Thursday, March 21, 2013

A picture's worth a thousand words, and a photographer costs way more

Like most things I've taken on in the wedding planning process, I attacked the photography decision with a type A kind of fervor that can only be described as insane, or spectacular if you happen to be just as crazy as I am.

You see, I love the decision process and the massive Excel spreadsheets that go along with making an informed decision. It's probably why I'm a business analyst. I can spreadsheet and analyze all day long. So for me, finding a great photographer wasn't just about finding some pretty images. It was about comparing styles, prices, emotion, and reviews in a systematic way.

I started with a very specific methodology and requirements that were narrowed down as I dove into my research.

1. Bright, crisp images. The whole vintage Instagrammy look is really popular right now and I knew that was not for me. I want bright, not overly exposed, images.

2. Real looking photos. On the other end of the spectrum I don't like photos that are overly processed to be too bright or fake looking. Sky should be sky colored, not neon "look at me, I'm the sky!" blue.

3. That "it" factor feeling. This was one of those intangible requirements: the "I'll know it when I see it" feeling. Basically, if a photo got me to cry, get goosebumps, or to audibly say "wow" then it was a winner.

4. Low cost. Like most items on our wedding list, we had a tight budget for photography too. The cost requirement for us was under $2500.

Here's where I got weird with it. Most likely, the sensible place to start would have been with cost. However, I didn't want a photographer's cost to affect my thoughts about their quality. (High cost? They must be amazing! Low cost? What's wrong with them?)

So I started by judging the books purely by their covers and came up with a lovely and lengthy list of 28 photographers that I had ranked from 4-5 on my 1-5 point scale. Once I had my list, I looked up the prices or contacted the photographers for their price quotes. This was a heartbreaking process since I learned that a few of my top contenders were in the $5-7,000 range.

 Melani Lust made me cry twice: Once when I first saw her awesome wow factor photos, and again when she gave me her price list. Seriously, you guys:

Photos by Melani Lust
These couples look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine. That's the look what I want.

Once I finally had my list narrowed down to the 10 photographers that were both in my price range and met all of my other requirements, I looked into availability. Now, I was really naive in thinking that 10 months was plenty enough time to book a photographer. Turns out they book up fast! Thankfully, I was still left with a nice little list of 5 photographers.

Sometimes you gotta throw it all away:
Wasn't expecting this subtitle from my super controlled methods, were you? Well, luckily fate stepped in here when one of my coworkers began to focus more on her photography career. "Say what now?" As she showed me more and more of her work, I began to become convinced that she should be our photographer. She loved all of the same photographers that I did (and even took classes with one of my favorites!), totally understood the style I wanted, and produced these amazing "Oh wow!" inspired photos.
Mutual friends of Abbey's and mine who clearly should be fashion models. Engagement photos by, of course, Abigail Scott

We booked her for our engagement photos partially for fun and partially as a test run for our wedding day. The results speak for themselves:


Photos by Abigail Scott

Shortly after receiving our images we signed a contract with Abbey! She's not only amazing to work with, but she fit all of our requirements and with a lovely "friendor" discount, she even comes in significantly under budget for us! Hell freaking yeah.

So now that I picked a photographer who was not at all in my carefully orchestrated plans, do I feel like I did all of that work for nothing? Not at all! I definitely learned a lot through that process, including what I wanted and what I didn't want in a photographer. Had I not done all of that research, I don't know if I would quite as positive about putting my trust in Abbey. Plus, I now have some amazing ideas for "must have shots."

How did you pick your photographer?

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