The unfortunate thing about your big day is that it is, well, only one day. Fortunately, the right wedding photographer can gorgeously preserve the entire event’s happenings, the emotions and the fun—forever! One perfect picture can instantly take you back to the happiest day of your life, and one perfect wedding photo album can become your favorite coffee table book.
When it comes to professional photography, most shutterbugs start out by shooting weddings. This can mean wading through a lot of prospective hires before you find the right fit for you. Below are seven simple tips for finding a photographer who will capture the event exactly how you want to remember it.
Start Searching Immediately
So, you just got engaged—Congratulations! Now start looking for a wedding photographer. The truth is, the best professional photographers book their schedules a year in advance, so hiring someone is one of the first things you should do after choosing a wedding date.
However, if your plans call for an out-of-season wedding or a Sunday ceremony, there is a good chance your chosen photographer is available. If you’re having a more uniquely timed wedding, finding the photographer of your dreams in six months is doable.
Tap Into Your Network
Good wedding photographers have a reputation for success and can even be local celebrities. They should be the easiest to find, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best for you. Start your search by crowdsourcing recommendations from friends and family who have planned weddings in the last few years, and ask your married friends if you can peruse their photo albums. Look to Facebook pages and professional websites for samples of work, blog posts and client reviews.
The other professionals involved in your wedding day festivities will have worked with various photographers in the past. Ask for recommendations from your wedding planner, venue manager, caterer, baker, florist or limousine driver—it’s their business to have such contacts.
Narrow Down Your Options
Once you have a list of your top choice photographers, take an in-depth look into their services to begin eliminating candidates who aren’t a good fit. Determine which photographer will meet your wedding budget as well as your specific needs. Consider how well they perform in different settings and environments. For example, if you are throwing a beach wedding, it makes sense to find a photographer who is proficient at outdoor photography.
Think about the emotional tone that you want your photos to express. If you haven’t gotten a chance, now is a good time to start browsing wedding photos to find the style you prefer. Are you and your fiancé serious and traditional, or do you prefer a more light-hearted and playful theme? A talented photographer can listen to your vision and articulate it perfectly, so you should see tonal variation in their sample work.
Conduct Your Interviews
After narrowing your selection of wedding photographers down to around three, make appointments to interview the candidates. Likely, the photographer will have two or three wedding albums available to show. Make sure you see at least one album of an entire wedding, from start to finish, preferably something that is comparable to what your wedding will be like in physical setting and emotional tone. After examining all the sample work closely, request to see another set of photographs from a recent wedding. This will enable you to see both his best work from the pre-selected albums and his average daily work. Some things to keep in mind:
- Examine the basics of the pictures such as color, clarity, exposure, graininess and composition.
- Determine the photographer’s style does she shoot photos that are adventurous and artistic, or are they standard and ordinary?
- Do the guests look natural or self-conscious?
- Do the photos capture the emotional tone organically, or does do the couple’s poses feel forced?
Be sure to leave the interview knowing the highest vs. average quality of the photographer’s work, her visual style, and if she will adjust her style to your individual taste. Her willingness to work closely with you to satisfy you as a client is key to producing an exceptional result, and a professional knows that.
Gauge Their Professionalism
While not all amateur photographers are created equal, the best way to guarantee that you will receive a quality wedding album is to hire a seasoned professional with a solid and varied background of nuptial experiences from which to draw.
During your interview, find out how many weddings the photographer has shot over how many years. He may have been a professional photographer for 15 years but only doing weddings for the past year. Remember, wedding photography is much different than any other type of photography; the pressure is high and the emotional energy is not suited for everyone.
Be sure to ask if the photographer has shot at your wedding venue before. If he has, he may already know where to stand to get the perfect shot or how to incorporate the church’s ancient stained glass in a uniquely engaging way.
With such experience comes not only the knowledge of how to photograph a wedding, but also how to act during the ceremony and reception. For example, how will he dress and how will he act around your wedding party and guests? Beautiful photos capturing the smiles of family and friends are just as important as the multitude taken of the bride and groom. And speaking of which, he’ll be by your side just about as much as anyone in the party, and then some—how well do your personalities mesh? Will his presence be an asset or a burden? Truly, a wedding photographer’s charm and ability to put everyone at ease is as important a skill as the actual photography.
Discuss Photography Equipment
Although you may not be a professional yourself, you should know what type of camera and equipment your photographer will be using. You may find that you are more particular about it than you think. For example, there are advantages to both digital and film that you may want to consider. You should also ask what program she uses to edit the photos—if a photographer says they don’t edit, run!
Asking about equipment, gathering information on your options and forming opinions on preferences shows that you are confident in your vision and helps you to convey it fully.
Determine Costs and Sign the Contract
While you want to book your photographer for the date of your wedding immediately, make sure you read over the legal details of exactly what you will get before signing the contract. Ensure the photographer you meet with is the photographer who will show up on your wedding day and if you should expect a second camera person or assistant. Determine what parts of your wedding day will be covered and how many hours you have with your photographer. Clear communication and reiteration of the details of the ceremony, the reception, and the specific types of photographs you want is crucial. From decorating your home with wedding canvas prints to sending out wedding thank you cards to guests, you’ll want to make sure your photographer captures the right moments.
In all, the contract is in place to remind both you and the photographer of the services you agreed upon. With these tips, you are well on your way to finding the perfect photographer to fit your wedding day’s style. You can visit our wedding photography checklist for more advice on capturing your memories.