DEFINE YOUR STYLE WHEN PHOTOGRAPHER SHOPPING
Something big has just happened — the love of your life has just popped the question. You’re floating on cloud nine, but huge decisions need to be made for the big day:
- “Where should our wedding be held?”
- “Should we have an open bar?”
- “Do we have to invite your third cousin Judith?”
- And most importantly, “who should photograph our wedding?”
You want a photographer whose images you love and connect with and will do your wedding day justice. However, unlike the work of your florist or caterer, a photographer’s work can’t be felt, eaten, touched, or seen (not right away at least). You won’t get to enjoy the final product until after the event. Which means careful consideration and meticulous research is needed to ensure you pick the right professional for you.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. I’ve pared down this process into 7 easy steps for you. I hope that you find the information helpful. If you like it, I’d love to hear about your favorite tip in the comment section below. Please feel free to pass these steps on to any friends who might find them helpful.
Alright, let’s get started!
Before you even get to looking at lists and recommendations for photographers, you first need to define your vision. It all boils down to what you want your wedding to look like — from your signature color palette to the thoughtful location of your event. Once you’ve determined that, you can dive headfirst into photographers that match your style.
- Fine Art: Fine art photographers capture images that are meant to be appreciated as visual art. Careful attention is paid to the composition of each photo – the lighting, background, subjects – in order to tell a specific story. Many fine photographers use a mix of film and digital photography and produce a wide range of styles, from light & airy to dark & moody imagery. If you are planning a wedding in which the aesthetic of your event is paramount, a fine art photographer is the best option.
- Photojournalistic: If you want to stray away from your parent’s posted wedding portraits, a photojournalistic (or documentary-style) photographer is at the other end of the spectrum. This style of photography captures candid and spontaneous shots. The hands-off approach of photography means that you’ll rarely see people staring straight into the camera and most of your guests will never feel watched…they may not even notice your photographer at all! These images will capture each moment exactly as they happen and weave together an intimate and authentic story.
- Editorial: Love the look of big fashion magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair? Editorial photography might be the right fit for you. This style of photography is an art form in itself. You won’t find many candids here, but instead sweeping and dramatic imagery meant to evoke a larger-than-life feeling. Expect lots of direction and collaboration with your photographer.
Here’s a little secret for you: most photographers shoot a mix of styles. That means that there is something for everyone, just find what mix appeals most to YOU. As you look through potential photographer’s websites, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are they consistent in their style?
- Can you picture you and your honey in those shots?
- Will these images still look relevant on your walls and photo albums in 10 or 25 years?
Once dinner has been eaten, dancing is done, and the last of the cake is gone, all that remains are your wedding images. It’s a cliche statement, but it doesn’t make it true. Wedding photography immortalizes the day for years to come. And while photography services come in at all different price points, what’s most important is VALUE. The value is how much you appreciate and share your wedding album, pass by your framed print on the wall and smile as you recall walking into your wedding reception, and how you go about sharing the collection of images when everything is said and done. There’s a reason why families who learn their house is on fire immediately start grabbing family photos off the walls and from the bookcases. They matter.
On the flip side, there are people out there who could care less about having and album or prints. And there is nothing wrong with that. They know they’ll invest significantly more for a cater, DJ, dress, etc. for their wedding because that has more value to them than photography. And that’s okay for them. Not everyone is a photography lover.
Once you’ve evaluated how important these tangible, heirloom items will be to you and your family, consider your budget and what types of packages each photographer offers.
Sometimes comparing photographers and their respective package can feel like apples to oranges. Do you really need 1,500 photos or is having 300 high-quality images enough? Is 14 hours of coverage overkill or will 7 be enough to take you through the day? What are your musts, your wants, and your can-do-withouts?
Learn what’s included in each package, plus the rates for extras like an engagement shoot, save the date cards or additional hours of coverage, so you can compare rates.
Two things you never want to compromise is quality and service. It doesn’t matter if you want a full day of coverage and all the images from your event or just 100 high-quality photos. All of your images need to be consistent in style, well composed, well-lit and meaningful. And the photographer has to be responsive and do what they say they’re going to do.
EXPERIENCED PRO vs. TALENTED NEWBIE
Just like most professionals, more experience often comes at a premium. A pro with 10 years under their belt will likely charge more than a new photographer only a year or two into the game. Being new to the wedding photography industry doesn’t necessarily the photographer will be a bad choice. There are a ton of great photographers out there just getting started who have amazing work and have had great mentors educating them on the business side of things so the experience is great for their business as well as the client. Ultimately, it all depends on how comfortable you are with their level of experience and their process. So don’t feel shy about reaching out with questions:
- How many weddings have they shot?
