Another Perspective: Choosing Your Photographer

Now that you’ve talked budget and priorities with your fiancé, it’s time to start booking vendors! Well, actually before the booking comes the looking. You don’t want to rush these decisions and you’ll definitely need to do your research. In my previous blog I wrote about which types of vendors you’ll want to book first. I highly recommend securing the vendors who can only provide services for one wedding in a day. Very often, you’ll find that is true of photographers. You’ll want to start by doing a bit of research and narrowing your choices down to photographers that are within your budget.

For some people, having a photographer is not a big priority. While I respect that, here is something to keep in mind: You are spending several months (or years) and a lot of money to plan this perfect day. Everyone will tell you it goes by in the blink of an eye. When the food has been eaten, the music stops playing and then venue has shut out the lights, you’re left with two things: memories and photos. If décor is your number one priority, you’ll want your photographers to capture it. If music is a passion, I bet you’d love to see your friends and family dancing the night away for years to come. If you were so nervous that you barely remember walking down the aisle, you’ll have photos to tell that story.

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Photo credit: JAC Photography
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Photo credit: JAC Photography

Here are some things to consider when looking for your wedding photographer:

  1. What is your style and what is their style? They may not be exactly the same but they better work well together. Look at their work. If there isn’t much available online, simply ask to see some albums in person. Also, don’t be afraid to look at one of the photographer’s previous weddings in its entirety rather than just the highlights. By the way, don’t be alarmed if you have no idea what “style” you like. You probably do know but you just don’t know what it is called!
  2. It is definitely ok to base your decision on how well you get along with your photographer, in fact I’d encourage it. After all, you will likely spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than the person you’re about to marry! Wouldn’t it be a drag if they annoyed you?? A good way to figure this out is to meet with all of your vendors in person. You may get a better feel for their personality in person than you would over the phone or via email.
  3. Always make sure you are comparing apples to apples when looking at the value of any wedding service or product. Most photographers offer “packages”. Research and consider what is included in each package. Try to identify if that meets your priorities and if not, you’ll want to find out if there is flexibility to customize a package. The value shouldn’t be limited to how much you get but the quality of what you get as well. For example, look into the quality of a photographer’s albums. After all, you’ll want to make sure your album isn’t turning yellow after a year on your coffee table. You’ll also want to keep this in mind when deciding whether to purchase or create your own album. I don’t know about you but after I finish planning my wedding I’ll be ready to leave that part up to the pros! You’ll hear me talk more about this in my next blog about Trusting Your Vendors.
  4. Read reviews…this means the good and the bad! Reviews can be an excellent tool when researching wedding vendors. Keep in mind that every review should be taken in context. If you see something that raises a red flag, don’t hesitate to ask your photographer about it. Sometimes, a negative review is merely the result of a minor miscommunication. The photographer may be able to offer a simple explanation that clears it up while also opening the lines of communication for you to avoid that same issue. This is a tool but ultimately not the deciding factor in choosing your photographer.
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Photo credit: JAC Photography
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Photo credit: JAC Photography

Keeping those things in mind, here is a solid list of questions you’ll want to ask once you’ve set up a face-to-face meeting (skype counts for all those planning remotely!) with a photographer whose style matches yours and whose services fall within your budget:

  1. Ask about their experience. How long has he, she or they been working in the wedding industry? Keep in mind that there is a big difference between a photographer who is experienced in shooting weddings versus a photographer whose primary experiences consists of shooting landscapes or sporting events. For some people it may be important to ask if your photographer has shot a particular type of wedding that might include religious or cultural traditions. We definitely wanted to work with a photographer who had previously photographed an Indian wedding. Reasonable question!
  2. Ask them for a general breakdown of the entire booking process so you know what to expect. Examples: signing a contract, payment timeline, deadlines, budget, etc.
  3. What will your wedding day be like? How many shooters will be there and for how long (apples to apples!)? Do they have recommendations for a timeline for the day? How long does it usually take them to shoot a wedding of your (estimated) size? Don’t forget you’ll want to allow your photographer time to capture the details of the day (dress, rings, décor, etc.) so ask how much time you should plan for that as well. How many photos do they typically produce?
  4. If you have particular photos you know you want, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are capable of capturing those on your big day. Remember that certain shots will take specific lighting, scenery, props and time to set up and capture. If you have an entire Pinterest board of these shots, you may want to narrow it down to your favorite few so that you get a chance to enjoy your day.

After you’ve gotten answers to all of these questions, stop and think: did he/she ask us questions? Remember that a good photographer recognizes that much of their role involves getting to know you. They should make an effort to ask you and your fiancé about your story, priorities, budget, etc. Unlike some other aspects of your wedding, when you are choosing a photographer you are very much creating a new friendship. Now imagine that this new friend is going to take a million pictures of you on the biggest day of your life. No pressure.

Once you’ve made the tough (or hopefully easy) choice, I highly recommend booking an engagement session. I also recommend bridal portraits but an engagement session allows both you and your fiancé time to adjust to the initially uneasy feeling of being photographed by a professional. Many photographers include a session like this in their packages. Maybe you’ve never thought about having formal engagement photos but, boy it is worth it.

When you set up an engagement session, you are essentially setting up a practice run for the big day. Now obviously you still want these photos to be beautiful and not appear like a practice run but there is a bit less pressure. Meanwhile you get quality, focused time with your photographer. For Bharat and I, it was time for us to get to know our photographers, Ryan and Alyssa and for them to get to know us. They quickly learned what poses made us comfortable and what made us giggle with awkwardness. We also learned how to take Alyssa’s direction while laughing at Ryan’s jokes. After a little while you will hopefully feel comfortable enough to relax for the camera and also tell your photographer which side is really your “good side”. By the end of the evening, Bharat and I were completely relaxed, exhausted from laughing and excited to be working with Ryan and Alyssa for our big day!

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Photo credit: JAC Photography
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Photo credit: JAC Photography

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