Wedding Blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest have become the top three bride inspiring, image addicting, wedding planning go-to’s for brides everywhere to prepare for their big day.
None of these were around when I got married, (quite some time ago) but back then, we planned our weddings through torn pages from a stack of popular bridal magazines tucked inside of a 3 ring binder. Yet ultimately, we did whatever our families told us we needed to do. What we were supposed to do… “because that’s what you do at a wedding.” If I had told my mom when I was 23, that I wanted my wedding in a barn, beside a lake, with handmade chandeliers and lace ribbons hanging from trees… she would have had a heart attack! I was already breaking some unspoken rule by having my bridesmaids each wear their own unique dresses in the same color rather than the standard matching “bridesmaid” dresses. You would have thought I was some kind of hellion by the uproar I caused my mother and mother-in-law. It was bad enough that I didn’t understand why we had to invite an additional 150 people that neither my husband nor I even knew.
But one of the areas that there really isn’t much help is where it comes to knowing how to select the right Wedding Photographer for YOU. There are lots of blogs giving advice on this matter, but not many really give you the information you really need. Choosing the right photographer for your day is essential because that will be the lasting memory of your wedding. For my wedding, my dad askes a “friend of the family” to photograph it for us. While he was kind enough to do it, (and we did pay him) we didn’t know that he was using the opportunity to “teach” someone else. In the end, all our photos were blurry and the photographer never even introduced himself or spoke to me once the entire day.
NARROWING IT DOWN
Your first step is to figure out your style. Think about what sort of photos you like.
Do you prefer more of a lifestyle, journalistic look, or maybe you love more posed and planned images?
Do you tend to pin more images of the couple looking directly at the camera, or of intimate moments between them?
Do you like more trendy, planned poses, or the tears of joy, dancing and laughing the night away?
Do you go for more of the traditional posed images at the altar, or do you prefer the images where the couple are alone at a beautiful, scenic location?
Do you like the soft romantic look of film, love a little more dramatic color, or do you prefer those dreamy black and white images?
For that matter, it’s even possible that you like a mix of all of these things!
In the end, finding a photographer who’s style you LOVE, matters more than anything else. Yes, that’s right, even more than the budget, because most photographers will be willing to work with you through a contracted payment plan, to help you out.
Don’t just judge a book by the cover… If you love one or two of their images you have come across, check out their website to look at as much of their work as you can. Do they only show a handful of images or only images from 1 – 3 weddings? Or maybe less than 10 images are shown altogether? Hmmm, that’s not really enough to make a good call. Sometimes an inexperienced photographer will get “lucky” with a couple of nice images here or there, but if the majority of their work doesn’t make your heart flutter, then that may have been the case. I recommend that you don’t take your chances just to save a few bucks. A typical portfolio will contain somewhere between 20-40 images from 5 or more highlighted weddings, and possibly even a slideshow example of a wedding.
Once you have narrowed down your search to maybe your 5 favorite photographers whose style you really love, then look into their prices. Some will post them on their website, but many will only post a starting price with a little information, and some will not provide any pricing at all. Now don’t take this as being sneaky. It is all just a personal choice by the photographer. Some prefer not to get an email asking for prices, while others prefer to start to get to know you right away, and discussing prices and packages opens the door to conversation. a recommended photographer who is within your price range. Expect the photos to take up quite a big chunk of your budget. Remember, these will be your everlasting images for years to come so you want to spend the right amount of money in this area to get exactly what you need.
Then contact those photographers armed with a list of questions that are most important to you and your specific needs.
I recommend you DO NOT email a photographer ONLY asking for a price. To be completely honest with you, it comes across as that is the only thing that matters to you. Photographers (the professional ones anyway,) are in no way interested in entering into a bidding war with another photographer to book your wedding. And they certainly don’t want you to choose them because they were “the cheapest one.” So asking about their packages is great, but you should also want to know some additional things about them. Email them prepared with a few questions to show that you really ARE interested in hiring someone you will be working closely with, not just price shopping.
- Ask about their experience and how many weddings they have photographed professionally. – Just because someone is a talented photographer, does not mean that they will also be a great wedding photographer.
- Do they use film or digital technology?
- Do they have references or online reviews? If so, ask to see them. They should be able to give you a direct link to at least a couple of locations rather than simply telling you to go to their Facebook page.
- Do they work alone, have an assistant, or offer a second shooter? And who actually takes the photos? Many photographers actually hire an associate to photograph the wedding for them.
- Are they insured and how do they ensure that images taken at your wedding, are not lost or damaged?
- What is their average turnaround time from the wedding to a completed gallery of images? And how long does it take from ordering prints to receiving them?
- Do they offer packages that include both digital files AND prints? And if so, what kind of print labs do they use for their products? Having digital files is great, but you also want to ensure that any product comes from a professional print lab, not a 1-hour lab or an inexpensive consumer or department store lab. Those products (prints, albums, canvas or metal prints, etc) are not going to provide you with good quality, color, or long-lasting archival inks or papers. (You get what you pay for.)
- Do they offer albums? If so, how many photos and pages does the album have? Who selects the images to be included? And do you have the option to request any image selection changes to the album before it goes to print?
- Do they provide a website where family and friends can order their own prints?
- Request a complete description of the packages they offer, and what is included for each one.
- What is the total cost and are there any possible added fees such as extra time added on the wedding day, travel costs, etc?
- Lastly, but most importantly, do they have a contract and what are the payment terms and conditions? (Read it carefully.)
Personal recommendations are great, but keep in mind that someone else’s favorite, may not be yours too. In fact, my own wedding photographer came highly recommended by my family, and you can see from the image above, how well that turned out for me. So take the time to find the right fit for YOU.
Best of luck! I hope this helps.