Consider this more of a rant than an actual how-to article, and possibly a bit one-sided as well since I am a photographer. You need a wedding photographer, you’ve made the decision to get married and you want to remember that day as best you can, for as long as it takes until you get divorced. You have a budget though, so there are things that need to be taken into consideration and places where you need to shave some money out of the budget to pay for more important things, like booze.

What are you to do? You know hiring a professional wedding photographer is going to cost you some serious money, but the photographs they produce will be simply amazing, what other options do you have? Craigslist! Perfect, chances are you can find someone on here for half or maybe even less than a pro and because they probably shoot digital, you’ll still get amazing photographs, let’s work a deal. This is a directly from a Philadelphia listing:

I NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER AT A WEDDING IN 2 WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MY BEST FRIEND IS GETTING MARRIED. SHE NEEDS A PHOTOGRAPHER. IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO HAVE A PORTFOLIO MADE FOR SCHOOL OR SUCH. EXPERIENCE IS NOT NECESSARY BUT YOU MUST BRING SAMPLE PHOTOS OF ANYTHING SO I CAN SEE HOW CLEAR THEY ARE AND HOW PROFESSIONAL THEY LOOK. IF NECESSARY I WILL PROVIDE PHOTO ALBUM AND HELP PURCHASE YOUR FILM AND WHAT NOT. THIS JOB IF FOR THE RIGHT PERSON MUST HAVE GREAT PERSONALITY. I WANT TO HELP YOU BETTER YOURSELF AND YOUR CAREER WHILE YOU HELP ME REMEMBER THIS EVENT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE………..SERIOUS INQUIRES ONLY. YOU WILL BE COMPENSATED FOR THIS AS WELL!!!!!!!! NOTHING IS FREE DON’T EVER SELL YOURSELF SHORT. I WILL PAY YOU WHAT YOU ARE WORTH.

I’ll break this down as best I can to show you how wrong this really is.

I need a photographer at a wedding in 2 weeks. Most weddings are planned months in advance, thus, photographers are booked months in advance. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find one, it just means your selection will be drastically reduced to who is available and you may need to pay a premium because of the short notice. You don’t take a package to the post office on Thursday and ask to have it shipped overnight for the same price as regular mail because you forgot to take it in on Monday, do you?

If you are looking to have a portfolio made for school or such. I’m sorry, that doesn’t make sense to me, are you in the print, book, or binding industry?

Experience is not necessary. Fine, you shoot it then!

Must bring sample photos or anything so I can see how clear they are and how professional they look. Wait a minute, you just told me that experience is not necessary, now you want to see how clear they look, whatever that means, and how professional they look? Clearly you must be confused, I know I am.

If necessary I will provide photo album and help purchase your film and what not. Most wedding photographers have access to albums that are not usually available to the general public, if you want something nice and you want it to last, get it from them. I’m not sure of many photographers these days that use film, so that won’t be of much help.

This job if for the right person must have a great personality. And I agree and willing to go out on a limb to say that most wedding photographers enjoy working with people and capturing the moments you have. If they didn’t, they would shoot wildlife or landscapes.

I want to help you better yourself and your career while you help me remember this event for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for your deep concern about my persona life. Shooting your wedding will not help me in any other way than financially though. Unless you are a booking agent or have a dozen friends who are getting married who are not low-balling, cheap bastards, or you are the advertising representative for a magazine or billboard company, how exactly do you plan on helping my career?

Serious inquiries only. For serious?

You will be compensated for this as well!!!!!!!! Wow, 8 exclamation points. You must seriously be willing to compensate me; however you have not listed what your budget is.

Nothing is free, don’t sell yourself short. Again, thank you for this great life lesson.

I will pay you what you are worth. This is somewhat confusing to me. How are you to justify what my worth is, especially if you are looking for someone with little or no experience? Is this to say that you are willing to let them eat at the wedding and that should be compensation enough? Maybe gas money?

Here’s the thing, photography is very much a form of art. It is much more than a wedding album or the cost of film, you are paying for someones talent and time. Looking for an inexpensive way to get a wedding or any event photographed is not a bad thing, hiring students or assistants for the event is completely acceptable as well. That said, an understanding should be made that when you hire someone like this, you need to accept the fact that accidents could happen, you may not get you the best quality images, they may miss critical elements of the event or be slightly out of focus, etc., these things all could happen, it is the price you pay for accepting someone of lesser talent to save some money.

Photography is service; you pay for the talent of the photographer much in the same way you pay for the talent of a chef at a good restaurant. At the restaurant, food is the outcome. With a photographer, prints are the outcome; these trigger memories for all involved. I know of no one who has gone to the grocery store to buy a steak and taken it into a restaurant and asked the chef to make it for them, why would you do this to a photographer?

Don’t tell me how shooting your event will help build my portfolio; chances are I have enough friends and family to shoot for free to help me build a decent portfolio. Let’s not get this twisted and make me feel like you are helping me out, you, the client, are in need of service. Unless you have several friends who are in need of paid photography service or you can grow my business by means of free or cheap advertising, don’t insult me.

Be aware of your timeframe, the less time you have to an event, the less photographers you will have to choose from. Additionally, you may need to pay extra because of the short notice.

Be realistic with your expectations. If you want great, long lasting images, get someone who has been doing this for a while and has an established portfolio and a list of people who have recommended them. If you are on a tighter budget, don’t expect to get the best of the best, realize that there could be some speed bumps along the way.