- What wedding venues have they photographed at before?
- How will they guide you through the process?
- Do they have online reviews or references they can provide from recent, past wedding clients?
No matter what their experience level is, your photographer should outline every step from reviewing the contract to making a schedule for the photo events of the day, and be clear on expectations for post-production time and photo delivery.
FIND COMPATIBLE PERSONALITIES
You want to be excited about all the vendors you hire for your wedding day, but nobody will interact more with you and your guests than the photographer. This means you need to mesh. Don’t hire a loud and extroverted photographer if you’re looking to have a more subdued event. You want to feel comfortable and confident in your photographer, so get to know them beyond their stylistic approach to their work.
Are they bright and bubbly? Or more subdued and quiet? Will they be able to bring out the best in large groups? In shy guests? Your images should show you looking happy and in love, not stressed because you hired a photographer that can’t handle a rowdy bridal party.
Also, be sure to look at their portfolio images. How do the subjects look? One quick peek will either show awkward posing and deer-in-headlights or easy-breezy, natural revelers.
In turn, your photographer should also ask lots questions and be a good listener so they are clear on your expectations for the day’s captures.
Consider booking an engagement shoot for a test-run or just to get to know each other better… You will be happy you did!
KNOW THE EXPECTATIONS
You and your photographer both need to know the other’s expectations. Will you be having a larger wedding? Does the photographer have an assistant? Will they need a break for a nourishing meal? Discussing bigger-picture details – as well as the minute things like the number of images you want, how and when you’ll receive your previews, retouching fees, etc. — with your photographer will help minimize any potential hiccups and leave both of you pleased with the outcome.
For example, if you’re having a large wedding (200+ guests) you will likely want a second shooter, especially if there are several events happening at once. That way, the main photographer can capture images of the bride and bridesmaids getting ready, the family formal portraits and main scenes of the ceremony while the second shooter gets the groom and groomsmen getting ready, some of the unposed, behind-the-scenes images during the family portraits, and different aspect of the ceremony. Having two photographers can help round out your story and often become a more complete record of the day. But that additional photographer often comes with additional costs.
Any professional worth their salt will have a legal contract ready stipulating expectations for your day, liability insurance, backup equipment, and a rock-solid game plan in case of an emergency.
Earlier I mentioned asking about online reviews or reference from recent wedding couples. Having access to this information is key insight into knowing what other couples think of the experience. Did the photographer stick to their promise and get their couple’s images to them by the time allotted? Or did they miss the deadline? Did they communicate consistently with the couple answering questions in a timely manner? Or were they ghosts until a few days before the wedding? Knowing what other couples think of your potential photographer will help you understand what to expect based on someone who was in your shoes.
THINK ABOUT YOUR HEIRLOOM ITEMS
In a world of social media and instant gratification, it might be tempting to just go home with digital files of your big day. Your wedding images are meant to be a visual record of your legacy that’ll be passed on — not quickly scrolled through on a social media feed. This is where tangible heirloom items that help you remember the most important event of your life come into play?
Forget those old-school, plastic wrap covered pages with 4×6 “FotoMat” prints. Today, most photographers will offer heirloom products to highlight your day in an artistic, inspirational manner that last for generations. From coffee table linen albums to luxe folio boxes and framed wall galleries, you can relive your favorite images every single day. Let your photographer show you their sample products and see which ones you fall in love with.
Most photographers will also be able to create fun photo items from an engagement shoot, such as save the dates, sign-in books and even thank you cards.
CLICK THAT CONTACT BUTTON
So you’ve checked all of the boxes on your wedding photographer shopping list:
- Their images are incredible and fit your style
- Their rates are within your budget
- It seems like their personality will be a good match for your event
- They have great and consistent online reviews
Now you’ll want to make sure they have your date available and then schedule a face-to-face, or online video meeting.
This is when you will discuss your wedding, your style, the venue and your vision for the day. There’s no such thing as too much detail, so be clear and concise about what you want out of hiring this photographer. At this meeting, you’ll want a photographer that’s engaged who asks lots of questions and answers all of yours with confidence.
If their answers, imagery, and products give you the “warm and fuzzy” you may have found your photographer.
Once you have secured your date with a contract and deposit, be sure to stay in touch and use your photographer as an industry expert. They may have fantastic advice on everything from timelines, styling, decor and finding other top vendors.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER WRAP UP
This will provide you with the information you need to find a photographer that is a good fit for your wedding day. Do your homework, ask questions, know your budget, and lay out your expectations.