What to look for in a Wedding Photographer

March 12, 2019

Booking your wedding photography is an important decision. When the wedding is over the photographs are going to be one of the only things you have left from the day. The dress will most likely never be worn again, the cake will be eaten, the flowers will die, but you will still be looking at your wedding photographs 50 years from now! If you print your photos, or put them in an album, they will likely even outlive you! It’s important you love them, and have no regrets with who you booked to document your day.

How do you decide who to book when there are photographers every where you turn? Beyond number the of hours, and price, how do you know who to hire, and if what they are charging is worth it? As an experienced wedding photographer here are the top things I recommend taking into consideration when booking your wedding photographer.

Experience– In this digital age, anyone can pick up a DSLR and call themselves a photographer. But just like not everyone who has a stove, is a chef, and everyone with a pair of scissors is not a hair stylist, not everyone with a “good camera” is a professional photographer. While having good gear is important (I’ll get to that in a minute) knowing how to use it, in any, and every situation, is what you need to look for in a wedding photographer. If you focus on price alone, you are not comparing apples to apples, you may very well be comparing grapes to pineapples (and as you can imagine that’s not a very fair comparison). Being a good wedding photographer takes time, training, and experience, and that is what is valuable. An unskilled person who is cheap, is not necessarily a good value, if you don’t get what you want at the end of the day. There is no do over for your wedding photographs. Practicals: Ask how many years they have been in business? Approx. number of weddings they shoot each year? What kind of training and experience they have? Also ask to see a full gallery, or an album of a complete weddings day, so you can see if they are as good on a dark dance floor, as they are with natural light at sunset.

Customer Service– McDonald’s vs. Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Every time you eat out, you’re faced with a similar scenario. You can get “dinner” at McDonald’s, or you can go to a high end steakhouse, or any number of places in between. When you go to McDonald’s, you expect it to be cheap and fast, but is it good for you? Is it fresh, and made with real ingredients? No. You know what you are getting, and that’s fine, if that’s what you WANT, but you can’t go to Ruth Chris, and say “Well dinner at McDonald’s is only $5 so why are you charging 10x that?” The venue, the quality of service, the premium food products, and the expertise of the chef, are why they will  never compete on price with fast food restaurants. Don’t deceive yourself, if a photographer is charging $2,000 or less for a full wedding day, there is a reason they are that cheap. It might because they have very little experience, cheap gear, inexperienced second shooters, sub par editing skills, they may not pay taxes, or have insurance, all of which keeps cost down, but are these corners you want to risk cutting on your wedding day? Practicals: Ask about turnaround time for delivery of images? Ask about storage and backing up of photos? Ask about what kind of communication you can expect leading up to, and after the wedding?

Posing- How do they approach posing? Are they more documentary in style, or do they do a lot of posing? Are they going to jump in and make you redo something, or let the day unfold naturally? When they do have to pose you, how do they handle it, is to super traditional, or more relaxed and fun? Posing can add 10 lbs or take it away, and it can be the difference of you feeling relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera, or stiff and awkward. Make sure whoever you hire, you feel comfortable with, and that their style of posing fits your personality. Practicals: Doing an engagement session is a great test drive to see how you work with your photographer before the wedding day.

Lighting– Like Posing, this is a learned skill. I have spent thousands of dollars learning about, and buying lighting tools. If someone is shooting a wedding and focuses on being a “natural light photographer”, what happens if it rains, or is freezing, or sweltering hot, and you can’t go outside? What if your venue has bad lighting, or if it gets dark before the time you are suppose to shoot? What if there is LED lights, and overhead lights, and candle light, do they still know how to get beautiful images, no matter what the day brings? I have worked with people who shoot weddings as primary photographers, who do not understand off camera flash, and take blurry, badly exposed images at receptions, because they have not taken the time to learn about lighting. Pratcials: When looking at the full gallery or an album, look at images from the dance floor, exit shots at the end of the night, or some indoor portraits, in addition to just the beautiful outdoor natural light shots.

Gear– People frequently say “That’s a nice camera” or “your camera takes great pictures”. Here’s the thing, a camera is only as good as the person using it. I know this because when I hand my camera to someone who we meet on vacation who offers to take a picture for us, and I look at it after (even when I choose all the settings) it’s often still terribly composed or out of focus. I have seen amazing images come from crappy cameras, and terrible images come from a 3k cameras. Another key difference between an amateur and a more experienced pro, is how many cameras, and lenses they are bringing on the day of the wedding? A professional should have back up gear (that is of the same quality as their main gear) because lenses can drop and get broken mid wedding day (I know this from experience) cameras can freeze up and stop working, and flashes can burn out. Are they prepared for all of the above?

Style and Editing– There can be a huge difference in style, is there work very bright with vivid colors, is it light and airy with with everything looking mostly white,  or more dark and moody? Are they quirky and fun, or is there style more romantic and intimate? Practicals: Ask what their style is, and see if it matches what you want. Also look to see if their work is consistent, do the photos on their website, Instagram, and in the albums all have a similar style of editing? You don’t want someone who is experimenting and edits every wedding differently. Also, do they offer more extensive retouching when needed? Are they editing every image you get?

Reliability– Will they still be in business a yr from now, when your wedding is about to happen? Are they trustworthy with the money you are giving them? Practicals: View online reviews at Wedding Wire, the Knot, Google etc… to see what past clients have to say. How many years back to those reviews go, or does their blog go? Some people say they have been in business for a long time, but when you look, there is very little to back that up. Also, ask your other vendors, if they have worked with the person, and what they think of them. Vendors see a lot more of what goes on during a wedding day, so they can be a great resource when it comes to finding other reputable vendors.

Likability- You will likely spend more time with your wedding photographer on the day of your wedding, than you will with just about anybody else. They are just a few feet away from the start of getting ready, all the way until you make your exit at the end of the night. You want to feel comfortable around your photographer, so you are relaxed and able to be your self in front of the camera. You also want them to be a presence that will mesh well with your family, friends and other vendors. Practicals: Spend time with them if you can, I think meeting in person when possible, really helps you get a better idea of how you well you click, and what it would be like to work with them.  Reading reviews and listening to what people say about the experience of working with the person can also tell you a lot. Follow the photographer on social media, if they are active online, you can learn a lot about people from their posts, or watching their Instastories, and getting a look behind the scenes.

I hope this gives you some key areas to consider when looking for a wedding photographer. I’d love to take you out for coffee so we can discuss all of the above, and see if I am the right fit to work with you on your wedding!

Want to meet up? Message me here.

Want to see more? Check out this video to see some of my favorite recent images!