You’re in full swing of wedding planning and its come time to find the perfect photographer. This is where things get fun but can also be stressful. What do you look for in a photographer? So many brides get to this part of the planning process and just have NO idea where to start or what to look for. As a photographer myself, I wanted to share my thoughts and advice for you to help you find the best photographer out there and to help make this process a smooth one.
Photography, to me, is one of the most important vendors you can invest in on your wedding day. (ok so I may be a little biased on this one, but for good reasoning). Read up, take some notes on this one Y’all! Everything I discuss will help you in picking that perfect photographer that suits your wants and needs.
Why is a photographer so important to get right?
You see, there isn’t just one quick answer for this. But my best answer for you is the fact that they are the ones responsible for capturing your memories and putting them onto paper, or film, or your wedding album. These images are the one thing you will have at the end of it all to look back on and remember your wedding day. To relive all of the amazing moments that come with it. This is one important job if you ask me.
So lets get started…
1. Do Your Research and Check out Different Photographers Work.
I urge everyone to start their search for their photographer by doing a few searches online to get a vibe of who is available in your area. And do this early!! Many photographers will book up sometimes up to a year and a half in advanced. Figure out the style of photography that you like. There are so many different styles to this industry. Theres that super filmy, light and airy, delicate look. Theres also darker and moodier looks (this one is kind of my forte). There are photographers who shoot in a fine art and classy type style and look like a work of art, and some that shoot in a more documentary style (again, my type of work) that take you through the day and make you feel as if you’re there with them when you look at their images. When you come across a photographers website who’s work really speaks to you and you just fall in love with their style.. Favorite their page.
Another great resource for finding someone who’s work you love is to refer back to your friends. Did anyone get married recently who’s photos you just thought were amazing? Talk with them and ask them questions about who their photographer was, what they liked and/or didn’t like about them, etc. Having someone else tell you first hand what their experience was like with their photographer can really help you to decide what you want your experience to be like and how to find that.
2. Meet Your Prospects.
Your photographer is going to with you every moment of your day. You will probably be with them more so than you will be with your own maid of honor or best man. Since you have to spend the entirety of your day together, pick someone who you can see as being your best friend for your day of. I feel meeting with your potential photographer is so helpful in doing this. Finding someone who you mesh well with, and have similar vibes with is super important. Also, make your first impression count! Yes when you meet your potential photographer it can kind of feel like your conducting a job interview, but remember its kind of the same for us. We are also reading you as you are for us getting to know you the best we can. We want to work with clients who we get along with and feel our approach to wedding photography will fit well with. Make sure that connection is there and you feel comfortable with your photographer. And, don’t be afraid to say no when things seem like its not a good fit. Even if their work is absolutely amazing, if you aren’t really feeling the vibes that this is a good match, I would say its time to pass and go to the next.
Are you doing a destination wedding or bringing in a photographer from out of town and cant meet in person? Have a skype or facetime session to replace an in person meeting!
3. Have A Set Budget. But Be Realistic And Know That Good Photography Is An Investment.
The budget. This is one of the biggest things that I see people having problems with when it comes to planning their wedding and possibly having incorrect expectations. Many people when looking for a photographer look at price before looking at the rest of the big picture. Cheap should not be on your mind for this vendor if you’re looking for someone with a distinct style, skill level, and an amazing experience. First things first, when it comes to setting aside a budget for photography you really have to ask yourself this question.. “How much do these photos really mean to me?”. If you are looking to get some absolutely amazing images and a great experience with someone who knows exactly what they are doing, it’s going to cost you. In most major cities (Dallas, Austin, And Denver for sure) you can look to spend about $3,000-$6,000 on average for a professional photographer for your wedding day depending on what all is included. That can even be low in cost for some. I would say next to your venue, your photographer is probably your most expensive vendor. You’re not just paying for amazing images with these photographers, your paying for an entire experience with them, their skill level, and their specialty and expertise.
If photos aren’t really something you care to much about, then you will probably be ok hiring the photographer who gives you the most bang for your buck. There is a photographer for everyone, no matter what your budget is. It just might not be the person you had in mind. I do recommend not trying to negotiate with the photographers who are out of your price range, as more often than not they won’t budge. All photographers are businesses and have to make sure that they are able to put food on the table and pay their bills just like any other business owner. There are however larger photography companies out there who have a myriad of professional photographers that work under them at lower costs to the client. This is a great option for those who are looking for longer coverage at a lesser cost. Granted, the experience will not be the same as hiring a single person company who specializes, and you may not even meet your photographer until the day of your wedding or really know what their background is, but you will be able to get the coverage you want for the price you want.
Another option for those who are ballin’ on a budget, is to contact local colleges who may have photography students that are trying to break into the field of weddings. They will often charge you next to nothing to get the experience. No they wont have experience with weddings, and they may not know the ins and outs of a wedding day, but if its something you’re ok with in order to save money, it is definitely an option. I personally don’t recommend that option too much. If you can, my advice is to give yourself plenty of time to save for someone who has a little bit more experience and will give you the best client service on the day of.
4. Think about the light.
And by this, I mean think about the lighting situation for your wedding day. Is your wedding going to be outdoors? In direct sunlight or in shade? Is it indoors in a super dark church or in a barn with little windows? This may not be something that is thought about often when hiring a photographer but it is so so important. You want to be sure and choose a photographer who is skilled in working with these lighting situations. Dark venues and direct light can be an extremely difficult situations to make work if you don’t have the skill or equipment to allow you to work through it. Or if your wedding is in a dark church, there may be rules against using flash photography during the ceremony. You want someone who is ok with this and knows how to handle any difficult lighting situation with ease.
