How NOT To Choose Your Wedding Photographer
So, needless to say, finding the right photographer is pretty important. It’s also pretty overwhelming. Photography website SLRlounge.com estimates there are 100,000 wedding photographers in the U.S. alone — and you’re expected to find the one who will capture your wedding exactly the way you envision it. And you thought finding a husband was hard!?
Unfortunately, some of the most common “selling points” for wedding photographers can actually be red flags in disguise. Here are a few factors that shouldn’t influence your choice — and how to make sure you’ve picked a winner.
- “This studio shoots 300 weddings a year!”
Experience is a must — you don’t want a photographer using your wedding for practice. But busier isn’t always better. If someone shoots 100+ weddings in a year, either they’re shooting back-to-back events every single weekend, or they’re hiring associate photographers to fill their shoes (and their sample albums). Neither of those is an automatic deal breaker, but you should get a feel for how these photographers handle their heavy workload. If they’re doing it all themselves, do they seem passionate or jaded? If they’re hiring an associate, is it a talented colleague or a random freelancer? Make sure you know who will be holding the camera on your wedding day, and that they’re committed to treating you like a VIP no matter how many other clients they have.
- “She’s running an insane sale!”
I planned my wedding on a shoestring budget, so I wore a $400 wedding gown in order to afford my first-choice photographer. My reasoning? The right photographer can make a budget dress look breathtaking, but the wrong photographer can make a Yumi Katsura look tacky. Ask anyone who’s been burned: It’s not a bargain if you hate your photos. If your favorite photographer is running a discount (like 10 percent off for Friday weddings, or a free engagement session), then heck yeah, jump on it! But don’t let a deep discount be your deciding factor. Good wedding photographers pay taxes, carry insurance and invest in high-end gear and professional-grade printing. So before you cut corners with a dirt-cheap photographer, ask yourself where they cut corners.
- “The venue recommended him!”
Early in my career, I shot a wedding at a gorgeous local venue and asked the coordinator if I could drop off a sample album for him to show his future clients. He told me I could — for a price. Maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t realize that some venues sell spots on their “preferred vendor” lists. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every venue — some offer excellent recommendations because they like to see gorgeous images of their venue floating around on the web. But always double-check recommendations against friends, online reviews and your wedding planner before plunking down a deposit.
Why Wedding Photography Should Be A Priority
Is wedding photography the most important thing when it comes to your wedding? Nope, not at all, however when it comes to planning your special day it should be up there on the priority list of things to look at, budget for and book.
Wedding photography is important because it will capture your day, it will capture your memories, it will tell a story, and not just any story, it will tell a beautiful story of your special day, a day you will never forget. A story that you can show friends and family, your kids, and grandchildren, something you will have and can treasure for ever.
You see your flowers will wilt, your cake will quickly be eaten, your invites will be binned after the day, your dress shall be worn once, those shoes shall go back into their box, this isn’t me trying to be glum and miserable, this is about perspective, this is about helping you focus your budget on things that you may not put importance on, such as wedding photography.
ONE DAY, AND A LOT OF MEMORIES
Earlier I mentioned about couples who didn’t put to much importance on wedding photography, and it can easily be forgotten or put down the pecking order because on the day itself, you don’t have anything. If you go to a florist they will create beautiful bouquets of flowers for you, your cake maker will make the most delicious and gorgeous looking cake for your day, the list goes on, the thing is here, these are things and items that will be there on your day, things that you and everyone will see. Yet when it comes to wedding photography you are paying for something you won’t see till after, and the best wedding photographers will go unnoticed, your guest won’t even know they are there.
WHAT ARE YOU PAYING FOR?
When it comes to wedding planning, it is more than just one day, it is about a lifetime of memories. It is about capturing moments, it is about capturing emotion, it is about being able to relive the day through beautiful photos, it is about smiling at moments that you never knew happened, seeing the emotion on your family and friends faces, and most importantly of all, having a story you can treasure forever.
If you are just thinking about your wedding and looking at your budget, make sure you maximise your budget for your wedding photography, it’s not just a few photos of you and your partner on your wedding day looking beautiful and happy, it is about a beautiful story of your wedding day, from getting ready and smiling with your bridesmaids, to the emotion on your dads face as he sheds a tear and looks on with pride. Capturing the beautiful details on your day after hours and days of planning, from the beautiful flowers, your dress and venue, capturing the day as it unfolds, capturing the emotion of your guests, the nervousness of the groom, all the way through to that first dance, this is not just any story, this is your story.
Make sure you capture your day, and your story, don’t regret not hiring a professional wedding photographer.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Maximise your budget. Will the guests notice if you saved a little money on your flowers, will your guests really notice if you saved a little on the food, will they notice if the cake isn’t 5 tiers high? Save a little where you can and maximise your photography budget, it is the only thing you will have left at the end of the day. Read our article on the The Real Cost of Wedding Photography.
- Find your style. There are hundreds of wedding photographers to choose from, and most will travel all over the country and even abroad, take time to decide on a style you like and find a photographer that reflects this. Make sure you view more of their work and complete albums, you don’t want one or two beautiful photos, you want a beautiful story that is of high quality through out, from beginning to the the end.
