How to Find a Wedding Photographer
Tips to find the best photographers and questions you need to be asking!
For those of you who would rather watch a video I’ve posted a link to one that discusses this very topic. It’s hosted by our very own Micala McClain from 604 Studios and Jenn VanElk from Jennifer VanElk Photography. Check it out: Picking a Photographer- Your Best Bridesmaids
If you have ever been married or have recently started the search for your wedding photographer than you know how truly difficult this task really is. As Indianapolis wedding photographers, we compete with hundreds of photographers in our city alone, each with different styles, different pricing, different packages, and different methods. And I’m sure wherever you are located, the same can be said for your location. So how do we muddle through all of the confusion and differences and find a competent photographer that you can trust and feel comfortable with? Is there really that much of a difference between one photographer and the next? And should we even worry about photography that much at all? This blog post is meant to answer all those questions and to help show you how to find a wedding photographer.
I want to address those last two questions together because they go hand in hand. As tempting as it sounds to let Aunt Susie, who just bought herself a brand new DSLR camera, photograph your wedding for dirt cheap you may find that down the road you will regret not spending a little extra money on a professional. This is where you need to ask yourself, how much do I care about wedding photos and being able to remember my wedding day? What amazes me is how many stories I hear about brides who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on having the most beautiful decorations and the biggest and best cakes and then they try and skimp on the photography cost to save on the budget. Let me ask you a question. How many wedding cakes do you remember eating at your friends’ weddings? Could you describe any of the center pieces on the tables? Do you even remember their wedding colors? Most likely you won’t be able to remember a lot of those beautiful details that your friends spent so much money creating. And let’s face it we are a photo-hungry culture. The hours that people log on facebook and instagram scrolling through photos tells us that photos are important. So if you are one of those brides who are trying to decide whether to skimp on the photos or on the flowers, remember this: your flowers aren’t going to last forever but your photos will. And when you are celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary with your spouse you aren’t going to be able to get those flowers out and smell them. But what you will be able to do is dust off that old album and relive your entire day through the memories captured in your photographs. In my opinion, the photography/videography, the two things that are going to help you remember your wedding, should be high on your priority list. Am I a little biased in this being a photographer? Absolutely. But I’ve never met anyone who found a good photographer that gave them beautiful photos that said they wished they would’ve spent more money on the cake instead. Are these other things important? Of course they are. But five years down the road all you are going to have left to remember your day by is your old dress hanging in the closet and the photos your photographer took of you on that day.
Referrals Referrals Referrals
So let’s cut to the chase. How do you find a good wedding photographer and how do you decide? I would say that one of the most important things you can do to find a photographer is to ask your friends. Here’s why. They can tell you all of the inside information that you aren’t going to get on the “best-of-my-career photo galleries” you see on photography websites. They will be able to tell you if their photographer was able to roll with the punches of high-stress moments or if they were screaming at Uncle Bob for getting in the way of an important shot. Was their photographer good
“They can tell you all of the inside information that you aren’t going to get on the “best-of-my-career photo galleries” you see on photography websites.”
at instructing the wedding party what to do? Did they make them feel comfortable? Were they professional and helpful when it mattered, not just during your initial consultation meeting? There are so many things you can find out about photographers from people that hired them that you can’t get anywhere else. That’s why this should be your first place to start. And as you talk to more people you will get a good feel of what your are looking for in your photographer and will be more prepared to ask questions whenever you do get to sit down with them face to face.
The next avenue I would try would be a simple google search. Be warned though that you could get sucked into an ever-expanding black hole of photography websites. There are just so many. My suggestion would be to do a google page at a time (10 sites). As you are visiting, things you should look for are pricing (obviously), what is their style, what is their experience, etc. You can tell a lot about a photographer based on their website. But be warned again, don’t assume that just because you see 30 or 40 awesome images that the photographer is going to be able to give you the quality you are seeing. You have to remember that these sites are showing you the best of the best in order to get your business. At this stage you should simply be looking for a style of photography that you love within a price that fits your budget.Your face-to-face meeting is when you will dig a little deeper and ask for full wedding galleries to see if these highlight reels are consistent with their normal work or if they are just those one in a thousand photos. As you progress through the wilderness known as Google, do yourself a favor and take notes of your favorite photographers, what made you add them to the list, and any questions you would have for them because I promise that you will not remember as you try and go back through the list.
“…do yourself a favor and take notes…”
So now you should have a nice little list of potential photographers for your wedding and you should have a good idea of what style you are looking for, a ballpark of how much it’s going to cost, and some questions you should ask during your meetings. Now that you have gathered all this information it is time to start going down your list of potential photographer candidates. Call them up or fill out their online contact information to schedule some meetings. I would recommend meeting with at least two so you at least have something for comparison. I would keep looking until you find a photographer that makes you feel comfortable and that you get along with well because you have to remember that you are going to be spending the entire day with your photographers. There’s nothing worse than hiring a photographer that gets on your nerves or makes you uncomfortable, because not only will you be able to tell in your pictures, but come on, this is the day you have been waiting for your whole life, you should be able to enjoy every second of it. You don’t want to have to spend the whole day being frustrated with your photographer. So talent is not always the trump card. It is just as important to find a photographer who makes you feel comfortable. There are enough awesome photographers out there. Your goal should be to find one of those good ones who gels with you and your fiance. If your photographer doesn’t have a personality it’s going to be difficult for them to get your wedding party to act natural and energetic when they are tired of pictures and want nothing more than to join the cocktail hour.
“…talent is not always the trump card. It is just as important to find a photographer who makes you feel comfortable.”
Questions to Ask
So you may be thinking, what kind of questions should I ask at these meetings? To help you through this process I’ve compiled a list of questions that might help you get the information you need and some tips that will make these meetings more comfortable and productive.
Questions in no particular order:
How long have you been shooting weddings? How many weddings have you photographed?
What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have backups in case of emergencies? (Although rare, yes cameras can stop working and it has happened to us. Luckily we did have backups.)
Have you ever shot a wedding at our venue? (This can be a great question because if they have shot there before they should be able to show you how it looked. If they haven’t, ask to see galleries of similar venues. A barn is a barn is a barn, right?)
Do you offer a second shooter and how do you choose them?
What happens if you can’t make it?
Am I supposed to feed you? (Do your photographer a favor and include them in your food count. Remember they will likely be with you anywhere from 7-12 hours depending on the coverage.)
Do you provide a timeline or help guide us throughout the day?
Are you comfortable shooting in all different light situations? (Wedding day coverage is some of the most difficult lighting to photograph simply because it can fluctuate so drastically. It could be sunny, cloudy, rainy, indoor, fluorescent lighting, near dark during receptions, and typically a combination of all of the above.)
Do you give us the images or do we need to purchase prints?
How many edited images do you give?
Will you be personally shooting our wedding? (Seems like a strange question huh? There are a number of photography mill companies out there that just put you with random photographers and even some studios who outsource a lot of work so the person you are meeting with may or may not actually be photographing your wedding. Be careful with this and make sure you know who will be photographing your wedding.)
And probably the most important piece of advice I can give you is this: Ask to see a full wedding gallery from start to finish! Don’t make a decision just based on the highlight reel.