how to pick the perfect wedding photographer

10 steps: choose the perfect wedding photographer – part 2

In the first post we talked about how to figure out what kind of wedding photographer would like.  How you want to spend your day, posing for highly controlled, highly stylized portraits made to look like action shots or having your real emotions and reactions photographed as you enjoy your day. Know that you have a feel for what style of photos you want, it’s time to narrow it down and pick the perfect wedding photographer.

In the next few steps we’ll discuss what to actually look for when interviewing photographers and actually booking or contracting them for your wedding!

pick the perfect wedding photographer

Step 4: Interviews

Personality: So crucial! There may be a few photographers whose style you connect with, but finding the one whose personality meshes with your own may be the most important and most underrated aspect of choosing your perfect wedding photographer.

This person will be right by your side your entire wedding day. Do not book someone who makes you uncomfortable or whose mannerisms are off-putting just because you like their work. It will may your day long and uncomfortable too! You could find the best wedding photographer in the world, but if that person annoys you, you will suffer in the end.

Choose someone you want to have around! Choose someone you trust. Choose someone who puts you at ease and who has experience and friendly advice to help make the wedding process easier. You want to find a photographer who seems assertive enough to go out and get the shot, but respectful enough to know not to hop up behind the alter when you’re saying your vows! They should have the personality to put your guests and family at ease and coax smiles out of them. They should ask lots of questions and be a good listener. They should also be a calm and positive force! 

If you aren’t able to meet with them in person, have a Skype interview or a nice long phone chat. Out of everyone you met with, whose images and personality did you gravitate toward the most? If you’ve done all your homework above, just listen to that little inner voice and go with it.

See a full wedding album (or two or three!). If you base your choice off of a highlight reel, then you aren’t getting the full picture. Portfolios are meant to show the best of the best, but be sure to see a few full albums that will give you an idea of how the photographer handles an entire wedding day. Find out if they were working alone for those weddings or if they had a second photographer too. This will give you a better idea of what you will get with your final package choice. Be sure to see albums of weddings that are similar to yours (church wedding, indoors, outdoors, tent wedding, winter wedding, beach wedding, etc).

Look at the work technically. Are the photos crisp? Do they have consistent toning? Did they capture all the important moments and emotions? Look for good composition and lighting. Do the subjects look relaxed? Are there photos of people other than the bride and groom? You’ll want photos of your friends and families too right?! ;)

pick the perfect wedding photographer

Step 5. Find out what’s included.

Different photographers included different items and services as standard in their packages. Be sure to ask what is specifically included with a basic package. Most photographers have very specific reasons for why they include these things and will be happy to tell you their philosophy and reasoning.

My Philosophy. I really work hard to make sure my clients are comfortable and at ease with me and in front of the camera. That’s why I always include at least a mini engagement session. It helps you relax and helps me figure out what gets you to relax. Getting to know your photographer and becoming even more comfortable with them and with the camera BEFORE the wedding day is soooo important. :) Once you are comfortable, then we just go with the flow and let you laugh, play and be in love. Then the photos are awesome.

Lighting Assistant. A second set of hands is an invaluable tool on a wedding day. After a few years of shooting weddings completely on my own (except when a second shooter was hired) I decided on including a lighting assistant in even my most basic wedding packages. First, lighting assistants do not photograph the wedding with me. They are at the wedding to be just that, my assistant. They haul gear, set up lighting, help wrangle family members, coordinate first looks, keep track of bouquets and on occasion safety pin bustles. They are gophers, time-keepers and a second set of eyes. They anticipate problems and resolve them and, they, on occasion, help manage family drama. Their entire purpose is to smooth the way for both you and me. They handle the grunt work and logistics so I can focus staying creative and capturing your wedding day.

Walkthrough. I also always do a walkthrough at the venue before the big day. I like to know where I’m going, where to park, what the lighting is like and where those electrical outlets are so that I don’t waste time on the wedding day. This is when we also pick out our favorite portrait spots for family, bridal party and the two of you!

It is also helpful to have a photographer who will discuss the day with you and help you come up with a timeline. I am always confused by photographers who leave this completely up to their clients and don’t offer advice. I don’t want to tell you how to run your day, but I can certainly help you think of things you hadn’t already thought of and be sure that the day will go smoothly.

Be sure you’ve discussed this so that you know the number of hours of coverage in your package will cover everything you want to have photographed. Also be sure to discuss your locations and make sure all travel is included in your package.

Finally ask about the final product. What do you get after the wedding? How do you get it? Will you get files that you can print from? Will they be watermarked? What will that product look like? If you are including a wedding album, ask how that works. Do you get to offer suggestions or make changes to the layout of the album?

pick the perfect wedding photographer

Step 6. Confirm your shooters.

Some larger photo studios have more than one photographer on staff. Make sure that you meet with and put into the contract the photographer who will actually be shooting your wedding. Be sure to ask what will happen if that photographer is ill or otherwise unable to shoot your wedding.

Assistants. Find out if they will be bringing assistants to the wedding. If you really click with your photographer and trust them, you should be able to trust them to choose assistants and second photographers that fit their style of shooting and their personalities.

Second Photographers. If you have room in your budget, seriously considering adding a second photographer to your package. The main benefit is that you get twice the coverage. There are so many advantages to having two photographers even if they are shooting in the same area. They can get different angles of the same situation, get the behind-the-scenes shoots, capture guests reactions to the main event (first dance/ first kiss); or they can be covering cocktail hour and your reception details while the main shooter handles family portraits. If you are having a really large wedding (300+) you may want to ask about adding a third shooter or a lighting assistant that also shoots.

Step 7. Ask about the contract. And your rights.

Make sure that your photographer has a contract that you will both sign. Review it before you sign it! Ask questions about anything that is unclear or confusing to you. Contracts should be designed to protect both you and the photographer. They should say when the payments are due, what happens if the photographer is ill or can’t photograph your wedding and what happens if you need to cancel or change your wedding date for some reason.  It should also have a deadline for the delivery of your photos.

pick the perfect wedding photographer

Step 8. Decide on a package.

Pick a package that works for you. If you don’t see it listed in what the photographer gives you, ask about changes. Most are willing to customize a package that will fit your needs.

Step 9. What do you actually receive as a final product?

Make sure you understand exactly what you will be receiving as a final product.

Digital Files/Negatives. Did you choose a package where you receive files only? Find out how they will be delivered. Ask the photographer how many images typically deliver from a wedding like yours. You don’t want to be stuff with thousands of photos. How would you ever sift through them all? You also want to understand your photographer’s reasoning if they are only offering 100-300 images. Be sure you agree with what they plan to deliver before you sign on the dotted line.

Albums, prints, etc. Make sure you know what style of album you are purchasing, what size, how many pages, etc. Also find out what the fees are for adding pages or photos to the album after the wedding. Ask if you get in input in the album style and photo selection before it goes to print.

pick the perfect wedding photographer

Step 10. The deposit.

Feeling good? Great! It’s time to put down your deposit and sign the contract. The deposit should hold your date with that photographer so that they don’t book someone else. Photographers have a limited number of days they can shoot weddings, so a deposit is usually non-refundable. Should you cancel, the deposit ensures that the photographer at least get a bit of profit for that day since they’ve promised not to give it to anyone else. After all, it’s how they pay their bills.

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