Choosing your wedding photographer

“I … take you … to be my wife/husband, to join with you and to share all that is to come, to be your faithful husband/wife, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part …”

Those are the wonderful statements spoken for the first and last time in the lives of those who get married … those magical moments that will remain engraved in your memory for a lifetime and will give you chills whenever you remember them…

Certainly, your wedding is one of the events with the greatest impact on your life and the only thing that remains after this special day are memories. Photographer is the only person capturing those magic moments that will last forever. You want to be sure that this will be done by professionals, in their best way, so none of those magical moments will be lost. Here are some tips for:

1. Finding the best wedding photographer for you.

  • Buy and review specialized magazines (certainly you have a lot in your area).
  • Maybe you was at a friend’s wedding and meet there a professional photographer. You like his approach and his way of taking pictures, don’t hesitate – ask him to give you his business card.
  • Browse bridal websites for information and links to photographers that work in your area.
  • Go to bridal shows in your area. That’s a great opportunity to meet your photographer face-to-face
  • Contact recently married friends and ask to see their wedding pictures. Ask them if they’re satisfied, if they will recommend you this photographer. People who’ve had positive experience with photographers are always happy to share their photographer name with you. When you meet with the photographer, you’ll both have an immediate frame of reference from which to proceed.

2. Style of wedding photography. You have to decide that before you continue your research, this will save you a lot of precious time. Are you looking for a classic-style photographer with mostly posed images? Do you prefer candid shots in which the subject may not even know he is being photographed? Do you like the glamour approach of fashion photography? Would you prefer maybe a freestyle wedding photographer who combines all of these styles?

3. Build a list of wedding photographers which seem to fit your criteria for price and available format. Don’t include in your list individuals with less-than-stellar records, weak references, or a style that you don’t like (don’t waste your precious time for nothing).

4. Check their websites: Visit each photographer’s website, and review their portfolio. Good photographers usually show plenty of their recent work online including full weddings – you will save time by pre-qualifying photographers who have comprehensive online portfolio for possible meeting. Create a list of those photographers. The most important is to feel the “chemistry”, to look for photos that makes you “wow!”

5. Contact photographers from your list: First contact the ones whose portfolios you like more. Don’t even call him if you have 1% doubts in his professionalism and quality of his work.

6. The phone/email interview. Call or email each photographer on your list. A quick phone call or short email will give you a lot of precious information, such as his availability on your wedding day, type of photography specialties (ex., candid, traditional, photojournalism, combination, film or digital, etc.), and a rough idea as to how much they’ll charge you and what you’ll receive for that fee.

7. Determine your Budget. Photographer fees, prints, albums, etc. generally come to approximately 12-20% of the entire wedding budget. This will allow you to quickly discard candidates which you cannot afford, but don’t forget: You get what you pay for. As enticing as it is to spend less money, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you will get less value. Although there may be exceptions, in general, better photographers cost more. How about those cut-rate ones? Well, they’re cheap for a reason. Consider that the photographer is one of the only vendors you will continue to have contact with after the wedding day. You want to implicitly trust that they will deliver the images to you in a timely fashion and, more importantly, that you will love them.

8. Ask questions. The more questions you ask before, the more confident and relaxed you’ll feel on and after your wedding day. Notice how polite they are. Give him different situations to see his reaction, if it’s a nervous person or someone that keeps his calm all long. Ask yourself, is he someone you will want to be around when you’re stressed, exhausted, dehydrated, overheated, and ready to faint in those uncomfortable shoes? Your photographer is going to be everywhere you are from the beginning until the end of your wedding day, so make sure you enjoy being around each other and you have great chemistry with him.

9. If you choose an hourly photographer, make sure you find out how much it will charge you for one hour, a few hours, their availability if you may want them to stay a little longer and how much will he charge you for extra time.

10. Remove from your list any candidate which does not conform to your preferences or is not available on your chosen date.

