I’ve been working on this post for more than a year now. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder as an idea that I’ve wanted to tackle, but I’ve never really had the time or energy to dive in… until now.
What is it that gives me special knowledge when it comes to choosing a wedding photographer? Yes, I’ve been behind the lens at a few weddings, but more importantly, I’m 28 years old and today is my one month wedding anniversary. Being in your mid-twenties means I’ve been in a lot of churches, ate a lot of buffet-style meals, and drank my way through more open bars than most see in their lifetime.
While I count my passion for and knowledge of photography a blessing on most days, weddings are when I wish I could enjoy sweet ignorance about what the wedding photographer is, or should be, doing. It might sound like I’m going down the negative highway, but I assure you, I’m not.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are thousands of talented wedding photographers in the world, and plenty of them live within driving distance of you now, but there are lemons out there as well, who, unfortunately for photographers and brides alike, still get hired and paid!
And, honestly, that upsets me. As photographers, we are tasked with capturing moments in time, and wedding days are some of the most emotional, sacred, amazing days to capture so why would a bride want nothing less than the best and why would a photographer want to give nothing less than the best?
What I hope to do is to share what I’ve learned about not only picking a talented and able wedding photographer to capture one of the greatest days of your life, but how to pick the right photographer to fit your style and meet your expectations for the day.
- Get Referrals
A good place to start your search is by tapping into your inner circle of married friends, family, and contacts. This is where social media and a great wedding planner can really be useful. Do your own research, of course, but to get a leg up, start gathering referrals from folks you already know and trust.
- Never Trust a Portfolio
I often tell my friends and clients, “Anyone can take a million photos and get lucky 30 times.” You don’t want a wedding photographer who gets lucky from time to time, but is consistently shooting the same quality over and over. After you have looked at the portfolio, start browsing the “B sides” on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, etc.
- Variety & Style Ain’t Just Magazines
When you are browsing through their work, I urge you to look for variety. If you see a range of work, from landscapes to weddings to portraits to still-life’s and more, there’s a better chance that your wedding photographer is pushing the envelope creatively and not just doing the “same old thing.” Also, make sure that the style of images they are capturing are consistent, but more importantly, match your vision for the day.
- Get Your Money’s Worth
Make sure you completely understand what you are receiving in return for payment. There are a lot of options from CD’s to prints to photo books and keepsakes… make sure to get it all down and don’t be afraid to say “no” when you need to. Which leads me to the next point…
- Ask Questions
Have a face to face meeting with all of your finalists and “interview” them the way you would a new employee. Make sure to bring along a list of questions and be sure you ask them, no matter how stupid they might sound. It’s better to be informed upfront than not at all. Talk to them on a personal level about how they approach the day, their expectations, and get to know their personality.
- Get References
Most wedding photographers will have a list of past clients you can contact as references. Make sure to get that list and call them.
- Make Sure They Have the Skills
You might be fairly confident that they do already from their online work, but make sure you ask them about their style, their equipment, etc. Everyone has a friend who is a photographer so if you are unsure of what to ask to assess their abilities and if they can “walk the walk,” ask your friend to come up with some questions to send along with you.
- Seek Out Flexibility & Preparation
Nothing means more to you on your wedding day than having a photographer who will be flexible and prepared – trust me. Knowing that the photographer has a back up plan for locations if it rains, has an assistant to help with gear and run errands, and carries duct tape and safety pins around with him or her is something you’ll really value when the time comes.
- Be Wary of Packages
This is my own personal preference and you are free to ignore it, but when I see a photographer who won’t give me a couple more hours of coverage because I don’t want three more canvas wall prints and two more albums, I know they aren’t there to capture moments, but to make money and that’s not the point of a wedding. Packages can be nice and lead to better discounts overall, no doubt… just be careful not to get boxed into something you don’t want or don’t really need. Again, state this upfront and any self-respecting wedding photographer should be willing to work with you on it.
- Choose the Right Fit for You
This is probably the most important rule of all. As most brides and grooms will tell you, the day will go by faster than you can ever imagine. Your wedding photographer is there to capture everything from the outside of the storm so you can go back years later and remember the whirlwind, moment for moment. Make sure the person you choose is the right fit for you – your style, your personality, and your vision for the day.
Have a tip to choosing a wedding photographer you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!