Hey there! If you are new to your wedding planning adventure, let me first say…hold on! It’s going to be a wild ride. Your wedding is supposed to be one of the most memorable moments in your life, so there’s a ton of pressure to make it great. Shake that pressure off, do what you want, and don’t let anyone bring you down from the newlywed high.
I’ve dedicated my life to photographing incredible couples on their wedding day. During my 16 years in the business, I’ve learned a few things. There are a lot of great photographers, but not every great photographer will be a great fit for you. It’s similar to wedding dress shopping. I’m sure you saw so many gorgeous gowns in magazines, online and in dress shops. But there was only one perfect fit! This is one of the reasons we only take on a limited number of weddings every year. We want to be sure we are a perfect fit for you and want you to feel that way about us. If we aren’t a perfect fit, we’ll even help you find the right one for you. I’ve put together a few things to consider while searching for a wedding photographer. I hope this helps in your search!
- Experience – A wedding photographer must be a seasoned pro. I am so passionate about this point. The reason this is so important is because other types of photography (portraits, editorial, food, sports, still life, etc) can get away with being a newbie because there’s not as much to learn in a specialty. But a wedding photographer has to essentially be good at every type of photography because it’s all happening during a wedding day. They must be great at portraits, candids, moving subjects (sports), indoor natural light, outdoor natural light, indoor flash (receptions), still life, and people management. They also need to be an excellent business owner with a system in place for backup image files, album design, and customer service. Truth be told, I did not feel great about all of these things even after 5 years as a photographer. It takes time to build these skills and thrive in them. I have had brides inquire, tell me they are going with a newbie to save money, and then call me a month after their wedding when they received their wedding pictures CRYING because everything photographed after dark is simply unusable because the newbie photographer didn’t understand flash. It breaks my heart every single time, and this alone is the reason I decided to write this post. I am not trying to get your business or take away from other photographers. But it’s very easy for a photographer to only show daylight images on their website and make people believe they know what they’re doing when in reality they have only mastered one of the 20 types of photography a wedding pro must master. If you are unsure about your potential wedding photographer, I would highly suggest requesting full image portfolios (of at least 400 images) from a lighting situation that is similar to your wedding day projection. If they cannot or will not do that, move on quickly and know that you just avoided a disaster.
- Emphasis – Even seasoned photographers choose their emphasis. Most photographers you see in a lot of magazines have an emphasis on wedding details such as flowers, table settings, and stationery. Other photographers choose to concentrate on candid moments throughout the day. A tear here, a laugh there, the flower girl that decided to throw a tantrum half way down the aisle. Others yet emphasize portraits, leaving candid photojournalistic images completely out of the picture. The best photographers navigate a wedding in a calculative way and deliver an equal amount of all three. It’s impossible to know this if you just look at highlight images on a website, so be sure to talk to your photographer about this. If the photographer says they do all three, have them rate from most important to least and that will give you a better idea of where they stand.
- Artistic Style – There are a lot of great photographers out there! That doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t like their style. Take your time while looking through portfolios and really look at how they handle their editing. For example, I’m considered a fine art film photographer with digital emphasis during the reception. I love soft, low contrast images with true to life color and a painterly touch. Film stock dictates the colors you see in my work, not photoshop skills. It’s my ultimate goal to deliver images that you will love 50 years from now when the fads fade. If you are into dark and moody with tons of contrast, we may not be the best fit. If you are into muted and muddy (a fad that looks a lot like Instagram filters right now) we most certainly are not the right fit. I don’t want to tell you what style to pick, because a wedding should be an expression of who you are as a couple. Be wary of trends that will be done in a few years. That’s all I will say. ha
- Personality – The last thing you should do before choosing a photographer is to make sure you are a personality match. If you are a quiet, very private person you may have a more difficult time finding someone calm enough for you. Most photographers I know are high energy, loud, and sort of salesman-like. I was definitely like that in the beginning! I’ve calmed down quite a bit and prefer now to be the calm in the wedding day storm, with a constant calming but supportive presence. I’ve seen it all, friends. Dresses that didn’t fit, cakes that melted from the heat, even a bees’ nest that exploded above a ceremony site. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t love each other, which is the only thing that would make me stress out. The wedding will go on, you will have a wonderful time, and the next day you will be married. Everything else matters less and less. You don’t have to be best friends with your photographer, but you should be able to carry on a conversation with them without it feeling awkward. I will say, go easy on your photographers. Most of them don’t do well in phone conversations and highly prefer Skype, FaceTime, or in person meetings.
- Budget – This is an important one. The Knot has a really good article on what percentage of your budget should be allocated to photography, which is much better than just putting a price tag on things. Basically they say photography should be 10-12% of your overall budget. So if your budget is $100,000, you should be spending $10,000-$12,000 on photography. You can always adjust that according to what is really important to you, but that’s the general thought process. For example, when I got engaged the first thing I did was hire a photographer. My all in budget was $50,000 for a 50 guest wedding and I spent $11,000 on my photographer because it’s super important to me.
That was a lot, but it’s all very important! Photos are the only thing you have left after a wedding day besides a dirty dress and a husband, so put some thought into and feel free to reach out if you need help finding the perfect fit.