Michael and I arrived home from our six month trip last Friday, much to the surprise of our family and friends, and we had a great weekend celebrating our engagement and the homecoming. Wedding albums were pulled out from all sorts of drawers and cupboards and I figured that today was as good as any to expand on last week’s post about the various wedding photography styles and share some tips for choosing a wedding photographer. For destination weddings, first thoughts are usually to just go with a wedding planner’s usual wedding photographer. People don’t ever really consider that photographers love to travel and will usually have destination wedding package rates. As we have mentioned countless times before, wedding photography is one of the most important services that you will invest in and sometimes people don’t understand the value of hiring a great photographer until after the wedding has taken place. So, we urge you all to take your time and choose wisely, no matter where you are getting married or the budget you have to spend on it. Pick the photographer and their work because you love what they do, not because they are easiest one to book.
EXPAND YOUR SEARCH AREA
Expand your search area beyond the first page of your Google search. Take a look at local blogs and online magazine and become familiar with their vendor listings. Browse as many real weddings as you can and start compiling a list of photographers that are a potential fit. Start studying their websites, their own blogs and galleries to get a feel for their work and keep in mind that they are showing off their best weddings and images. Most photographers will have an online presence and their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages will generally give you an indication as to what their personalities are like, even before you speak with them directly. Look for how they respond to fans and check out the reviews and feedback other couples have given them. When it comes to bridal forums, take both the positive and negative feedback given on these platforms with a pinch of salt because many of them are not moderated and have no way of preventing competitors signing up using alias account to leave negative remarks. It also holds true on the flip side with wedding vendors talking themselves up. This goes for all vendors, not just photographers. Ask friends and family for recommendations… even ask photographers that you like but are not available on your date for recommendations, because usually they will know someone else who has a similar style and will be happy to help.
REALISE YOUR STYLE
We did an entire post on wedding photography styles last week to give you an idea of what’s on offer these days but bottom line is: there is no right or wrong wedding photography style and all it should come down to is each couple’s personal preference, taste and likes. When sifting through real weddings and vendor listings, take note of the style you are more consistently drawn to (the photographer will usually define their style in their “About Us” section) and continue your search along the same vein using those key words. Remember though, even if you love a certain style, it still might not be the one for you. Try imagining yourself in the photographs and then assess how you really feel about them. You might really admire the look and love the feel of them but if you can’t image putting them on your living room wall, then it’s time to reassess.
SPEAK TO PHOTOGRAPHERS DIRECTLY
If you are using a planner for your destination wedding and they a have put forward a photographer that you really like, make sure that you can speak with them directly. Is their English good enough for you to communicate well? Are you able to converse easily with them? You will be taking so much direction from your photographer on your wedding day that it is imperative you can actually understand them! Potential language barriers aside, it is so important to meet your future wedding photographer before you book them, even if it is just a half hour session on skype. They will play a vital role on your wedding day and you are going to spend a good chunk of your time with them so it is really important that you not only feel comfortable with them, but that you like them as well. A good photographer will be interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them because they know how crucial it is to form a good relationship with their couples. So set up meetings before booking to see whom it is that you really gel with. Ideally, you should be looking for someone who is easy to be around, pleasant and good-natured, a photographer who is relaxed but assertive enough to gather the crowd for family and group shots without getting stressed about it. Talk to them about your wedding plans and ideas and try gauging how excited they get by it. Ask them what their favourite types of weddings are to shoot and see if it is similar to what you are planning yourself. If you don’t walk away from them feeling really excited and uplifted, then scrap them from the list. You do not want to spend the day with someone who you could never see yourself being friends with.
REVIEW THEIR WORK
When meeting with potential photographers, ask to see two or three of their complete wedding albums. Their websites, blogs and media features will feature the best of their work with more of an emphasis on details and the couples only. It won’t give you a real representation of all of the images you will be receiving if you go ahead and book them. When requesting to view the albums, ask to see weddings that were shot around the same time of year that yours is set for. If possible, look at weddings that were held in a similar location or venue to yours and try to imagine how you would feel if what you are looking at was your own wedding album. Are all of the images consistent? Would you find it hard to choose twenty of your favourite images from the complete collection? Are the moments that are most special to you captured in a way that really appeals to you, that tug on your heart-strings? Are they capturing emotion and realness? Would you be thrilled if the album was yours? Asking yourself these questions will go a great deal towards helping you decide if the photographer is right for you.
