Updated: May 21, 2020
Easy—It’s ME! Just kidding. Seriously though, I can’t imagine how stressful it must be searching for the right venue, caterer, florist, DJ, musician, make-up artist, hair stylist, cake, suit, dress, shoes! I know that barely scratches the surface, right? While all of these elements are a huge part of the day itself, the only thing that will last literally forever is the pictures. After the food is eaten, the dancing is done, the dress has been worn that one time, and the flowers are wilted – the one thing that keeps all of it alive day after day is the photographs.
After the grueling months (or years) of planning that goes into every single detail of this one day, it deserves to be documented in a beautiful way that you are proud to show off. Choosing the right photographer for YOUR wedding will determine whether you look back on your wedding album in 10, 15, 30 years and think “Wow, we had a beautiful wedding!” or “Wow, I wish we had better pictures.”
Today’s market is majorly saturated with photographers of all different styles, skill levels, experience, and price points. So how do you find the right photographer?
1. DECIDE WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU AND LOOK FOR THAT
Get an idea of what style you like. (Pinterest and Instagram are great places to search for wedding photography.)
Do you like bright, airy photos?
Do you like bold, timeless photos?
Do you like deep, moody, desaturated photos?
Do you want unique and interesting artsy photos? Do you want your day documented naturally, or do you prefer posed/planned photographs?
Are you more concerned with the quantity or the quality of your images?
Do you want to be able to print your images, hang them in your home, or just look at them online?
Figure out what you like, and what you need and look for someone who checks all of your boxes.
Tip: Find a photographer who already shoots, edits, and delivers in a style you love. Do not ask a photographer to change their style to fit your preference.
2. GET A REFERRAL FROM A REAL CLIENT - NOT A FRIEND OR RELATIVE OF A PHOTOGRAPHER
Everyone seems to know someone who is a photographer these days. Those sweet people will always recommend their cousin, or girlfriend, or nephew when they hear someone is looking for a wedding photographer because they are awesome and supportive. However, they may be a bit biased and may have never actually worked with the photographer they are referring you to. Let me tell you - taking nice pictures is one thing, being a wedding photographer is a whole different world. My best advice is to get your referral from an impartial and reliable source - recently married people.
Everyone you know knows someone who has recently gotten married. Online reviews are another awesome resource and can be really helpful for an inside view of what it’s like to work with a business if you don't know any newlyweds. Go off of the photographer's main website and see what people say about them on google, facebook, and yelp. If people have a mediocre experience with their photographer, they probably won’t have much to say about it. However, if they had an AMAZING experience (or a terrible one) most people are more than willing to tell you all about it.
3. MEET BEFORE YOU HIRE
The first step after I receive a wedding inquiry is to set up an in-person meeting with the potential client. If they are too far away to get together for coffee or a drink (my treat!), we set up a video chat online. Not only does this allow the client to get to know the real me, it also gives me an idea of who the clients are, how they picture their wedding day, and whether I am a good fit for the job or not. Though the money is always nice to make, I won’t take on a wedding that is not a good fit for me. This could mean anything from the client preferring a shooting or editing style that is different than my own, to getting just plain feeling like our personalities don’t mesh well. Only booking weddings with people I know I get along with ensures the weddings I shoot are a great experience for me and my clients. All of my clients are fun, laid back, and amazing people – because those are the couples I want to work with.
4. ASK TO SEE A FULL WEDDING GALLERY
We usually only display our best work online. Our very favorite highlights from a wedding day. Perfectly lit, perfectly timed, gorgeous moments.
In reality, wedding days are (generally) a little chaotic. Lighting can get real bad (Don't plan your outdoor ceremony at noon!), Important details can be missed, moments can be lost forever just by failing to focus or change your settings quickly enough.
Take a look at how the photographer's photos look throughout the gallery and ask yourself these questions:
Did they capture precious little moments throughout the day, or just stick to the standard shots?
Do you like the way the photos look whether taken in bright sun, or a dark room, or perfect lighting?
Does the photographer deliver a carefully limited and curated album with only their favorite images, or do they edit and deliver all of the good photos, even if they are similar, so you can choose your favorites?
Is there a limit to how many photos they deliver?
Do you feel anything while looking through the gallery?
5. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
What happens if they lose your photos? What about if they get into a car accident on the way to your wedding? What if their camera breaks? Or their memory card gets erased? What if their computer crashes and takes your wedding day with it?
All of these are super valid questions that you should totally be asking. A photographer who is just starting out most likely doesn't have the ridiculously expensive equipment, computer software, subscriptions or contractors to answer all of those questions.
Having spare cameras, lenses, computers, hard drives and file backup systems is really expensive, but that's another reason why you pay more for a professional. A professional will have a confident and clear plan for pretty much any scenario you throw at them. (If I die on the way to your wedding, call Kim! Haha!) They also keep backups on backups on backups.
Last Summer, right in the middle of wedding season, My computer crashed. I also had two hard drives fail... at the same time. That meant if I only had those weddings on my desktop and two separate hard drives, I STILL WOULD HAVE LOST THEM ALL.
Luckily, I also had them on my laptop and an online backup in dropbox. And if for some reason the cloud exploded and dropbox died, or I can't access the internet (much more likely considering my internet situation) I would still have the original images on SD cards because I don't erase a session until I've delivered it.
If they don't have a backup plan, if you hire them, you are risking losing your wedding day. It happens ALL THE TIME.
6. ARE THEY INSURED?
So many people take photos as a hobby that it's easy to forget it is a serious job. A professional photographer will have insurance for their own equipment, injuries, and will have liability insurance as well. Being insured isn't just important for the photographer, many plans have coverage to compensate clients if their images were lost or ruined. Not like that would bring them back- back up yo shit!
7. DO YOU AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THEIR CONTRACT?
A standard contract should cover basically everything we have already mentioned as well as payment policies, cancellation policies, expected delivery time and information about how the images can be used. Many photographers have very specific rules about how your images can be shared. Though the photos are of you, they are the product we have created for you and ultimately the images belong to the photographer.
This doesn't mean you can't have them, or share them, or print them. That would just be cruel. What it means is that you can't take that photograph of you and try to sell prints of it, or enter it into a photo contest, or post it anywhere and everywhere without giving credit to the person who worked hard (this isn't as easy as people think) to create that piece of art for you.
It also usually means the RAW unedited files are not ever given to the client. That would be like buying dinner at a fancy restaurant to get filet mignon prepared by an incredibly talented chef, then telling them to just hand over the raw meat, because you will just try to cook it yourself... Except you have no idea how to cook, and you don't have the right pan for it. Well now you just paid money for something you can't use that would have been really good if you just let the chef prepare it.
Make sure their contract is clear, complete, and that you understand completely what you are getting and what you aren't.
8. DO THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO?
This is something you definitely have to pay attention to when you meet in person. Weddings are not for everyone. They are so, so, so much work. Taking photos is seriously a very minimal part of the job. A great wedding photographer will be there with kleenex when the tears get out of control (after a few photos of course). They will know when to stay close to capture an important moment, and when to focus on your friends and family. They will make sure they have every detail that you worked so hard to put together captured beautifully to live on forever. Your wedding photographer should feel like a coordinator, a consultant, and really by the end of the day, a friend.
Want to talk weddings? Let's chat!