The first question I received when I announced my engagement last September was “How does a wedding photographer pick THEIR wedding photographer?”
Although you might think this would be the toughest detail to decide, in truth it was the simplest. Why? Because there are very specific things I looked for and considered from the get go. Here are ten things I recommend focusing on when choosing a wedding 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 legal contract that reads like it was written by someone with a legal background. Having it in writing will deliver peace of mind to both parties and ensure both have a great experience working together. (Note: handshakes and verbal agreements don’t count!)
2. They have more than 3-4 photos on their website
Photographers brand and market themselves through the work they show publicly. 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 or 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 implying that photographers specializing in family/newborn/corporate, etc. photography are any less skilled than wedding photographers. HOWEVER, I am saying that wedding photography challenges a photographer in a variety of ways that are different from other types of photography.
For example, wedding photography can be fast-paced and high-pressure, and is also frequently physically demanding, requiring both mental and physical stamina. Whenever I photography 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 both familiar and prepared for it.
4. They ask to meet with you (or phone/Skype with you) beforehand and have an obvious interest in getting 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. Your wedding photographer is telling your story through their images, and the relationship (between photographer and couple) will 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. This was a huge component in choosing our photographer – we wanted someone who felt more like a friend rather than a stranger.
5. Your personalities work well together and you get a good vibe
Once you’ve chatted and met with your photographer, make sure you pay attention to the “vibe” you get. Did it feel 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. 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 the 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 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 charge a fraction of everyone else’s price? 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.
9. They don’t complain about their past couples (or other vendors)
As someone who has had a ton of sit-down meetings with clients in a Starbucks or Dunkin’, it’s easy to forget formalities, especially if you are trying to be open, candid, and approachable. BUT, the one thing that should NEVER happen is a vendor putting down their past clients or other vendors they’ve worked with. Not only is it in bad taste, it also signals to you that someday YOU could be the couple they are complaining about. It is just plain unprofessional and a red flag that he/she may be difficult to work with. This person is there to create a beautiful, visual story of your day – choose someone who is positive and ready for the challenge.
10. They have a great track record of reviews
Last, but certainly not least, make sure your photographer can provide real reviews of their work. Some websites to consider are Yelp, Google Business, WeddingWire, or The Knot. If you can’t find anything online, do the next best thing and ask if they can provide a reference (from an actual couple, not just a friend). Someone who has done a great job in the past should be able to demonstrate their credibility through reviews.