Tips for finding your dream photographer
By Davie & Chiyo
Posted on August 03 2018
You found your spouse. You've booked the venue. Said yes to the dress, florals, and cake. What about your photographer? Arguably, the importance of finding the right photographer cannot be overstated: it's a complicated balance of budget, wants, and style—and like your dress, one size fit all is not a thing. Your photographer and photography package should be tailored to fit perfectly for your big day, otherwise you might end up with some serious buyers remorse.
The cost of working with the wrong photographer can be huge: you can spend thousands of dollars—which is awful to lose, especially when you're unhappy with the product. Most importantly, with the wrong photographer, you could hate the images. There's little that is more disappointing than paying the fees, meeting with your photographer, and waiting eight weeks in anticipation only to open your album and absolutely hate the images. Luckily, there are a few rules of thumb that can keep you from disaster as you choose your photographer.
Images by our talented friend Inga Avedyan. We highly recommend her!
Do your research
It's time: let your internet sleuthing skills and affinity for making pro-and-con lists shine! Taking into account your budget and your wedding plans, make your first round of potential picks. Do you want a local photographer? Are you willing to fly someone in? What kind of style are you looking for?
Consult a few "best in the city" lists, ask your friends, and spend some time clicking through portfolios. You should be choosing your photographer based on the feel of their portfolio and its alignment with your ideal wedding album. Sometimes, if someone is recommended to us, or if we had our heart set on working with a specific person, we might overlook potential misalignments between our idea of them and their actual body of work. Make your top 10 list a top five list. Start reaching out to enquire about the cost of their photography services.
Then, make your top five list into a top three, and start scheduling meetings.
Meet in person
The purpose of meeting with your potential photographers in person is for both of you to feel each other out. Photographers might ask to hear about how you and your partner met, and about your "love story". They'll ask to hear about your plans for the wedding day, and the services you're expecting. In the same way that you want to be sure they're a good fit for you, they want to ensure you are a good fit for them.
This is the best opportunity for you to discuss in detail the things that you'd like (maybe a specific shot list), and to find out about the photographer's style of work. Not necessarily limited to the visual style of their portfolio, but how do they work on the day of? This person will probably be with you from morning until night, so find out: do they like direction? do they want to be left to their own devices? are they comfortable directing you?
Make sure that their system will mesh well with yours. Do you want them to be involved, and guiding you through the day? Or do you want to forget they're even there?
Images from the talented Blush Wedding Photography.
Ask for testimonials, references, and for more examples
Read testimonials on their website, but also enquire about past customers that might serve as references. Remember, everything on their website is something that they have uploaded to cast them in the best possible light. In speaking with a past customer (who probably loved them in any case) you can ask specific questions and perhaps gain valuable insight into the realities of working with that photographer. Be sure to take to Google and Facebook, too, to read reviews. Ask to view an entire wedding album, so that you can see beyond the specific images that have been cherry-picked for the portfolio—this will give you an idea of where the photographer's weaknesses may lie.
Tip: pay attention to how your photographer shoots dance floor scenes and night time action. This is often where photographers' styles can vary the most: some will front light with flash, others will use a slower shutter speed, others will crank their ISO for a grainier finish. Make sure you like your potential photographer's style.
Discuss your vision
What do you want your photos to feel like? Romantic, whimsical, bright? Moody, contrasty, sexy? Bring examples of images that you love, and discuss what images you'd like captured specifically. Some photographers will kindly refuse any sort of shot list, because their shooting style is to go with the flow—do you mind? Would it be alright if you didn't have a photo of your first kiss? Make sure that both your ideal images and your ideal day are in line with the photographer's goals.
Images (and cover image) by the amazing Hennygraphy.
Unpack the price
Pricing can be tricky, but the thing to remember is that you really get what you pay for. You'll probably want to hire someone with years of experience—because yes, there usually is a huge difference. If you have a small budget, you're going to need to make concessions—but if you can spend $2-3,000 on your photographer, you're in good shape.
Discuss the specifics. What will your payment get you? How many images? Is an album included? Do they offer an engagement session as part of the package price (and if yes, do you want an engagement shoot? You might be able to save if you nix this part of the package.)?
Compare the costs of your top three photographers and what they offer as part of their wedding packages. This is often the deciding factor for most couples: after all, budget rules. However, we are in favour of springing for the extra few hundred if you can if it means having the wedding photos of your dreams.
Be honest with yourself, and your photographer.
People often underestimate the importance of clicking with their photographer on a personal level. This person is going to be present for most of your wedding day—witnessing and capturing perhaps some of the most emotional moments of your life! Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you trust their judgement, and would you be willing to follow their lead? Most great wedding photographers are amazing emotional coaches, guiding you through your first looks and wedding party photos with kindness and encouragement.
The only way you'll be able to trust your photographer is if you're open and honest about your wants and expectations for your wedding. This isn't the time to go with the flow, or just agree to things because you don't like confrontation—make sure that you and your photographer work well together. This ensures a successful and satisfying day for both of you.
Choosing your photographer is not something to be taken lightly, but the payoff is huge. So put in the time, be sure to meet in person, and make sure you click. You'll wind up with images you're happy to look back on for years to come.