Deciding on your ideal wedding photographer
Everybody, everybody, EVERYBODY from your cousins to your hair stylist has an opinion and some of those opinions include even yes, opinions about who you should pick to be your wedding photographer. If you aren't someone who has had experience with this before (helping others, working with events, or even having been married before), than you might feel a bit-out of your depth about the vast amount of choices ("I see photographers for days. Photographers here, photographers there, photographers everywhere!"), but just like finding your perfect mate, you have to decide what aspects are important to YOU (not Aunt Pam) and use those points or descriptions to help you narrow your choices down to the "ONE". The one (or two!) wedding photographers to best capture you days (an all those other wedding-related days, too-but we'll get to that in a bit).
I think that is a good place to start. Knowing what you want. (See, I have opinions, too.) Okay, but I will give you that you don't know what you want because you don't even know what the options are. Well, my friend, the options for wedding photographers are endless. Let's break it down a bit more.
Seems simple enough to figure out, right? Obviously yourself and your partner (duh), but here comes the next part: how much do you want photographed? Some people want this day documented, and when I say "this day", I mean, from the morning the bride' or groom's feet hit the ground to the moment they are placed in a vehicle, carriage, other form of transportation, or when those feet simply walk away from you at the end of the night when is finally over (or at least until a few hours later when the post-wedding brunch begins). At that is cool. Really, cool. I like to hangout and if you need a photography wingwoman (with or without her photography partner wingman), we are there for you, and let's do it because if you want it on your day that is how it should be.
Or maybe...you are bit more minimalist. Or even on one of those shades of grey in between that's super chic, too. Maybe you just want photos of the ceremony and reception; maybe you want one hour of getting ready photography or not the whole reception captured; or just formal photos, and it's all okay. As you start looking and planning, start thinking about what (and what doesn't) need to be photographed to have your day captured as you envision.
I ask this not simply out of curiosity, but because this might come into play. Some photographers charge by location- i.e., your getting ready location, your ceremony, your reception, your second line (second line-yes, I'm from New Orleans), or it might one sum that covers all your locations galore. Also depending on where you wedding reception takes place, that location might have a preferred photographer/vendor list. Do you always have to go with that list? No! However, you might be able to look at previous photographers' galleries picturing the venue and see if you like their style or see how the venue photographs. Should you stay away from photographers that haven't taken photos at a certain venue? No! There have been a handful of times I've commented to a couple, "Oh, I really like that venue. Good choice!". And I've gotten the response, "Oh, you've photographed there? Can I see photos from there?" And then me, "Oh, I have not photographed there, but I have been there several times, and appreciate/love the venue. Here are some galleries that are similar for example." And then it never fails. Nothing. Ghosted. I understand the thought process of wanting someone who has photographed a certain location or venue, and you've seen and loved their photos. If that experience with that certain locale is important to you, then book them! However, on the devil's advocate side, the majority of places that I had never been to before stepping foot in them to do photographs for the first time. There's something about falling in love with a place for the first time and seeing it through a camera lens or eyes for a fresh prospective.
Didn't we just cover this? Kinda, yes, but this a different facet to that photography glitter ball we need to explore. When? Meaning the time of year, the season, a holiday. Certain times of the year are more popular than others depending on the location. In New Orleans, April and October are popular times due to the weather not being sweltering but not too cool either. So if you know you are getting married at a popular time of the year or near a holiday, it will be harder picking a photographer due to limited availability (Wait, I thought you said there were photographers for as far as the eye could see? Yes, but the photographers you might want, are only one entity and therefore, not limitless. Quantum physics? No, preparation.)
Also are you willing to have your photographer travel if you've met the prospective "one"? I am not discouraging ("Hey, you there anywhere but here, take me somewhere!" is an inner monologue that I regularly have.) Just remember that travel means, well, travel. So therefore, how are you going to ferry your fab photog? They can probably give you an idea on how that is going to occur depending on the distance between destinations. A few hours drive each way? Maybe your photog can drive there and back the same day and do your photographs and have them be amazing (snap!). Or maybe that itinerary is a bit much for your photographer-which is totally reasonable depending on that individual- so you'll have to get a hotel room for them to stay the night. Or maybe you worry that they won't make it there on time or the timing will be tight. Are there seasonal issues that could cause delay? Maybe that is another reason for a hotel room that day. Is the travel longer? Do flights need to be booked and multiple days of a hotel room? Lastly, parting pro tip: don't forget to feed you photographer as well as find them transportation while away.
