It's the time of year you may well be getting ready to pick a wedding photographer. You want a wedding photographer whose work you love, and who’s personally a match for you.
Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake and you'll look back at them 50 years from now, reminiscing about your vows, the kiss, and the first dance. Choosing the right photographer to capture those poignant moments is an important decision and it's crucial to find a pro who understands your vision for your wedding day and can document it with style. But you'll also want someone you trust and feel comfortable with, since he or she will be by your side the entire wedding day.
To help you find the right person to entrust with this task, follow these 10 Tips for selecting the perfect wedding photographer
1. BOOK YOUR VENUE FIRST
It's a smart idea to hire your photographer after you've secure your venue. Aim to book his or her services about nine months before the wedding (or a year, if your photographer is in high demand).
2. FIGURE OUT THE STYLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY YOU LIKE
While the common advice is that you should pick a photographer based on their style (photojournalism, naturalism, modern traditionalism), you can really skip those buzzwords and just ask yourself if you like the photographer’s portfolio. And then beyond that, when talking to them, figure out if you like the way they work.
But get inspired! Spend some time online browsing a variety of wedding blogs to get a sense of the style of photography you like. Once you have a good collection of inspiring photographs, try to narrow in on what draws you to them specifically and dissect what feels most authentic to you and your partner. Maybe that's formal-posed portraits, a classic photography style or a lifestyle, photojournalistic feel. If you love sharp and contrast-y shots, perhaps a photographer with a flair for the dramatic is the right choice for you. Remember that you don't necessarily need to narrow in on one style in particular, since many wedding photographers can do a blend of portraiture and documentary-style shots, a mix of black-and-white and color images and so on. But if there's a special style you love, make sure to focus on photographers who specialize in it.
Once you've found a handful of photographers whose aesthetic taste with yours, email each person and inquire 1) if they're available on your wedding date and 2) about their photography rates.
3: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Start your search by reading reviews from recent newlyweds and browsing local listings and you can search for people, hashtags and places using the search Instagram system. Carefully review potential photographers' websites and blogs to check out photos of other weddings they've shot, which will give you an idea of their style. Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages too, if possible.
4. HIT UP YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
Every photographer is going to have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s pretty easy to get a sense of what someone’s strengths are (let’s assume taking stunning photos is one of them). The trick is to get an accurate sense of what a given photographer’s weaknesses are, and then decide what you can live with. You can do this by a robust conversation with a photographer. (Just ask them flat out what their weaknesses are. A professional will tell you. Run away if they say they have none.) Or you can ask to chat with a past client. Here are a variety of weaknesses I’ve observed in various photographers (most of whom are kick-ass people and artists): not super good time managers on the wedding day, slightly socially awkward, slow delivery of photos, slow or poor client communication, not cheerful and outgoing with the couple, don’t take direction well.
The trick is to figure out what balance of strengths and weaknesses will work for you. I could care less about photographers being good time managers or delivering my photos late. But I want someone who’s amazingly nice to me and does everything I ask on my wedding day. Lots of people feel the opposite way—they don’t care how nice their photographers are, as long as they’re organized. As you’re interviewing photographers, figure out what your needs and deal breakers are. Just remember that you’re not perfect, and your photographer won’t be either. The photographer-client relationship is personal, so just figure out how best to be imperfect together.
5. DO YOU LIKE THE PHOTOGRAPHER?
Once you’ve narrowed down photographers whose work you like, and whose philosophy you seem to gel with, set up an in-person meeting (or a Skype session, if that’s what works).
6. SEEING A FULL WEDDING
Once you’ve gotten a sense of a photographer’s work through their portfolio, I’d strongly urge you to ask to see a full wedding. Most photographers will email you a link to their portfolio of images before your first meeting. Be sure the collection includes recent weddings he or she has shot from start to finish, not just a "best of" highlight reel from dozens of different weddings. This is a more accurate way to gauge the photographer's work.
Some photographers produce twenty amazing images from every wedding, but the remaining eight hundred images are a bit uninspired. While I tend to think that one to five amazing photos of your wedding is all you’ll use over time, it is important to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. A high-priced, experienced photographer should deliver consistently inspired work. A less expensive photographer building their portfolio should deliver you a few inspired images and a solid documentary of the rest of the day.
7. LIGHTING SITUATION FOR YOUR WEDDING
The easiest wedding to shoot is a wedding in the daytime, with a ceremony under shade and great natural light. If, however, you’re getting married in a dark church or you’re having an outdoor evening wedding reception, it’s really important that you specifically look for a photographer that’s skilled with those lighting environments. Don’t assume that experience equals skill in low lighting. Look for weddings shot in similar lighting environments in your photographer’s portfolio, and ask them specifically how they would handle your particular situation. (Some photographers use external lights for dark receptions, while others may rely on their camera’s ability to see well in the dark.) If you notice that after it gets dark, all wedding photos in the portfolio are processed in black and white, that’s a hint that the photographer may not be super comfortable in darker situations. (Please note: Your wedding in a Gothic cathedral is not going to look like a wedding in a sunlit field, no matter who you hire, so don’t expect magic tricks.)
8. DISCUSS THE FEE
Many photographers offer a price list that details several different packages they offer at different price points. Make sure that you understand what's included. Ask how long the photographer will spend with you (eight to ten hours is ideal) and whether there will be a second shooter, as you'll get more detail shots this way.
Once your wedding has happened, you’re going to want to get your hands on your photos. Now is the time to figure out how that’s going to work (and what’s going to work for you). Get a timeline for how fast or slow a particular photographer turns around images. Delivery of the full gallery can range from a week to six months. (Important note: Faster isn’t always better. A lot of really talented photographers who want to keep prices low shoot a lot of weddings during the high season. Taking more time to deliver images sometimes gives them the time to deliver you flawless work.)
10. GO WITH YOUR GUT OR SCHEDULE A TEST RUN
Once you've evaluated each photographer's work and fees, and narrowed down the options, it's time to make your decision. Don't forget that you'll be spending the entire wedding day with this person, so you want to make sure you feel completely comfortable with the photographer. Do you and your fiancé genuinely like this person?
An engagement photo shoot is always a good idea — it's a great opportunity to get to know your photographer and begin to feel comfortable having your photo taken, especially if you or your groom are camera-shy.