here’s the teaser collage she posted on Facebook, just to give you an idea of what you can get if you really look hard enough:

It can’t be all about price, of course, but when you’re on a tight budget, price can’t be discarded from the discussion entirely. What lengths were you willing to go to, to find the vendors you needed?

Not-So-Best Practices

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

As I hinted at in the last post, I actually thought I was on the right track to finding a photographer that fit our needs (those needs being minimal upsell and budget economy).

Unfortunately, I had the audacity to ask for a meeting with the photographer when we were next schedules to be in Jacksonville. That’s when she explained that they work primarily online or over the phone.

Full stop.

Lady, unless you plan to shoot my wedding online or over the phone,
you’d damn well better be able to meet me in person.

Now, I knew this was one of the large national agencies, but I thought I’d been corresponding with the actual photographer in this region. Nope, just the “matchmaker”. If I went with them, I wouldn’t actually be assigned my photographer until a month before the wedding.


I mean, can you imagine not meeting the person who’s going to be all up in your grill for 4 hours or more at the last possible moment? What if they rub you the wrong way? What if you get a creepy vibe from them? What if you just don’t mesh well?

That is NOT the way to get good wedding photos.

So I went back on the hunt for a photographic match for our wedding, only to add a few more items to the Not-So-Best Practices List:

  1. Not listing prices on your website, or even a starting package range.
  2. Auto-play music.
  3. Flash sites that open a new window instead of staying in the current one or otherwise hijack your browser.
  4. Password-protecting your wedding rate-sheet.
  5. Being obtuse in email responses.

The first three are pretty common transgressions, almost to be ignored except they truly do make it more difficult to find a vendor to hire. The last two are new encounters, and just as bad when it comes to making commerce that much easier.

Yes, one site really did have a password-protect on their rates page. Not their regular session fees or print packages, but to see the wedding fees you have to have a password. I’m sorry but that’s just patently ridiculous.

Finally, I had contacted one photographer and she was kind enough to send me her 2013 brochure–good job! And I liked the price, so I responded with a question, to clarify whether the stated fee included the disc with reprint rights. “No,” she replied, “the disc is extra.” And that was the end of her reply. Not how much the disc added to the cost, nothing. So I asked the obvious question and have yet to hear a reply.

On the up-side, one photographer I contacted was very nice and has worked up a quote that does fall just within the upper edges of our budget, and she’s local so there’s no issue there. Another one or two I’m waiting to hear back from that also sounded promising.

Feeling like I’m kissing a whole lotta frogs in the search for our photographic prince(ss).

Have you encountered anything else that would fall under not-so-best practices for wedding photographers?

Picture This

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Photos are the one thing you take away from this very expensive, very busy day.

Or so the conventional wisdom goes.

And I agree, to a certain extent. The dress? Not going to have many opportunities to wear it again. The food? Eaten. The venue? No longer your own personal playground. The memories? Intangible.

So photos to the rescue. To show you what you didn’t see when you were talking to Uncle Eddie with your back to the rest of the room. To catch those little (sometimes staged) moments between you and your beloved, one of which you can blow up to 16×20 and have printed on canvas for your wall.

Or not.

See, we’re not the hang pictures of ourselves on the wall type of people. We’re not planning to have children, so no generations to pass them down to. And if our respective histories are any indication, we’re not going to pull out the album every anniversary and get all schmoopy over the pictures again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of the above behaviors, it’s just not us.

For the record, there were 3 separate videos taken of my first wedding and I’ve yet to see even 5 seconds of any of them. Of those wedding photos, the ones I valued most (we had a photographer-friend offer to take the pictures for the cost of the film–which we had developed ourselves) were the random, candid shots of folks at the reception. Mr. Road Trip thinks he might have watched his wedding video with his ex (before she was an ex, obviously) maybe twice in the 10 years they were married? And the photos flipped through about the same.

So when I see starting “investments” of $2500 or more for a local photographer (that being half our total wedding budget), I start thinking that the majority of pro photographers aren’t for us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not even for a moment trying to say that photographers don’t earn every penny of their fee. Sure, a chunk goes into the physical album (which we do not want included, and I’ve asked several photographers at bridal shows ‘Do you have a package without an album?’ and, with the exception of the one dude with the very nice custom flash drives in their own wooden boxes, they all fluster and bluster about how we can’t possibly NOT want an album), but their time is just as important, and therefore valuable, as my own. They have a business to run and I respect that.

