- 6 Steps to Hiring the Perfect Wedding Photographer -
I sure hope you've been enjoying The Wedding Planning Series! As a former educator for a non-profit agency, it's in my genes to share knowledge and resources. My dad used to teach Bible college when I was a little girl and it was something about watching him write on the chalkboard that was appealing. Now that I'm all grown up and experiencing life from a whole new perspective (being a wife and mom definitely didn't come with a handbook!), I want to share lessons I've learned to make it easier for those who are walking the same path.
Planning your wedding day can be a daunting task, but if you already know where to start or have a plan to follow, that makes it much easier.
Once you've determined your budget, one of the first things on your list will be to determine your venue along with hiring a photographer. Here's a great checklist that will help you decide who will capture those forever memories of your perfect day!
Meet with your photographer. Find out if the photographer plans to meet with you before actually booking your wedding day. This shows that the photographer is invested in you and wants to make sure that he/she is a good match for you and what you're looking to have covered for your wedding day. You don't want a photographer who just wants to book your event and take your money, but isn't willing to really find out what you want and how he/she can best serve your needs. Meeting in advance over coffee, at the photographer's studio or at a location of mutual choice helps ease your mind about who this person is, what they offer and why you're investing in their service. Looking at their website is not always a good deciding factor as to whether they'll be a good match. Many times, seeing someone in person helps you to ask questions you may not have thought to ask otherwise and establishes a sense of trust. Personally, I like to meet with my bride beforehand to also be able to create a wedding day timeline. Having a timeline helps to keep the photographer on schedule or know how to improvise when unforeseen events happen in order to photograph all the necessary details, venues, getting ready moments, people and so forth throughout the day. I've learned from experience that being a wedding photographer without a timeline is a disaster. I usually send a draft of the timeline to the bride at least one month prior to the wedding day so that tweaks can be made, if necessary. I've also learned from experience that it's a good thing to also be in touch with the wedding coordinator. This way, I can stay abreast of all the happenings of the day that need to be accounted for in the timeline.
Learn about the details. Choose a photographer who will capture the details you love best. Most photographers will use a variety of styles throughout the day to focus on the aspects that are most important. Personally, I love an editorial style that tells the story from the beginning of the bride's day to the reception. This makes it easier for me to put together a wedding album that shows details in chronological order and highlights important moments from the day. I also love close-up pictures of small details. As a storyteller, I look for moments and details that tell the wedding day story. When I meet with the bride and groom prior to booking, it also gives me a chance to learn a little history so I'll look for certain things during the wedding day to complete the story. For example, my last bride lost her grandfather a few months prior to her wedding day. One particular moment during the ceremony, I noticed her grandmother trying to hold back tears and covering her face. That might not seem like anything worth capturing to an outsider, but because I was familiar with the family, that moment was priceless.
Ask about the photographer's shooting style. Do you want more candid or posed pictures? While some people prefer the posed look, others prefer portraits where everyone looks natural. Personally, I love pictures that show emotion and connection. During the wedding day, I'm looking for those moments (especially behind-the-scenes) that the bride will cherish when she's telling her grandchildren about her wedding day years from now. For family formals, sometimes it's a little more challenging but if I can encourage my bride and groom - along with family members - to interact with one another, they'll talk and laugh like I'm not even there. To me, those are the best photos! Plus, I love natural light and most photographers will agree that anywhere there's natural light it will bring out the natural beauty of the skin tones. In certain situations, I've had to use flash but only when necessary. Once you build trust with your photographer, you'll accept their recommendations for perfect spots to do portraits after the ceremony. A professional photographer can see beauty in one small area that may otherwise look like nothing special, capturing gorgeous portraits that you'll cherish a lifetime. I've had to learn how to speak up and make suggestions, because that's what I'm being paid to do.
