5 Tips for Hiring Your Wedding Photographer !!!
Jenny and I were recently approached by one of the owners of The Wedding Festivals, Mr. Marc Wheeler about presenting during two of their upcoming shows in Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC. Of course we were pumped and flattered to even be thought of in this regard so big thanks to Marc, but it got us thinking, ‘what are we going to present on?’ There are literally hundreds of things we would probably talk about when it comes to the realm of wedding photography, so as Jenny and I sat there and brainstormed, we finally came up with a presentation that we felt comfortable speaking on and we thought would be the most relevant/helpful for the brides and grooms in attendance. “5 Tips for Hiring Your Wedding Photographer,” now it might seem too easy or cliché, but truthfully, many start the process of hiring a wedding photographer and never consider some of the tips we are about to share with you. Just as an example, during the Wedding Festival last year, we met with 4 couples for the first time that day and through casual conversation and learning about the vision for their big day, we learned that they already had a wedding photographer (or at least had them in mind). Each of them ended up booking with us a couple weeks after the expo and I have to think it is for some of the key reasons we are about to go over. We strongly hope each bride and groom consider these when making the investment in a wedding photographer to document their day as they picture it! So, for those of you who regularly follow our blog, consider yourselves privy to this information before it is presented at the Wedding Festivals later this month! (woo hoo!)
Book Early – If there is one thing you can do to help in the process of finding the right wedding photographer for you, it is booking early. Most popular wedding photographers in any given region are likely to book their entire year, one calendar year prior. Let me say that again, for those of you who may have read it too fast, the highly acclaimed wedding photographer/photography company you’ve been scoping the last couple months for your wedding in 2017, has likely booked all their 2017 dates in 2016! Now throw in the kicker that some areas like Greenville, SC and especially Asheville, NC are destination wedding areas, and you really start seeing more photographers booked even further out than a year. In fact, Jenny and I started booking 2018 weddings last July. I say this not to boast, but simply to give light to the fact that if your photographer does solid work, has a good reputation, and is using multiple platforms to find potential clients, in an area like this, they will book up quickly, especially during peak months like May & October! This isn’t to say that every photographer you find on the top 10 google pages will be booked, but there’s a good chance they will be. Some other good places to look for potential wedding photographers besides Google, and bridal shows, are Wedding Wire, Borrowed & Blue, The Knot, and Thumbtack, just to name a few. Of course, word of mouth is still a strong number one for most full time photographers. Also, it is a great idea to check with some of your friends who were recently married to see if they loved their photos and experience with their wedding photographer. Last little bit on this tip, if your wedding photographer is still in the building stages of their company and still developing in terms of reputation, find-ability, etc. there’s a good chance they are going to have more available dates. This isn’t to say their work isn’t awesome, it’s just to say they may not be easily found yet. Lastly, if you are getting married in Florida in July or the mountains in January, these are generally slower times for the wedding industry as a whole, so picking an ‘offseason’ date is always a good alternative if you’re really set on working with a particular wedding photographer.
Do your research – Some of this may seem a little obvious but you definitely have to do your research! Get on your wedding photographer’s website and look at their portfolio. If you want to take it a step further, you’ll find that most pros blog about many of their weddings, check out some of their blog posts and see what a more in depth look at one of their wedding days looks like. If they’ve shot at your venue before, don’t be afraid to ask to see an album to see their artistic interpretation of how they capture a wedding there and all of the small details throughout the day that don’t necessarily make the website or blog. Facebook and Instagram are always fun to look at as well as many wedding photographers update these quite often so you can review some of their more recent work. Ultimately you’re trying to determine what the overall style is of your wedding photographer and is it a style you like? Many photographers are going to have a documentary style (sometimes referred to as photojournalistic), and many are going to be more on the fine art side of the spectrum in terms of how they shoot and utilize light/editing. It’s good to know do some research on these styles in general and figure out, which one you like more, and then find a wedding photographer who fits that style. (For more info on some of the styles, see one of our past blogs on wedding photography styles here!) What we tend to find is that our usual bride and groom are looking for a balance of different types of shots throughout the day with the primary focus being on candid shots captured in the moment that are more organic by their nature. Part of the research process should also be looking at some of their reviews and possibly talking to some of their past clients. It’s as simple as hopping on Google, Wedding Wire, or Facebook and seeing what past clients are saying. Take note of what they loved most about the experience of working with them. Take note of anything that raises a red flag or gives your cause for concern. Did the person leaving the review love their final images? Did they say anything about their customer service? Were they on time? Did they dress professionally? Going through this process can help you gauge what the overall experience was like for previous clients, what traits your potential wedding photographer brings to the table in terms of the client perspective, and ultimately help you determine are these the things that you value in working with someone. Lastly, if you have any questions further than what’s easily available, don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for a reference if need be as speaking directly with past brides is definitely a way to help re-assure you that you’re making the right decision!
