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.
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.
This rustic venue is set in the Sugar Loaf Mountain Valley so the sunsets are superb. This serene location is versatile. A rustic barn wedding is fitting here as is a modern elegant wedding. The grounds are well maintained and the owners make sure events are effortless.
About Rein Fire Ranch
Nestled in the serene Sugar Loaf Mountain Valley this working ranch feels incredibly serene and remote but it is only 45 minutes from Seattle and Tacoma – making it the ultimate wedding venue It is one of the most breathtaking outdoor ceremony locations in the greater Puget Sound area and is highly customizable for your occasion, from cowboy boots to high heels. You can even BYOH (Bring Your Own Horses).
A few weeks ago I was standing with a flock of warbird enthusiasts up at the Flying Heritage Collection at Pain Field in Everett, WA with my camera in hand waiting for a bf-109 & FW-190 (WW II German fighters) when I started thinking back to where the obsession with War Birds and photography met…
Set the “Way Back Machine” to 1976 when I got my first airplane book at a little book store in Encinitas, CA right after my dad took me to see Monty Python’s Holy Grail at the La Paloma Theater. I think it was the drawing of a one of the Flying Tiger’s P-40’s that fascinated me, the shark mouth just looked so cool. I started trying to copy the drawing, over and over again. I loved that book and while it’s a little worse for the wear I still have it. This was the spark that would change the rest of my life, but at 6 years old I just thought the P-40 looked really cool.
A few years later, I think it was in 6th grade I was in the school library having to find a book to read when I stumbled on a book about the Red Barron and when I went home to start reading it I was hooked. I finished the book that night and went back the next day to get more history books. I ended up reading every book the school library having anything to do with WW I & II. One of my dad’s friends, who was an warbird buff, suggested that I read a couple of other books that weren’t at my school library, so I went down to the Carlsbad City Library to pick up “Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway” & “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”, read them and kept going back for more. Most of my interest focused on the airplanes and this interest never passed.
A couple of summers later (between Jr. High & High School) my dad’s friend, who lived in Fresno at the time, invited me to come up so I could go to a with him to the Madera Air Show. For the first time in my life I was finally going to be able to see the planes I’d been reading about for the past couple of years. It was an amazing experience and I hardly minded that it was 110 degres out on the runway! I was there seeing these planes fly for the first time in my life, experiencing the sound and power of some of the most famous aircraft in the world and there I was with my little Kodak 110 camera borrowed from my grandmother taking the photos that would start it all.
The new obsession was air shows and thankfully I lived in Southern California and was surrounded by military bases, Mirimar NAS, El Toro MCAS, March AFB, Norton AFG, Point Mugu NAS and Edwards AFB all just close enough that I could make my dad drive me and my best friend to all of them with an upgraded camera borrowed from my uncle Dan this time. I got to see some things I’d never forget. One year at Mirimar NAS (then home of Top Gun) I watched on as a low flying F-14 pushed just a little too far and broke the sound barrier and managed to shatter the windows of the radio booth that was covering the show. At Point Mugu in 1983 or ’84 I got to watch famous stunt pilot Art Scholl (who later perished while filming the movie Top Gun) fly an amazing routine in a Rockwell Shrike Commander (he finished up his routine flying w/o power, did a couple of loops, landed and taxied the plane to the centerline of the air show and made it curtsy as it came to a stop – all without the engines on)! In 1988 I was at the El Toro Air Show with my uncle when I watched an F/A-18 crash during a demonstration. The pilot was fine, by the way.
My Junior year of High School is when I finally got a camera (Pentax special that was the Price Club special as a Christmas Present) of my own and the summer between my Junior and Senior year I got to take my first photography class at a local college (the class at my High School was impossible to get into). I had an amazing teacher who was more interested in helping us develop our style of photography than doing everything exactly by the numbers and I’m SO glad she was my first photography teacher. If my second teacher may had been my first things might have ended differently for me. She was clearly checked out and didn’t know anything other than how to run us through the chapters in a book – boring exercise after boring exercise with no passion or interest in what the students were doing.
My senior year was a rough time, with some crazy family problems that I won’t bother to go into here, but I started working on the school newspaper and yearbook and really poured my energy into the photography in an effort to block out what was going on at home. I took pictures of my friends at school, my cousins on the weekends and from time to time drove down to Palomar Airport to take pictures of the random planes down there. My trusty Pentax was stolen out of my car, so I traded my mountain bike for my friends Minolta X700 that I’m now teaching my kids photography with and I bough a Yashica 124g with money earned working for my father. With my work on the yearbook and newspaper I was really starting to take more and more photos of people and was really enjoying that. I even did some head shots for a girl at my school who was on one episode of The Wonder Years and I have shots of my classmate Denise Richards (pre-Charlie Sheen drama of course).
So, how did I get from there to here? I was actually very strongly encouraged by my family to go into photography, but I at the time I felt that if I took something that I loved so much and made it a job I’d end up getting sick of doing it and I really didn’t want to loose the passion for photography. As a result I had a long series of jobs at camera stores and various other things. While the jobs changed every couple of years my love for photography was still there. In about 1999 I was hired by my father-in-law’s company to spend a week traveling around the country taking pictures of their devices that were installed in hospitals. Suddenly the switch was flipped and when I got back from that trip I started hounding all of the local newspapers to hire me as a photographer. While I had a job, now as a travel agent, I kept calling all of the editors until one finally had an assignment for me. I started shooting school sports for a local paper after work and was thrilled to be finally making some money doing photography. It wasn’t much, but I saved every penny of that money to buy better equipment. Shortly after 09/11/01 I quit my job as a travel agent and set off on my own, doing contract photography for a sports photography company, working for the paper and picking up portrait shoots.
I was working as a photographer but things changed when my new wife (and my biggest fan) asked what I though about shooting weddings. Honestly, I’d avoided them with a few exceptions for friends and family and had never really considered being a “wedding photographer”. It just so happened that at that time one of my best friends was getting married and the friend of a model I’d done some work with was getting married within two weeks of each other. Mitzi just suggested that I go into shooting with the mindset of seeing if it would be something I’d want to do. Well, I loved shooting the weddings! We then changed the business name, started marketing weddings and soon had booked up 15 weddings for the next summer!
Now we’re into our 5th year of shooting weddings and we’re going strong. This year at Mitzi’s suggestion we opened “Little Black Book” as our boudoir studio and that side of the business has been much more successful than I had expected. Mitzi told me it would be, don’t know why I doubted her. She’s a genius!
If this Firstlight Photography wedding picture leaves you wanting more, click on it to see a video of this couple’s wedding day! The venue was Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend nd it was quite impressive.
As a wedding photographer one of the things I’m always thinking about is, “what are the kids doing”. I try to avoid the ones that are always wanting their photos taken and posing for me, but I keep an eye open for the ones that are ignoring me, playing and maybe trying to sneak a taste of the wedding cake. To see more, check out the GALLERY at our web site
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).
The end of the school year is upon us and we’re getting a rush of seniors wanting photos. While it is getting late in the year to book packages (we do still have some time slots open) it is not too early for all the juniors to start thinking about their senior portraits.
Firstlight Photography is looking for 6 Puyallup seniors that would like to earn free senior portraits for the 2011/2012 school year and help represent Firstlight at their schools. We will be selecting one boy and one girl from Puyallup, Rogers & Emerald Ridge. All you need to do to be considered is send us an e-mail with your contact information and tell us about yourself and why we should pick you. We’ll be taking submissions throughout summer and will make our decision before the start of the school year. More details will be posted to our Facebook page, so make sure to check in and press the “like” button while you’re there.
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)!