- Book quickly. The best wedding photographers get hired and booked up to 2 years in advance, so once you know the date, find your perfect wedding photographer and get them booked.
Keep These 5 Things in Mind When Choosing a Wedding Photographer
Once you’re engaged, one of the first tasks you’ll want to check off the list is choosing a wedding photographer! As the person responsible for documenting all the memories of your #bestdayever and delivering images you can look back on for years and years, it’s an important decision, no doubt. Not sure where to begin or exactly what to know when choosing a wedding photographer? We’ve got five helpful tips to guide you through the process.
- Know what you’re willing to spend.
Quality wedding photography is not something to skimp on. Often, photography (and videography) can end up being one of the largest single expenses of your entire wedding. You can expect an experienced professional wedding photographer to charge anywhere from $2500 all the to way to $10000 and beyond. Packages vary, but remember their prices factor in not only their creative talent and honing of their craft, but their equipment costs, travel time and many, many hours of preparation and editing in addition to the time they’ll spend actually photographing your day.
- Decide which style you feel most drawn to.
Photography, like any art form, can vary immensely from artist to artist. It’s up to you and your fiancé to decide which artistic style you like best, and let that heavily influence your decision.
Are you drawn to fine art photography? These photos tend to have more muted colors, less contrast, more brightness and cool tones. You’ll tend to see more posed, “still life,” artful shots. Often, fine art photographers use film to help achieve this distinct look. Because film has been around for generations, these photos will definitely stand the test of time, but film is also more expensive to shoot and requires a different skill set than digital photography, so you can expect to pay more for someone who incorporates film into their work.
On the contrary, many couples are drawn to a more adventurous and photojournalistic style – with less emphasis on curating the ‘perfect’ shots, rather documenting the day exactly as it unfolds. These photos tend to have more contrast, warmth and saturated colors. This style can reflect more raw emotion via candid shots and shots that capture movement.
- Do your research.
When it comes to narrowing down your short list of photographers, you’ll want to rely on word of mouth (who have your friends used and loved? what are reviews saying?), Instagram (remember to use location-based hashtags to your advantage) and local photographer listings on resources like Brides of Austin.
Narrow down your list to 3-6 photographers (you’ll always want to have a backup, even if you have a favorite, in case that person is unavailable for your date). Peruse their websites and Instagrams to get a feel for their individual personalities. You’ll be spending essentially all day with this person on your wedding day – you want to make sure they’re someone you can be friends with!
- Be clear with your goals.
Do you want these photos to be published in a magazine or online publication? Do you NOT want them to be published or shared? It’s important for your photographer to know these things ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to let them know which types of shots are most important to you – not specific poses or copies of photos you’ve found on Pinterest, but do you care more about the details, the candids, the family shots, the portraits of just you two?
Bring your photographer up to speed on any potentially awkward family dynamics, and tell them if there’s anyone in particular you’d like them to pay attention to. Do you have a grandparent you’re especially close with? Any family traveling from far and wide? Let them know so you can be sure and get photos with these people while you have the opportunity.
Some Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Photographer
We feel that there are categories of things to look for when it comes to finding the best wedding photographers to care for your wedding.
We’ve broken it down :
- Pricing: We won’t focus on that much here, since it’s covered largely in our “How Much Should I Spend On My Wedding Photographer Post?” Check it out!
- Perspective Approach and Editing Style: Their photos should make you feel the way you want them to make you feel while retaining a timeless and talented look that won’t quickly go out of style. You can learn more about the importance of Approach and Style by visiting our post on “Which Photography Style is Best for My Wedding?”
- Interpersonal Skills & Client Care: Your wedding photographer should have the ability to make you comfortable so you look relaxed and enjoy having them there. Also, they need to be able to manage their time and others, not only to help your big day stay on schedule but to rescue it from being “too behind.” They also need to be able to confidently direct groups of people for formal photos, without seeming like a pushy jerk.
- Photo Care: They should have the know-how and equipment to ensure that your photos are kept safe, even when hard drives crash.
- Business stability: Let’s face it, if they don’t have their actual business in order, it will affect how well they can serve you. In Louisville, there was a photographer that made the news because of her shady business practices that left couples high and dry.
Find out what wedding photography style and types of imagery you’re attracted to
So what are all these wedding photography styles? You can read more about that by doing a quick Google search. However, you don’t need to become an expert to know what you like the most.
The words that are used are often confusing. So, here’s a quick crash course to describe the way the images look and feel:
- Bright and airy using natural light (poppy, light, fresh, clean)
- Fine art (highly curated; film or looks like film; usually high end)
- Dark and moody (uses shadows and deliberate underexposure)
- Trendy editing (e.g making green look brown; images look very warm)
- Documentary style (true-to-life colors; not overly staged)
As cheesy as it sounds, you just have to feel the connection to the imagery with your heart. Use that information to pare down your list of wedding photographers.
Feeling the connection is a very important step. Why? Well, photographers don’t generally change their editing or shooting style depending on the client’s wishes.
They have honed their craft over the course of their career, and create the work that only they can create. If you don’t 100% love the way they capture and edit images, you can safely cross that wedding photographer off your list!