You’ve set the date, booked the Church and the Reception Hall, and now it’s time to select your photographer. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap that some unfortunate Bride and Grooms do by enlisting a friend or relative to take their wedding photographs. Remember, this is a once in a lifetime event that can’t be repeated, and unless the person you’ve selected to capture your special memories is photographing weddings every week, chances are pretty good they simply don’t have the expertise or equipment to do the job properly. You’ve already spent a fortune on your dress, the flowers, the banquet hall, and everything else that makes the day so special, so it simply does not make sense to not get a professional photographer to look after your photographic needs for the day. If a friend or relative offers their services to you as their photographer, and unless they have wedding photography experience, it is best to use them only as a “second photographer” on the day of the wedding. By “second photographer”, I mean a photographer that stays in the background and simply shoots candid shots throughout the day. That way you won’t be ruining a friendship if the shots don’t turn out as you had hoped. By hiring a professional, one who does wedding photography for a living, you know you’ll get great keepsakes of your wedding day. Plus, the pressure will be off your friend or relative to “deliver the goods”.
If you haven’t started looking around for a photographer at least a year in advance of your wedding day, you should do so as soon as possible. As a general rule, you should begin your search anywhere from ten to sixteen months prior to the date. Why so early? The best photographers book up early, and since they can only shoot one wedding a day, once they are booked, that day is gone.
Before visiting a photographer, it’s a good idea to sit down with your better half and decide on what you would like in the way of photographs on your wedding day.
One of the first things to consider is the style of photography. Do you prefer candid shots (completely unposed with no direction from the photographer), the more traditional photography (where the photographer controls everything from posing to lighting), the uncandid candid (where the photographer has made the pose look natural, so that it looks completely unposed, or almost candid), or a combination of all styles? It is very important that you are clear with your photographer about which style of photography that you prefer, otherwise you may be disappointed in the results. When visiting various photographers, be sure to see works from a complete wedding, rather than samples from many weddings. This will give you a good idea of the style of photography that the photographer prefers, as well as a good indication of the photographer’s talents and expertise in lighting.
The next step in your journey of selecting a photographer is to know how much you would like to spend on the photography coverage of your wedding. Questions that you should ask yourself are: How long will I need the photographer for on the day of the wedding (often times you can save money by not having the photographer stay for the full reception coverage)? Would I like one or two photographers providing coverage (a second photographer usually concentrates on candid moments alone, so if you like candid photography, you should definitely consider having a second photographer—one photographer, no matter how experienced, simply can’t be in two places at the same time)? What would I like included in my photography package in the way of prints, wall portraits, albums, thank you cards? Would I like the negatives or digital negatives (high resolution image files) so that I can do all the printing myself? In photography, as with any other product or service, you generally get what you pay for. There is usually a good reason why one photographer will charge more for what appears to basically be the same thing. There may be hidden costs involved, such as mileage, or number of hours coverage, or limits on the number of photos taken that day. One photographer may have considerably less experience and expertise in photographing weddings. Some photographers simply charge less because they take wedding photographs as a part time hobby and work full time at another unrelated job. Ask yourself, do you really want to trust your memories to someone who does not make their livelihood and stake their reputation on photographing weddings? Decide in advance how important your wedding photographs are to you, and budget accordingly. When calling photographers to make viewing appointments of their work, be sure to ask their price ranges. A reputable photographer will tell you up front their price ranges. There is no sense in wasting your time, or the photographer’s time for that matter, if their price range is beyond your budget.
When meeting with the various photographers, it is important that both you and your fiance attend. Since you both will be working with the photographer for the good part of the day, it is vitally important that you feel relaxed with the person and you both like their work. Be sure to ask about their experience in photographing weddings. Just like any line of work, it can take a wedding photographer several years of shooting weddings before they have mastered the art. Keep in mind that a photographer can only shoot one wedding a day, and since the majority of weddings take place on a Saturday, and most weddings occur over the same six month period, a photographer with a year of two of experience may have actually only shot a handful of weddings over a one or two year period. Be sure to ask them how many weddings they have photographed over the years. If you are planning to have a lot of your photographs taken indoors, ask the photographer what type of lighting they will use. A good photographer will be able to set up portable studio strobe lighting for any formal shots indoors throughout the day. On camera flash for indoor formal shots will not provide the results that you would expect when hiring a professional.
