HOW TO FIND A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Looking for a wedding photographer can be a daunting task – and knowing what to look for, what to expect and what to ask can have your head spinning. I’ve put together this quick guide to get your wheels moving in the right direction. One quick word to the wise – before all else, trust your intuition. Even if a photographer has years of experience and ticks every box in I’ve listed below, if it doesn’t feel right – move on.
Be sure to do some homework ahead of time. Learn what style of photography speaks to you and your partner. Not the technical aspects, but the look and feel of the images that tend to leap out at you. Create a Pinterest inspiration board (if you haven’t already) and start collecting/pinning these types of photos. Once you have a good selection, go back and starting sifting through them with your partner narrowing down what style of images that truly speak to you.
When narrowing down your selections, be sure to “future proof” your images. Picking a photo with some trendy vibe to it may seem awesome today, but will it 5, 10 or 15 years from now? For example, look back through your Instagram feed from 2 or 3 years ago – how does that trendy-at-the-time filter look to you now? Likely not that flattering. While some photos may be cool and creative today, be considerate of your future self – I’m comfortable saying that as we age those wild filters, colour trends etc. won’t look so awesome on our walls.
Here are some questions to ask potential photogs as you search for your wedding photographer…
1. WHAT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE?
Right out of the gate, this is what you need to know. Ask prospective photographers to describe their style to you as well as their approach to a wedding day. Ask to see a complete wedding – start to finish to see if their visuals match their words (read below for more on this). Are you on the same page style-wise?
2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER, AND HOW MANY WEDDINGS HAVE YOU SHOT AS THE LEAD PHOTOGRAPHER?
This one is good to ask early to gauge your potential photographer’s experience when it comes to weddings. Are weddings all they shoot, or do they shoot many different niches (newborn, commercial, landscapes)? Now you can compare their experience and level of wedding specialization to what you and your partner are truly looking for. Would you be comfortable with a ‘jack of all trades’ or would you prefer a specialist? Would you be as comfortable with a photographer who shoots 5-10 weddings each year part-time or someone who does 20, 30 or more full-time?
Many photographers start out assisting another photographer at weddings learning the ins and outs of weddings. Assisting is a very valuable learning tool – however, taking the reigns and leading the way on a wedding day is a whole new ball game. You’ll want to know your photographer’s competency level before letting them take the reigns on one of the most important days in your lives. When something comes up (and ‘things’ nearly always come up at weddings) you’ll need to have confidence that your lead photographer is prepared to handle it and even offer sound advice.
3. ASK TO SEE ENTIRE WEDDING DAY GALLERIES
This is best to do early on in the process. With technology what it is today, it takes no more than a couple minutes for a photographer to locate and email a link to a complete wedding day gallery. In fact, I would request at least 2 complete galleries from similar venues and season to your wedding. ie. a Fall wedding at a Golf & Country Club.
Wedding photography is a very unique niche – it involves every photography discipline to pull off a kickass wedding shoot. It requires the photographer be strong in product photography (rings, details, decor), architectural photography (wedding venue, getting-ready rooms), portrait photography (bride, groom, couples), group photography (large groups, small groups), children photos (working with kids can be tricky), indoor and outdoor, daytime and nighttime imagery, a wide array of lighting situations… they need to be able to shoot in all of these conditions with ease while at the same time managing bridal parties, families and guests.
On every photographer’s website you’re only seeing the best of the best images, carefully curated. A complete gallery will show you how that photographer handles the different individual parts of the day. Maybe they have great photos outside in natural light, however they struggle indoors under poor getting-ready and reception lighting? Is there consistency to their photos throughout the day? A couple complete galleries will provide you with far more information than any portfolio or blog post.
4. GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
Contracts. You should require a contract from your wedding photographer. The contract should have details like what services they’ll be providing including details of the package you selected. It should also include pricing, payment terms, termination terms, print release terms, copyright terms etc. A contract protects you as well as the wedding photographer. Be skeptical of photographers who “don’t typically create contracts for clients.” Be sure you have a copy safely tucked away.
Insurance. Professional wedding photographers should have appropriate business insurance. Proper insurance protects the photographer against theft and more importantly it provides liability protection just in case Great Uncle Joe trips over a photographer’s camera bag and injures himself. If a wedding photographer does not have insurance, chances are they’re new to the industry or they’re simply not taking their business seriously.
All of my clients receive a detailed contract for their records and Vaughn Barry Photography has business, gear and liability insurance.
5. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECEIVE THE FINAL IMAGES?
Turnaround time varies from photographer to photographer however this is an important question to ask. Some studios will do minimal, or no post-production (colour correction, edits etc.) to try and entice you with a very fast return of your images ie. a week or even next day. Most wedding photographers however will take the necessary care and time to post-produce their images in times that can range from 2 weeks to 4 or 5 months.
At Vaughn Barry Photography, I’ve developed a consistent post-production process and schedule that allows me to deliver an amazing product in an efficiently fast time frame. For weddings in peak season (summer through fall), my schedule for delivery is 6-7 weeks. In off-peak season, you can expect 4-5 weeks. For engagement or family sessions you can expect a 3 week turnaround time for your images.
6. WHAT IS YOUR BACKUP PROCESS?
I’m categorizing backups in two areas – gear and image backup. Let’s start with gear. A professional wedding photographer will carry a backup camera, batteries, memory cards as well as multiple lenses. Cameras are machines, and as a result they are subject to failure just like any other mechanical device. A backup camera is an absolute must for a professional – what if the camera fails, the memory card fills/fails or batteries fail just as the first kiss is taking place? A professional wedding photographer will be prepared with a backup.
Images need to be backed up. A professional will have a process in place to ensure that the images are backed up in multiple locations.
At Vaughn Barry Photography, I’ve developed a process where my wedding photos are backed up multiple times. Starting with my cameras – I use professional camera bodies that have dual memory card slots so that every photo I take is automatically recorded on both memory cards simultaneously throughout the wedding day. When I arrive home after the wedding, one memory card goes directly to my fireproof safe while the images are also copied to my main working hard drive where they wait to be edited. One additional backup is also made to an external hard drive for an additional backup.
Be wary of any wedding photographer that doesn’t have or isn’t able to detail their backup gear and storage process.
Finally, throughout the entire correspondence and in-person meeting process you should have strong connection with your photographer. This goes back to my first comment about “feel”. Your photographer will be with you and your friends/family the entire wedding day – make sure they’re someone you really like and get along with.
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