Our friends at On the Go Bride are always putting out really informative content.  As wedding photographers and owners of Firstlight Photography we recognize we might be biased, but we thought their recent post about finding the right wedding photographer was brilliant.

Sadly, this story doesn’t have a happy ending but the message is clear.  You only have one shot at getting great wedding photos.  Do your homework and make it count.  Krisstin, owner of On the Go Bride (she is also an archaeologist which we find just way too cool), has laid out her dirty laundry in the form of some not so stellar photos of her wedding.

Blog Repost from On the Go Bride

This is an important topic not enough people touch upon. I’m sure you have heard stories. Do you have that one friend or relative who did not get the best service from their photographer? How about the person who spent a lot of money to end up with less than quality photos? Or worse, the friend that ended up with blurry photos or the photographer’s fingers showing in not one, but multiple photos. This happened to me. This happens to a lot of us. So how come more of us aren’t talking about it? Why aren’t we sharing our experiences to educate each other and help more couples on this topic? Well, that is exactly what I would like to do today. I want to share my experience and educate others on how to find a quality wedding photographer for their special day. Because when your day is over, the photos are what you will have left.

Let me start with my experience. Planning my wedding was my first introduction into the industry. I had no idea what to do or where to look. I was also an on-the-go bride who traveled a lot for work, so my “in town” time was limited. Logically my first stop was the wedding faire in town. Makes sense, right? One location, multiple vendors; I was sure to find everyone I was looking for or would ever need. Boy was I wrong. Here is a little secret I learned later. A lot of the great photographers don’t do wedding faires. Now that is not to say you can’t find amazing photographers at wedding faires. They are there. I’m just trying to encourage you to look outside the box as well. Don’t let the wedding faire become your be-all and end-all for local vendors.

I am not going to give the name of my photographer or all the details, just a few of the important ones. I did find my photographer at a wedding faire. The work displayed in their booth was gorgeous! I was drawn to the style. I liked the modern, fashion, magazine-ish flair. The style worked for me and my interest was piqued. I had heard all the warnings about having a family member take your wedding photos as well as going for the cheapest photographer. I had decided in the beginning I was willing to pay for quality. My wedding was in 2010 and I paid $3800 for a 6-hour package. By no means is that price at the highest end of the spectrum, but in my mind it was a fair amount to expect quality work. Without going into all the details of ignored emails, missed deadlines, and not producing everything that was paid for…I will just show you the end product. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So here is a great example of what I got. The photo on the top is from the professional photographer we paid for. The photo on the bottom is from my husband’s uncle who has a nice camera. Now I don’t have a photographer’s eye, but I can tell you which image I think is better of the two. I was pretty bummed when 95% of my “professionally edited” images seemed dull and missing all the color.

The photos I received looked nothing like the work I had seen. It looked nothing like what I thought I would be getting. I started to question if the work I had seen was really this photographer’s work? I also started to question what I had missed and where I went wrong? Through this experience and educating myself I discovered what I should have done and the questions I should have asked. That is what I want to share with all of you today. There are a couple important topics I would like to address and I am also including a wonderful questionnaire you can print out and take with you when you interview your potential photographer.

Your Photographer’s Work

There are a couple key issues that really go together. The first is verifying the work you are shown is actually that of the photographer. So how do you verify work? This one can be a bit tricky. There are a couple ways you can go about this. When looking at a photographer’s work, you want to pay attention to the style of all the photos. Do they all match? Do they all appear to be from the same person? One way to check is by asking to have the contact information for a few of the couples whose pictures you like. If it is the photographer’s real work then they should be able to give you contact information. This also doubles as great references. What better way to find out about your future photographer than to ask couples for their likes and dislikes of the service they received? Another way to verify the work is to ask your photographer to see the entire collection of photos from a specific wedding photo you like. If this is the photographer’s real work, then they should have all the images.

This also leads us into our second key issue. You want to make sure your photographer can produce quality photos in all different settings. Your wedding day usually spans many hours. When you look at albums or see photographer’s work at a wedding faire, you are usually seeing the single best image from multiple weddings. The truth is everyone gets lucky. Every once in a while everyone takes a good picture. By asking to view all the photos of a single wedding you are able to see the quality of photos that photographer can produce for an entire event. It will also show you if the photographer can shoot just as well outside as they can inside. If you have an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception, these are important things to look at and good questions to ask.

Life Happens

There is no better way to say it…life happens. The important part is how your photographer handles the unexpected. What does your photographer do if a family member dies the day before your wedding? What if they go into labor or are in an accident? This is an important question to ask, and one that did not dawn on me until it had already happened. My photographer did not show up in their best form on my wedding day. The months preceding, they became almost non-existent. To this day (almost 2 years later) we still have not received everything we paid for and I doubt we will. I learned shortly after my wedding day that the photographer was in the process of getting a divorce. One that dealt with young children and I’m sure assets. I imagine that is not an easy thing to go through. Taking the chance that I don’t sound too selfish here… We never get our wedding day back. And that is how I honestly feel about the situation. We paid for a service we did not receive. I think on some level if the photographer knows they can’t be on their A-game the day of your wedding they should have a backup plan. Perhaps a few photographers they can contact to fill in for them?  

Trust Your Gut

The best thing you can do is trust your gut. I had a bad feeling about my photographer after the engagement session. (Side Note – this taught me the benefit of an engagement session is getting to know your photographer). When I voiced my concerns to my mother and suggested finding someone else, she talked me into staying with him. I can’t blame her; we had already put down a significant deposit. But sometimes moms do not know what is best. She wasn’t there for the engagement session and I was. I should have went with my gut feeling and I would have been much happier with the outcome. When you meet with your photographer, is it someone you can picture yourself hanging out with? Do they try to get to know you as a person or are they all about business? Do you feel confident that they will give you their best on their big day? I can’t stress this point enough…trust your gut.

Printable Photographer Questionnaire

This post includes some of the major lessons I learned about finding a wedding photographer during my wedding planning process. I wanted to share these with you and I hope they help others. I hope they help you to find your wedding photographer that you will be happy with, by making sure to ask the right questions. To go along with this post I want to provide a questionnaire I created to help you remember to ask some of these important questions. Just click on the pdf below, print it out, and take it with you to each photographer you interview. And remember…trust your gut!

NOTE:  Firstlight Photography also recommends that you make sure your photographer shoots all photos in RAW format.  This allows for the most flexibility during the editing process!

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