11. Meet your photographer. It is VERY important to make an appointment with your photographer, to see him face-to-face, to know him better. Go to these meetings with your spouse-to-be if it’s possible. Ask photographer to show you samples of his recent work, wedding books, albums, printed pictures. Now it’s a good moment to go deeper into details about your wedding day, type of photos, to find TOGETHER the right time for the photo session (trust him, he knows better what’s the right time to take the best pictures). And remember, the discussion should be a relaxed one. Ask you question in the most subtle way so photographer don’t feel like questioning. Normally, a professional photographer will answer to all of your questions before you even ask. Rather, he will be the one to ask more questions about the number of guests, reception, your tastes, expectations from photos, etc… Anyway, you may have questions too. Here’s a small set of questions you have to pose:

  • What is your photography style? (Photojournalistic, traditional, candid, mixed, etc.)
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What wedding packages do you have? (he will give you examples of several packages that fits best for you and will explain you what’s included in the price).
  • How will you make it easy for friends and family to order reprints? (is there an online gallery? See point #12)
  • Have you shot a wedding at my location before? (if yes, ask him for examples)
  • What do you plan to do at my wedding to make my wedding photographs unique and personal to me?
  • Do you have an assistant?
  • Will you be shooting my pictures personally? (and this is very important, because sometimes he can send you someone else, or a student working for him, and you will not have the same quality you saw on his website)
  • What’s the equipment you have – Camera, lenses, lighting? Ask him to tell you more about his equipment (a professional photographer LOVES to talk about his gear)
  • Do you have backup equipment? (camera, lens, lighting)
  • Do you have travel fees? (usually, if your wedding is further than 50km)
  • What time will you begin and how long will you stay until? (he has to be there at least ½ hour before, in order to check all the environments and to think about pictures he can take in different places).
  • How much is your overtime fee?
  • When will the pictures be ready? (a professional photographer will have your pictures done in 1-2 months)
  • Do you mark your pictures? (be sure you get the unmarked pictures if you want to print them after)
  • How much extra for unmarked pictures?
  • What is the possibility of the pictures fading? (good quality pictures are more expensive but will last forever)
  • How long do you keep the original files? (in case you may need a copy, or maybe you’ve lost your pictures)
  • Ask for referrals. (phone numbers, permission to call them, pictures from their wedding, etc.)
  • Do you work well with the other vendors? i.e.: coordinators, caterers, videographers.
  • Can you work from a photo checklist that we create?
  • How will you be dressed? (If it’s a professional photographer with a big experience, you better don’t ask).

12. Online gallery: Find out which online options your wedding photographer can offer you, how are your out-of-town guests and family members going to be able to view and order photos? Many couples prefer their photographs to be supplied on disk rather than in wedding albums. Perhaps you could host the images on your own website so friends and family can access them easily? Maybe you’d like a combination of both prints and digital images? Remember to ask whether you will retain copyright of the images, and make sure the images won’t have a watermark so you can print off your own images. If you do want a traditional photo album, ask to see some examples so you can approve the print finish. Check the delivery times too – you don’t want them sitting in the post office while you are on your honeymoon!

13. Engagement session/pre-wedding shoot. Some photographers offer a pre-wedding shoot, normally a few weeks before ceremony. If you feel camera-shy, a pre-wedding shoot may help you feel more comfortable and will give you an opportunity to practice your poses and to get used with the photographer’s way of working. Tip: you can have your e-session pictures slideshow at the reception of your wedding.

14. How to reduce the price of your wedding pictures. Take a look at what’s included in the price they quote you, whether products or a service, and consider its value to you. Often, wedding photographers will include a lot of things like loose prints, parent albums, Trash the Dress sessions and so on, but not all of these may be relevant to your needs or expectations. You can save by cutting some of the extras.

15. Will you save money on editing yourself your pictures? Many brides who choose photographers that only give them a disc of their images (no album, prints or other items) find that they lack the time, software or knowledge to create their own albums, properly edit the photos (crop, color correct, etc.). Often, years later, these couples just have a stack of dusty, cheaply processed proof photos or photos on a disc that are not being lovingly displayed as a reminder of the wedding day. Do you think it worth it?

16. Do you trust your photographer? The biggest favor a couple can do for themselves is to openly trust their photographer to do a great job. Give them some artistic freedom. When artists feel you trust them, they’re confident in their skills and they thrive. They feel very insecure when they have a bride micromanaging their job. It makes them feel like she doesn’t trust their decisions or vision, and then they start second-guessing everything. Do your due diligence upfront and don’t commit to a photographer you’re anything less than 100 per cent confident in. And once you’ve made that decision and reached a coherent understanding of your mutual expectations for the event, step back and let them work their magic.

17. Contract: Do you understand the contract? Is it fair? Is everything spelled out? When it comes down going to court, only what is WRITTEN really counts, not what was promised. So be sure you have wrote down every single detail you’ve discussed. Make sure that you have no doubts before signing. Read it ALL.

“…and so they lived happily in-love, peace and harmony, for the rest of their lives…” because they have chosen the right photographer to shoot their wedding 😉

And remember: Good photographers will get booked first so don’t waste your time…