Ask if the photographer is a member of any professional photographic organizations. This can tell you right away if the photographer that you are dealing with is reputable. Most photographic organizations that professional photographers are members of will require the photographer pass a stringent test and adhere to guidelines in order to become a member. They also require that the photographer abide to a list of proper business practices. Reputable photographic organizations include the PPA (Professional Photographers of America), WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International), PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada). And don’t forget, just because a photographer may specialize in commercial or fashion photography, it does not mean that they can handle the riggers and stress of a wedding shoot. It is important that the photographer that you select is a specialist in weddings.
An experienced photographer will have backup equipment for every piece of gear that they own. This includes cameras, lenses, flashes, strobe lighting. The last thing that you want to hear on your wedding day is that there is something wrong with the camera and they don’t have another one with them!
If your photographer works with an assistant, it will save you time and energy on your wedding day. A good assistant will fix dresses, speed things up with lighting setups, and even help the Bride with her dress and flowers when moving from location to location.
If you are dealing with a large photo studio, they may have several different photographers on staff who shoot weddings. Be sure to see the work of the photographer that will be shooting your wedding and meet with that person prior to booking. You don’t want any surprises on the day of the wedding!
Depending upon the type of wedding that you are having, you may want to check on how the photographer that will be shooting your wedding will be attired. Some photographers may feel that they can shoot your wedding in shorts and a T-shirt! This might be fine for some types of weddings, but if you are planning a formal affair, do you really want your photographer dressed casually?
Unless you have a specific location in mind for wedding pictures, it is always a good idea to ask the various photographers you visit about the venues they prefer for photos. Since this location will be used as the backdrop for the majority of your photos, it is very important that you love the setting. Look at samples of the spot in the photographer’s sample book, then visit the location in person. It is an excellent idea to visit the recommended site about a year in advance of your wedding date. Why so early? The answer is simple. It will give you a good idea of how your outdoor location will look on your wedding day. You’ll see how the gardens will be planted and what flowers are out. And if you are able to visit the location on the same day of the week as your wedding will be, you’ll see how busy the venue is, especially if you visit at about the same time as you’ll be arriving for your photos. Some spots are very popular, so it might be common to see ten or more Brides and their entourages at the same location, at the same time. While some venues can accommodate large Bridal crowds, others are simply too small. If your park is crowded, you may want to consider another location for pictures.
And don’t forget about parking. While finding a parking place may not be a problem for the Bride and Groom in their chauffeur driven limo, it may pose a problem for family members, the bridal party, and even the photographer. And last but not least, be sure to get the appropriate permits for use of the park.
If your photographs are important to you, then be sure to give your photographer sufficient time throughout the day. This is one day in your life that you don’t want to be rushed. A good photographer will work with any time frame that they are given, however, the more time you are able to give the photographer, the better the results will be. Things that can easily put you behind schedule on your wedding day are: hair and makeup appointments (can put you an hour behind schedule at the start of the day), service at the Church (it will always start a little late and run a little long), a receiving line (remember, the line only moves as fast as the most talkative guest), traffic congestion and construction (when travelling from location to location), and trying to find missing relatives or members of the bridal party for photos.
Perhaps the best way to find out about the various photographers is to ask friends and acquaintances, who have recently been married, who they used. Look at their albums and proofs. If you like their photos, then get the name of the photographer who did the work. A recommendation from someone you trust is always a good starting point when looking for a photographer.
Be sure to visit several different photographers and take a good look at samples of their work. A good photographer will take an interest in your wedding and be asking you a variety of questions about your plans for the day, and offering suggestions to make your day go smoothly for you and save you time. And don’t forget to shop around. Selecting a photographer is not something you should do in a last minute rush. And remember, like any product or service, you generally get what you pay for, nothing more and nothing less!