Get to know your photographer – We always suggest getting to know your photographer because this relationship can play a large part in how smooth, or not so smooth your wedding day goes. For us, it is essential that we get to know our couples before their big day. This may mean phone calls, texts, and Skype, or it may mean getting to know each other over some brews (coffee or beer,) but in any event, it’s an opportunity for you to find out if your personalities mesh well, and an opportunity learn what their working day style is like. Considering your photographer will likely be spending much of your wedding day with or near you, it’s important that they are someone you are comfortable around! It’s also a good opportunity to ask them what the typical wedding day looks like for them, or how they handle certain situations that arise. This will help give you some insight as to whether they are all up in the mix, fly on the wall, little bit of both, how they deal with difficult guests, etc. It is also an opportunity to go over your vision and communicate that to them. What are the special must have shots you can’t live without? Are there any special requests you have in terms of family member group photo combinations like step moms or step dads? Are there any key moments that are going to be totally unique to your wedding or a possible surprise that nobody else knows about but you need them to know so they can capture it when it happens? By getting to know your photographer, not only will you be more comfortable with them the day of which will lead to more comfort on camera, but it will allow you to be yourself completely. This is where those amazing moments are captured when you are simply having a great time enjoying everyone around you, not worried about ‘what you’ll look like in that photo' because you’re already confident that you’ve communicated everything to your photographer in terms of wants and needs and you’re comfortable in knowing that, they got you! As we say with almost all of the couples we work with, it is our goal that when we show up on your big day you say , “Hey there’s Joe and Jenny!," not “Hey there’s the photographers!”
Determine if they can meet your needs – What we mean by this is looking beyond what’s evident. Do you like their style? Check. Do you like them? Check. Are they in your budget? Check! But beyond this, we are talking about the subtle details to really meet all of your wants and needs throughout the day. Some of the things not initially considered, but are very important – Are they going to be shooting solo or as a team? It appears most of their work is in natural light or well-lit areas, do they have lighting for your dark reception area or are they comfortable in dim lighting? Are they comfortable working with large parties and groups? Even if the answer is no to some of these questions, that is totally okay. Some wedding photography companies operate as one man/woman shows, some operate as a team or bring a lighting assistant. Some are comfortable in dark settings using their flashes, but some specialize in only natural light. Some may be comfortable and very well versed in working with large bridal parties and large families, some may specialize in small elopements! The beauty of this industry is that you can specialize and by doing that you can serve someone better and find someone who meets your needs to a "T." Now this isn’t to say that if your wedding photographer has never worked with a large bridal party before, that they can’t, or just because they don’t have a second shooter it doesn’t mean they can’t cover everything. This is where it is important to have considered the vision for your wedding day, how you want it captured and what that all entails and have communicated it with your wedding photographer. Many times you may find that based on what your vision is, they may refer you to someone else, or they may be your perfect fit! Communication is key, and it is very important to go over your expectations to make sure that everything will be to your standard.
Do their packages work for you – We’re not just talking about are they in your price range, we are talking about getting the most value for your money, and getting exactly what you want and need. For instance, let’s say they are a great fit for you with regards to all the aforementioned details, and they have a package that is set perfectly in your budget range, but let’s say that package includes an engagement session, and maybe you already have engagement photos? Are they willing to remove it from the package or swap it out with something of equal value like a bridal session or a professional print album? We personally found it surprising at the amount of couples we’ve worked with in the past year that that told us they had met with a photographer or two prior to us and were informed “they had to” get the engagement session or they didn’t have to but the price wouldn’t budge, which ultimately ended up being a deal breaker for them in the end. We are not here to tell anyone else how to run their business by any means, but if you find yourself in negotiations with a wedding photographer (or lack thereof) and they won’t budge, mutually, it may not be a good fit and that’s okay, but it’s definitely something to consider. Does the package your considering come with printing/sharing rights? Most couples we work with intend to, (at some point,) get prints or share their photos on social media. Is this something that comes with the package your getting or do you have to pay more? It’s always good to ask as everyone approaches this differently. Lastly, do they offer any kind of special rates? If you were referred to your wedding photographer by another vendor like a venue or planner, many times if that planner or venue are part of the photographer’s preferred vendor’s list or vice versa, they will offer a discount as a thank you and way to take of their network referrals (not all but some). Do they offer any off-season (if they have one), first responder, or military discount? Do they offer any kind of deal if you pay in full vs. 2 or 3 payments? If you find yourself in one of these situations, it doesn’t hurt to ask, the worst they can say is no.
There are literally dozens of lists out there with hundreds of questions for your wedding photographer. It can save you a lot of time and headache by following these 5 tips. These 5 tips for hiring your wedding photographer all hit on (in our opinion) the most important aspects of hiring a professional to shoot your wedding, without making it feel like a 50 question test or job interview! In the end, you’re just trying to capture the best images with respect to your vision, have the best experience possible with regards to enjoying your day, and not go over your budget. Let these 5 tips guide you on your search and let them simplify the process.
-Joe & Jenny