5 Tips for finding your perfect wedding photographer
I’ve seen a lot of articles about how to pick wedding photographers and I choose not to reference any. While some articles may have good points, as a wedding photographer myself I feel like I have a slightly different take on the matter.
Without being too self serving, I should tell you I started Firstlight Photography in 2002, after working for a local newspaper for a few years doing sports photography. At first we mostly did portraits, head shots and some events, soon we began to receive requests for wedding photography. Since these were referrals from some of our best clients it was tough to say “no”, although at first I and no intention of making this a part of my business. What changed? I LOVED IT! My wife and I decided that if we were up front about who we were, we’d attract people we wanted to work with and it worked. Now with over 10 years and over 250 weddings under my belt I still love it.
The following post will hit on some of the important points to consider when searching for your perfect wedding photographer. In future posts I will expand on some of these subjects.
#5: Do your homework.
No, you don’t have to learn anything about photography, there won’t be any tests, but I do suggest you spend some time thinking about what you want in terms of wedding photography and the style of photos you like. Spend some time brainstorming about what you really want captured on your big day, a list of family photo groups you want, special guests, special details and anything else you can think of that is important to you. Most wedding photographers will know the standard things to take photos of, but if you don’t tell the that your favorite Aunt will be flying in from Fargo and it would mean the world to you to get a photo with her, how would they know?
What do you need to know?
- What are the most important items for you to have photographed?
- What conditions will your photographer be working in? (dimly lit church or in bright mid day sunlight?
- Where will the wedding parties be getting ready? (same or different locations?)
- Will you be seeing each other before the ceremony for a “first look” photo?
- What styles do you love or hate? Do you like posed formal photos or more a more candid photojournalistic approach?
- Do you love or hate B&W photos?
Bottom line, you need to know what you want and let your photographer know what you are expecting from them. This communication is key to getting the wedding photos you really want.
#4 Find at least 3 photographers whose style you like.
So, where should you start? Google, Wedding Wire and Offbeat Bride can help you find photographers in your area. Facebook can be your friend too, BUT be specific if you post a question. Don’t say “looking for an affordable photographer on my wedding date”. What’s affordable? Bill Gates and I have very different ideas of “affordable”. I suggest saying, “Looking for a photographer in the $2000 range for our wedding date”. WARNING: Posting something like this on Facebook could get you HUNDREDS of responses. You’ve been warned.
Don’t limit yourself, try to pick out 3 photographers you think match your style and meet with them. Don’t freak out about budget yet and don’t cut people because they’re $500 over what you thought you wanted to spend. If your budget is $2,500, avoid photographers that charge $10,000, BUT don’t cut out a photographer that charges $3,000 on average. You haven’t written a check yet and it is in your best interest to make an informed decision. A little extra spent on photography can be made up on other items your guests will never notice, BUT if you scrimp on photography that choice may haunt you for a long time.
#3: Realize the right photographer may be more expensive than you thought.
Experienced wedding photographers aren’t cheap and, trust me, wedding photography isn’t something you want to trust to the $500 Craigslist photographer or your uncle Bob that has a cool camera. Weddings can be very stressful, you are on a tight timeline, at the mercy of many other people. You have to get it right the first time. You are relying on your photographer to record your wedding day because when the the party is over, cake’s been eaten and the dust settles the photos tell the story of one of the biggest days of your life.
Besides the demands of the actual wedding day there is an incredible amount of time that goes into planning, coordination and post production. Just to go through the photos taken and get them ready for previews takes 3-4 hours for every hour of wedding photography. We also do our best to help our couples plan out their big day and use our experience to help them with planning and often suggesting other trusted vendors for them.
Bottom line, it is worth spending a little extra on a good wedding photographer, there are a lot of other places you can cut back a bit to reduce costs and nobody will ever know, but if your wedding photos don’t turn out that will stick with you.
#2: Don’t get lost in the details.