Also, pay attention to how they photograph after dark. Is your reception outside at night? Are they using off camera flash set ups to compensate? Are they using direct flash? Or maybe no flash? There are different styles that different photographers use in these situations, so make sure the photographer you choose has a style and skill for this that you like.
5. Make Sure Your Photographer Runs Their Business Professionally.
There are a few things that any photography business should have when you hire them. A strong contract that goes into detail about their policies, and they should be an insured business. A contract is extremely important. Not only is this contract there to protect us photographers, but it is also there to protect YOU! This is where the photographer will go over their policies such as how payments are done, what will happen in the event they get sick or cant make it due to an unforeseeable reason, what their turn around time is for image delivery, how they handle copyrights and personal rights to the images, and much much more.
Liability insurance is typically a requirement by many venues, and its just a good thing to know that the company you are hiring has this for many different circumstances. Check with the photographers you are speaking to about what liability insurance they hold if any.
Another thing to consider will depend on where you live. Some states (like Texas) will require the photographer to charge sales tax on all of their services. This is something to ask if you will be charged sales tax on top of your wedding collections and to not be surprised if this is something that comes up, or to think that they are wrong in doing so. Seeing them do this and follow the rules of the state is a great thing, and helps you to be reassured that they are indeed a professional business.
6. Read The Fine Print.
Know exactly what you are getting. Ask about what is included with their collections and know every detail about what your are signing, buying, and receiving. I have heard horrible stories from brides who hired a photographer and yet they wouldn’t give them their images unless they paid them another two thousand dollars. Or the photographer only included very low resolution images with the collections and since no one asked, the bride and groom didn’t realize they wouldn’t be able to print from the files, and would have to order prints only through the photographer, costing them more in the long run. Make sure that you know everything that you will be getting and that you are ok with that.
7. Back Up Equipment.
This is a big one. Any photographer you hire should have back up equipment. Two Camera Bodies, Multiple lenses, Tons of Memory Cards or film. Talk to your potential photographer about what they will do in a situation if one of their cameras stops working or if their memory card becomes corrupt. Hopefully this is something no one ever has to deal with. But its an important topic to cover. I have a backup camera body and a few extra lenses in case something breaks. And I personally always write to two memory cards at a time for back up. If one of the cards fails, I still have a backup of all your images on hand. You want someone who has the proper equipment to take on a job as important as photographing someones wedding.
8. Read Reviews
Make sure that when you are conducting your search that you check the photographers reviews. Go on their Facebook page or Instagram and see what kind of feedback they have. Is it positive? Negative? Look them up on places like Wedding Wire or The Knot to see if there are more reviews you can read up on for their company. Seeing first hand from their clients on how their experience was with them will help when it comes to finding the person right for you.
9. Give all the Details!
When you do send that email out to those oh so perfect for you photographers, make sure you are providing them with enough detail about your wedding day so they can give you the most information back to you. You want to essentially speed up the meet and greet process as soon as possible. If the photographer has a contact form on their website, some of this stuff might already be included and required when filling it out. But if they don’t, or if you are emailing them directly, here is some info that is greatly appreciated if you can give it to us up front:
– You and Your Fiancés name
– Your wedding date
– The Venue or Location(s)
– The amount of coverage you are looking for (ie. All day, 3-4 Hours, etc)
– Your Wedding Photography Budget
– If someone referred you or not (we love knowing that some of our past clients wanted to pass on our name)
– And your email or phone number
When we know what your budget is from the get go, it can definitely save you and us time in this process. If we fit in your budget we can set up a time to meet and if we don’t, we can refer you to some amazing photographers who do. If you give us your date and venue, we can let you know if were available or if we have shot there before and send you a gallery from that wedding if so. There are many advantages to giving us the most information possible. Its better to be able to tell you up front if we are a good fit, rather than wait a few weeks, meet, love each other, and then realize we are out of your budget or not available for the date.
10. Trust in Us.
During this search and getting to know your potential photographer, I want to give you all some words of wisdom to finish up this post. Trust in us to do our job. If you have chosen your photographer based on their experience and expertise and the fact that they are just down right awesome and you get along perfectly. Then let us curate your story to the best of our ability.
You will find that there are many websites out there with photo shot lists (like those ones you see on pinterests) to give to your photographer on the day of the wedding. But the truth is, we don’t need it. We know all the classic shots that should be covered and strive to capture every detail of your day exactly as it should be.
The only shot list I will recommend you give to your photographer is an exact family shot list of each photo you want with your immediate family (ie. Photo 1: Mom, dad, bride groom, etc.) Except you will actually use their names. Many of us photographers will give you a wedding photography questionnaire for you to fill out which tells us all about your day, who will be there, what to expect, who your other vendors are, what shots are most important to you, etc. We are there to make your day go as smoothly as possible.
So find someone you can have full trust in. Let them be your best friend on the day of your wedding. Let them tell your story and create an amazing experience for you. And make sure that if you have questions, ask them! Lastly, and most importantly, have fun with this process, and don’t stress too much. Your wedding day is meant to be remembered beautifully. Having trust in your photographer will help to do just that.