December 30, 2018
A few months ago, we got a heartbreaking phone call, one that we did not expect.
Her wedding was the following weekend. But she was calling us because she didn’t trust her chosen wedding photographer.
She called, having already decided that she wanted to break her contract, because she did not think her photographer would deliver. Can you imagine, a week before your wedding day, being so disappointed in the service provided by your photographer, that you are hoping to find a new one?
We are writing this post because there are a million articles on the internet with sets of questions that you can copy and paste and send to potential photographers to answer. They will roll their eyes and return answers to you about the gear they carry, the attire they will wear to your wedding, the insurance they have, and on and on. Or they will ignore your email.
Our point here is not that you shouldn’t ask your photographer questions, but that you need to know what is important to you and use that in your choosing process. After all, does the fact that your photographer uses Nikon equipment instead of Canon really matter to you?
In the end, there are four big buckets that we believe you should think through when choosing your wedding photographer. These may not all play an equal part in your decision-making process, but this is what we would choose to pay attention to if we were hiring a wedding photographer today and it’s what we still consider when we hire a photographer to capture family memories for us:
Probably the first thing that comes to mind is the price you will pay for your photography. We’re not going to give you rules about what percentage of your overall budget you should save for photography or tell you that it’s sooooo important that you hire the most expensive photographer that you can find.
Here’s what we will say: if you value photography, find the best photographers within your budget and hire one that fits the next three items listed below.
- Talk to your partner and/or your families about your budget for photography
- Use friends and the internet to find photographers that fit within that budget and talk to a few about the items below
Style & Philosophy
When it comes to photography, the next thing you want to think about is the style you’re looking for in your photographs and your photographer’s philosophy in terms of how they approach a wedding day. Are you hoping for bold, super styled, editorial images, or do you prefer a more candid, lifestyle approach to your photographs? Are you in love with the look of film photography, or are you just fine with digital? Do you want your photos dripping with color or are you more of a classic black & white lover? Look at different styles to get a feel for what interests you and then ask yourself this question: “Fifty years from now, what do I want to see when I look back at my wedding photos?”
The other part of this is philosophy, which differs from style. When it comes to style, we’re talking about the actual images you see. Philosophy, on the other hand, describes how a photographer approaches their work. Do you want someone who is a fly on the wall on your wedding day, very much acting like a documentary photographer? Or do you prefer someone who feels like a friend? Does your photographer go off a list of photos that you want captured, or do they take mostly candid images? How do they handle stressful situations, like bad weather or timing that is off?
Think of weddings of friends that you have attended or been in before. Did you like their photographer? What did your friends say about them afterward? What do you want to be able to say about your experience with your photographer?
- Explain to potential photographers what you’re hoping for in terms of style and ask them to send you a full wedding gallery to show off the work they can do. Please keep in mind that all of their previous clients had different tastes and wishes, too. So if you know you will have an outdoor wedding with a neutral color palette but don’t communicate that and a photographer sends you a ballroom wedding with bold colors, you have to understand that your photos would not look the same!
- Ask potential photographers about the philosophy with which they approach wedding days. Make sure, though, that you already have an idea in mind of what you are hoping for!
Logistics and Deliverables
The third thing we recommend asking about is logistics and deliverables. Your photographer should be able to walk you through the “fine print” details of a wedding. Again, the things that matter to you may be different from other clients, but if you send a list of 50 questions that you copied from brides.com to potential photographers…just, please don’t do that. Here are a few types of questions that we’ve received that we think are important to ask:
- What happens if you are sick?
- Approximately how many images do we receive?
- How do we receive images and what is typical turnaround time?
There may be many other questions that are important to you! Make sure you ask what you need to before booking so that you feel confident in your photographer!
This last part is so significant and so often overlooked, for good reason. It’s hard to think about the small, “unspoken” feelings when you’re balancing budgets and all the other little details for your wedding day. But we want to take you back to the bride that we wrote about at the start of this post. When it came down to it, she just didn’t trust her wedding photographer. And that’s a terrible position to be in with the person who is ultimately responsible for the tangible memories you will keep from one of the most important days of your life.
We can’t tell you what to look for when it comes to these “unspokens.” However, after having both amazing and less than great experiences with other photographers, here are some questions we ask ourselves when booking photographers:
- How does this person make me feel when I talk with them?
- What do reviews from other past clients say?
- What is communication like with this person? Do they call when they say they will? Are their emails clear?
- Do I want to hang out with this person for a significant amount of time? (PS — you WILL hang out with this person for a significant amount of time on your wedding day!)
- Do they keep their blog and social media updated? Do I like the work they have produced recently? (Websites are wonderful, but we get to pick the best of the best for those!)
- Do they seem confident in their ability to create the type of images I’m hoping for?
- Do they value what I value?
Are there other things you considered when choosing a photographer? Let us know in a comment below! When all is said and done, the photographs (and, you know, your marriage!) are what you are left with after your wedding day. We want to make sure that you are truly happy with them and hope this post was helpful in walking you through what you should ask yourself and potential photographers when choosing one to capture your day!