ASK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE
Don’t be shy asking your potential photographer how much experience they have shooting weddings. A photographer that has a lot of experience is a plus because they will be very comfortable managing guests on the day and their confidence will be very reassuring, leaving you feeling nice and relaxed throughout they day. If they are competent photographers but relatively new to the wedding industry, make sure you understand their approach to shooting weddings and be very clear what your expectations are. More experienced photographers won’t need direction so try not give it to them, it’s kind of like someone else coming to your work place telling you how to do your job! Whatever their level of experience, make sure you are 100% comfortable with their ability to capture your wedding the way you want it and don’t compromise.
SET A REALISTIC BUDGET
Everyone has different priorities when it comes to their wedding day so it’s a good idea to list them. For example, the priorities for our upcoming wedding are the location, music, photography, food and styling in that exact order and yes, the dress isn’t in the top five! When it comes time for us to allocate our budget, our list of priorities will play a huge part in where we place most of our money. Assess how important photography is for you and get the best photographer you can afford. Pick the photographers you love the most first and then figure out if you can afford them. In some cases, you might find that they are more affordable than you initially thought and in others, you might want to consider compromising on something less important to you. It’s an awful misconception that photographers only work the day of your wedding and I personally always find myself defending them to couples that are completely shocked by their fees. People don’t generally factor in the incredible cost it takes to run a photography business. A good photographer will have more than one camera, many lenses and other additional equipment that is essential in providing their couples with the best service. Generally, they have to invest in expensive photo editing software, computers and office space. Their equipment needs to be constantly maintained and upgraded. Their weeks are spent editing weddings and organising albums so that their couples are presented with something so special that they will cherish it forever. In between this, they are answering emails, calls and going to meetings with clients so it really is a time and resource intensive, highly skilled profession that carries a lot of responsibility. Add to this that they can only take on one wedding a day and usually is only ever one, max two a week and I would say that most of them in fact don’t earn half of what they are worth. No matter where the photography aspect of your day is listed in your priorities, be realistic with your budget- don’t expect to hire someone who has bags of experience and who presents beautiful work for five hundred euro. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out for something lower and if it’s a risk you are willing to take, go for it.
When you have narrowed down your favourites, it’s good to start comparing their packages. To start, you should compare the hours of coverage. Figure out what your ideal amount of hours are and go from there. Do you want a few hours before the ceremony to catch the getting ready moments? Are you happy to have everything captured up until the speeches or do you want the first dance on camera as well? The more hours you need, the more expensive it will be. Photography packages will always specify the amount of hours that are included and any extras that come with it. Some might include an engagement session and for others, this will be an add-on. Examine what it is you will receive after the wedding. Is it a DVD of the images or is a wedding album part of the package? Often, couples choose to buy the album as an add-on after the wedding to save initially. They can be quite pricey because a decent photographer will only offer albums that are built to last a lifetime. In any case, read the terms and conditions thoroughly so there are no nasty surprises down the line.
KNOW THE “WHAT IF’S”
Make sure you understand the position you will be left in if disaster strikes and your photographer falls ill on your wedding day. Do they have a second shooter that will fill in? Are they of the same standard? The photographers that I know would have to be on their death bed to miss a wedding that is booked but it is still good to know what will happen if something should occur. Have they a list of people that would fill in? Can you see their work? Can you choose if more than one is available? In cases like this, it is terrible bad luck and often happens last minute (if at all – it is rare!) so just leave it in the back of your mind and know that most photographers worth their salt will go above and beyond in situations like this to make sure that their replacement is the best of the best.
RECEIVING THE IMAGES
During the meeting with your photographer, ask them how long it will take to receive your images back. Some photographers might be heavily booked in the run up to your wedding and will generally edit weddings in order. Editing time varies but some it can take anything up to an additional 40 hours to edit one wedding. Another question to ask your potential photographer is how many images you will be receiving. The figure will always be approximate but it will give you a general idea of what to expect. If you are not going to be buying an album from the photographer but are thinking about getting prints made yourself or indeed an album from another party, ask them about the rights to the photographs. All photographers own the rights to images they take, even if you have paid them to shoot your wedding so it will be up to them to allow you to go elsewhere. Today, photographers use magazines and blogs to promote their work and have the right to submit their work without your consent, although in reality, most have the courtesy to ask for your permission. Bring up the subject if you are sure that you want the photographs to be for your own personal use only to find out whether it will pose a problem down the line.