In a popular survey about possessions held dearest to one’s heart, it is asked, “If there were a fire inside your house and you only had a few seconds to grab any items before they were destroyed, what would you grab?” Top five answers always include the photo albums! Don’t take this advice here lightly- choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you will make while planning your wedding. After you’ve packed away your decorations, eaten your cake, and all your flowers have wilted, your pictures remain.
1) Start Early – Wedding photographers book their dates far in advance. To make sure you have the best photographers to select from, don’t leave this decision until the last minute.
2) Review Portfolios – Look through a photographer’s website and online galleries. Do you like what you see? Do they seem to have a wide variety of images from a large number of events, or are you seeing the same bride over and over again? Does their portfolio represent all the parts of a typical wedding day, or are you just seeing lots of getting ready and detail pictures?
Ask to see an entire wedding gallery- “all” of the images that were delivered to a past couple, not just a select few they cherry picked for showcasing. Will they be giving you untouched images? Ask to see what their work looks like straight out of the camera as well. It’s important to make sure that the quality of the work is consistent.
3) Determine Your Style – While looking through a photographer’s portfolio, consider the style of the images. Are these images you could see in your own home? Can you imagine yourself in the place of that bride or groom? Take note of which types of pictures are heavily represented- these are likely to be the categories the photographer focuses on at your wedding as well. Do you see a lot of posed pictures or candids? Are the pictures solely of the couple or do you see members of the wedding party, family, and guests too? Does the photographer’s style come from the way she shoots, or the way she edits the pictures afterward? In other words, can you replicate her portfolio from the images she provides you straight out of the camera?
4) Post Shoot Editing & Image Rights- If you plan to request un-edited images from your photographer and plan to do some editing yourself make sure you are clear what that photographer’s policies are regarding this matter. Many photographers will make it a contractual obligation to ask permission first before crediting or referencing them once you have made any alterations to the original images they handed over.
5) Professionalism and References - Once you find a group of photographers whose work you like, check each of them out more thoroughly. Insist on a list of recent references and don’t be shy in contacting them. Many coupes will stop short and assume that because a reference is given, it must be good, so why bother. Along with the typical ways you might check out a business (online reviews, word of mouth, asking for referrals, the better business bureau, etc…) there are a couple questions you can ask to make sure your photographer is serious about what he does. Ask if he has a federal tax ID and sales tax license through the state. Ask if he has liability insurance- that way if he accidentally backs into your cake or a guest trips over his light stand, his insurance will cover the damages, not you. Also, review your potential photographer’s contract. A good contract should protect both you and the photographer- make sure it is not too one-sided.
6) Personality – Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, meet with your potential photographers. You want to see how your personalities gel. A comfortable working relationship on the day of your wedding is key to avoiding extra stress. You don’t have to be best friends, but you don’t want to be irritated by your photographer all day long either.
7) Engagement Sessions – Consider booking an engagement session with your final photographer choice before signing your wedding day contract. A little extra cost may save you a lot of heartache later. After all, engagement pictures can be retaken, your wedding images can’t.
8- Deposits and Money – We highly recommend you familiarize yourself with your photographer’s billing and retainer policies. Be aware of which payments are due when, and make sure that you understand and can agree with these policies before signing the photographer’s contract.
9) Equipment - Ask your photographer what kind of equipment they will be using and jot down the information. If you are not familiar with the equipment already, contact a local camera store and ask whether the equipment you jotted down is considered entry level or professional grade. Chances are, if they don’t use at least mid-level equipment they are new to the game. Having entry level equipment can, especially in difficult lighting situations, negatively effect the outcome of your images. Pros typically use pro equipment.