How to choose your wedding photographer!
It would seem simple enough right? Just google local wedding photographers, find one whose website looks good and book them! If only it were that easy! One thing we hear from many of our clients that hire us is that they searched for weeks and sometimes months until they found someone just right who met all their needs. But what are those needs? What are some of the variables that might make you want to hire one awesome wedding photographer vs another? You’ll likely find that everyone has a different style, different prices and options, different personalities, different visions, different experience levels, different specialties, different availabilities, etc. Where do you begin? We are going to go over some of these factors and discuss some of the things you should consider when it comes to actually choosing your wedding photographer.
Where to look?
First let’s consider where to look! In order to pick the perfect wedding photographer for you, you need to know where to start. In our fast paced digital world where google has become not only a noun but a verb, google is certainly the most popular place to start the search but it’s not the only one. When you limit yourself to just looking at google, you’ll likely only find the photographers who are also really good at SEO. We are blessed in that our company usually ranks on the 1st or 2nd page of google with all the work we put in, but it is certainly not the only place we get inquiries and we wouldn’t suggest limiting yourself to just one particular method of searching. We personally know of other professionals in the area that make a living just off word of mouth alone. Below is a list of helpful places to look when beginning your search:
Word of mouth
Wedding & bridal shows
The above list is a good place to start, but trust us when we say there are still a multitude of other platforms you can search and find that wedding photographer who’s perfect for you! These are just some popular places to get you started that you may not have thought of yet.
Now that you know where to start the search let’s talk about some of the aforementioned factors to consider when it comes to hiring your wedding photographer!
Style and Portfolio
While there are technically many styles we could dive into or combinations of styles, for the purposes of keeping things simple, let’s start off with the two extremes. You sometimes have wedding photographers who are pure photojournalists and will hardly do anything staged or posed during the course of a wedding day. Their goal is to simply document the day exactly how it unfolds and not get involved. On the opposite extreme end of the spectrum you have the wedding photographer who wants to stage every inch and every moment of the day. This might look like someone talking to you and directing you literally step by step second by second throughout each major moment of the day. In general, most successful professionals fall somewhere in between these two extremes on that spectrum and will shoot with a balanced style throughout the day, getting involved when they need to, letting parts of the day unfold naturally, all the while looking for creative ways to frame ordinary moments, or manipulating angles and light to turn the ordinary in to extraordinary. On top of these individual differences when it comes to shooting and working day styles, it is also important to consider their editing style. While most professionals will generally use most of the same equipment, and most of the same settings in most of the same situations, how they give a photo their final touch can have a huge difference of the final product. Many photographers edit with a natural style. Many edit with a more dark and moody style. Many will edit photos to be more dramatic and vivid, while others prefer light and airy. What you’ll likely find as you begin this search is you’ll probably sort of like a little bit of everything, but an important question to ask yourself is do I want the majority of, if not all of my wedding day photos to generally look like this style? If the answer is yes, keep that photographer in mind! Lastly once you’ve picked out a few that you like, review more of their portfolio. Check out Instagram, check out their blog, dig deeper into their facebook. This will help give you an idea of their consistency, overall style, and general vision when they approach a wedding day. If you find that you like a particular photographer’s style and portfolio, then they should absolutely be at the top of your list.
Now some people may argue that you should determine your budget first then start looking for a photographer, but here’s the issue with that strategy. If you decide on a budget first, you start solely looking at numbers thereby limiting your potential pool of photographers and limiting your chances that you’ll likely be as happy with your choice. The first thing you will click on everybody’s page is pricing and you won’t even consider their ‘brand’ or what they represent. Before you know it, your goal becomes to hire a number/price vs your ideal photographer. It is important to consider that many photographers may have a starting rate/package, but what is also important to consider is the value of what goes into that rate. Many times people see the number and automatically look elsewhere without first asking some important questions like - - are your packages flexible? Is there an offseason discount? Do you offer discounted services for military or first responders? Or let them know who you were referred by. Often times there is a preferred vendor or referral discount. Remember, most rates are generally based on Saturdays or Sundays during a peak time of the year. Now some companies may not have this flexibility due to such high demand and that’s okay too. When is the last time you saw a Mac Book Pro on sale? Apple knows that no matter what, people are going to buy their product thus there is rarely (if ever) a discount option. The take home here is first, figure out what you want, and then figure out how to make it work for you. You’ll be much happier in the end!
