This post is a little bit long, but I wanted to make sure that if this is the only post you will read, that I include the most information so, read on to find out how to choose the RIGHT wedding photographer in 5 steps!
1. SETTLE ON A STYLE YOU LOVE!
The Portfolios - The first step in your search for a wedding or portrait photographer is to view their portfolios! Every decent photographer has a designated page on their website where they display their BEST work, the images that make their heart happy and they love to do over and over again. Too often we lack the time (especially during the busy season with TONS of hours of editing) to update our portfolios with our most recent work, and that’s when blogs come into play!
Blogs - Blog posts give you a roundup of the whole day’s best images, blog posts also showcase a variety of scenarios us photographer can encounter on a wedding day and looking through them will give you an idea of what you can expect and how the photographer handles each part of the day. Once you look through a few portfolios, decide which ones you absolutely LOVE!
Bright or dark? - Do you like more bright and airy images (like mine), or bolder, darker ones with heavy shadows? What type of venue do you have, is it a farm? Maybe a huge historic downtown building? We can only do so much as photographers and are NOT magicians, so if you love a farm wedding on a white venue but you are having a night wedding in a barn, your images can never look the same, so your venue can play an important role on how your images will turn out.
Bright or Dark?
What's their specialty? - Every photographer does best in a certain environment (indoors/outdoors) or thrives in natural (sunlight) or artificial (flashes and studio lights) light and their portfolio should give you an idea of what they do best! Most of us are hybrid photographers and we use natural light when possible and complement with artificial light to achieve consistency in dark rooms or to give your dark reception or ceremony a pop! The pictures below were taken in COMPLETELY different settings, the top ones were taken inside of a dark room with flash and the bottom was outside on a sunny day, I used flash otherwise the top pictures would have been too dark to create a cohesive editing style throughout the day.
Consistency - Keep in mind that any serious photographer will have an editing style and asking them to change it is not the way to go, we spend years (and thousands of hours) getting images just right and developing our style, so what you see is what you get, my style is a reflection of how I choose locations, look for lighting scenarios and preferred angles so if you like part of what a photographer does, go a little deeper and make sure you LOVE what you see. Being consistent is EXTREMELY HARD and some variations are acceptable (i.e.: dark barn vs. white capitol) but they should all overall look like they came from the same photographer.
Shooting style - There are a few approaches to shooting style. Does your photographer like very formal poses? Maybe they don’t pose at all and just blend in the background taking candid shots all day. Do they do funny stuff or stick to classic and elegant images? I believe that a good mix of formal and posed along with photo-journalistic and candid images is the best way to represent your wedding day. Photographing little details like your mom crying as she helps you get into your dress or your groom seeing you for the first time all require me to step back and just capture the moment, while photographing the new Mr. & Mrs. at sunset will come as a combination of poses and capturing the JUST MARRIED joy!
2. BE AWARE OF YOUR BUDGET
Finding pricing - Do you have a budget you are working with? Most people do, so try to be mindful of that when looking around. A lot of photographers don’t show their pricing online AT ALL, and some show a starting price; that should give prospects an idea of who they can afford and who they absolutely cannot.
You are making an investment - Let me say that wedding photography IS AN INVESTMENT, especially if you are spending thousands of dollars on that one day, YOU WILL WANT GREAT PICTURES OF THAT DAY and not some phone snapshots your cousin took or some out-of-focus images from someone who has no idea what they are doing. Photography should be a huge part of your wedding budget; they are the only thing left once your day is over (except if you also have a videographer) and it should be really high on your priority list and budget alone should not be the deciding factor, will $1.000 matter 20 years down the road when you still LOVE your photographer and your images?
Discounts yay or nay? - Just like ANY professional in any industry, we need to pay the bills and feed ourselves and/or families, which is why discounts are almost never an option. Some photographers offer family & friends discounts, and unless you are a very close family member or a childhood friend, you shouldn’t ask for a discount (now don’t turn your nose at me, I am not saying you can’t ask, just my 2 cents because I know we price our work in order to pay taxes, cover costs of staying in business and profit to keep growing). Would you expect your boss to pay you less because he is a friend? So expect to pay full-price for any serious professional photographer.
3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CONNECTION!
Personality and trust - Truth is: your wedding photographer will spend more time with you on your wedding day than your future spouse! Crazy, I know, but especially if you are not having a first look (and you can read why you should HERE) you will spend a lot of time together, from the time we arrive to photograph your wedding details and you getting ready with your bridesmaids to bridal portraits, it’s generally the longest portion of the day (from finishing your makeup to after you get into your dress) so it is CRUCIAL that you have a connection with your photographer, you should be comfortable around them, there should be no awkwardness and you should both be on the same page about every photographic aspect of your wedding day.
Do you want a friend or a card swipe? - My best and dear clients feel like friends, and that is also why having an engagement session with the same photographer is SO important (getting ahead of myself, I will explain more on the next section). So, make sure your personalities are a good fit, that you both view your wedding day and relationship the same way, do you want to get to know your photographers and vice-versa? You absolutely don’t like to interact and would prefer your photographer is like a paparazzi? The latter is absolutely not my style and would not work, because to me, my clients are MUCH MORE than a business transaction, they’re sweet people I care about and will continue to care about as their lives progress together with a growing family.
4. COMPARE PACKAGES
The non-negotiable must-haves- A lot (if not all) photographers offer more than one option for your wedding day coverage. I currently have three options that range from just coverage to coverage and premium products. All of my collections include several things: a second photographer, 8 hours of coverage, an engagement session, digital files and an online gallery with an app available) those items are non-negotiable and the bare minimum that I believe it will take for me to deliver my quality of work and coverage to tell the story of your whole day without feeling rushed or falling behind.
What are your non-negotiables? - The engagement session isn’t always possible to accomplish if you live out of state or even out of the country, but like I started explaining above, it is our first date, the e-session is when we first meet and I get to teach you all my systems, my posing and we can figure out what you like, what you dislike and there’s no pressure! Having all this figured out BEFORE your wedding day is essential for me and why it’s always included in wedding collections! So, what are your requirements in a photographer? Does the photographer offer those? Are they included or are they extra? Ensure you are able to get everything you want in a photographer and get the answers for your questions, just don't expect to get everything for free or a crazy amount of requests fulfilled, we are only human, so think about what you WANT, what you NEED and what you EXPECT and discuss those with your photographers!
5. WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THEY OFFER?
Products - I personally cannot imagine not having an album from my wedding day. I don’ want loose prints and I don’t want to not have any printed products (because you know, technology fails and poof, all of your wedding memories could be gone!). I have a gorgeous high quality album with a box that I keep on my coffee table. Every now and again I will open it, look it over, remember my day and show it to people who couldn’t be there (because I got married in Brazil). I also have a few prints throughout the house, but maybe one day those will get replaced, but my album will always be there. So, you have to ask yourself, do you want an album, prints or maybe just the digitals? Does your photographer allow you print them yourself or do you have to always purchase their products? Other options are:
Parents and grandparents mini-books (the same album, but smaller, like a keepsake)
Stationery, such as thank you and holiday cards
Services – Do you require or want more coverage than just your wedding day? Or maybe you are having a destination wedding, does your photographer travel? I offer bridal sessions and bridal boudoir as add-ons to my wedding collections, I also travel worldwide but not every photographer does. Is that something you MUST have? Make sure your photographer offer those extra services like rehearsal coverage, travel and specialty sessions such as boudoir.
I hope this is helpful for you, bride to be and I hope you find the PERFECT photographer to capture such an important day in your lives!