Guest Blog Post: Sharon Naylor Money-Saving Tips for Your Photography & Videography
The national average amount spent on photography and videography is close to $3,500. Depending on where you live, that number may be shockingly high or laughingly low, but the fact remains – wedding photography and videography can be very expensive. After all, this is one very important day, and you’ll need great experts to capture the essence of every moment – large and small. As photo experts proclaim, “This is the one piece of your wedding that gets more valuable over time.” You’ll have photos of relatives long after they’re gone, and no dollar amount can be put on that moment when your groom sees you for the first time. Photo and video experts know how to capture those amazing, important moments perfectly.
So resist the urge to have a friend take your pictures, even though that might seem like a smart way to save some cash right now. Brides and grooms who have done that have regretted it. Candids and digital camera shots are fine for the rehearsal and after-parties, but not for the big day. Your wedding is just too important to leave the photos to a friend. You need the services of great pro, and the high-quality prints that come from an expert photo lab, top technology, fine paper stock and album materials, the most high-definition video possible, plus in-camera editing so that your total photo tally isn’t wasted on eyes-shut portraits. There are vital perks to hiring a pro. And it all adds up to better service, better results for you.
So how do you get that great photo and video treatment but avoid the high prices? Here are some secrets and tips for you:
- Comparison-shop between various professional photographers’ and videographers’ price packages, checking to see if their budget wedding packages will provide enough for you. Be realistic about what you want, and really look at the extras on their higher-end platinum packages to see if you’ll really need the gold-framed portrait, the airbrushing and the designer photo albums. Very often, the simple budget package will give you all that you need, and then you can find less expensive alternatives like frames and albums on your own. And you’ll likely be fine with 300 print proofs rather than 700 to choose your finals and album photos.
- Need less of their time. Since photographers and videographers work in packages by-the-hour, schedule your day so that you’ll only need them for three hours, rather than five. Limit the number of time they’ll have to take pictures before the ceremony, and then plan your reception so that all the major footage (like cutting the cake, tossing the bouquet, and so on) takes place earlier in the night. After the big photo ops are complete, your picture pros can leave. The clock stops, and you’re not paying these experts to film and shoot three hours of your reception at several hundred or thousand dollars per hour. After the expert departs, the rest of the festivities can be captured on guests’ own cameras.
- Never choose rush delivery. You can pay hundreds extra for this service, so be patient and wait the 2-3 weeks, or even the week that many digital image companies are requiring now. Remember, you’ll have plenty of digital and candid shots from your guests to tide you over.
- If applicable, negotiate to keep your proofs, those 200+ picture prints your photographer may give you to look over. That is, if your photographer gives out print proofs. Most pros are putting these ‘proofs’ online and not incurring the expense of developing them onto paper. If yours still does the thick envelope full of proofs for you to go through in selecting your favorite twenty, just ask to keep the full set.
- Use these free proofs to create gift albums for your bridal party and relatives, which saves a fortune.
- Negotiate to skip the print proofs. If your photographer offers proofs, tell him or her you’d rather save the environment (and the money) by skipping the processing, and just see the images online…images that can be zoomed in on and enlarged to see the tiniest of details, an advantage over those print proofs! Your photographer may knock a few hundred dollars off of your price because no processing needs to be done for proofs.
- Negotiate to keep your copyright. This is very important, since you’ll gain the freedom to develop, enlarge and duplicate your wedding and reception pictures without having to go through the photographer to place your order. Photographers tell me they make a mint when brides and grooms are forced to order through them. Some photographers charge upwards of $30 to $40 for larger portraits, citing labor and materials fees. If you buy your rights, even for what seems like a big investment right now, you can certainly get future copies for less on your own. [Never steal from your photographer by scanning proofs and ordering pictures online. It’s just wrong, and the quality always turns out terribly!]
- Since many photographers will post your photos online for you and others to order and purchase, make sure you’re happy with the photographer’s price lists for print orders, or ask if he can post them to a less-expensive site like Shutterfly or Kodak Photo Gallery, rather than any specialized site. You do have bargaining power for this.
- Choose your wedding albums in 5×7 size, rather than 8×10’s or larger. It’s a savings in development and print fees, and no one really needs all of those pictures in an enormous size.
