Weddings are a really big deal… I rephrase your wedding is a really big freaking deal!!! If time is money. Calculate not only the money you spend on your wedding but time you put into it….. wait on second thought, don’t do that, you don’t want to know! Some things are better left unknown!!! But, chances are, it’s A LOT. Photos (and possibly video if you opt for that) are all you have left of your wedding day. That’s it. (well, and the spouse of course) I hope to give you a few simple tips and tricks that will help with choosing your wedding photographer.
All of this time and effort you put into hand made centerpieces (that guest take home with them, if you follow tradition), and the hours spent figuring out seating arrangements, are all over in a flash, that you don’t fully remember (sometimes due to trauma). So it stands to reason that who you choose to be your wedding photographer is, arguably, the most important decision you make for your wedding day! No pressure… (I’m talking to myself here, not you ;))
I’ve been photographing weddings for 10 years now. I’ve picked up a thing or two during the consultation process that may help you in choosing your wedding photographer (yes even if that’s not me!)
#1 You Must Like Your Photographer!
This seems obvious right? Actually, you’d be surprised!
I’ve done a consult or two in my day where the Bride (that’s usually who I deal with the most) and I just don’t jive. She loves my work but never once cracks a smile during the consultation. I will try an array of jokes, weird faces and sarcasm to get a reaction from people to feel them out…. and this one, nada. I reached across the table and told the girl, I can’t be your photographer. She looked back at me in shock and awe and possibly a little anger or disgust asking, why? And the reason was simple, not once during the consultation had she found me funny or charming. This is important, to me, I thrive on genuine laughter and smiles in my work, and it’s a vital part of my process to have comfortable clients that feel free enough to be themselves with me. That just wasn’t happening here….
Don’t be afraid to tell a vendor that they aren’t a good fit for you. Weddings are a big deal and you need to feel comfortable with all vendors involved, the photographer most of all… They will be with you for 90% of the day, talking to you all day, guiding you all day, photographing intimate moments. Weddings are a big deal, like who your photographer is as a person, not just the photos.
#2 Style Matters
What’s your photography style? Candid, Epic, Artsy, Documentary… the list goes on and on… In what way do you want your wedding captured? Do you want art for your walls after the wedding, or do you want an album filled with black and white images of moments you can relive time and time again? Would you prefer a photographer who will interact with you all day fitting into your wedding seamlessly or someone who is going to take charge of your group and be assertive? These are important things to think about when choosing your photographer.
Everyone has a different eye and style and there are different styles in every price range, I promise. OK, so how do you know what your style is…. This is the best way I’ve found: Make a pin board of 10 wedding images you LOVE!!! Yes only 10! Then look them over… what’s the common denominator between the images? (if you need help here email your board to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to help you!) Why 10? because it chooses you to focus and when you start to narrow them down you start to really see what it is you like! Choose a photographer, that you like, that also has a portfolio and a style you love.
#3 Everyone is SO Expensive!
It was very tempting to leave this out, and just make this a 5 ways to choose your photographer. Wish we could leave money out of the equation all together, to be hones, alas we cannot. Photographers can go on and on telling you about how much money we have invested, how it takes me 60 hrs or more to complete your wedding and album and when you boil down the dollars after time spent, secondary paid, expenses, etc etc… that I make a measly hourly wage, but that won’t change the fact that you only have so much money you can spend on your wedding.
I can tell you that there are photographers in your area in all price ranges. People starting out, people highly experienced and everything in between. But, what about “you get what you pay for”… by and large you do! This is my advise to you, devise a list of what matters to you for your wedding photography and make sure that whatever is on your list isn’t something a less expensive photographer cut a corner on when developing their packages. This way you know you’re getting what’s important to you.
#4 Experience Matters
But how do you get experience if no one will give you a chance? This isn’t something YOU have to worry about on YOUR wedding day. Weddings are a big deal, so hiring that college student willing to shoot your wedding for a portfolio might not appeal to you. That’s okay!
What if the lights go out at your venue? Once, I had groomsmen so drunk I had to photograph them whizzing on the plants in the back yard! Can the photographer handle adverse situations? Heaven forbid but what if the camera malfunctions mid wedding!? Shit happens, and you want someone who’s been there done that or at very least, is prepared! Don’t be scared to ask tough questions. Ask about a replacement if ill, equipment failures, backup equipment, if they have a fast getaway car in-case you change your mind…
Ask about challenging situations, ask about the weirdest thing they’ve had happen to them at a wedding. Do you like the way they handled the question and the situation? With every wedding and every shoot we grow and learn something, experience is a good thing, and a must have when choosing a photographer.
#5 When to RUN
OK who’s seen Jurassic World? Remember Bryce Dallas Howard screaming RUNNNN in that epic scene, no…. well it went like this……
Your wedding is important, remember, and you want to make sure the person photographing it believes that too! (also run if they tell you they shoot on an iPhone, but that should be a given.) The contract will (or should) lay out, specific expectations for the entire process. From when you should expect your proofs to what happens if you miss a payment, it should all be there. Hell, mine even includes a cake clause… It’s on the front page, right under where you send your payment, it’s serious business! I am a professional.
#6 Make Sure You’re Speaking The Same Language
There are SO many blogs, TLC shows and facebook groups out there about weddings, and almost every planning site has a list of questions you should ask your photographer. The question I get asked the most is: “Will my photos be edited?” ummm, yeah of course… I take them from the camera, put my little tweaks on them as far as coloring or black and white and then, and only then, may you see them. (Accept for the ones I show you on the back of the camera on the wedding day, cause sometimes they are too awesome not to gush right away)
This might not mean “edited” to you. Clients are often under the impression they will be perfectly retouched, in every photo, like the cover of Vogue. Let me tell you, if that were to happen, you’d never get your images back because fully airbrushing hundreds of images takes, forever! So, what am I getting at? Industry professionals usually speak a different and more technical language than you, the client. We do our best to manage your expectations, but you can help by defining what your requests mean to you. When you say edited, what do you mean specifically? I ask this every consult and explain what terms I use to define each action. Retouched, Airbrushed, Edited, etc. make sure you are on the same page with your photographer to avoid any confusion.
I hope you’ve found this list helpful! And as an extra tid-bit of info, this one of my favorite lists ever written about wedding photographers:
Happy Wedding planning!!!