I want to preface this by saying that I think all true professionals deserve to be paid for their work. Even if it’s an art, if someone puts time and effort and skill into creating something for you, they deserve to be compensated in some way. Engagement pictures in Los Angeles (and simply living in Los Angeles) are expensive. But it’s also expensive for the photographer, who spends hours both before and after the shoot preparing, then editing, as well as coordinating with you.
That being said, there are several reasons I (as a full-time, professional photographer) give away engagement photos, or alternative ways you can get some nice photos. I’m listing them from my top choice down to what you should NEVER do to get a photographer.
Book a Wedding with a Los Angeles Wedding Photographer
I love getting to know my couples before the wedding day. So if someone books a wedding with me, I almost always discount or include an engagement shoot, and I’ve seen quite a few photographers who do this. Even if they don’t advertise it on their website, talk to your photographer and see if they could offer you a discount for an engagement shoot. Especially if you’re willing to work around their schedule, I have never charged full price to one of my couples if they’ve booked me for their wedding and discover they want to do engagement photos.
Offer a Trade for Free Engagement Photos
If you have something to offer in trade for free engagement photos (a service, something you make, a gift certificate, etc), give it a shot! I’ve traded free photo sessions for soap, essential oils, pizza, costume design, and coffee. I’m a big fan of bartering. Be up front about it, and make sure you offer a good value for your trade.
Enter a Contest (or Two… or Three… or Four…)
A family friend once told me that their son and future daughter-in-law didn’t have a ton of money to spend on the wedding, so they entered hundreds of wedding-related contests and ended up winning several very nice, high-quality services! If you have some time, the internet is an amazing resource to find contests. BUT BEWARE. Nothing good is ever free, so figure out the angle and be careful of websites or scams that are just looking to steal your info or money.
Find Someone Who is Portfolio Building (and offer to pay for gas)
If you find some local wedding or photography communities (via FaceBook or otherwise) and post looking for free photos, you can most likely get some responses from students or people looking to break in to weddings. Keep in mind that most of these people are willing to work for free for a reason. But do your research, look carefully, and most likely you can find someone decent and get a few good photos back! (If you don’t know what you’re looking for, check out my article on “How to Find a Good Photographer.” If you have a good experience with them, make sure to let them know what they did right and what they did wrong! Especially if you’re in a well-populated area, you should have some decent options.
DON’T Offer “Exposure” (Unless you’re Jennifer Aniston)
Among professional photographers, it’s a running joke about self-proclaimed celebrities wanting free photos. Why? Because they don’t usually bring in new clients. Now, I frequently do photoshoots with select individuals (aspiring models, actors, etc) where we come up with a concept together, hang out, have coffee, encourage each other, and do a fun photoshoot. But other than portfolio building and meeting awesome creatives, I’ve never gotten any new clients from them.
I hope this helps! If you have any other ideas, feel free to comment below and I might add them to this article to help other couples!