How to Choose Your Perfect Wedding Photographer
I tend to get a ton of wedding photography inquiries at this time of year… Not all of them book me, and while sometimes I wonder for hours about why they didn’t choose me, most of the time I am happy they found their perfect photographer. As much as I know this sounds surprising, I know I am not the perfect photographer for every couple, and have put together a few tips on how to make sure you find your perfect photographer for your wedding day!
1. Know your budget!
Weddings are expensive. Insanely so. And while there are certain things you can probably get away spending less on, photography should never be one of them. I’m biased, obviously, but even before I was a photographer I felt this way. Unless you hire a videographer, this is literally the only thing that you will walk away with that will show you your whole day. Yes, you will probably still have your dress, maybe you’ll preserve your flowers, and you might even freeze that top layer of cake… But will that show the way your flower girl smiled, the way your mom cried, or the look your dad gave you when he first saw you? These are things that experienced wedding photographers know to look for, and to capture. Those are the precious moments that you can’t turn back time to see. Photographers (and videographers - but that’s a different post!) are the ones capturing the amazing venue you spent weeks picking out, the flowers you dreamed of, and the cake you planned on pinterest.
HOWEVER, I am not saying you should go into student-loan sized debt over your wedding just to afford a photographer… but know what good, experienced photographers cost and make sure you plan that into your entire wedding budget.
2. Research photography styles
Do you like dark and moody? Light and airy? True to life? Bold? Vibrant? Romantic? Candid? Photojournalistic? Did all those words just completely go over your head because these are words photographers use to describe themselves, but you aren’t sure what they actually describe?
There are actually two different types of styles mentioned above…
The first describes the colors and brightness of the final images. Dark, moody, light, airy, bold, vibrant - all describe the editing.
The others are the type of pictures taken - how people are posed, or not posed. Are you drawn towards pictures of people looking at the camera together, towards people looking at each other, or towards the pictures of a bridesmaid crying while watching the bride and groom saying vows? The first is very traditional, the second is more towards candid (but most likely with posing help from the photographer) and the third is photojournalistic.
TIP: Now that I went over all the terms, how do you know which you like? I’d suggest making a pinterest board and just add all the wedding and engagement pictures that call to you to it, and then see if there is a common theme to them - are they all darker pictures? Is everyone posed very stiff and formally? Is it a mix? If you made a board of at least twenty images and still have no idea, feel free to shoot me a message and I’ll look it over and see if I can find a common thread!
3. Know what you want from your photographer
This seems to be something most couples that I meet with haven’t thought all the way through yet. Up until this point, you are so intent on planning the wedding, you haven’t had time to stop and think about the after. After the wedding, do you want to have a bunch of pictures that sit on your computer and wait for you to print them? Do you even want to spend the time going through and printing them? Do you want an album you can show to your family? Do you want artwork for your walls?
TIP: I highly suggest having things printed by your photographer - not only because it gets it done (I still haven’t printed anything from my trip to Scotland last June…. Or really anything since my three year old son’s newborn pictures! And I have the resources at my fingertips every day… So, being completely honest with yourself, are you actually going to print your own wedding pictures? What were the last pictures you printed?), but also because your wedding photographer should be using a professional print lab that their computer is calibrated for… Which means all that time we just spent talking about their editing style, and paying for their professional editing, won’t mean much if you take those pictures that were edited for their print lab and print them at walgreens.
4. Be willing to adjust your budget for the perfect photographer
This goes back to number 1. Know your budget… but also know where or how much you might be willing to adjust that budget for if you found the PERFECT photographer for you. Not all photographers will be perfect for you. But there will [hopefully] be one that just gets you. In the back of your mind, be aware that this perfect photographer may be more expensive than your budget allows… And sometimes that is worth it.
With this said, I always think it’s a good idea to meet with a photographer that is at your budget, above your budget and below your budget, just to get an idea of the differences… and who knows, maybe you’ll find the perfect photographer below your budget!
5. Meet with them.
This goes with number 4. How will you know if you get along with someone enough to increase your budget if you never meet them? Even if it’s just a phone call (so many of my couples are from out of state and are unable to meet up, so skype or phone calls are amazing alternatives!)
Your photographer will be with you, and more involved with your day, than any other vendor you hire. Even if you have a wedding planner that will be there the entire day, your photographer is in charge of setting up all the family portraits, the bridal party portraits and the couple portraits. This is the time where I strive to get you guys to look as relaxed and natural as possible, even if there are a thousand things happening and we have limited time… Even when there is a wedding planner, we will be helping plan the timeline so you know when family portraits are, how much time to leave for the wedding party pictures, and making sure we are done with everything to get you to your reception on time. Without a wedding planner, I tend to take on that role as well - helping make sure everyone knows where to go and when they need to be there… This means a lot of communication with you before and during the day. It is imperative that I get along with all of my couples.
6. View a complete wedding album
No, I do not mean view all 700 pictures from someone else’s wedding, but at least an online gallery that shows one entire wedding from start to finish to give you a feel of how your photographer captures all aspects of a day (see my featured weddings to view complete galleries of three different weddings!). Make sure that they haven’t just picked the best of the best to show on their facebook or instagram. Make sure their style matches throughout the whole day, that they can light a reception well, that they can set up family portraits, and that they can capture every part of your day the way you want it captured.
I HIGHLY suggest also viewing a printed wedding album. If you meet in person, this should be one of your first requests! You want to see the quality of their albums, how they design a wedding album, and how they tell the story of someone else’s day.
7. Book them.
Once you know you found your photographer, book them. Immediately. Even if it means just looking over at your fiance and raising eyebrows in a silent questioning, or asking the photographer to give you guys a moment to make sure you are on the same page. Photographers book quickly, and usually do not hold days without contracts and retainers (and please do NOT hire a photographer that does not have a contract in place!).