I found this on another photographers blog and just thought these sentiments were perfect:
#1: Shop for an artist, not an appliance.
Understanding the price points of dishwashers is relatively easy because all dishwashers wash dishes the same way. Differences in pricing are a matter of special features, brand names, warranties and the like. It’s easy to compare, assess, and choose based on your needs and budget.
It’s tempting to shop for a photographer the same way and compare package pricing. The problem is that no two photographers take pictures the same way or have the same point of view. Complicating matters further, no two studios offer the same kind of albums or extras and there are no baseline standards on pricing. So how do you know what you are really paying for?
It helps to think of photography as a creative service rather than a product. You’re not hiring a photographer but commissioning an artist. People buy art because its something they love and want to live with everyday. They pay no attention to the cost of the canvas, paints, or other materials that went into its physical making. Art pieces have intrinsic value based on the owner’s relationship to the piece and your wedding photography should
be the same way. For example, an album that comes in a package is useless unless you love the photos that will go in it.
Look at your budget for photography and eliminate options outside of it (for now). Interview the contenders whose style and work you love. Let go of the “stuff.” Albums, etc. can always come later. In short, start with the art and come back to the price tag.
So what constitutes style? Look carefully at the work you are shown on a photographer’s website or in your first meeting. Do you like one picture, a handful of pictures, or all of what you see? If you love all of what you see (or pretty close to it), it’s likely that you really like that photographer’s style. Do you see yourself in their photos? Would you love to have photos like these of yourself adorning the walls of your home like art? If a particular photo stands out for you, ask the photographer to talk about it…why did he/she take it? You can learn a lot about a photographer’s point of view through conversations like this.
OK, by now you have interviewed a few select photographers whose style you love. While you may never be able to compare apples to apples, the value of each contender’s pricing should become more apparent after interviewing. Remember that a photographer is only worth the extra cost if you can identify what it is that sets them apart from their competition.
#2 You don’t have to be BFFs but you should like the guy/gal
Another relevant thought is that a dishwasher isn’t going to interact with you whereas a photographer will. Ask yourself, are you comfortable around this person? Would you enjoy having him/her/them around on such an important day? Do you know anyone who has worked with this photographer and were they happy with the job he/she/they did? Do you have any concerns that this person will do or say something inappropriate on your wedding day? Are you confident you would have a good experience working with this photographer?
Sometimes I hear a couple say that their friends got better pictures of them than their professional photographer did. When I ask whether or not they liked their photographer as a person, they shrug or say no. This just makes me sad because that photographer didn’t stand a chance: I know from experience how hard it is to get a good picture of someone who isn’t comfortable around you or doesn’t trust you completely. Of course their friends got better pictures!
#3: Don’t ask for the pictures you want, find the guy/gal who already takes them
Here’s a pitfall we have fallen into before. As photographers, we want to please our clients and fulfill special requests. But when asked to work outside of our regular style (i.e. take more close ups or fish eye shots, use a particular effect, recreate another photographer’s picture) our attempt to please may do more harm than good.
For example, a couple described a particular perspective of their ceremony that they saw another in another photographer’s studio and emphasized how important this shot was to them. I spent so much time during the ceremony making it happen despite lighting and physical limitations that I missed the shots I normally get… the ones I am really good at getting. I was trying to wear another photographer’s shoes and, in the process, stepped out of my own.
Love your photographer’s vision and trust it. If you don’t see what you want in the portfolio you are shown, keep looking until you find it.