- Limit photo editing such as airbrushing and ‘thinning’ you with digital fixes worthy of a supermodel on a magazine cover. You don’t need the pricy digital plastic surgery.
- Other special effects to skip, saving you a bundle: any adding of borders or wording onto your pictures.
- Skip the formal bride’s pre-wedding formal portrait. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should know that in some regions, it’s tradition to hand out at the wedding wallet-sized portraits of the bride in her gown. This too is unnecessary, since all of your guests will take their own pictures of you in your gown on the wedding day, or order online from your official collection. So skip the sitting and development fee for this one.
- Skip the fancy photo albums your photographer may try to sell you. Unless they’re free from him or her, as might occur during special sales and in some packages. You can almost always find less expensive photo albums in card stores, at Target, and online.
- Negotiate for free gift albums, such as those for parents. Depending on your order and the package you choose, you may have some bargaining power for freebies. It can never hurt to ask, and you may wind up with a discount, at least.
- Limit the number of gift albums you’ll give out. Give one album to each set of parents, perhaps one to grandparents, but don’t order specially-made albums from your photographer for extra people.
- Purchase one-time-use cameras at a bulk store like Costco or at a craft store where these items are stocked by the case, often at half the prices you’ll see online.
- Look for quality with these cameras. Go with a brand name even if you have to pay a little bit more. It’s quality you want, especially if you’ll be counting on these pictures to capture the best moments of your reception’s later hours. And I’ve just been warned by a camera shop owner to check the expiration dates of these cameras, and to go with the Kodak Funsaver brand.
- Place only one throwaway camera on each guest table, rather than two or three. Especially with cameras that offer a higher number of exposures (Check! There is a difference! Some pretty throwaways only have 12 exposures each!), you’ll have plenty of photos when you develop over twenty rolls of film.
- Use your own digital camera to get shots from the reception – or have a relative or friend use their digital camera, since you’ll be busy. Just download these shots onto your wedding Web site to share images with all of your guests right away…for free!
- Use your favorite online developing and photo-sharing sites, which often provide discount coupons.
- With development you’ll order yourself, again don’t rush delivery. Wait a few extra days and save a bundle in shipping fees.
Save Money On Your Videography
- Again, limit the special effects. Video editors love to showcase their editing talents with titles, color and timing effects to make your wedding video look like a music video, and even some annoying effects like animated characters popping into the frame while you’re dancing your first dance. Limit the video editor’s freedom with effects and save a ton of money.
- Editing is where most of the cost is. If you so choose, elect not to have your wedding video footage edited at all. Not right now, at least. Your videographer can give you what’s called the ‘raw footage’ he or she has shot, so that you have your entire wedding in real time, as it was shot. Some couples prefer this format at this time, since they don’t lose precious footage to an editor’s allotted 45 minutes of tape time for the final product. You don’t miss a thing, and very often you capture memories that would have wound up on the cutting room floor. You can always have this raw tape professionally edited later – perhaps as an anniversary present – and then have both versions in your possession forever.
- If you will choose titles and special soundtrack songs, you can save money by providing the music CD to the editor. If he or she has to locate it, that’s extra time and money on your bill.
- Don’t order a special videotape or DVD case for your wedding video. Some bridal versions are pricey, especially those designer fabric-covered cases with embossed wording and fabric bows on the cover. Use a plain or white jewel case, and make a label on your home computer. Materials are available at the local office supply store for mere dollars apiece, savings of over 600%.
- Skip the engraved marker for the front of your video case. A label works fine, and this is an unnecessary effect.
- Post select parts of your video on your personal wedding website for your friends and family to see, rather than making copies from your master video…a process that quickly damages your video.
- After the professional videographer leaves, have a friend or relative capture the remaining hours, and the after party, or his or her own videocamera. Especially in these later hours, great footage is still to come. Don’t miss a moment.
- And with both types of photo experts, know that you’ll pay extra for any assistants they bring along on the day. So ask each pro if they bring an assistant and at what cost, and know that the assistant gets added to your headcount for the caterers’ bill (Yes, they get to eat too). You might be able to cut this expense if you choose a one-camera videotaping option rather than a three-camera option.
Sharon Naylor is the author of 1001 Ways to Save Money and Still Have a Dazzling Wedding, plus 30 additional wedding books, www.sharonnaylor.net