Photographs are the one ticket item that you have to look back on. Choosing the right photographer for you may be one of the most important wedding day decisions you will make. Your photographer will be telling the story of your day, a day that you have carefully planned out down to the most minute details. All to share with generations to come. Nowadays it is easier then ever to search the web for a photographer. You can carefully peruse portfolios at home with your fiancé, saving time going from studio to studio and collecting brochures. It may seem daunting as you search the web and bridal sites, just keep in mind these three essential elements to finding a photographer and you will be on the right track.
The Images: this may seem obvious, but you should first and foremost be moved by the images your photographer has on their website. Photographers’ carefully choose the images they put on their websites. The work that I have chosen on my website is purposefully edited, it is intended to stand out to someone who is going to connect with what I love. So if the pictures you see are speaking to you, that is the best litmus test. Do they stir up emotion? Can you relate to the aesthetic? Do you like the presentation and design of the website? If so this is the jumping off point, dive in! Contact your photographer as soon as you can and find out if they are available on your wedding date. You don’t have to be in love with every single image, but you should like most of them. It is not necessary to see an entire wedding that your photographer has shot. If you don’t get a good sense of their style of photography from the website, you are not going to be any clearer by reviewing someone else’s wedding in its entirety. I know this is against what some bridal websites recommend, but it is for good reason. Why? Because your wedding will not be like Sara or Jane’s wedding, your wedding is unique. After 17 years of photographing weddings, I have yet to have two that are alike, both in the client’s personality, and in the style of the wedding. And lastly, don’t get caught up in style catch phrases, such as documentary, artistic, candid, and photojournalism. Also notice if the photographers’s images are trendy and highly stylized (Photoshopped), with special affects. While trends are fun, remember they are of-the-moment; you want to look for images that are timeless. The bottom line is, if it speaks to you, then go with it. I realize this can be confusing, but at the end of the day, trust your heart.
It is important that you and your photographer get along. With that being said, their work should take precedence over their personality. A photographer should have experience, passion and love for what they do, and a solid portfolio of their work. Obviously you should like them, and they should be amiable, that is a given. It’s always a bonus if you feel like a long lost friend has joined you on your wedding day! Do they have a cheery and calming presence? Are they someone you want with you on your entire wedding day? Will you feel comfortable with them during intimate moments? You need to trust your gut on this one. I have booked many brides from out of state who I have spoken with only by phone, and we ended up getting along marvelously. This is why I say trust your gut. Many websites and photographers will recommend you meet for coffee or drinks, and spend time together before the wedding. While I do recommend this if it’s possible, it is not necessary. You can get a good idea of your photographers personality and professionalism from their website, email correspondence, and from a phone conversation. As discussed in an earlier post
, try to share as much about yourself as possible with your photographer, it allows for more honest moments on the day of your wedding. Also, check out the reviews previous brides and or family members have made about the photographer. These testimonials are key to knowing how the photographer is on the day of the wedding. Here’s the catch: If you love a certain photographer’s work, chances are someone else does too. So yes, book them while you can. I’ve known many couples who sat on their decision, spent a lot of time pondering, and when they finally came back to say they wanted to book with me, the date was already taken. If this is the case, ask if they have anyone else they recommend. But don’t ask “I love your work, but it’s too expensive, is there someone like you but for half the price”? This is equivalent to asking if you can buy a Prada knock-off, yes, maybe you can, but what would the quality be of that work? Asking a photographer for a recommendation if they are already booked on the date you want them, is another matter. Most photographers will have a few handful of names they can recommend. I have a connection with a few other photographers who’s work I admire, and I am always happy to pass on their name to clients who weren’t able to get a booking with me first.
This is a tricky topic, because no one is comfortable talking about money. The most common and first question I usually get from brides is how much does this cost? But when the question is reversed and I ask “what is your budget?” There is usually a moment of silence. Know your budget before you begin your search
, and know how much wiggle room you have to play with it. It’s hard to put a price tag on an item that will be an heirloom for years and years. Good wedding photography is expensive. Most websites will suggest that your’e wedding photography budget be anywhere between 12%-15% of your total budget, or more if photography is important to you. This depends greatly on the importance you place on your wedding photography and the region you live in. For example, Connecticut is one of the most expensive places to get married, so there will be a big difference between the Tri-state area, and say, Ohio or Utah.
Some would rather spend less on other ticket items and more on photography. This is a personal choice. The range you will see for wedding photography will vary depending upon the area you live in, as well as your photographer’s experience. A photographer, who just started out, will be less than one who has been around for fifteen years, you may also pay more for film photography than digital. If you are on a tight budget, and can’t afford an album, but have full printing rights, there are many ways you can display your images in frames around your home. So don’t be swept away by a photographer who offers you two photographers plus album and engagement sessions, if you don’t love their work, it doesn’t matter how much they offer you. In other words, if you are down to choosing between two photographers for the same cost and one offers more “extra’s” but you love the others work more, go for the one who’s work you are drawn to the most, not the bigger package. You can always add on an album down the road. If you should decide to go a little higher on the photography budget see where you can cut costs in other places. It is all about attaining balance in your budget and deciding on what is truly important to you. And remember what you are paying for is more than the time/hours you see your wedding photographer. Most wedding photographers spend at least triple the time of a wedding on editing alone. Remember, you are paying for experience, their style & aesthetic, and a standard of quality that you would never find from a friend with a digital camera. Another emailing tip: when contacting your photographer include details. This means taking an extra minute to include things like how many hours of coverage you want, what your budget is. I have gotten some emails that say they are “on a tight budget”, I don’t know what a “tight budget” is as it’s different for everyone. Include exact details, if you know them, such as the approximate size of the guest list, bridal party, etc. In doing this you will get a better idea if the photographer you are interested in can provide you with what you are looking for with-in your budget.
Last year I had a couple who did the whole wedding on their own; The ceremony and reception were all on the bride’s parents farm.They baked their own pies for dessert, made their guests take-away gifts, kept the guest list down, she even made her own dress and cut her own wildflowers for bouquets. She decided to cut costs in other ways. However, she said the one thing she wouldn’t skimp on was photography, because she knew it was the most important thing to them. I mention this, because even if you are on a small budget, it does not mean that you have to settle for poor photography. Just decide where you want your budget to go ahead of time based on your needs.
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