I get asked a lot about what kind of equipment I use and about my editing software, but Ive found that when I actually start telling clients most of the time their eyes glaze over and they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. You might also have preconceived notions about what’s good and what’s not. Would it matter if I told you that I show with Nikon, Canon or Sony? Sure, equipment matters a little. If your photographer is shooting with the Costco special with the $100 kit lens it doesn’t mean they can’t take great photos, but it does mean that they will be limited in certain situations.
Things you DO need to know:
- Do they have the right equipment & experience to shoot in the conditions they will face at your wedding?
- Do they have backup equipment in case a something breaks? (This happens)
- What happens if you have to move your wedding date or cancel?
You want to make sure that your photographer has the equipment and experience to capture your photos on the big day, part of this is doing your homework and knowing the conditions they’ll be shooting in and talking with them about those conditions.
Typically wedding vendors do not refund deposits / retainers for their services, especially as you get close to the wedding date. The one big exception that I make is for military couples when they are deployed or moved. All we ask for is to see a copy of the orders and a we refund their deposit because we understand that it is totally out of their control.
#1: Make sure you like your photographer!
On your wedding day there are two vendors you really want to have a great relationship with (3 if you have a wedding planner / day of coordinator), your DJ and your photographer. The having a good relationship with the DJ will help them get to know your personality and improve your communication with them which will make the reception the event you’d want it to be.
When looking for a photographer keep in mind that we’ll be with you for pretty much the entire day, we typically spend more time with you than anybody else at the wedding. As a photographer our job is to document your day and to capture your personality and if we irritate you that will show in your photos.
We’re always happy to find a convenient middle ground to meet at with potential couples for coffee to go over their plans, get to know each other a little and see if we’d be a good fit for each other. This is something you can’t get a feeling for over emails or from a web site, so whenever possible set aside an hour or so to meet with potential photographers.
I’ve known Tricia for a long time, since she just before she had her first baby, for this maternity (her 4th) she joined forces with her sister and we headed out toward Roslyn(From Northern Exposure fame) and Ellensburg for some cool settings. We had a great day and here are a few of their photos.
We recently did a photo shoot of Monika & a really cool vintage Porsche 911. In case you’re wondering it was a 1968 Porsche 911T, with the “T” standing for “Touring” and not “Turbo” as many people think. Wanting to get out of the local area we found a couple of really cool spots in Elbe to take photos and had a great time. We’re always happy to work with you to come up with a plan for your photo sessions and don’t mind going to different locations to get the right settings for your photo session.
Wanting more than just straight portraits and having a really cool car to use for the photos we went over a plan that would give us some time to do photos in a couple of locations, including a seldom used airport that had great access, this was perfect for the sunset photos since we didn’t have to worry about any obstructions nearby and living in Western WA we were lucky to actually get a sunset we could see and not just clouds.
Jeff & Dustin are a really fun couple. They’re getting married in the back yard of their new house, so wanted to do their engagement session in the new house. I found out that Dustin is a bit of a YouTube celebrity and a friend of ours calls him “my favorite YouTube Beauty Guru”. Check you his YouTube Channel – click HERE.
We were dreading the weather forecast, it called for rain and was pouring on my way to meet them. By the time we met it was down to a light drizzle and a few minutes into the shoot it stopped and we had some blue skies by the end. This has happened a few times, we always head out in hopes of dodging our Pacific NW weather and more often than not we luck out.
Cindy & Jerold tied the knot this summer on the grounds of a Summer Camp on Fox Island, WA. Where’s that? Out past Gig Harbor, we’d never been there either, but it was a great venue. This couple was so in love, the groom did a happy dance when he was told he could kiss the bride! Why on earth is there a photo of a dog hanging out in the grass? He’s the camp dog and made him self at home during the wedding, even hanging out with the bride during the ceremony.
Ready. Set. Book.
We know it isn’t even Christmas yet, but Firstlight Photography has scheduled four dates for specially prices boudoir sessions! The dates are January 11, 17, 30 and 31st.
Packages start at $450 (a $200 discount) and include full hair & make-up, private online viewing of photos & 5 retouched 8×10’s with digital copies. We can also produce great books for special gifts.
