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There has been much discussion lately regarding whether or not you should retain a large, chain studio to photograph your wedding. Part of what generated this discussion was the closing of a long time studio in the New York area...one that employed dozens of photographers. They recently closed, leaving more than 600 brides without their wedding photographs, a photographer, or their money.

The case is currently being looked at not only by the bankruptcy court, but also by law enforcement agencies to determine if any criminal wrongdoing was involved. Many brides put their faith in the large studio thinking that they may be more stable and reliable that a smaller independent operation. Sadly...they were wrong. Over the years, many chain and large multi-photographer studios have closed; leaving brides to fend for themselves...it seems to be the nature of the business.

Some questions you want to ask if you are considering using either a chain studio or a studio with a large stable of photographers...

1) Who exactly will be my photographer? While all the albums and photographs they show you will no doubt be beautiful...is it the work of the person who is going to show up at your wedding? Or, will the photographer who shows up be someone with no experience and no idea what you're looking for?

When you meet with an independent photographer, you can pretty much be assured that the work you see is truly indicative of the work you'll be getting. You'll know your photographers qualifications, you'll know their personality...and they'll know yours. This personal relationship goes a very long way in providing the insight they need to fully understand how to photograph your wedding and caption the essence of who you are.

2) Will you be an actual bride and groom to them, or just a name on a file folder? The shear number of brides a chain deals with dictates that you'll be a number. They won't recall your personality or all the small things you may have said about what you wanted. The independent photographer will remember you when you call, they'll know your personality and they'll remember the little details that will eventually make so much difference in creating wonderful photographs of your wedding day.

3) How will your album be designed? Will it be done by someone who never met you, doesn't know you and simply sticks your images in a template like all the other brides? Or will it be done by the person who actually photographed your wedding and understands what some of the details and nuances in the images mean to you? Will your album look like all the rest, or will it have that personal touch that makes it YOUR album?

4) Where will your photographer come from? I know it sounds like a silly question, but there are some large chain studios that will bring in a photographer from another city if they can't find anyone local. Will this photographer know his way around town? Have they been to your church or temple and do they know your priest or minister or rabbi, and will they know how to deal with the light and layout? Do they know where the best spots in the park are? Do they have the personal relationships with the limo drivers, florists, wedding planners, videographers and catering managers that will help things go smoother?

The independent photographer will have insights into all these things. They'll know where your priest is going to stand, and which window the sun will come through at 2:00PM. They'll know about that giant willow tree in the park and how the sun will shine through it's branches at just the right angle. And they'll have a backup location in mind if it rains.

5) If your photographs are important to you, and more than just a stack of pictures, then it makes sense to have a photographer that you can communicate with and who knows you. It makes sense to use a photographer who can make you wedding photographs special because they know how you smile when your groom holds your hand, and how that tear on your dad's face is the first one he's ever let you see. The unnamed and unknown photographer will have none of this insight. And while they may take nice pictures, they'll lack the depth and insight and meaning that would have truly set them apart.