ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CHOOSING YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
There are a lot of photographers out there. And that’s great – it really is! Photography is a medium that can be incredibly powerful, and it’s wonderful seeing so many people enjoying the creative process.
It’s just that, well, you don’t want to trust just anyone to take your wedding photos. This is one job you may want to leave to the pros.
Full disclosure, I’m a wedding photographer. I’ve been shooting weddings for some time, so what I’m writing about here is based on the experience of meeting hundreds of brides and grooms, and photographing hundreds of weddings. In addition, I spoke with a number of newlyweds and have included their input as well. The result? The ultimate guide to helping you choose your wedding photographer.
WHERE TO LOOK
The best places to check will be Instagram and individual websites for photographers, which you’ll need to search for. Other good places to look will include facebook and pinterest, but don’t forget to ask for referrals from friends and family – word of mouth is a great time saver!
Or, you can also try this bride’s approach. “This may sound creepy, but we looked through stranger’s wedding photos on facebook”
(click here to read more on how to your perfect wedding vendor)
Using keywords like “[your city] wedding photographer” is helpful, but also try ‘best reviews’, ‘award winning’ and other combinations. You may want to go beyond the first page of google results – being a great photographer doesn’t necessarily mean you are great at SEO. And consider giving Google Images a try for your search – this can help in the early stages of determining a photographer you like, or a style you are drawn to.
For instagram, follow local hashtags like #[your city]weddingphotographer (or variations of this) to see what kind of work is being published. Instagram is a great way to see current photographers and the images they are creating.
Most couples look at well over 20 portfolios – in fact, I heard multiple time from people who reviewed over 100 different photographer portfolios in their search!
CHOOSING A STYLE
There are many different styles, with lots of descriptive words like documentary, traditional, fine art, dramatic, lifestyle, etc. Don’t get hung up on the name. Find some images that move you or a style that you feel strongly about, and that is what you should focus on. Look for photos that can make you feel emotionally connected to the people in the picture in addition to the style the photographer uses.
You may also want to give some thought to the photos that matter most to you. Do you like more candid photos, or posed? Are party photos your thing, or are you more interested in bridal portraits?
MEET IN PERSON
Finding a photographer with a personality that matches you is VITAL! In fact, this may be the single most important thing you look for when choosing a photographer. You could be spending more time with your photographer on your wedding day than with your family and closest friends! Make sure that you can get along well with them.
“Wedding photography should really be about the personality and rapport with the photographer – they have the ability to bring out the best in you.”
How many should you contact? Many brides are reaching out to 5-7 photographers to discuss their wedding (sometimes more, sometimes less – your experience may vary). From there, they will often meet with 2-3 in person.
“My husband and I chose people that were like-minded to us. People that we would want to grab a beer with.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
When you meet with a potential photographer, most often you want to hear about how they shoot and how they get their great images. Here is a list of other questions you may consider asking. You are trusting them to capture your wedding photos – make sure they take the job seriously.
Describe how you work, how you operate during the wedding day?
What kind of preparation do you do in advance?
Do you work alone or with another photographer?
What kind of backup equipment do you have?
How are you storing the digital files – do you keep multiple copies both on and off site?
How long does it take to deliver the files?
Do you use a contract?
Do you have business insurance?
Who owns the rights to the photos?
What are the photographers plans for the photos when the wedding is over?
How much editing should you expect to be done to the photos after the wedding?
Also consider asking some event specific questions:
What do you think the lighting situation is going to be for my wedding (indoor, outdoor, time of day/year)?
Are you comfortable shooting in that kind of situation? Do you prefer available light or flash or both?
Can I see a sample wedding shot in a similar venue or situation as my wedding?
It’s one thing to find a great artist, but you also want someone who is a professional. Knowing that your images are being well cared for is nearly as important as how amazing they look. Ask anyone who’s photographer has lost images due to a corrupted card or a failed hard drive how important this stuff is.
Make sure you are looking at examples of full weddings, rather than just a portfolio of the photographers best photos. Look at several weddings, start to finish, to see how they handle each section of the wedding day.
And contrary to some people’s advice, you should allow yourself to get caught up in the emotion on display – this is exactly the type of reaction you want when you view YOUR wedding photos! Find someone who takes images that move you.
“Go with your gut feeling – this is one vendor that will most likely evoke an emotional response in you from their work, drawing you to their images, as it is their art.”
Wedding photographers do not follow a set pattern for their pricing, and that can make it confusing to compare one photographer with another. Some have their pricing on their website, others will send the information to you upon request. Some photographers prefer an a la carte method, while others offer packages. There usually aren’t hidden fees, though some photographers may be less clear about what’s included.
Don’t be afraid to ask for something different if you don’t see it, such as different hours or alternative album choices. Having said that, in many markets there are only so many weekends that a wedding photographer can work, so if you are looking for reduced coverage for a saturday wedding in August, you may find some photographers are unwilling to negotiate on what will likely be a busy day for inquiries.
The first step? Make a list of what you really want (such as digital files, multiple photographers, engagement session, wedding album, number of hours of coverage) and ask for pricing specific to your needs. Be open and honest about these things and what you are looking to spend – no sense being coy as this isn’t a used car you are buying.
And consider this – in a recent survey of newlyweds, couples shared their biggest regrets, and not spending enough on a photographer was one of the most popular comments.
“Do NOT be cheap for your photographer, when you’re looking back at your photos months later, you want to know you paid for the best quality! I am so glad we spent the money we did on our photos!”
(click here for more budgeting advice for your wedding)
TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
One final thought here. For best results, find a photographer whose style you love, and then let them do their thing to capture your day in that style. Asking them to change or to be something they are not, to shoot differently than what they have shown you is a recipe for disappointment.
“Pick someone who has a style you love, don’t pick someone based on price and expect them to change how they shoot and edit, it won’t happen.”
By all means, discuss with them the photos that are most important to you. But if you need electrical work done around your house, you don’t hire a plumber to do the job just because their prices were lower.
“The most important thing that factored in for us was how we got along and that I could have complete trust in the photographer, that they had everything under control – they were prepared, knew a schedule for the day and kept everything going smoothly without me having to worry.”
A good photographer will calmly and quietly keep your day running smoothly, make the photography fun, and overall help make the day as wonderful as you hope it to be. Don’t settle for less.