Planning a wedding involves making literally hundreds of decisions, and it’s enough to turn normally loving, sane couples into crazy people. When my honey and I planned our wedding seven year ago, we spent days debating party favors. That’s right, folks, I said DAYS – days we will never get back. And if my husband was right, no one remembers the favors that emerged victorious from all those heated discussions. Sigh.
With those hair-pulling memories fresh in my mind, I’m here to offer you a hand out of the depths of decision-making despair by providing useful information for choosing the perfect wedding photographer for you. There’s three steps:
1. Compile a short list of your favorite photographers.
2. Meet with your favorite photographers.
3. Decide which is the best match for your style, personality and budget.
Easy peasy. Now let’s get crack a’ lackin’.
1) Who makes the cut: Compiling a list of favorites.
Do you love the photographers’ work? Only consider those you LOVE, and I mean really, really LOVE. When you’re surfing websites during your lunch break (and I know you do), wait for that “Ohhhhh!” moment. If you respond emotionally to a stranger’s wedding, think about how you’ll feel when it’s you in the photograph. If you don’t LOVE a photographer’s work, don’t bother, no matter how tempting the price tag.
Can you work it into your budget? Keep an open mind when it comes to what you can afford and remember that you’re making a purchase for a lifetime not a day. If you think the photographer you absolutely adore is out of your range, consider a smaller package. Six hours with a fantastic photographer are far more valuable than 12 hours with a mediocre one.
2) And the nominees are: Meeting prospective photographers.
Once you’ve determined your list of favorites, make time to meet each photographer in person. You can get the information you’ll need to make your decision by asking the following questions:
Is photography their full-time profession? Full-time photographer’s stake their family’s financial well-being on the quality of their work. That’s some serious motivation to exceed expectations.
How many weddings do they photograph a year? It goes without saying that a photographer who shoots 25 weddings a year is more apt to be at the top of their game than someone who shoots four or five.
Do they specialize in wedding photography? Photographing weddings is a universe unto itself. It involves working with large groups, tense situations, tight time lines, constantly changing lighting conditions, challenging locations, and in spite of all that, everything absolutely, positively has to be right the first time. This kind of photography is not for the faint of heart; it takes experience to know how to accommodate the unique demands of weddings.
Is the photographer you’re meeting the one who’ll be photographing the event? Some studios have multiple photographers. Be sure to meet with and review the work of the person who will actually be photographing your event.
Do they belong to any professional organizations? Membership in professional organizations is a positive sign that the photographer is involved in their professional community and continuing education.
Do they have back-up equipment and insurance? If you’re meeting with a photographer that doesn’t have back-up equipment or insurance, feign a visit to the restroom and escape out the back door. This is one of the few subjects that brings out my snarky side. It’s irresponsible, selfish and just plain stupid to work without backup equipment. It’s the couple and their families that ultimately suffer if equipment malfunctions and there’s no Plan B.
Do they work with an assistant? Assistants allow photographers to focus on what they do best – create gorgeous, meaningful images. Assistants can also make your life easier because they often assist with wrangling family and bridal party members during formal portraits. If your friends and family tend to wander, you’ll appreciate this more than you can imagine.
What exactly is included in the price, and what expenses might there be after the event? Know exactly what your package includes and what products or services might be necessary after your event. Some photographers “back-load” their prices, meaning that although there may be a low up-front cost, there are significant post-event expenses.
3) And the winner is: Making the final cut.
After meeting with photographers, you’ll undoubtedly have connected with some more than others. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good personality match. Your photographer is the only vendor that will be with you ALL DAY LONG! You’ll spend more time with your photographer than you will with most of your guests, so make sure it’s time well spent.
At this point you should have an even shorter list of favorites. To make the final cut, circle back to the beginning and ask yourself again, “Do I love their work?” Can you imagine their photographs on your walls? Can you imagine passing the album on to your children? If the answer if yes, then ask yourself if you can spend your wedding day with this person. And last, but certainly not least, can you make the investment work with your budget?
See, I told you it would be easy.
- Planning Tools