Some tips for choosing the right wedding photographer for you
The downside of any wedding day, is that it’s just – one – single – day. The upside is that a great wedding photographer can provide you with a return ticket to each moment. With wonderful photographs that help you relive the emotion, the big moments, the side moments… and do it all with gorgeous images. When you speak to couples about their wedding day and any regrets they may have had – do they really ever mention the colour of their table cloths, the arrangement of the bouquet or the limo bar? Nope. But unfortunately you do hear of couples who regret not having budgeted for an awesome wedding photographer.
A friend with a nice camera isn’t necessarily a photographer. My mother-in-law once made a comment that she loved some recent wedding photos I’d taken… “Oh I just love those photos, I really wish I had a camera like yours.” Now I love my mother-in-law dearly (and an amazing cook by the way) and I know she meant it entirely as a compliment. Later at the dinner table my moment arose… she had just prepared another amazingly tasty dinner and I spoke up, “This is so, so amazingly tasty, I really wish I had a stove like yours.” Of course everyone cracked up and had a laugh – but I think it’s on-point for this post. Of course her stove had nothing to do with the incredible meal she’d prepared… it was her experience, her passion, her creativity and her amazing talent.
Weddings are unlike any other photography discipline in that they include all of the different areas. Wedding photographers are required to do portraits of individuals & groups, product shots of the rings, details etc, landscape/architecture of the venues/grounds, indoors with & without natural lighting, outdoors in rain/snow etc… not to mention managing all the different personalities of the guests and bridal party. And with all this in mind, weddings also run on a timeline… there are no second-zies, no do-overs.
I don’t feel there’s a need to talk about photographer or photography styles in this post – that’s in the eye of the beholder, we like what we like. However, here are a few points to look out for when choosing your wedding photographer…
BEST PRACTICES: Do your homework…
- Google ’em. First things first, Google the photographer and their business name. Read reviews, comments, anything you find. References are outdated – they’re not going to provide you with a bad reference are they?
- Follow ’em. Read their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds as well as their blog. What are people saying about and to them – how do they interact with their followers?
- Meet ’em. Sit down over a coffee and have a basic conversation with them about their style, business, your wedding but also life in general. Get to know them as people – do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling towards them? Your photographer will be the vendor you spend the most time with on your wedding day, being a good fit personality-wise cannot be overstated. Trust your gut.
- Define your own style. What style suits you? Dive into Pinterest if you haven’t already – collect sample photo ideas that resonate with you and your partner. Then start looking for photographers that have similar styles. Photography is like music, there are all kinds of styles/genres for both.
- Book early. The best photographers are typically booked well in advance – between one and two years out is quite common for prime dates ie. Saturdays, Summer and Fall seasons
- Crowd source. The best info you can pick up is by getting a referral from a friend, family member etc. Ask around to see which photographer names keep coming up.
MEETING: Personality meets style.
- Ask to see an entire wedding. Professionals can easily send you a link to a client gallery that has a whole day of coverage. If you only see a few photos that blow you away while the rest are just so-so then that’s a good sign that they just got lucky on those few.
- Ask to see a couple of wedding albums. Albums are something that absolutely must be seen to appreciate so a pro photographer should be excited to show his work off in this fashion. Not all albums are created equal – photobook vs flushmount album? Huge difference.
- What to look for in a good photo? That varies person to person however key things to look for are exposure, composition and sharpness. These are three areas that can clearly identify a new photographer from a pro. Creativity and emotional connection are two other areas to pay attention to. Are they primarily snapshots or can you truly feel the moments in their images? How do the people in the photos look – do they look natural or uncomfortable?
- Ask how many weddings they’ve shot and how many years they’ve been a professional.
- Turn around time? How long do they typically take to get the photos, albums etc. to you?
- Have they shot at your particular wedding venue before? If so, ask to see images.
- The most important thing to look for has nothing to do with sight – it’s the feeling you get when you jive with someone. Do your personalities mesh? Is this someone you can spend an entire day with and enjoy every moment?
- Ask the photographer to run through a sample timeline of the day from getting ready photos through ceremony, bridal party, dinner, reception etc. An experienced photographer can provide you with invaluable feedback with respect to your timeline.
BUSINESSY STUFF: No contract? Move on. Deal breaker – that simple.
- Get everything in writing with a signed contract. Your package details, cancellation policy, payment schedule… everything.
- Does the contract provide a print release allowing you to print the photos at a lab of your choosing – or are you obligated to order prints through the photographer?
- Insurance. What kind of photography-specific business insurance coverage do they have in place?
- Payment options. Ask what the payment schedule looks like, when each payment is due and how much. Ask what the available payment options are so you can choose the best one for you.
- Budget. Know what you’re able to spend – truthfully.
TECHNICAL STUFF: Your eyes may glaze over, however a few questions to ask and answers to look for…
- Dual-Card Slots. Professionals typically use cameras with two memory card slots so every photo captured can be written to both cards – security if one card fails. If they don’t recognize the value in this backup feature then keep looking – they’re rolling the dice with your wedding day photos.
- Backup Process. It goes without saying, however it only takes a second to ask… ask what the photographer’s backup process is. You’re looking for answers that include backing up the photos at least 3 times as soon as they arrive home from the shoot – at the latest. You want cautious backer-up-ers in this area.
- Backup equipment. No pro shows up to a wedding without multiple cameras, lenses, batteries, memory cards etc. Walking down the aisle is a one-time event however cameras are machines and like any piece of equipment, they can fail.
- Editing. Ask what their edit process is for a wedding day – do they edit all of the photos, just a few or none at all. If they don’t include some level of editing, pack up your stuff and move on to the next photographer on your list.
Hiring a professional to capture one of the most important days in your lives is a no-brainer. Don’t tempt regret, go pro.