How to choose the wedding photographer that fits you
Pulling your hair out trying to find a wedding photographer? Even I had a hard time deciding on a photographer for my wedding and I do it for a living. As you know, every photographer is unique. If you gave 100 people the same camera, same couple and location, every single photo will look completely different. Every photographer also runs his or her business differently in almost every aspect. So how do you find the photographer that fits you? I made a list of the most important categories to compare when searching for the right wedding photographer.
Style – There are hundreds of photographers in just about every state with drastically different styles. Find a general style that fits your vision for your wedding. Pick a few photographers in that style whose work resonates with you on an emotional level. This is so important. If you don’t feel anything when you look at the work, you most likely will not be happy with your wedding photos.
Chemistry – Once you’ve found a style and have it narrowed down to a few photographers whose work you really like, it’s time to see if you actually like the photographer. Think about it this way, your photographer is the only vendor (other than the videographer if you have one) that will accompany you throughout your ENTIRE WEDDING DAY! The photographer’s personality towards you, your guests, the other vendors and the venue can make a huge impact on your wedding. Most people don’t like talking on the phone because email is much less confrontational, but you could save yourself a lot of time and grief by setting up a phone or Skype call. You’ll be able to weed out the people you don’t click with. If you can’t see yourself having fun working with them, don’t hire them! This even applies to me.
Consistency – Photographers should have an option to show whole weddings online, not just their best work. It’s easy to make a nice album with the absolute best images from the day, but what about the rest of the photos? Do the photos tell the full story in every gallery or is it a ‘best shots of the day’ gallery? Full galleries will give you an idea if their body of work shows a consistent style that you like, especially if they show a wedding similar to your own. Are you having an indoor (or evening) ceremony with no natural light – can they light it? Do they have long enough lenses to cover a ceremony where the venue doesn’t allow the photographer to come near the altar?
You want to make sure your photographer can handle every part of the day equally. If they don’t show the entire day, it could be that there are parts of the wedding that aren’t done as well and they decided not to post it. Anyone can get good photos under a perfect situation, but getting consistently great shots all day is what differentiates a great photographer from an average photographer.
Products – Determining the actual value of a package is impossible without seeing the end product. You may have two photographers who both offer albums at the same price point, but without seeing/feeling them, there is no way to determine if they are cheaply made or of high quality. “Wedding albums” can range from inexpensive hardcover books with thin magazine style pages to beautifully handcrafted flush-mounted albums. Attend a bridal show to see the different styles of albums available. We attend them because people get to have a first hand look at what we do. That is priceless.
If you simply want digital files from your wedding, most photographers offer the fully edited JPGs. We recommend you make sure you are getting these full-resolution files with a print release so you are able to backup and protect your wedding images yourself. Some photographers feel that by giving clients the right to make prints they lose control over the print quality and how their work is represented. While this is true, we feel that it’s better to give our wedding clients the security of having their finished files and offer printing services for those who value high quality printed products.
Price – Professional Wedding photographers’ starting rates range from around $2,000 all the way to $10,000 and above, so it’s important to balance what budget range you are comfortable with and the quality of products and services/assurances you are looking for. The question is, how do I find the ‘sweet spot’ between quality and price? Many wedding resource websites allow you to search for vendors by price range. The national average is just under $3,000, so try starting somewhere around there and see who’s work resonates with you. In this area, we find that professional photographers start just over that. If there are none, try going up in price. If there is a ton who you really like, try going a little lower in price point. Whatever you end up investing, just make sure you are getting the value for you’re paying for! So with all that said, it is important not to choose your photographer on price alone. Ask yourself, “If the price is too good to be true, what’s missing?” and also “If the price is very high, does the investment reflect in the product and service?”
Customer Service –It’s hard to know what level of service you’ll receive without doing a little research, but there are some telltale signs of poor customer service. Are they actively trying to earn your business? Does it take the photographer days to return emails or phone calls? Do they treat you as if your time is just as important as theirs? It’s all a direct reflection of their customer service and it probably won’t change once you’ve given them your money. Great service starts before the sale, not after. How do you feel when you talk to them? Do they understand your concerns and address them honestly or do they redirect your questions? The entire goal behind proper service is to give you a great experience. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Last but not least, how convenient do they make it for you to get information? Are they transparent about pricing? These are all things to look out for. If they aren’t giving you the answers you want, move on.
Assurance – Does the photographer have backup gear and plans? If the photographer doesn’t normally shoot weddings or doesn’t have a lot of experience, they may only have one camera and if something goes wrong with it, you get no photos of your wedding. You can’t just redo it like a family session if you aren’t happy. Just like a tattoo, you’re stuck with or without the photos from your wedding for life. Do they have insurance? Some venues won’t even let your photographer walk in the door without it. What if something happens to the photographer on your wedding day? Does the photographer have a trained backup team that can deliver quality photos?
Turnaround time – This is an important question that most couples forget to ask when booking their photographer. Like price, there is no standard turnaround between different photographers and I’ve seen photographers range drastically from a few weeks to well over a year to get clients their products and files. It is a fair statement that most people don’t want to wait a year! Do they offer teasers ahead of time? Some photographers will even give you some of their favorite highlights right away for yourself and your family while you wait for your full gallery to be completed. Make sure their turn around time is written into the contract before signing.