Wedding preparation is both exciting and full of challenges. You have time-sensitive decisions and investments to make, from choosing the perfect location to agreeing on which vendors to set as your wedding day team. These professionals will be part of many special memories of your wedding day.
One of your most important vendor choices is who will capture the events of your wedding. A friend or relative may own a DSLR camera, but you should hire a professional photographer to ensure the day is properly documented. This simple guide will help you decide how to hire the perfect wedding photographer.
As a professional wedding photographer, I have been interviewed by and have consulted with countless couples preparing for their big day. I have also interviewed dozens of photographers, both from my own wedding and as a portrait studio manager. I believe I’ve narrowed down the most important factors for great wedding photographers.
To help ensure that you’ll find a great fit when you pick your photographer, here are the six areas of consideration for you to rate and then compare.
Do you love their photos?
This is personal and subjective. Ultimately a photographer can produce photos which are technically perfect, and yet you may still not like them for some reason. It might be the colour grading, or the photo is cliche, and you are looking for something more original etc.
Photographers may capture creative images that don’t appeal to you. Personally, I don’t like the use of coloured flash gels for creative effects or over-processing. I also don’t like transplanting skies on a wedding photo or adding a fake sun flare or sunset. Many award winning photographers do, and many couples want these fantastical looking photos, but for me, they come at the price of authenticity and storytelling.
Replacing skies is when a photographer takes the original sky or sunset and replaces it with a more dramatic or colourful sky in Photoshop.
I would like my clients to look back at their wedding photos in 20 years time and see the real sky and conditions on the day, not some Sky that was downloaded from a free sky stock library.
While loving their photos is extremely important, it is by no means the only thing to consider. Please allow me to explain why.
The problem with judging a wedding photographer on their visible public portfolio alone is that just about every photographer will only put their best photos in a portfolio. These photos may have been taken ten years ago.
There are many factors that go into making a great wedding photo, but the truth is that many of these are not actually in the control of the photographer. That includes the prevailing weather and lighting at the time, the willingness and participation of the couple, the experience of the couple in terms of posing and of course the actual location of the wedding.
While a good professional photographer should be able to pose couples in any situation, that doesn’t always mean the photographer has the full participation or interest of the couple. They may not have been that interested in taking couples portraits, or the wedding may have been running behind schedule.
That is why virtually all photographers will choose the best photos from the best weddings to put forward as their portfolio. That doesn’t mean every photo will be as spectacular (far from it).
Higher budget weddings with more guests simply offer more appealing and beautiful photo opportunities. That is particularly true of detail shots such as reception rooms and decorations, but also the available scenes for couples portraits.
So don’t judge a portfolio on the scenery, location, couple or detail, but try to look beyond that. Remember, your wedding is your wedding, and it will be completely different (even at the same venue).
Start looking as early as possible
When you want to have the cream of the top wedding photographer to capture your big day, you have to book them as early as possible. This also applies when your wedding date is a weekend or scheduled for a holiday season. The truth is, top photographers are always booked all year-round. So start doing your homework and research early. Many brides book their photographer 1-2 years out. It is never too early to start looking and booking your wedding photographer. It will be a big relief once that is done.
A big advantage of looking early is the ready availability of the major wedding vendors, the photographer, the wedding venue, and the wedding caterer. Nailing down the wedding date, and these major vendors are often the most difficult task. So what’s the advice, look and book early.
You won’t be able to nail down an exact dollar amount until you’re sure of what you want, how many albums you need and where your photographer is based, and packages range from $2,500 all the way up to $15,000-plus on the higher end of the spectrum. When interviewing candidates, ask for a general range based on the photographer’s standard “shooting fee” and package, plus their standard rates for the type of album you think you’ll want and the amount of coverage you’re hoping to book them for (day of, full weekend). It’s important to find out what’s included in the standard package, plus the basic range for any extras you may want, like an engagement shoot, special effects or additional coverage so that you can compare rates. In particular, find out exactly how many hours of coverage are included. Ideally, you want your photographer to be there for your full wedding day—from when you start getting ready until after you make your grand exit from the reception. While packages vary, most include about 6 to 12 hours to cover everything from pre-ceremony events (getting ready with your bridesmaids or first-look photos) to the end of the reception. It’s usually better to pay for more coverage if there’s a chance you’ll run over, and you definitely want your photographer there until the end (overtime is usually charged at a higher hourly rate). Also consider whether you’ll want to do an engagement shoot or have your photographer shoot other events during your wedding weekend (the guys’ golf outing, the bridesmaid lunch).
