Hi friends! I have been meaning to post more about my own wedding planning experience on the blog, and photography seemed to be the best place to start. :) Of course, I am booking brides all the time for my own photography business, but what about that one time I got married??
How does a wedding photographer pick THEIR wedding photographer?", was the #1 question I got when I announced my engagement!
Although you would think this would be the toughest detail to decide, it actually was the simplest. Why? Because there are very specific things I looked for and considered from the get go. Here are the top eight things I recommend focusing on when choosing a photographer for your big day:
1. They have a contract that's legit - When it comes time to "officially" book with someone, make sure they present a contract that has been looked over by a a lawyer or someone else with that knowledge specialty. Having it in writing will deliver peace of mind to both parties and insure both have a great experience working together. (Note* handshakes and verbal agreements don't count!)
2. They have more than three-four photos on their website - The way a photographer brands and markets himself/herself is through the work they show. Of course, they aren't going to show you thousands of sample images on their front page, but you want to make sure they do have the right style and experience you are looking for. If they only have three-four photos on their site, you aren't getting the full identity of their work. Someone who has the right amount of experience will have the photos to go along with it.
3. They have wedding photography experience - Now, before I say anything, I am not at all implying that photographers specializing in family/newborn/corporate, etc. photography are less skilled than wedding photographers - I totally respect that area of photography and still marvel at the expertise required to do it. HOWEVER, I am saying that wedding photography challenges a photographer in a variety of ways that are different than other types of photography. For example, not only can it be fast-paced and high-pressure, it also is physically demanding and requires both mental and physical stamina. Whenever I got to a wedding, I always pack almonds or an energy bar because I'm going to have a 30 lb bag of equipment on my back for most of the day. I also make sure I get a lot of rest the night before, because I know I need to be alert and focused in order to think quickly on my feet; not everything goes as planned, and problem-solving is a huge part of the job. In sum it's just a different ballgame than other types of photography, and you are going to want to choose someone who is familiar and prepared for it.
4. They ask to meet with you (or phone/Skype with you) beforehand and have an obvious interest to get to know you - Wedding photography is more than a show-up-and-shoot kind of deal. A photographer should want to get to know your personality, your fiancé's personality, your chemistry together, your comfort levels, your stories, etc. This was a huge deal in choosing our photographer. We wanted someone who felt more like a friend rather than a stranger, especially since the photographer is with you practically the whole day. They also are the ones who are telling your story through images, and the relationship (between photographer and couple) will also play a significant role in the way your photos will turn out. No couple is exactly the same. For example, I've had couples who liked PDA and couples who didn't, couples who were great at naturally posing and couples who needed very specific instruction, couples who had very specific photo requests and couples who didn't at all; you never meet the same couple twice, and it's sooooo important to KNOW them before you show up at their wedding.
5. Your personalities work well together - As a continuation of #3, you want to make sure that you personalities are compatible. Once you've chatted and met up with your photographer, make sure you pay attention to the "vibe" you get. Did it seem like they were on the same page as you during the conversation? Do they have a flexible and helpful personality? Did it seem easy to have a conversation about your photography goals? Did they try to persuade you to make any decisions? Long story short, you don't want to end up with someone you feel uncomfortable or awkward with, even if they have photos you like. Go with your gut (as my mom always told me). If your personalities don't "mesh", it's OK! Don't feel obligated or pushed to sign a contract on the spot; it's a huge investment and should be thought through. Be open to meeting with a few more photographers and then weigh your options.
6. They are willing to show you an entire wedding album - Like most things, people have differing opinions on this one. Some feel that it is overkill for a photographer to show you a full one, but my opinion is that you are investing a great deal of money into your photos, and you should be confident in what the end result will be. Would you purchase a movie before seeing a trailer? Would you purchase a car without looking it over? Most modern photographers use a platform like pixieset.com or zenfolio.com --- ask them if you can preview a full album.
7. They follow-up with you and are organized with details - There are a lot of checkboxes to clear even after you choose a photographer. Does the church/venue have specific guidelines for where a photographer can stand? Does the venue require liability insurance? What happens if it rains? How much time do they typically need to finish family/bridal party portraits AND bridal portraits? Is the address to the venue location tricky to find in Google Maps? Although these seem like small details, they can be HUGE if there isn't follow-through. Make sure you find someone who not only follows-up on the details, but also shows they are organized and remembers them. You don't want to be stressing the day-of whether or not your photographer has the right time, address, etc.!
8. Their prices are competitive with other photographers in your area - I'm definitely not suggesting that you find the most expensive photographer and hire them straight-away; they definitely need to show you their work and experience before you ever sign with them. However, I would strongly suggest that you familiarize yourself with the median price of photography in your area (I say this because pricing does differ depending on the region you live in) and be wary of those who advertise their services for "all-inclusive $400". Why? It's shady. If you offered the same product as everyone else, why would you reduce your price $2000? You get what you pay for, and photography is no exception. Again, expensive doesn't always mean great, but like all things, be cautious in your decision-making, especially with such an important one.