But Wait! I Need More Details…
We have some amazing venues and locations scouted out for your sessions. We are heading to Centralia, WA because it is chock full of diverse, historic and amazing locales. Can you say train depot? Pool tables? Brick exposure? Vintage goodness?
Why Should I Schedule Now?
Two words. Valentine’s Day! Get your photo session done and we will have your special V-Day gift ready for your special someone.
Please call us for your consultation. We are ready to talk about your ideas and answer questions. You can reach us at 253.335.7958.
Free University exists to aid the community by providing the service of offering free to low cost education to the community. All classes are available for free to those who cannot afford the low cost registration fees. Proof of low income must be presented & or the person/s may offer volunteer help in the office, delivering catalogs, or by filling some other need of the staff.
Free University will provide classes available to the public at little or no cost as long as it can be sustained. Through small registration fees, the sale of advertising in the catalog, grants, donations & fundraising; the Free University will try to maintain a paid staff & a quality printed catalog. All monies collected by Free University will be used: first for the printing of the catalog, second for the payment of rent of office space & equipment, third for payment of the staff, and finally for parties dedicated to teacher & volunteers who make the Free University possible” (facebook page).
Want to make your senior portrait stand out from the masses? Use props! Below is a guide for choosing awesome, photogenic props to complement your talents and interests.
1. Musical Instruments. If you are a musician, what could be more perfect? Now, whether you are a composed classical pianist or a bad-a** rockstar is up to you.
2. Art. If you’re artistic, rock the paintbrushes, spray paint or pottery wheel. Whatever works.
3. Athlete. Skateboard, skis, bat, ball, goggles.
4. Fashionista. Apply makeup, twirl your hair and kiss your purse like a Gucci model!
5. But All I Do is Text and Sleep! Well . . .
Looking for a night out, a great date or a little fun? The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, South Puget Sound’s largest performing arts facility, is located right here in Olympia. It hosts a vibrant series of national and international touring artists from a broad spectrum of genres and styles. It supports local shows and Broadway hits such as Cats and A Chorus Line. Speakers, comedians and social rights activists also call the Center home. The experience is enhanced by the beauty of the location, the plush elegance of the facility and the warmth and amiability of the atmosphere.
Below is a list of my top three most anticipated events for the next couple of months. Not to your taste? Find the complete CALENDER OF EVENTS here.
The Intern’s Top Three
1.San Francisco Opera Cinema Series: Lucia di Lammermoor
April 10, 2011
“The emotionally fragile Lucia is driven to madness when manipulated to marry a man she does not love. Featuring the most famous mad scene in the repertory and full of ravishingly beautiful melodies, this timeless bel canto masterpiece evokes the passion and desperation of a woman used by her brother as a political pawn. Superstar Natalie Dessay owns this virtuosic role. Also starring Giuseppe Filianoti, Gabriele Viviani and Oren Gradus. Recorded Summer 2008, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco” (website).
Link to the San Francisco Opera here.
2. Ballet Folklorico “Quetzalli”
April 20, 2011
“Founded in 1985 (the same year as the Washington Center!), this group has crisscrossed the globe exciting audiences of all ages. Their visual fiesta of culture and folklore features many regional dances of old Mexico, in particular, their home state of Veracruz (birthplace of the world famous “La Bamba”). The music, performed live on authentic stringed instruments, punctuates the meticulous movement, colorful clothing and perfect pulse established by the dancers. Earning standing ovations from Cuba to Malaysia, Quetzalli proves they are one of Mexico’s most popular exports” (website)!
3. Dance to Make a Difference: Benefiting Japan and Northwest Harvest
March 26, 2011
“Save the date and enjoy an evening of Dance to Make a Difference at the Minnaert Center for the Performing Arts! This delightful gala begins with pre-performance appetizers, wine, live music and mingling to be followed with a full repertoire of performing arts from talented dance companies from across the Puget Sound: Ballet Bellevue, Washington Contemporary Ballet, Evergreen City Ballet, Southwest Washington Dance Center & Studio West Dance Theatre. We are splitting the net proceeds from this event between statewide hunger relief agency, Northwest Harvest & Japan. Enrich your life and others while enjoying this philanthropic event” (website)!