Now here is the where (and some more when) of the situation. Like where and when- inside or outside? dark or light? day or night? Why do you say? Because of the light. The glorious light that is what makes all photos what they are or are not. Some photo-taking basics. You have to have light to take a photo. No light. No photos. Does that mean I can't have my wedding at night or in a dimly-lit space? Nope, not all. I'm all for the dark, definitely more of an evening/night person. But it's not about your photographer's circadian rhythms, it is about can your photographer take photos with a decreased absence of light? Listen up. It's soapbox time. There's a sub-group of photographers who refer to themselves as "natural-light" photographers. The definition of the group is fairly self-explanatory. They only take photos with natural light. No flash. And some do amazing things (high-five!); however, if the light starts to go down, the stars start to shine (Because why wouldn't they be? It's your day.) your photographer is going to need some source of light to make those memorable photos happen. Maybe your venue will be so well-lit no other external light will be needed (however, the darkness of outside with inside lighting might still requiring a bit of a flash) or your photo person will hike that ISO up on their camera (ISO is the internal light the camera makes for photos. Couldn't take a photo without it. However, downside is, the higher you have to brighten that "light" inside your camera, the photos get a bit noisy. Noisy? Photos make noises? Like maracas? No, noisy in photographer-speak is when due to lack of light the camera has to piece pixels of the photo together causing a grainy-appearance to the photo. Yes, there are editing-programs that can vastly improve noise; however another downside is that the programs tend to piece the existing pixels to make a smoother appearance to the photo but also subsequently causing less detail and definition to the photo. A few photos, sure. Sometimes it turns out really well, but you would have to consider if this is how all of your later day/inside photos to appear. This thought will then take us to our next stop at portfolios.
I know, I know some of us just want to pull the trigger. Myself included. We are the people who are the opposite of people who can't make a decision- especially when feeling stressed, busy, or simply over it. Those photos on The Knot look good, response sounds reasonable, price ok....now done! Admittedly I've actually make a few quite good decisions that way, but also admittedly there have been times when I've wished I've done a bit more research. Take a moment (preferably before blanketing wedding vendor sites with information request emails when you don't have much of a grasp on the style of the photographer's photos or price point of the photographer) and have a look. Go to the website. Look in their client and gallery sections see if you like the way they capture the big events- the kiss, the entrance, the cake cutting as well as the detail and candid moments. Look through several events and see if you are happy with color/tone of the photos and the style of capture. Remember looking now, might save you (and your photographer) some surprises later down the road after the gallery is delivered.
So the wedding budget has been planned and you know how much you want to spend, how many hours you will need, where your venue is at, and you've looked through a few galleries of wedding photographers (snap!). Now it is time to start narrowing down photographers based on your budget. But would should my budget be? Well, just like anything in life, it is what you prioritize. If food or your venue is more important, than make sure that is where your money goes. If you can have everything you want and have the best photos and photographer evveer- definitely do that, too- if that is what your heart desires. However, if you are a photo person, you want to make sure one of the larger percentages of your budget goes towards your photographer and wedding gallery. You know the old adage, you get what you pay for, and this is true-the same goes with photographers.
Photography on the cheaper end of the spectrum tends to not be as high quality. I'm not saying that you personally aren't going to find that perfect photographer who just doing his/her/their job for the love of photography without having to live without overhead and cost of living expenses, but it might be difficult to find that person.
So after you decided if photos are or are not a priority for you and the significant other, and you and the SO chose that photography was a priority- so its now to it's time to figure out how much of your budget you're going give towards your photography.
