I'll be honest. I was inspired to write this after reading a few really terrible articles from magazines / blogs in the wedding industry that are aimed at couples planning their weddings. A few of these articles offered really awful advice which was more like uneducated opinions from people who have never actually attempted to find their perfect photographer. One of the issues I have with these articles that offer 'expert' advice to vulnerable engaged couples about photography is: they are not photographers. They have never shot a wedding, they probably have only actually been to a handful of weddings, most likely as a guest or a member of the bridal party. Where as wedding photographers (and others in the industry) have been to, possibly, in the hundreds of weddings- like I have. I have been to these hundreds of weddings as a person who is working and unlike the guests and author of the articles, is there from beginning to end. ALL DAY.
So after meeting with an absolutely wonderful potential (at the time, now booked!) client yesterday and going over areas she was nervous about when picking her photographer, video, caterer, ect., those articles kept running through my mind and how NONE of those bogus questions were asked. (Like quizzing the photographer on their gear and only accepting the brand the magazine said was 'OK'...). Here is the three most important things you SHOULD look for when picking the perfect match for you and your almost-spouse.
1. Set up a Consultation.
I can not stress this enough. I think this is one of the most important parts of choosing your photographer. "Why though?" You might think, "It takes time and I might be meeting multiple photographers so that's a few hours of meet-ups". You are totally correct, it could take some time, unless the first one you meet with you just know, but it is so worth it. Even if you request pricing from the photographer and they are *slightly* out of your budget, I still suggest meeting them if at end of the day, you might be able to rearrange your budget a bit. Photography is a 'you get what you pay for' service and they could be 'the one'.
A consultation is a two way street for you and for the photographer to get a sense of who you two are as people and as a couple, and find out what your story is. I really believe that all photographers are different. Their shoot style is different, their experience is different, the way they present themselves is different- we are all different (which I will go into more later). Your photographer is, most likely, going to be with you from before you even have your hair and makeup done or before you have your suit pants on, to when you and your new wedded partner exit the reception. That can be 12-14hrs at times. That's a lot of time with one person. But, that's also why I love shooting weddings- it's so intimate and puts me in a position no one else, the entire day, gets to be in. Us photographers see it all. So, if you do not have a consultation, you will not know if perhaps your personalities are more like oil and water. Does this person make you feel comfortable? If not, then most likely on the day of you will not feel comfortable either and that can cause you added stress and ultimately be seen in the photos. Do they seem like they know what they are talking about? Do they make you laugh? All of these feelings are things you should trust your gut on and look out for. The couple and the photographer are like a team all day, there must be trust, respect, and laughs.
2. Their Portfolio
This might seem like a 'duh, Steph' moment, but seriously hear me out. Before you get to the consultation stage you more than likely have checked out the potential photographers site. GOOD, really really look through it. Like I said before, we are all different. What is the style of this photographer? Does it match your personalities? Does it match the vibe of your wedding? This person could have very nice, beautiful, technically sound images, but perhaps you are having a wedding that is super non-traditional and this photographers site is nothing but highly traditional poses and ball room venues. Not saying this photographer isn't a good photographer, but they might not understand what you want and what you like. So make sure that you are looking for someone who can really capture your day the way you want it memorialized. This might save you from reaching out to to 25 photographers, having 25 meetings, and then running yourself thin. My consultation from yesterday told me that she chose me because my images "didn't look like anyone's that she had seen", so look for that portfolio that really speaks to you and pulls emotions from you.
3. What Are You Paying For?
All photographers have different pricing. In case you did not know, there is no secret 'Photographer Pricing' book that we reference. All photographers price out their services with what they feel it is worth. That's a good thing. I fully, wholeheartedly, believe that photography is a 'you get what you pay for' service, as I stated above. Just like many other things in life, if it is cheap, it is probably because it is cheap to make. What is the price points of the photographer you are looking at? What are the packages that they are offering? And more importantly WHY are they priced that way? If you want quality images and an experienced wedding photographer, you probably will be paying more than $500- FOR A REASON. If the photographer is pricing themselves a lot lower than many others you have reached out to, there is a reason. Experienced photographers know the work that goes into shooting a wedding, the work that goes into the post processing of the wedding, and they know the years they have spent gaining experience and knowledge in the field and bringing professional equipment to cover your day. So when you are hiring and paying for your photographer, you are not only paying for the X-amount of hours of coverage of your day. You are buying their experience. My clients are buying my creative eye and style for the day of, but they are also buying my abilities to keep them organized with their schedule because I have been to, like stated earlier, hundreds of weddings. They are buying my abilities to keep them calm and moving in the right direction during the day. They are buying a day of coordinator at times during the day (not saying to not get a coordinator, we just know when we need to take charge and keep the things that need to be happening, happening). They are buying my abilities to make them feel comfortable and their family to feel comfortable. They are buying my sense of humor. They are buying my post processing skills which takes a lot of effort to do. They are buying my client delivery services and other services I have set up to make their experience easy and smooth. They are buying my archival services in case they accidentally deleted their photos a month after the wedding. They are buying my YEARS OF EXPERIENCE and wealth of knowledge. So, what are you paying for along with the photographs? This is something to really understand about who you pick.
I hope this helps you navigate through the waters of planning your wedding and picking the perfect people to be a part of the big day. It is overwhelming and there is so much information out there possibly pointing you in a million directions, I know. But when it comes down to it, on all of the things you choose, trust your gut. Trust your feelings on what makes you feel confident and happy. Good luck on finding 'the one'.