Choosing a Photographer
Choosing a wedding photographer is unlike any other choice you will make as you plan your wedding. There are no other decisions that have such long term implications for how you remember your wedding day for the rest of your life. For this reason, there are some very important considerations you will want to make.
So many couples make their wedding planning choices based primarily on price. This does make sense for many of the things you need for your wedding. However, unlike the food, the dress, the flowers, or the music… your photography is not forgotten after the wedding. Your wedding photos are all that remain of the wedding day and you don’t get a second chance to get them right.
So, let’s talk about what’s really important…
You gotta LOVE your photographer!
You will spend a significant portion of your wedding day with your photographer. You will want to spend that time with people who enhance your experience and make it even more exciting. This is why its so important meet face to face with your photographer candidates before you book one. Meet them for coffee or a drink and get to know them a bit. If they are not someone you’d want to hang out with, then they are not your photographer – regardless how nice their portfolio looks or how low their prices are. Don’t settle for a mediocre experience on your wedding day. You deserve better!
You gotta LOVE their work!
There is a huge variety of photographic artistic styles out there. Which one is right for you? I suggest imagining yourself in the photos you see on each photographers website. When you do this, how does it feel? If you feel anything but excited and happy, they are not your photographer. Keep looking. You don’t want to have to give stylistic direction to your photographer so that you get images you love. You are hiring an artist and you should give them the artistic license to fulfill their vision. Just make sure that you love their vision by looking at a lot of their work.
You gotta TRUST your photographer!
Gaining trust in someone you’ve just met can be challenging. To some extent, you will need to make a leap of faith. So, in addition to meeting them in person, you should read their reviews and connect with their client references if possible. We collect client reviews onWeddingWire.com and Yelp.com but there are various other review sites out there. Be sure to ask each photographer for their reviews.
So how do you go about finding the right photographer? Here is the advice that I give to people I care about.
Ask your married friends and family about their photographer. There is nothing better than a referral from someone you already know and trust.
Many wedding photographers don’t have a studio that you can go visit so their website is their virtual storefront. Spend some time exploring their site. It will tell you a lot about them and how they run their business. If the site is outdated with broken links then that may the kind of photographer they are. If the site is clean and easy to navigate and understand then that is likely to be a photographer that is easy to work with and communicate with.
You’ll find the photographer’s portfolio on their website. These are the photos that the photographer believes to be their very best work. It is also the work that best represents their artistic style. If there are lots of different styles in their portfolio then it is hard to say what style photos you’d get from them from your wedding. Choosing a photographer with a consistent style that you love is very important.
Don’t forget to check out the photographer’s blog. This is typically updated much more frequently than the website itself and gives you a much better idea of the quality and style you could expect if you hired them. If a photographer hasn’t updated their blog in several months then that’s a red flag and you should wonder whether they are actively working in your market.
Speak with your photographer candidates
Whatever you do, DON’T simply send emails asking for pricing and package info. If you like the photographers’ work, and their online presence is promising, pick up the phone and call them and make a personal connection. The price list tells you nothing about the experience you’ll have. Make sure you get a feel for what they have to offer before ruling them out based on price alone.
Meeting in Person
When you finally meet in person with your short list of photographers, have some questions ready for them that will help you understand what it would be like to work with them. Here are some great things to ask/discuss when you meet:
- What is your style of direction and interaction with your clients when you’re shooting?
- How can you help us look our best in the photos?
- How does the wedding day flow with you as our photographer?
- How will we view our proofs after the wedding?
- When will our proofs be ready to view?
- How will my family and friends order prints after the wedding?
- What is included in each package and how are they priced?
- What add-ons may we be interested in and how are they priced?
- What kind of guarantee do you offer?
- May I give you direction about who/what to photograph on my wedding day?
- How will you make my wedding day coverage unique to me?
- What is the process with you after the wedding for proofs, ordering, delivery, etc.?
- Will you be shooting our wedding personally or is there a different photographer?
- Why are you a wedding photographer?
In addition to asking these types of questions, be sure to take some time to get to know them as a person. This will give you a much better idea about whether or not you want to spend a large part of the most important day of your life with them.
Stepping Up and Booking your Photographer
When it finally comes down to making the decision, trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel quite right, its probably not. If you really like the photographer then chances are that you will get great photos.
Before you sign on the dotted line, confirm exactly what you’re paying upfront and when the balance is due. Also be sure you understand what the payment and refund policies are. Most photographers (including us) make all payments non-refundable. However, by this point you are confident in your choice because you did your homework and your due diligence.
Finally, when you’ve booked your photographer, signed the contract and paid the retainer, its time to celebrate having made one of the most important decisions about your wedding. If your photographer is interested in providing fabulous experiences, they will be giving you a bottle of wine or champaign after you book. Crack that baby and have a toast to a fantastic wedding with amazing photographs that you will cherish for the rest of your life!