How do you find the best photographer for you? We asked several New Orleans photographers what they think all brides need to know.
Think Style First, Logistics Second
Photographers agree that the most important factor in selecting a photographer is the style a couple prefers. “As a bride, your most important purchase is your photographer,” says Brenda Sison of Sison Photography. “You can’t hire ‘Studio B’ and assume they can give you the type of photos ‘Studio A’ can. Just hire Studio A if they are your style.”
One way to understand your potential photographer’s style is to see examples, many examples. Ask to see a full, recent wedding the photographer has captured, as viewing a few portfolio shots will not give you a complete understanding of his or her work. “I highly encourage brides to look way past the first page of a photographer’s blog and look at how a photographer covers all aspects of the wedding day,” recommends Doug Keese of Arte de Vie. Sandra O’Claire of Eau Claire Photographics concurs, saying it’s easy for any photographer to pick their best shots. “If a photographer even hesitates for a second and is not willing to show you a full wedding, do not book with them,” O’Claire says.
Chuck Billiot of Billiot Photography and Video suggests asking about photos taken at your venue. If you think you have settled on a photography studio, you should also consider having the same photographer take your engagement photos prior to the wedding. Engagement photos help him or her get to know your personality and style. “You’ll feel so much more comfortable with them the day of,” O’Claire adds, “and this always translates into the final photos.”
Ask Questions and Be Prepared
There are must-ask questions before you hire any photographer. First, you want someone who is a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP), has an occupational license, is licensed and insured, and has a “sick day” or contingency plan, like bringing extra equipment and backing-up the photos during editing. Many couples use wedding planners or coordinators to streamline their big day. “If you’re working with a coordinator, the photographer is the one thing you should be more hands-on about,” Keese says.
Also ask about the photography package; do you get a disc, prints or the option of retouching? Many photographers give the couple every photo taken (except for those that are out of focus, have eyes closed, or are misfires or test shots) and offer to hand-select photos for use in the album. “We’ve found that it can be difficult for a couple to really understand how images work together once laid out as a story, and they initially hired us for our ability to do so,” Keese says. “They trust us with selecting their images and designing their album.”
Have a Plan, But Don’t be Rigid
If you want specific shots, don’t be afraid to ask for them. “I cannot assume that you do not want any ‘posed’ photos, or that you want me to take ‘party shots’ unless you express that to me,” Billiot says. It helps photographers when their clients provide personal details like special jewelry, family heirlooms or traditions. For example, if certain family members have not been together in several years, you may want to capture that moment. O’Claire says, “Tell us stuff we don’t know and couldn’t guess in a million years. Tell us why these special shots are special and we will take note and get them for you.”
If you are uncertain about what you want, feel free to get inspired by websites like Pinterest, but don’t let your desire to capture certain shots override the spontaneity of the moment. “Some of the best photos are moments of emotion that are unplanned,” O’Claire says. “We don’t want to waste the day trying to recreate someone else’s Pinterest moments.” While certain shots like group photos may be planned ahead of time, Keese of Arte de Vie adds, “In most cases we feel it’s best to let the day naturally unfold and have our couples trust us to capture those moments, whether they’re on a list or not.”
Consider Having an
In the age of smartphones, Facebook and Instagram, guests are very active photographers, but do not let your guests’ zeal interfere with the professionals’ work. While most photographers do not mind guests taking their own pictures, overeager guests can ruin otherwise beautiful shots like the recessional or cutting of the cake. “Camera phones are becoming more and more of a problem,” O’Claire says. “Guests are oblivious to us and often step in our way to get their camera phone shots.”
If you do not want to ban guest photography, photographers can advise the guests on when and where it is appropriate to take photos or use flash, so they do not interfere. It is important that guests refrain from photography during the bride’s walk down the aisle and during group portraits. “If we have people standing next to us or off to the side, then everyone looks in different directions rather than directly at our camera,” Keese says. Guest photography can also interrupt the photographer’s schedule. “For all the guests of weddings, I would highly encourage them to leave the photography to the professionals and be a participant of your friend’s or loved one’s wedding,” Billiot says. “Let us document those moments while you enjoy them.”