Also, check if there’s a second shooter included in the contract, and if there’s not, ask about the possibility. It’s likely the second shooter can be confirmed later on, but the main benefit to having two shooters is, of course, you get twice as much coverage. For example, during your formal photo session, one photographer can capture the formal photos, while the second one can get behind-the-scenes, photojournalistic photos, like your guests’ mingling. If you’re having a larger wedding (250 guests or more), you might even want to ask about having three shooters so your photography team can be sure to capture the event from all angles.
Interviews your wedding photographers
As soon as you’ve narrowed down your list of potential wedding photographers, you must conduct interviews. This is an important part of your selection process because it will determine who among the shortlisted wedding vendors fit the bill.
Ask them to bring sample wedding albums so you can take a look at it closely, preferably something comparable to the theme and setup of your wedding. Make sure to check photos from start to finish. This way, you’d have a grasp of how they capture important moments and many others. Let them know how you envision your wedding and ask them how they will do their part of achieving it.
Lastly, and considered to be the most important reason why you conduct interviews is, to know if both your personality connects. Not only that it will make working with them easy, but you will be guaranteed that they will work well with your wedding guests as well. Remember that you will spend most of your wedding with your wedding photographer. It will be a super fun day if you all get along, or it will be a super awkward memory if the photographer is a rather bossy and grumpy person, or the personalities just simply clash.
What to ask your wedding photographer?
Here are the essential things to consider when it comes to choosing the right wedding photographer.
- Their Style and Creativity – Many wedding photographers have various styles and tones when they capture events like weddings. Knowing first, how do you want your photographs taken is important.
- Photojournalistic Photography – Do you like candid moments, and photos with genuine emotions gleaming? This type of photographic style focuses on facial expressions, with subdued hues and black and white photos.
- Classic Photography – Do you like clean, carefully composed photos with perfect lighting? This type is often associated with what your grandparents’ wedding album would look like, but still widely used today. This is because of its classical approach to important wedding moments such as the first look, the bride walking down the aisle, wedding kiss or tossing of the bouquet.
- Fine Art or Artistic – Do you like photographs taken out of the wedding context? – meaning more on the artsy side or abstract rather than the traditional way of shooting a wedding? This kind of style will surely cut your wedding photos above the rest because it won’t look like anyone else’s.
- Lifestyle Photography – Do you like a mixture of photojournalistic and classic photography? If you are aiming to have candid shots mixed with direction and styling, this style is right for you.
- Their Equipment – Make the most out of your research and know the equipment being used to cover a wedding event. So ask what type of camera and equipment they are using. Do they have backup equipment in case the main camera starts malfunctioning?
- Their Professionalism – Hiring a seasoned wedding photographer has a solid background in covering wedding events. This is very important because they know how to approach different circumstances that may arise during this kind of event. Because of the various setup, venues, and lighting conditions, an experienced wedding photographer will know first-hand what to use and what’s not to use. Knowing that your wedding photographer will do great in any given situation will not only give you smooth interaction but also peace of mind.
- Their Cost – How much are you going to allocate to the wedding photographer? Are you just hiring their photography service? Or will you get the full package that includes fine prints, a coffee table book, and a framed portrait?
- Their Post-production Details – Ask your shortlisted photographer how long will it take to get the photos and other items included in the package. Usually, it takes a minimum of one month to get all photo proofs. Keep in mind that photographers shoot in raw files, way more prominent than the common JPG files. Raw files allow the photographer the ability to correct photos; hence, it will take longer to upload, process and edit it. Moreover, ask them how many photographs should you expect? Do you need to select the photos for editing? Is there any additional cost for retouching options or special effects?
- How would they cope if it rains – There is always a chance of rain in New Zealand (possibly a lot less in Hawke’s Bay). Experienced and good photographers will embrace any weather and any conditions. They know how to bring out the best in each scene, and view each scenario as an opportunity to create something beautiful and unique for the bride and groom. A good photographer will make you feel excited and confident about the rain and rain wedding photos.
Book and relax
You will know once you have found your right wedding photographer after doing your due diligence. Some people just simply know, and while some brides need more research to be assured. But once you are happy with your decision on wedding photography, be confident and book, sign the contract, pay the deposit, and then sit back and relax, even for a moment. Remember that wedding planning is a journey, for both the bride and groom. The more you can enjoy the process, the journey, the happier the wedding day will be. While it is an important day of your life, it is still simply just a day. Marriage is a lifetime journey. It is too common to see brides and grooms get uptight about the planning process and forget about the joy and the importance of the wedding day. So remember, relax, and more relax.
Following these tips will effectively help you in choosing the right wedding photographer for your big day. Do you have other tips on how to choose the right wedding photographer? Share your tips and thoughts in the comment section below. We’d love to hear them!