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Tips to Find a Simcha Photographer on a budget

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Capturing the memories of a simcha (celebration) is one of the most important elements of the day, whether it’s a bar or bat mitzvah, wedding, or any other kind of event. The ceremony and festivities will likely only last a few hours – maybe a weekend at most – and then it’s all over. The only real way to keep the memories, other than simply remembering them, is to record them through photographs, video, or a combination.

And while there are certainly limitations (for example, observant Jews will not use electronics on Shabbat, so filming or taking a photograph during a bar or bat mitzvah would be inappropriate in orthodox and most conservative synagogues in Toronto), there are still plenty of ways to capture the day’s events.

And while there is no shortage of wedding photographers and bar and bat mitzvah photographers in Toronto, their prices can frequently be cost prohibitive for many people. One of the reasons for this is that for freelance and self-employed photographers and videographers, work is not steady like a salaried job, and as such, their prices tend to reflect the fact that they work inconsistently. However, that should not become the problem for hosts and hostesses of bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings, and as such, there are plenty of alternate routes than simply paying a premium for photographers and videographers.

For example, one option may be directly approaching college students who are studying or about to graduate in a photography or video-related program. While not technically professionals, these students have all the knowledge and skill that experienced photographers and videographers would possess, and furthermore, their skills would be as current and up-to-date as could possibly be desired. A number of colleges in the Toronto area offer photography and video-related programs, including Seneca College, Humber College, and George Brown College, as well.

A direct route to finding these students would simply be to contact the program coordinator or dean, explain that you are hosting and organizing a wedding or a bar or bat mitzvah, and you are looking to hire one or more of their students to take photographs or a video of the ceremony and celebration. For a competitive price – perhaps $25 per hour – you could purchase a flash drive at a Toronto Staples store, give it to the students, let them take photos for the duration of the celebration, and then at the end, they would give you back the flash drive, and you can do as you see fit with the images that they have taken.

While this option does require a bit more legwork to get off the ground, it offers a mutual benefit to both the celebration organizer, and to the students, as well. For the students, they are given a great opportunity to build their portfolio, take images at a wedding or bar or bat mitzvah, and get paid for a few hours of work. For you, it’s a golden opportunity to find skilled and willing photographers and videographers at a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a professional team. If two photography students take photos at a wedding for six hours, the total cost would only be $300 plus the cost of the flash drives. For two professional photographers, the retail price would probably be well over one thousand dollars for a comparable job.

If finding college students isn’t quite what you’re looking for, consider using the internet as a tool. Visit websites like Craigslist Toronto or Kijiji Toronto, contact photographers and videographers directly, and try and negotiate a price. The biggest difference between these professionals and others is that many of these photographers and videographers on Craigslist or Kijiji are freelancers, and not necessarily part of a larger company or organization. As a result, their prices may be more competitive because they would not be charging you overhead, but rather only their fees. While this option would almost certainly be more expensive than hiring a student or two (or more), it is also likely cheaper than hiring a formal wedding or bar or bat mitzvah company to chronicle the ceremony and celebration.

If the prices are still prohibitive, it may be time to get creative. Regardless of the type of celebration, consider making and printing out a simple yet detailed explanation of the wedding or bar/bat mitzvah ceremony for guests. Not only is this helpful for guests who will find themselves unable to understand what is happening, but it is also a great and unique opportunity to potentially lower the cost for your vendors, including videographers and photographers. For example, in the wedding or bar/bat mitzvah pamphlet, alongside information about the wedding procession or the explanations of what is happening in the ceremony, offer to include a small advertisement for the photographer and videographer, in exchange for a reduced rate for their services. It is certainly an unorthodox option for lowering the price for your celebration, but there is never any harm in simply asking; the worst response would simply be a no. And in the best case scenario, the price difference could prove to be significant.

When it comes to being creative and saving money, another option could also be considered. To a close family member or friend, consider asking them, in lieu of bringing a gift to the wedding or bar or bat mitzvah, to take photographs instead. This would have to be a close friend or family member, as the request is certainly unusual, but it could prove to be beneficial for both the host and the guest. For the guests, they have the opportunity to save themselves from the obligation of buying a gift, and for the host, they get photographs at a far cheaper rate than they would have found anywhere else. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone.

Of course, there is one final option, and it is the most controversial: cut out the videographer and/or photographers altogether. Someone who got married or became a bar/bat mitzvah in 2005 or earlier probably had the event video recorded on a VHS tape. In 2015, such tapes are not only obsolete, but simply playing them would prove to be a challenge, and while a videographer today would use DVDs or MP3s, in 10 or 15 years in the future, the quality will improve so much that it will leave today’s recordings looking very shabby by comparison. So consider saving the money, taking a few photos yourself and with friends, and leaving the rest inside your memory. Because while photos and videos are a great way to capture moments at a celebration, the images will never be as vivid as the memories inside your mind, so keep the memories where they belong: inside your head.