I don't want know your budget. I'm not here to talk about percentages of budgets that should be portioned off for each wedding-need entity. However I am here to say, if having amazing photos that can be used as heirlooms and not appear dated as time passes, is a priority than your budget should reflect it. Don't expect to be paying in the lower tier of photography prices (or expect you photographer to drastically lower than prices to meet your budget) for this quality. Again, go back to portfolios- do you like that person's style of photos in general? Do you like what is captured and the editing? You are generally find with higher-end photographers, a definite step-up not only in the way a moment is captured but also the in the editing and consistency of the photos. As previously mentioned, if your celebration is going to move into the later hours or be indoors, you will need someone with experience with how to use a flash in order to get adequately lit and lovely photos. So in short, don't short your budget (or your photographer) and expect to get premium quality photos.
As you begin reviewing photographers and looking at their pricing and packages, you might start noticing terms such a engagement, bridal, or boudoir sessions. If you aren't aware of what these are, let's review since these options are almost always an additional session with your true love or part of a package that your photographer would offer.
An engagement session is a session where you and your other can showcase how beautiful, fabulous, and photogenic you are. These sessions can be held anywhere such as at park or a more urban area such as the downtown area of a city, and again, not only showcase and capture in time how wonderful you and your love are, but some also tend use these as part of their save-the-dates for the wedding and/or as photos that can be displayed at the wedding reception.
A bridal session is a session for either gender in which one part of the couple is photographed individually in their wedding garb in another scenic area. The photos can also be used for save-the-dates, displayed at the reception, as well as a good time for a pre-wedding-day run through with hair, make-up, clothing, and accessories.
The boudoir is when sexy (but classy this isn't Penthouse over here!) photos get taken of one or both members of the matrimonial couple. These photos are intimate and generally only meant to be shared between the wedding duo or in close company. The pictures can occur anywhere, but I personally love the sex-appeal of a well-appointed, luxe hotel room. In order for the person being photographed to feel comfortable (because isn't part of feeling sexy feeling comfortable?), I would highly-suggest at least one meeting with your photographer before to make sure that you like them and have a bit of rapport (and a glass or two or champagne) in order to make this personal session sizzle.
See initially you weren't even sure how to procure one photographer, and now we are talking about having two photographers!! (They learn so quickly.) Most photographers have a partner or "second" that they can bring to your event and is probably included in some of their packages. Yes, having two photographers at an event can not only boost the amount of photos captured of the day, but can also add by getting different perspectives of certain key moments- each member of the couples' face as well as whoever's grand entrance. Same with a first-look (A first look is when the partners decide to see each other before the wedding to have a private moment between the two.), one photographer to get partner A and one photographer to get partner B et violà!
However, is two photographers necessary? Nope, not all-especially if you are having a small or intimate wedding or in a location or locale that is not very big in area. I personally would recommend two photographers for larger affairs, especially one's that are going to have a more populated guest list to make sure all the guests are captured, and that the photographer is not missing key moments between the evening's stars due to the larger amount of people.
Another thought if your affair is more medium-sized but you still want to have dual perspectives, is having a second photographer for an hour or two (especially during the ceremony) to get those extra snaps that you desire.
Finally let's talk self-esteem. The photographer's self-esteem? Yeah, maybe, but no, silly. Yours! Just like in any courting ritual if someone fails to respond to your inquiries or doesn't seem that interested in you, it probably means they aren't for whatever reason. So don't go chasing down a photographer who doesn't want you (because you deserve more!). If you make an inquiry or two, and nothing or if seems to take days upon weeks every time you contact she/he/they to get a response, they might not be the one for you-especially when you are wondering where your final gallery is.
Well, it has been lovely chatting. I did enjoy, and I hope I was able to impart some perspective in looking for your one and only (or two and onl-ies!). Remember know what you what, some idea of whom you want it from, and your budget for such. Open communication both ways and ta-da on your magic day!
Karen Pryor is a wedding and family photographer based in New Orleans, Louisiana (but will travel!). She loves making smashing photos, meeting great people, and having fun with the unexpected. Karen's website is https://www.blueponyphotography.com or at the below wedding vendor links!!