Just like shooting and editing styles may vary greatly, so can personalities. Try to think about what you would value from a wedding photographer when it comes to them as a person. To they appear to be up front, honest, and transparent when explaining everything? Are they prompt and on time? Do they genuinely seem just as excited about your wedding as you do? Do you want someone whose more on the quiet side and blends in? Would you value someone a little talkative and fun to help bring out your personalities if you are introverts? Do you want someone who’s passive? Assertive? All these questions and more are huge when it comes to making your final choice. If you’ve found this blog, you’ve likely heard the quote at some point “your photographer is the only vendor you will spend most of, if not all of the day with,”. As cliché as it seems, it’s true. So make sure to make time to make the phone call or skype. See if you can meet them before the big day and get to know them. The right or wrong personality can absolutely make or break how much you enjoy the experience of your wedding day.
We encourage couples in the market for a wedding photographer to get out and do their research. While there are a few ways to do this, one simple way is to get out and read some reviews. See what others who have used their service are saying. Did they enjoy the experience? Did they like working with them as much as they enjoyed their photos? Were they professional? Did you see any trending positives? Did you see any trending concerns? While it’s impossible to be perfect, do you now feel more or less comfortable after reading so previous testimonies? Do you have a wedding planner already? What have they heard? If you feel you want to go a little deeper, ask for references from previous clients or just personal message them if you’re looking at Facebook. But what if you are looking at a wedding photographer who is still a little new in the industry and they don’t have much in terms of reviews or people that know them? This can happen quite often, and just because someone is new or new to an area doesn't mean they aren’t awesome. At this point you’re having to go a little more on your gut feeling and that is ok too!
This can also be a big factor to consider when comparing different wedding photographers. While experience in and of itself is not the biggest indicator of “hey this person has a bunch of experience so I’ll get what I want”, it can be quite comforting knowing your working with someone whose likely been in a lot of different situations when it comes to what a wedding day can throw at you. With experience comes anticipation and this in our opinion is one of the most important attributes a wedding photographer can have. Also, when it comes to experience, we’re not just talking about pure linear time shooting their camera. As one of our good friends used to say, “It’s not the years, it’s the miles.” What we mean by that when it comes to wedding photography is not just how much experience but what kind? Have you shot in dimly lit areas? Have you shot outside at night? How would you propose we do a shot of us with everyone at the wedding? Are they used to constantly variable lighting conditions? How do they deal with uncle bobs?
Turn around time
First off for this subject, let us state for the record, we don’t believe any professional or consumer should sacrifice quality in order to reduce turnaround time as everyone's process for post processing their photos varies. This being said, turnaround time to receive your final edited images should be a matter to consider and is often a concern of many couples. Let’s face it, everyone has heard the horror stories of their friend’s friend who hired a photographer who didn’t get them their images for 6 months or more. Heck, there have even been news stories and social media lynch mobs surrounding this subject for photogs who do not deliver to their clients, or at least who do not deliver for extended periods of time. As professionals, we will be the first to tell you, the editing process usually takes the majority of the amount of time when it comes to your wedding photos in general. You get to see the 8 hours of shooting on your wedding day. What you don’t see is the hours and hours and weeks and weeks behind the scenes of culling through the thousands of images you’ve shot in order to find the absolute best ones to tell the story of the day. Color correcting each image so that it has the right or ‘preferred’ look of your style. On top of this the unique editing process that each photographer differs slightly in order to get your image to look it is absolute best. But, on the flip side of that coin, as professionals, we absolutely feel it is our responsibility to deliver our images in a timely manner! One of our biggest inspirations is a world famous husband and wife team and they report taking around 6-8 weeks to deliver their final product. They are arguably the best in the world and in the highest of high demands and still manage to get their clients their images in a month and a half. Speaking on our own behalf, we deliver our final albums to our clients within 2-4 weeks depending on which option they choose. We have found this pace comfortably works for us as creative professionals. So when you start narrowing down your wedding photographer options, absolutely consider turn-around time and how long you are willing to wait on your final products to be delivered.
What if I’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 but can’t choose?
At this point, consider your search a success if you’ve found 2 or 3 professionals that can meet all of your needs! But here comes the hard part, how do you choose? This will likely be a personal process of pros, cons, and intuition for every couple. If it is coming down to splitting hairs like this, something to consider that may affect who you think will be a better fit for you may be little things. Like, does your photographer require a large or small retainer fee? Are they able to re-schedule if something catastrophic happens to your venue (crazy but it happens)? If you do have to find a new venue or date for some unforeseen reason, can your retainer fee transfer dates? Do they have back up shooters if they get ill or injured before your big day? Do they have back up equipment? Do they provide previews? These are all seemingly little things, but can prove to be big down the road.
Even though the act of actually hiring a wedding photographer itself is fairly simple, with all the information out there, the process can actually become quite difficult. At the end of the day most couples all want the same things. They want someone they can trust, who shoots in the style they like, is easy to work with, is experienced enough to handle wedding day turbulence, all at a price they are comfortable with. Following these tips above will absolutely help guide you on your search!
For any questions, or inquiries! Please feel free to contacts us for more info ☺
-Joe and Jenny