Wedding Planning Series: Picking the Perfect Photographer!
You're engaged, now what? Check out the seventh part of Grace & Gold's "Wedding Planning Series," for our guide to finding and hiring your perfect photographer, one of the most crucial members of your wedding-day-vendor-dream-team!
Let’s start picking out your vendors!
Now comes the really fun part of putting together your vendor dream-team! Between now and your wedding you will be researching, contacting and meeting a wide variety of people who might be helping your create your perfect day. Once you’ve selected your venue and maybe have hired a wedding planner, we suggest that the first vendor you hire is your photographer. While there is a massive market of talent out there, photographers have a tendency to book anywhere from 6-18 months in advance.
Before I jump into this, I’m going to have one little soap-box moment. Hiring a great photographer is very, very important. These images will remain potentially forever (now with digital stuff), so they had better be great! But 2 other big things to keep in mind:
- You need to have a real connection with your photographer. You are allowing this person to document one of the most important days of your life. Also one of the most personal and intimate days of your life. If you do not feel comfortable with your photographer, if you can’t be yourself around them, it will show in your photos. I think you should consider your photographer someone you would totally be friends with, it will make your day so much easier, fun and not-stressful. This is also why having an engagement session is totally worth the money to absolutely ensure you are on the same page and have great energy together.
- Respect their wedding fees. Yup, photographers can charge a lot of money and nearly all of them rightfully so. Please understand, and always keep in mind, of how much work is really going into that fee. You are not just paying them for the 8-10 hours they are at your wedding. Prior to the wedding they are putting in time with you, hopefully doing an engagement shoot, working with your planner on the timeline. Then on the real day they are running around, contorting themselves to get the best shot, being worried about lighting, forgetting to eat/drink, and working themselves more than any workout ever could. Then, when the day is done, they are sorting through their images (they can take thousands of photos that they then have to narrow down to acceptable ones, a process called “culling”), editing them for color problems, lighting and small imperfections… this can take tens of hours to complete. So yeah, that fee actually is for a sh!t-ton of work.
And now...Emma, are you ever going to shut up about our budget? No, probably not. I’ve suggested increasing the photography budget however much you can, but make sure you’ve decided what it should cover: photography coverage time is essential, but do you need an engagement session, prints, canvasses, albums? Talk about it ahead of time, everyone has a different opinion.
Second, start coming up with a list of vendors you can consider.
- Check with your venue, as they may have a preferred vendor list, which means the photographer has probably shot there a few times and understands the ins and outs of the place. But remember, sometimes vendors pay to be on these lists, so take a good look at their portfolio and photos of weddings at your specific venue.
- Look at wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Carats & Cake, Green Wedding Shoes, Brides, Martha Stewart. Search for photographers available either in your local area, or if you are having a destination wedding someone there (unless you are OK paying travel fees!). Now, some of these places are really featuring high end photographers, but it can help you get a good sense of the style you are going for.
- Hit up the Knot, Wedding Wire, Yelp and other wedding search engines where can read real reviews from real brides! These can also help give you an idea of their pricing.
- And finally, reach out to friends and family, or your social network (because we all have that distant acquaintance who had wedding photos you have drooled over!).
Third, as you are looking at different options, figure out what style of photography you think you are going for. Now, there are so many aspects to photography style that it would require it’s on blog. But really start looking at different types of photos to get a better sense of what you like: bright and energetic, dark and moody, more candid/photojournalistic, traditionally elegant, vintage tones, washed-out feel, etc. Take a look at the photographer’s website to see if their portfolio is consistent, current and really resonates with you.
Fourth, start reaching out to them! Email/call 3-5 photographers to make sure:
- Your wedding date is available
- They have a wedding package in your budget range (and at a minimum, look for a package that has 8 hours of coverage and preferably a second shooter)
- Have the ability to meet you in person or video conference call
And yes, you need to meet the photographer in person and with your partner (which is your next step). Try to interview 2 or 3 in a casual environment. Have a list of questions ready to go that cover some of the basic:
- Ask about their experience—number of weddings they have shot, if they have shot at your venue (not a deal-breaker if they have not), any weddings similar to yours, etc. This is especially important for venues that have a lot of sunlight (like the beach) or unusual backgrounds (like Palm Springs where the sun actually sets much earlier than one would anticipate).
- Details of the package and everything it includes
- Logistical questions: type of equipment used, if backups are available, availability of second shooter, etc.
- Legal questions: specifics of their contract, make sure they are insured, fees for additional coverage time, deadlines for proofs and albums, social media sharing, etc.
- Editing process: how/if images are processed, limits on editing abilities, how many images can be processed, etc.
- Don’t forget to ask personal questions about who they are! What is their favorite wedding moment to capture? Favorite venue they have worked at? Dream venue to shoot? Wine or beer? Other hobbies?
As we mentioned, take the time to get to know them, feel comfortable in their presence, and trust your gut! Sometimes you meet that photographer and you just know it, so go for it!
We hope this helps you find that perfect photographer for your big day! Feeling stuck? Feel free to contact us for vendor recommendations or how we can help you find the next member of your wedding-vendor-dream-team!