Nor am I whining about how I want stuff I can’t afford and hoping the Universe will hand it to me on a silver platter. Because that’s just it: I’m not lusting after a certain out-of-budget photographer. I don’t have visions of dreamy shots or over-saturated artistic interpretations. And I certainly have no desire to traipse around our venue for 2 hours doing photo after photo of T and I staring dreamily at each other; away from each other; at some indeterminate spot in the distance. Nor do I want a single shot of someone’s hands holding some tiny thing like it’s a fragile baby bird. This is a wedding, not a catalog shoot.

Yes, I want photos. Of us with our friends, of our ceremony, of our friends having fun and laughing and eating and drinking. I see the perfect photographer for us as a personal paparazzi-meets-photojournalist. No avant-garde artistic sensibilities, just an honest representation of the day, however it turns out.

And I’ve got a feeling that’s out there. At a price that won’t strangle what’s left of our budget after the venue, food, drinks, and attire have taken their chunks out. I just have to find it, is all.

So tell me, am I alone in my photography is not the most important thing ever sentiment? 

Budget Bride Permission Slips

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
Budget Bride Permission Slip Badge

image created by Miss Road Trip

Fact: weddings can be very expensive. And no matter how conscious we try to be of the budget we have to work with, it’s hard to escape the feeling of overwhelm as we flip through magazines with prices on every photo or browse vendors’ websites and check out their rate sheets (if they even have them).

So today I’m writing out a few “permission slips” for us budget brides that will hopefully remind us that it’s OK! to do what we have to do to create the celebration we want on our own terms and not those of the looming wedding industry.

And to start, we’re going to talk dresses.

it’s OK! to…

Watch wedding shows like Say Yes to the Dress
and shake your head in amazement at women dropping
your entire wedding budget on their dress.

Seriously, it always floors me that some folks are spending my budget or more on a dress.

And it’s okay to have that moment of ‘whoa’ but to keep everything in perspective.

What’s not okay is to get all bitter and hate-faced. After all, a wedding is a celebration and we want to keep everything as positive as possible so there are predominantly happy memories of this time of transition.

So we, as budget brides, savvy of our bottom line, will try on dresses to find out what we want well ahead of time and then scout out sites like Once Wed, Dress Rush, or Rue La La‘s Bridal Boutique for just the right dress. Or we plan a road trip with our favorite girls to a dress outlet like Bridal Outlet of Atlanta and look for a deal. Or we’ll make it ourselves (or find a dressmaker).

Whatever we do, we’re not going to let our budget get us down!


Next, let’s tackle photography fees. Ready?

it’s OK to…

Cringe at the sight of the word “investment” on a wedding photographer’s website or brochure.

Buzz-words may be the death of me, I mean it.

Look, I get it, the price tag on wedding photography is steep for a reason. As a way to reframe the customer’s perceptions, looking at your wedding photos as a long-term benefit can help sooth the blow of that bottom line.

Maybe it’s a leftover from growing up with the mantra “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Anyone else familiar with that line?

But most of us are just trying to get a feel for if the photographer is even in our ballpark and might already be frustrated by having to hunt through half a dozen sites that don’t even list starting fees or package prices for comparison, so seeing the buzzword of “investment” just raises a red flag. And then, if the “investment” link leads to an explanation of how much effort goes into capturing this “once in a lifetime” *ahem* moment for all posterity but still fails to list a price range? *deep breath*

If you’re trying to make a sale, don’t hide the price. Don’t make it more difficult for me to hire you.

And I think it’s totally okay to not be as all about the photos and to just enjoy the experience of the day. If you’re not the type to look at photo albums and you’re not planning on having children to pass these keepsakes down to, do what’s important to you and don’t let the rest of the wedding industry tell you that you what you HAVE to have.


Okay, the last two were a bit vent-ish, this one is actually a fun permission slip:

it’s OK! to…

Splurge on the one thing that really is the most important to the day. Provided you…

  • Keep the splurge to 1 thing, not everything–that last bits a one-way ticket to an exploded budget.
  • Realize that a splurge in 1 category means cutting back in another one.
  • And keeping in mind the comfort of your guests.

Going back to the previous permission slips: if the dress is going to make the wedding for you, find a way to get the one you want by any reasonable means possible. If photography IS your number 1 priority, maybe you’ll find room in your budget to pay the travel expenses of the photog you just have to have.

For us? Our splurge is almost always on the food.

When we throw a party at home, I tend to go overboard on the food every. single. time. Partially because I truly believe it’s poor form to run out of anything at a party and partially because I want my guests to never leave my home hungry.

And the more I remind myself that the wedding is really just a party to celebrate the next step in our relationship, a party with a bigger budget than I’ve every thrown before, suddenly our $5K budget seems like a boom, not a bust.

What are you wanting a “permission slip” for?