Picture Perfect

You have the dress, venue, cake, flowers and food, plus all of the other details essential to creating the perfect wedding. But if you step back, what’s going to be left when all is said and done?

For a lot of couples, hiring a wedding photographer ends up being an afterthought. However, New Orleans photographers Desiree Watkins, Angelena Brocato and Greer Gattuso advise making it a priority.

Watkins, who has been photographing weddings for eight years, said pictures are one the few tangible, lasting tokens of your wedding day.

“It’s how your kids and grandkids will connect to you and that day,” she said.

But how do you find one who is right for you? Here are a few tips:

Figure out your style and stick to it

First and foremost, find a photographer whose body of work matches your personal style. If you are having an evening wedding in a traditional church setting, for example, do not hire a photographer whose portfolio primarily features sun-filled outdoor shoots, Brocato said.

“You might find our site and love our work, and that’s great, but there is only so much we can do within certain conditions. You have to have realistic expectations and take into consideration the season, time of day and venue,” Brocato said.

Watkins and Gattuso both recommend utilizing Instagram hashtags to find photographers that mesh well with your personal style.

Venues often provide a list of recommended vendors, including photographers. If you already have your venue booked, they can give you names of people who worked there before and are probably comfortable within the confines of that space.

Ask your photographer if you can see a complete gallery of a wedding that is similar to yours. If they refuse and only show you a highlight reel, that might be a red flag, Brocato said.

“If they only want to show you a collection of their favorite photos, there’s probably a reason why,” she said.

Organize, plan and schedule

Before hiring your photographer, determine what you hope to achieve with your pictures. Whether you want a more stylized album or you’d prefer to focus on the emotional moments of the day, come up with your ideal list of shots. Most photographers will send you a questionnaire that includes a rundown of images, so start thinking about which moments are most important to you.

“I want to document your whole day and to me that means lots of candid images and those raw moments you just can’t plan,” Gattuso said. “But I also want to make sure you get the photos you want.”

Having a detailed timeline of the day is helpful and lets your photographer know when they need to be focused on your shot list, and when they can work on candid images.

“If the planning was done right, everything will come together,” Brocato said. “Let us do our thing so you can be present and connected on your special day.”

Communication is key

Your wedding photographer is not just the button-pushing extension of a fancy camera. They are artists, documentarians and experienced professionals, with whom you will spend a lot of time.

“It just makes everything easier when you get along and can communicate well,” Watkins said.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to the contract and cost. After all: ”You get what you pay for,” all three photographers said.

Quality photography is not cheap, but it is well worth the cost. According to Gattuso, a photographer’s rate reflects their experience, which is key. “Some people get caught up in the price, but there is a reason for that price. The amount of experience a photographer has will make all the difference, I promise,” she said.

Read your contract carefully, take note of what is included in your package and have a conversation with your photographer about not only the images you’re looking for, but also the tangibles that may or may not come with it. Not every package comes with prints or albums, so make sure you know what you’re paying for.

Book early

This one’s a biggie. New Orleans is a huge market for weddings, both local and destination, so make sure you are planning ahead. Gattuso, Watkins and Brocato all said they typically book up about a year or more in advance, so if you have your heart set on one photographer, do not wait. Know your top priorities; it could be worth it to talk to your photographer before even setting a date.

Have fun

Not everyone likes having their picture taken, but if you find the right photographer with whom you’re comfortable and one who understands your style, you’ll be much more likely to loosen up and have fun, which will translate into beautiful, genuine photos you’ll treasure for the rest of your life

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