Choosing a wedding photographer is a big decision. Let’s face it, most of the things that go into making a wedding beautiful are temporary–the food gets eaten, the flowers die, the reception ends, and really, when are you ever going to wear that gorgeous dress again? The most permanent thing about your wedding day will be your wedding photos.
On your anniversary each year, you probably won’t put your dress back on or cook the same food you ate at your wedding, but you will look at your wedding album, and those images will usher you back to that special day. Great wedding photography doesn’t just remind you what your bridesmaids’ dresses looked like; it helps you remember how you felt on the most important day of your life. That’s why choosing the right photographer is one of the most important wedding decisions you’ll make.
And because I’ve been doing wedding photography for years, I know exactly what I’ll be looking for.
1) Portfolio. If I don’t like a photographer’s wedding portfolio, nothing else matters. Be sure to see several complete weddings that the photographer has photographed; this will give you a good idea of what you can expect. Be aware that some photographers will try to present only the “best of” several weddings. That’s not always a fair representation of their work. Photographing a wedding is a day-long event that requires different types of photography: still life, portraiture, and photojournalism. When I look at a portfolio, I evaluate two things: style and technical ability. Be sure her style resonates with who you are and will reflect the feel of your wedding. On the technical end, are the images crisp, well-lit, and composed in a way that evokes feeling?
2) Personality. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your photographer on your wedding day. In fact, you’ll probably be with her more than anyone else that day, so you better like her. =) Does she “get” you? Is she a good listener who cares about your ideas and opinions and ask questions to find out what means most to you? Is she patient and pleasant, yet able to graciously direct people when necessary?
3) Personal Attention. It may sound crazy, but be sure that the person you are talking to, and whose portfolio you’ve seen, is actually the person who will be photographing your wedding. (I had a friend who hired a photographer who then sent someone else to photograph her wedding because the photographer double-booked himself on that day. Obviously my friend was NOT happy.) Will there be a pre-wedding consultation to customize shot lists, review the itinerary, and discuss any unusual circumstances that are unique to your wedding? Will there be post-wedding follow-up support for you?
4) References. If references aren’t available on her website, ask the photographer to furnish you with a few names and contact information of some of her clients so you can hear about their experiences.
5) Equipment and Back Up Systems. Things break. That’s just the way life is. Ask about equipment. How many cameras will be on site during the wedding? What types of flash and lenses does she use? The only thing worse than bad wedding pictures is no wedding pictures. So be sure to ask about back up systems the photographer uses. If she doesn’t have any in place, I wouldn’t take the risk.
6) Contract. Contracts are good things; they’re designed to protect you and to protect the photographer. A good contract will clearly spell out what is expected of each party signing it. If there is no wedding contract, don’t use that photographer.
7) Price. Once I know that I like the photographer’s work and that she’s someone I want to do business with, I’ll look at price.There are a dozen hidden costs factored into wedding pricing; many of them are things people who aren’t photographers wouldn’t even consider. Cameras, flashes, lenses, batteries, back up systems, computers, web hosting, insurance, on-going training, professional fees, software, and of course profit need to be considered when setting price. If a photographer’s price is much lower than most others, there’s probably something missing. Be sure to get specifics about what is, and isn’t, included in your wedding package. Is there an album, fine art prints, or any other products? How much do prints and other specialty items cost? The initial price you see isn’t always the final price.
I love weddings; I love photographing weddings. I know I’m not the right wedding photographer for every wedding, but if I’m not right for you, I hope these tips help you find a photographer who is.
Here’s a helpful article from Colorado Brides Magazine about spotting “fauxtographers.” I think you’ll find it informative. How to Spot a Fauxtographer