What is the photographer's editing style? This is a great question to learn beforehand so you'll have an idea of what your finished portraits will look like. You may be looking for bright and airy portraits - which typically are achieved outdoors. Or you may be the type of bride who likes dark mysterious portraits. Take a look at the photographer's website to see if there's a consistent style of portraiture. This will help you determine if the photographer you hire is a good fit to capture your wedding story. Personally, I love portraits that focus on the subject (whether one person or a group) and don't have a lot of distractions. I love bright photos that show joy, connection, strong family ties - anything that brings that moment to life. Also, it's great to learn about post-production and the turn-around time for your finished portraits. You don't want to have to chase down your photographer by email and phone trying to get your pictures six months or more after your wedding day. An estimated time frame of what you can expect after your wedding day should be in your Welcome Guide or contract. This way, you know exactly what your photographer will do and he/she is held accountable for what they've promised in writing. Personally, I like to provide a sneak peek of the wedding within the first week of the wedding day. When possible, I try to provide it that same night so the bride and groom can share it before they settle into their honeymoon, and family can relive the highlights of the day. I do all my own editing, using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance portraits so they'll look their best for print, so it takes me at least two to three weeks to have the portrait gallery ready for my couple to view. I also do a premiere ordering session where the couple can view all their finished portraits, choose the ones they want for gift prints, wall prints or canvas and then receive their gallery via email. Over the next couple weeks, I'll have a sample album to view online for the couple to review and suggest changes. A complete heirloom wedding album without text can take up to three weeks from the time it's ordered to be delivered to the couple. If I'm requested to add text to enhance the wedding story, this timeline can be a little longer. Some photographers hire a company that provides editing services and may have a quicker turn-around time than I do.
What have others said about this photographer? One of the most important things you can do is read the reviews of the photographer you have in mind. Have other clients enjoyed their experience? What recommendations have they made concerning this photographer? Check out their Google business page or website. You can also look at sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire (if that photographer is registered). Ask mutual friends about this photographer to get first hand information that may not be online. It's so important to do your homework beforehand so you don't end up with a photographer who is not reputable. A word of advice, just because a photographer hasn't been published or isn't registered with agencies like The Knot or Wedding Wire doesn't mean they won't be a great photographer for your wedding.
How much is the photography service going to cost? This line item in your total wedding budget may seem like a small investment compared to some of the other details, but I guarantee that it is such a significant part of your decision. So many people can claim to be a photographer and may even have a nice camera, but do not have the know-how to tell a love story with beautiful portraits. Ultimately, what will your final pictures look like on your wall or in an album is a question you should want an answer to because your photos deserve more than an online gallery or USB. For a professional wedding photographer, prices usually begin at $1,000 for the low range and can be upwards of $10,000 for the high range. Depending on how long you'll need their service (all day, half day), what equipment they'll need to bring, travel expense and other factors, keep this in mind when he/she quotes their price. Your wedding day memories are worth the extra investment or saving up for, trust me. You want a photographer who has some training and/or experience under his/her belt and can envision beautiful portraits that you'll have on your wall. Your parents will no doubt want an album all to themselves, and even your bridal party may want mini albums. Sending out thank you cards featuring a key wedding photo is a big thing now and you'll want someone who can provide these services. It's easy to say "I'll get my wedding pictures printed myself, just give me the CD or USB." But in reality, you'll have to sift through hundreds or thousands of photos to determine which ones are best to print, decide on a print lab (please don't use an unprofessional print lab for your wedding photos!), and size your photos for the appropriate print size. It's a cumbersome, time-consuming job that your professional photographer will be glad to provide as a service. Instagram and Facebook are great for a few photos, but to preserve your photos which is essentially part of your heirloom, wedding day memories should be on fine art material that's meant for keepsakes.
I am so happy for you in your upcoming nuptials and pray all the best for you and your husband-to-be!
Thank you so much for being a part of this community! If you've found this information helpful, check out our other Wedding Planning Series posts. Feel free to share this post using the social media icons at the top or below. If you have questions or have an idea you'd like to see featured, please comment below.