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.