Choosing a wedding photographer is arguably one of the hardest tasks to check off your wedding planning list. With so many options available, how do you know the person behind the camera is going to deliver what they say? Here is my best advice for choosing the “perfect for you” photographer for your wedding day.
Book Your Venue First
This might seem a little obvious, but reaching out to potential photographers before you have your date and location confirmed can turn into a big waste of time for you both. The number one biggest factor when determining who should capture your wedding day is availability.
Most photography studios we know of book about 2 years out, with Spring and Fall being considered busy seasons. As a couple, the very first question you should ask before moving forward with any further conversation is are you available?
Maybe you aren’t going the traditional venue route and a spontaneous elopement is more your speed, awesome! Let your potential photographers know that when you reach out. In our experience having your photographer involved in the planning process is a win-win for everyone! We’ve had couples reach out with a rough idea of where and when but let us take the reins over the particulars. In this case, we recommended an ideal location with our couple’s wishes in mind and we were able to suggest the perfect time of day for that chef kiss lighting!
Narrow Down Your Photography Style
The number one way to narrow down a long list of potentials is by style. I’ll touch on looking over full galleries in a bit, but this is a place where Instagram feeds and website portfolios will come in handy.
How do you envision your day’s legacy living on? Do you like the moody look? Bright & Airy? A hybrid? Something more traditional? Editing is as much a factor as the actual posing and composition of a photo. Do you enjoy more posed and “smile at the camera” looks or do you want to work with a photographer who will direct you to interact with one another to get more candid and authentic captures? (Spoiler alert, we are the latter!)
When a couple reaches out to work with us we emphasize that we are a prompt-based photography studio. Meaning we use prompts to get you and your partner moving, laughing, and interacting with one another in an “authentic to you” sort of way.
Likewise, when it comes to editing we like to describe our work as magazine quality timeless edits. We lean a little towards film emulation, cause letsss be real, film is a pretty timeless photography style. Overall our goal is to hold up to the test of time. I don’t want any of our couples looking back and thinking “Oh God that’s so 2020!” Cringe!
Are They Experts In The Field?
We all know a dozen friends from high school that own a Canon Rebel. (In layman terms that is photography lingo for an entry-level Digital Camera). Everyone wants to be a photographer these days, after all, it’s a pretty badass career path if you ask me. I get to do something fun, travel, eat cake, all while making a living! However, like with most things, you need to earn the right to live it up.
That’s not to say there aren’t naturally gifted photographers right out the gate. All I’m saying is wedding photography is a whole lot more BIG PICTURE than just taking a great photo.
Wedding days are high stress! They are busy, loud, and even the most timely well-executed days tend to be overwhelming for anyone who isn’t used to navigating them regularly. Lighting situations are widely varied from venue to venue, hair and makeup teams run behind, and to be frank, shit happens. You can limit any ramifications by ensuring you hire a wedding day veteran.
The easiest way to spot the difference between a novice and a pro is by asking if they’re licensed and insured. Not only does that completely cover your butt (and theirs) in case the unthinkable does happen, it’s a great testament to the fact that they’ve invested in their business and they are taking it seriously.
You can also ask questions like; “Where did you get your training?”, “How many weddings have you lead shot?”, “Can you help prepare my wedding day photography timeline?” These questions will quickly get you to the nitty-gritty of who is and isn’t experienced.
Don’t forget about added value! Has this vendor invested their time in serving you? Photographers who go above and beyond often care about the success of their business. Which means they care about the success of your service! Some simple gestures (like this article for example) show that a potential vendor has invested time to make sure you feel fully informed about the process. When they’re showing care before a contract or invoice even comes into play it’s usually a good sign you are dealing with someone who values you.
Look Over Full Galleries
Now let’s touch on full gallery reviews. In a world of highlight reels, it’s easy to get duped. Everyone on the internet is putting their best foot forward, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t doing the same thing. Don’t fall victim to a perfect feed when the rest of the work kinda falls flat.
Request to see the photographer’s full galleries!
Of course, your day will include those money-shot couple photos, but a wedding day is so much more than that! When perusing a potential photographer’s galleries check out how they captured ALL aspects of the day. Do they take time to shoot the smaller details? How did they organize the family formals? Are the reception images capturing the excitement of the night? These are all important factors to consider when picking the perfect wedding photographer!
Check the Reviews
First and foremost a little humblebrag, we’ve got a 5-star rating across all platforms.
(And we’ve worked our butts off for that!)
Our studio shows up on Google, Wedding Wire, and Facebook. Other vendors may use different platforms. So during the interview process be sure to reference any sites that previous couples may have left a review.
My advice is to take note of any reviews that mention long delays in gallery deliveries. The number one horror story I hear from married people when I tell them I’m a wedding photographer is “we hired a wedding photographer but never received our photos” or “we only received the sneak peek, then ghost“. Personally, I’m mortified by the idea of holding someone’s wedding day photos captive, but unfortunately, it does happen.
Reading the reviews will give you a better idea of what to expect from a potential vendor and what their track record looks like.
With that said reviews should be considered, but also taken with a grain of salt. In a world of cancel culture make sure you aren’t falling for someone’s attempt to cyberbully under false pretenses.
Get Down To The Nitty Gritty
I’m talking contracts, costs, and deliverables.
What will you be paying for, how much will you be paying, and when can you expect it?
Any wedding professional you hire should have a clear-cut and dry contract. What goes inside varies for every professional but what should be included is peace of mind for both you and your hired vendor. Contracts protect both parties from worse-case scenarios. Moving forward and paying a vendor that doesn’t insist on one is a BIG red flag.
Next, ensure you are clear on the price and there aren’t any hidden costs. Some photographers may charge for their hourly physical work but not include digital images in your package selection. How they structure their business is up to them, be upfront and confirm you are receiving XYX to safeguard yourself. Currently, as our studio stands, we include a digital gallery with all of our packages but printed materials (prints, albums, canvas, etc.) are available at an additional cost. This structure varies from studio to studio. So don’t assume anything, until confirmed.
Another big question you should be asking is “When should I expect to receive my gallery?” (Remember that horror story from earlier about the hostage wedding gallery?) Not only should this be confirmed verbally but this is also an important tidbit for the contract.
Our policy is to give our couples a sneak peek within a week of their wedding then their full gallery will be delivered within 90 days of their events. We strive to under-promise and over-deliver, but by putting 90 days in our contract we safeguard ourselves in case the unexpected comes up but also give a deadline guarantee for our couples.
Personality Is A HUGE Factor
So you’ve narrowed it down! Your choices are available on your wedding date, check. You’ve confirmed they are legitimate wedding professionals, check. They are in line with both your style & budget, check. How will you choose?
That’s where personality compatibility comes in!
Your wedding photographer will be with you the entire day. Where you go they go. Make sure your choice is someone you can vibe with and that you like being around. One sure-fire way to uplevel your photos is by being comfortable with your photographer, if it’s awkward between the two of you the photos will come off stiff and inauthentic.
I’m may not be the photographer for everyone just like everyone is not the client for me! Since we cap our weddings at 25 events a year we try to mostly serve people who we’ve learned we work best with. For us, this is typically creative, unique, in love, laid-back couples! Not everyone is going to be a perfect fit for one another. In our experience the closer the match the better the connection. The better the connection the better the photo gallery is for our couples!
By asking your potential vendors who their ideal clients are you’ll be more equipped to decide between two competing businesses and of course you’ll be more likely to have a raving fan experience!
Christina Bingham is an Atlanta-based wedding photographer servin’ up killer photos to creative, unique, and head-over-heels couples. If this sounds like you we’d love to talk further! Reach out HERE!