Approaching the task of choosing a wedding photographer can seem overwhelming. There are SO MANY options! Dark and moody or light and bright? Do I need a team or will one shooter suffice? Does it matter if the photographer shoots digital or film?
Let me help you! We'll wade through the sea of options (like the graceful goddess you are) with three steps that gradually narrow your list.
1. Make an initial list of photographers you like and view several of their REAL WEDDING galleries.
If you can't find galleries on their website, contact them and they'll probably be able to send you some gallery links to view.
Viewing real wedding galleries, especially galleries of weddings similar to what you're planning will give you a realistic idea of what your own photos will look like.
During this process consider how their style FITS with your own wedding them, because these two things should work together, not against one another.
It's also important to not rely solely on social media to form an opinion about each photographer, because our Instagram feeds and other social media is curated to fit a certain theme and color palette. When you view real wedding galleries, you will be able to see how their quality and tone carries across different weddings, venues and colors. Is their style clean and classic? Dark and moody? Adventurous? Bright and colorful? Playful? True to life? Dramatic? Artistic? Balanced and orderly? Funky? What draws you to this photographer?
Keep on your list only the photographers whose work you love and whose style FITS with your plans. (This is your opinion so don't overthink it!)
2. Create your wedding budget. Then let potential photographers know exactly how much money you have to work with so they can give you specifics on what they can offer in that range.
The average percentage brides spend on photography is 12% according to Wedding Wire. But you can move that up or down quite a bit depending on what kind of wedding you are planning and what you value most. (I had a small, shorter wedding and spent 20% on photography).
Every photographer has a unique way of pricing and may offer different things. By asking them to tell you exactly what they can offer in your price range, you will immediately be able to compare your candidates in a specific way.
As you consider your options, pay attention to the following questions:
How many hours of coverage? How many images will I get? How many photographers? What is the turnaround time? What are the deliverables - online gallery, USB, albums, etc? Is there a complimentary engagement or bridal shoot?
• 2nd and 3rd shooters are nice but not always necessary. Additional shooters are most helpful if getting lots of candid shots are important to you OR if you definitely know there will be two events happening at the same time you'd like photographed.
• Practically speaking, it doesn't matter if the photographer shoots film or digital or a hybrid of the two - the experience on your end will be the same. Digital photos can be edited to match the exact look of film if you like that look (which just goes back to Step 1 - Style). In both cases digital files may be available depending on your photographer's deliverables. One minor difference is that the turnaround time for film may be slightly longer.
• If you have a very small budget, I'd recommend hiring a better photographer for a smaller amount of time (maybe 3 or 4 hours instead of 6 or 7 with a lesser photographer). Then communicate really clearly about your priorities for the time he/she will be there.
3. Meet with your top 2 or 3 choices in person.
Use this time to ask the photographer all your questions, tell them about your wedding details, and view his/her prints IN PERSON.
Before your meeting, ask the photographer to please bring sample albums or prints. In my opinion, viewing some of the photographer's printed work in person will tell you everything you need to know about the overall quality of his/her work regardless of their prices or any other factor.
This is important whether you're hiring a low-cost newbie or a luxury photographer.
This is a subject I could go into a lot of detail on, but suffice it to say, the only way to be sure your pictures will print well is to see them in person. That's because images that look good on screen and images that look good printed are not the same thing! Special steps must be taken on the part of the photographer to ensure their screen is calibrated as they're editing. This is NOT a minor issue. It can mean the difference between being overjoyed or being devastated when you see your pictures. When you view the photographer's work in person, consider the overall tones and colors you see, the quality of the products, and the sharpness of the photos. If it looks good to you, then that's what matters most.
That's it! I hope you learned something helpful in this post that will make your planning more enjoyable, and give you more confidence in making a decision.
At the end of the day, choosing a photographer is a highly subjective, personal thing. The most important thing is that YOU like them and that YOU like their images and their products. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that!
Comment below with YOUR three wedding words and/or what you're looking for in a photographer.