I have been meaning to write this post for some time now because I am 99% sure just about all newly engaged couples have asked themselves this very question or even “googled” it 😉 There is no doubt that the wedding planning process can be a stressful one and having to narrow down the large list of available vendors can be a daunting one…however, at least in regards to picking the right wedding photographer I hope to give you some pointers to things that may help you out in the selection process with the goal of hopefully knowing that you have an awesome team of vendors on your big day and you are in love with the results! Trust me, having a solid vendor team on your wedding day helps BIG TIME with ensuring the day goes smoothly and you are able to relax and enjoy the day. Ok….enough of the intro – on with the tips!
How to Pick a Wedding Photographer!
1. Budget – If your overall wedding has some budget constraints, I know most weddings do then this has to be a starting point to rule out potential photographers. However, keep some slack or leeway with your budget for photography – choose a range. The range might be $1,800 to $2,500 or $3,000 to $4,000 or $500 to $950, whatever the range is, use that as a starting point when seeking potential photographers. It just doesn’t make much sense to plan to meet with a $3,000 photographer if looking to spend $1,500 max.
2. Where to look?
- Word of mouth is the best source so start by asking for recommendations or suggestions from friends/co-workers/family etc…Facebook is great for this too. A direct referral or recommendation is always the best but indirect recommendations are good as well, things like message boards on wedding websites. A great local resource is Bridal Insider but I know there are many others like… The Knot , Wedding Bee etc…
- Google/ Google Images – If you want to see images from wedding photographers that have shot at your wedding venue type it into google and you will inevitably come across many pro photoblogs that have shot at your venue.
- Bridal Shows – I can’t comment on how effective this route is, but am mentioning it since I know it is out there. I have been told from many previous couples that these shows are extremely overwhelming since its simply data overload. vendors upon vendors upon vendors all wanting to talk to you or hand out pamphlets – yikes..haha. However, it can be a start to at least see “what is out there”…note however, these shows are not cheap to exhibit at so many of these vendors will be in the higher price ranges.
3. The Photos – So now that you have a budget range, you’ve found a handful of photographers that either you already like their work or maybe just names that were referred to you. Now it is time to start really scoping out people’s work and see if you love their work. The best way to see their work and ultimately their “style” is through their blog – hopefully they update it often and post all their work so you have a variety of work to look at. If they don’t post often at all, well, that might be a red flag but if you love the work that you have seen it might be a good idea to ask them to send over a link to an entire wedding so you can see all 8 hrs of work and really get a feel for what the end result would look like.
- The work – to me, the number one thing has got to be, do you love their work? Do their photos grab you? Not literally, but you know what I mean 😉 Only you can decide which photographers have photos that really catch your eye. It might be creative angles or composition, a crisp and clean editing style, bold/vibrant colors – whatever it maybe that YOU like….whatever “it” is, you want “that”.
- Style – Photo Style & Work Style. Photo style is: does the photographer have very candid and natural looking photos, catching moments as the session unfolds? (more “photo journalistic”) or are most of the photos of the couple posed looking directly at the camera? (more “traditional”) Work style is along the same lines as photo style, how does he/she work to get the photos? How hands-on are they during a shoot? Are they all hands off (which doesn’t work too good unless working with professional models) or are they always posing someone, adjusting an arm, hand, face etc…?
- Editing – What is their editing style like? Only color? Only black & white? Mainly vintage warm tonings? In today’s digital age, editing style is a very large component of today’s wedding photography – understand what the “norm” is with each photographer’s style and make sure it aligns with what you are looking for. For me, we mainly do color & black & white however, do a smaller mix with vintage and sepia toned photos as well when the overall scene looks better one way or the other, see the photos below.
4. Contacting for additional info – Once you have narrowed down your list to your top 2 or 3 it is probably time to make contact with them and make sure they are first and foremost available for your date and also take the time to ask any smaller detailed questions that you may have. Email is most typical these days…in addition to asking for a detailed price list this is a great time to let us know some specifics about your wedding or event. Simple things like when, where, and any special circumstances or extra things that we should know about. Think about a potential rough timeline for your day and approximately how many hours of coverage you anticipate needing, some events may only “need” 6 hrs of coverage while others may need 10 hrs or more. Discuss timeline with the photographer to get their input and ideas, hopefully you are in agreement of about how much time is needed. Also make sure to understand all that is or isn’t included in the wedding packages, do you need prints? albums? engagement sessions? Some photographers will have base packages with those as add-ons that can be nice for flexibility others may only offer complete collections that will be pricier.
I know when I was looking for vendors for my wedding one of the biggest turnoffs was vendors who had a terrible response time getting back to my emails asking for info so this is a good way to check and see how “prompt” they are or are not. Some good smaller questions to ask can be –
- Tell me about your editing process?
- Do you edit / color correct every single photo?
- How long is your turnaround time for us to get our photos?
- Do we get a disc with Hi-Res images AND printing rights?
- What gear / how much gear do you have? (check for backup equipment)
- How much of a deposit to reserve our wedding with you?
- Can you send me a link of an entire wedding? (Be wary of photographers who don’t want to share a whole wedding with you)
5. Research / Read Reviews – If all signals are go at this point it is probably time to think meeting with your top choice or choices and getting more serious about booking and locking your chosen photographer in. However, nowadays with yelp and amazon with all the online reviews that are around I recommend doing some extra due diligence and to read some reviews, assuming there are some to read. A great site for wedding vendor reviews is: Wedding Wire. These are real words from past clients and although sometimes you can’t put all your emphasis in them, they definitely can and should give you an idea if the photographer has mostly happy clients or if there are some real bad reviews you might want to think twice.
6. To meet or not to meet… – At this point if all systems are “GO” then the last step in the process should be to meet up in person to put a face to the name, check out each others personalities and see if you guys “click”. The wedding photographer is typically the closest vendor to you on your wedding day so don’t discount the importance of being a good “fit” for each other. Things to consider – are they easy going? are they punctual? are they good with communication and people in general? Can they be a good leader if / when they have to? These are all solid personality traits that I think are important with being a wedding photographer. You definitely have to be a people person, prompt and good communication, be able to take the lead and coordinate (family photos :)) etc… Is meeting in person also a good time to look at printed work or albums? Yes, indeed…however, for a photographer who is in high demand and is busy the best way to view their work is online, on their blog typically. Simply because you can see more variety online, and its far easier to update a blog with the most recent photo shoots than a designed and printed album. If purchasing an album is in the cards though, then of course, view album samples and see the quality of the books and see if you like their album design work.
7. Book em Dano! – You’ve narrowed your list down, you’ve done your research on your candidates, you’ve evaluated their professionalism, communication and response time through your correspondence with them and you’ve met with them to put a face to the name and see if your comfortable with them as a person, not just love their photos – if all looks good then I say book em and lock em in! Believe it or not it is amazing how often we get duplicate requests for the exact same day so when you have found “the one” don’t get to passive about locking them in.
In closing – I really hope this post helps any of those in the planning process, I put a lot into this post because I understand the importance of the decision and also don’t want people to let a “checklist” to determine who they should or should not choose. Rely on your feeling, its amazing how often your gut feeling tells you all the right decisions to make. In short – decide on a budget range, find photos that move you and you adore, do your research, and don’t overlook personality fit with each other!
Till next time….Cole.