Choosing a photographer for your wedding isn’t like choosing your location, bakery or menu. The photographer is the person in charge of capturing the special moments of your wedding – the ones you see and the ones you may miss. Richard Najdzion of Cowboy UP Photos reminds his brides that, “Having an open dialogue with your photographer is important because long after the dress is put away, the tux is returned to the rental shop and the band has stopped playing for your second-line, it’s the photographs and album that will remain to help you relive your wedding day.”
Picking a photographer is very personal and can be a daunting decision. When planning a wedding, small details could become huge, so it’s good to make the large decisions as early as possible in the planning process. These decisions include the location of the ceremony and the reception (if separate), the band and especially the photographer. Florists and bakeries can often work more than one wedding in a weekend, but if the band, location and photographer you want are booked for your day, you’re often out of luck.
Browsing your options
If you’re a novice at wedding planning, begin your search for a photographer by researching local wedding Web sites and magazines. Local wedding magazines offer several options through ads, and if you search long enough online you can find a Web site that has a list of links to several local wedding photographers’ Web sites. Write down the name of every photographer you’re even slightly interested in. At this point, you don’t know who’s available. Keeping a list of everyone you like may eliminate the hassle of having to go back and re-research. Some wedding photographers including Trent Spann of Images by Robert T. make it easy on brides by displaying on their sites a calendar of the dates they are available.
Unfortunately, not every wedding photography Web site has this feature, so once you’ve begun your list, ask family, friends and any other brides you know about the photographers they used for their wedding. Get opinions and perhaps even a look at their pictures. This may narrow down your list by helping you decide which photographers you really like based on how they performed at other weddings. Nonney Oddlockken of Atelier Photo|Graphic|Design wants brides to keep in mind that it’s not a popularity contest. Just because your friend chose one photographer doesn’t mean that he or she is the right photographer for you.
Once you have the list, check out each photographer’s Web site. From these Web sites you’ll have the chance to check out the photographer’s portfolio and what they offer. Every photographer has a different style. By looking at more of each photographer’s work you’ll have the chance to get a better idea of the style you like – the better to narrow down your choices. As you look, also start a list of shots you want taken on your wedding day, such as full family, wedding dance dip, etc. Along with helping you decide which photographer you prefer, this research will also help you compile a shot list (one item most photographers will request from you once you book them).
As you’re surfing the Internet for wedding photographers, check out the packages they offer. This can often be one of the most confusing parts of the decision process. At this point, re-rate the photographers based on the pictures you really like and then check out the packages they offer. Each photographer will usually offer more than one package, and most of them are listed on their Web sites. Each photographer’s package will be different. Depending on the number of hours and albums they offer, it can be difficult to decide what you want. Local wedding photographer David Tompkins actually shows the pages of a sample album on his Web site and Karen Richard of Karen Richard Photography offers personalized guest books of the bride and groom. Pay attention to details like this as you browse.
The amount of time offered by photographers is also important. Some photographers offer all-day packages and some just five to seven hours. All-day shoots can sometimes be too much but five hours may be too little depending on the shots you want. Usually, a seven-hour shoot is sufficient, but keep in mind where you’ll get ready for the big day and in how many locations you want to be photographed. Often photographers will limit the number of locations; if they offer only two, your church and reception venue will be it. As you search, also pay attention to whether the photographers offer online proofing, like local photographer Bob Bradford. Online proofing can make it easier for family and friends to order photographs without having to go through you to get them.
Price is also a major consideration. If you’re on a budget, look at what each package offers you. Some photographers can be expensive, but they may offer other amenities, in addition to shooting your wedding, that make it worthwhile. On the other hand, some photographers may be the right price for you, but may not offer as many items in their package. Many photographers will include albums, bridal portraits, electronic copies of all photos and myriad other photo-oriented choices. It is important to consider what you want and how much you’re willing to pay.
Once you have an idea about the package and features you want, hopefully you’ve narrowed down your list. Now it’s time to meet your photographer.
Meet and Greet
It is very important to meet the person who will photograph your wedding. An introductory interview is a key time for you and the photographer to talk and get to know one another. It also gives you a chance to check out more of their finished products. Looking at photos on a Web site allows you to understand the style of your photographer, but it’s the finished album and printed photographs that you should see before you make your final decision. Nonney Oddlockken of Atelier Photo|Graphic|Design suggests that a bride might want to look at an entire wedding from beginning to end. This gives the bride a chance to see how the photographer handles all the important shots of the wedding.
A good photographer will bring several samples to show you. This will of course include their professional work, but another thing to check out is how the photographs are printed from local, non-professional businesses. Says local photographer Stacy Marks, “Getting a disk with full-resolution images is a big help, as you will own this for generations.” Remember to check if the photographer gives you full resolution images before you choose.
If electronic copies of your wedding photos are part of your package, make sure it includes permission to reprint the photos at both professional and non-professional businesses, such as drugstores. You should also ask the photographer to see how these pictures look when printed by other businesses. A good photographer will bring pictures that showcase how their work looks when he prints it versus when it’s printed at other businesses.
Another thing to note is how you and, yes, your mother, get along with the photographer. Personality is key to picking a photographer. Melissa Quijano of MQ Photography suggests that you check to see if your personality meshes with the photographer, and if it doesn’t, ask yourself if you can deal with it on your wedding day. You must feel comfortable telling this person what you want and you must make sure that your photographer understands the style of your wedding and how you want it shot. According to Charlotte Latham of Charlotte Latham Photography, “the most important aspect to pay attention to when choosing a wedding photographer is if the two of you share the same ‘vision’ for the photographs.”
On your wedding day the key to a good time is remaining calm. Choose a photographer that takes the pictures you want, but who also understands you and your wedding. If you like to dance and plan to never get off the dance floor, make sure you choose someone who’s adept at taking action shots. If you feel you need someone to organize your pictures and help you make those magical moments, then you want someone who will take more control and guide you and your guests to the shots you desire. You may meet with several photographers before you find someone who fits with your personality and your style. You may also have to compromise certain smaller details in order to get the more important things you want. If you find a photographer who works with your personality and has the style you like, you might have to compromise on the package you want. According to Karen Richard of Karen Richard Photography, “the bride needs to decide which photographer she is most comfortable with, both in terms of the photographer’s style and personal rapport between the two.”
In the end, you might want to start a spreadsheet to keep track of the details about each photographer. Take the categories mentioned above and rate them, noting what you like and don’t like. Another piece of advice is to check out local message boards for opinions of each photographer. You may like a photographer’s work but he or she may not be reliable and usually local message boards like the one on theknot.com have reviews and opinions you should investigate before you make your final decision. Try not to stress too much throughout this process. Ask for advice and go with what you like and can afford. No matter what you decide, when you do the research, you’ll get what you want.