A wedding photographers’ perspective.
Choosing a wedding photographer can be daunting. You want to make sure you get someone who can take great photos, but you don’t want to spend a fortune and you don’t want to be hit with a bunch of hidden extras. And with prices varying from a couple of hundred dollars; a family friend who is doing you a favour cause they have a big black camera, all the way to the tens of thousands of dollars. So here’s a quick post giving you tips on what to look for when selecting your wedding photographer.
They have a style…. what’s yours?
Before you go searching through the 32 million search results on google for “wedding photographer” you should take time to think about what your personal style is. Are you fun and spontaneous? Reserved? Expensive? Down to earth? Rustic? Some of these sound odd, but these are some of the descriptions I’ve been given by some of the people who have sought me out for photographic services. Whatever your style is you need to make sure you find a photographer who has that same style. That way you are already on the same wavelength right from the start and you can also talk about what you want by referring to their past work.
Get to know their styles
Some photographers specialise in “fine art” photography, their best images are those which are posed and planned. They are similar in style to those you will see in the latest bridal magazine; which may be just want you want. However, these photographers tend to struggle during the wedding ceremony as some things are out of their control and they are on your schedule. If you are interested in hiring a “fine art” photographer, make sure you check out their entire gallery to see if they have any high quality shots from the ceremony itself.
Other photographers adopt a more “photojournalistic” style. These photographers are great at anticipating those special moments between key people during the day. They tend to shoot more photos during the day and attempt to tell a story. Photographers who shoot in this documentary style will be all over the wedding, getting every shot they can but may not have the best ideas when it comes to taking “posed for” photographers of the bride and groom. So if you prefer this style, but still want some of those special “posed for” shots, check out their gallery in full to see if they include them.
Do some homework on them
They may have a flashy website, but how do they handle everything else. Wedding planning is stressful and the last thing you need is a photographer who isn’t on the ball, no matter how good their photographs are. Check them out on facebook. Most photographers have a facebook page nowadays and facebook is becoming the most preferred tool for getting business and recommendations. How many “likes” do they have? Likes are not the full story, but they give you an idea of how much work they have done and a good idea of how many people know about them. It’s no reflection on the quality of their work, but it’s an indication of how prolific they are.
Facebook is also a great tool for finding out more about the real quality of their work. Photographers tend to post more images to facebook then they do to their official website. Some photographers post EVERY photo to facebook. Check them all out, if you see lots of things you don’t like; cross them off the list.
Do they respond to their clients on facebook in a timely manner? Some clients like to air their grievances right out there in the open. Personally I welcome it, but some photographers don’t. Delve deeper into their facebook and find out if they respond quickly to clients’ messages. The last thing you need is someone who is slow to respond back to you; planning a wedding is stressful enough!
Understand what you need, then see if they can deliver
Are you planning the wedding of the year? Or just a small, modest ceremony with a few family and friends? Time is one of the biggest factors in choosing your “photography package”. Photographers tend to offer a number of packages with a range of time options. Personally, I hate this. You have enough to worry about without the photographer clock watching. But sometimes you know that it’s only going to be a 4 hour wedding, so make your judgements accordingly.
Time is one factor, but what about all the other things? – Prints for example. Honestly, from a photographer, the inclusion of prints in a package shouldn’t ever sway your decision. Prints are not that expensive, but if you buy your prints through the photographer you will be paying $3-5 for something which they paid 50¢. There are advantages to having your photographer organise printing, they have better control over how the images look when printed at various sizes and they also may have a better understanding of how the prints may turn out. (Different printing inks and systems will render colours slightly differently, shadows may be darker in one compared to the other for example.) However, if they are charging a ridiculous amount for printing, check out their options to buy original files and see if it’s cheaper to source your own printing. Most places such as walmart and walgreens have pretty good printing systems and easy to use photo kiosks to be able to arrange your prints. You should also check out sites such as MPIX for high quality print products. Some photographers, like me provide their clients with all the original files for no extra charge. They’re your images, you should have them.
If they do give you the digital files ask if they are cropped. Some photographers grant their clients a print release up to a certain size, usually 8in x 10in. If this works for you then good, but if you have your sights set on a huge canvas print you may want to keep looking.
Freebies? Usually photographers offer freebies and the most common are “Free consultation” and “Free Engagement shoot”. “Free consultation” is a given. As a photographer it is incredibly important that I meet with my clients before the wedding. I need to know what the day will look like. I need to know what things will be happening. I need to know who the key players are (apart from the bride and groom obviously). So don’t be sweetened by the term “Free Consultation”; it should come as standard, like wheels on a car. “Free Engagement shoot” however is something you should be looking for. Some photographers charge extra for this but those who include it do it because they want to use it as an opportunity to get to know their clients, get some kick-ass photos outside of the wedding ceremony and get some photos ready for save the dates and invitations. It’s also a great way to build up the excitement for the big day.
Get in touch…and start the clock
Honestly, I pride myself on getting back to clients within hours, not days. An initial request for information should be responded to within a day. It’s 2013, we’re all connected, all of the time so there is absolutely no reason why a photographer should take more than 24 hours to respond to you. Having said that, choose your method carefully. We all know emails still can get lost, address gets mistyped, email gets filtered as spam etc… if they have a Facebook page, use that.
Meet your photographer
Photographers like me really enjoy meeting with clients well before the wedding. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the wedding day, what cool things they have planned, if there are any themes in the wedding and what the client expects. It’s also good to get to know them as a couple, what they do together and just to learn more about them. During the meeting you should ask as many questions as possible. You need to know exactly what is included and what is not included. But also make sure they understand what your expectations are for the day. If you have some wonderful things planned for the wedding ceremony, make sure they know about it. When it will happen, what it is… everything. The more prepared they are the better.
You should also take this opportunity to ask about postproduction timescales. How quickly can you expect to see your photographs? In what format will you see them? Do you have the print rights to these images? Do you get full resolution digital files? A reasonable timescale is anywhere from 1-2 weeks after the wedding and you should look for those photographers who have developed their digital storage options beyond CD/DVD. Look for those who provide digital downloads and USB flash drives.
Finally, do you like them? After meeting your photographer you should feel positive about their ability to do the job and reach your expectations. You should also feel like you know everything there is to know and that there are no hidden fees ready to nail you after your wedding day. Bottom line is this; A great wedding photographer will give you full resolution images, email you back within 24 hours and feel as passionate and excited about your wedding day as you are.
About the author.
Dan Howard is the husband of Sarah and is a wedding and portrait photographer from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. He is the brains behind Dan Howard Photography, creates awesome Traditional English Fish ‘n’ Chips and drinks far too much tea.