Welcome to the wild and sometimes crazy world of wedding planning! As a professional wedding photographer, I would love to give you some perspective about what to consider when you are looking to hire your own wedding photographer. Here are what I consider to be the top 10 things to look for:
1. PORTFOLIO: This first one is a given. You are drawn to photos that you like, of course. Make sure to really look through the images and try to describe, even just to yourself, what it is that attracts you to these images. Look at elements such as posing, expression, lighting, composition, color, exposure, etc.
2. PERSONALITY: When you meet with a photographer, how well do you click? Is it easy to talk to him/her, or do things feel disconnected and awkward? Do they seem to understand your needs and wants? Does their working style fit with what you envision? Do you feel confident that they can do an excellent job with your wedding day? First meetings can sometimes be a little stiff, at least in the beginning, but plan to spend a few minutes talking to see how you mesh. Remember, your photographer will be the one vendor you are with the majority of your day, not to mention during other meetings, your engagement session, etc, so you should find someone you can connect with and trust that they will work well for you.
3. INSURANCE: Make sure to check that the photographer is insured – both for liability as well as equipment. If a guest (or even you!) were to get hurt, who would cover medical bills? And if the photographer were to have gear broken or stolen during your event, would he/she request that you help with the cost? You want to make sure to be covered against anything imaginable, so always verify that a photographer is fully insured.
4. BACKUPS: Another form of “insurance” is having full backup equipment. Not just limited to an extra camera body, does the photographer also have extra lenses, extra lighting, extra memory cards and batteries, etc? There isn’t one moment to be missed during a wedding, so photographers have to be able to grab new equipment at the drop of a hat if the need arises.
5. PRICE: There are as many pricing strategies as there are photographers. Some photographers price in packages, and others price a la carte. Some include digital files or albums automatically, some do not. Make sure to discuss with your fiancé(e) what you are hoping to receive from your wedding photography, and compare the options available. Make sure to discuss whether you have a set budget in mind, or if you are more open-ended and want to see what each photographer charges for their services and then compare their value. Lastly, make sure that the photographer’s price is not the only option you consider when you are shopping around – we have seen and heard horror stories of what happened when people have hired purely on price. Just remember that your wedding photography will be the only keepsake left from your wedding day, so make sure all of these factors are weighed equally, not just on price alone.
6. HOURS OF COVERAGE: Some photographers price their coverage hourly. Some give “full day coverage”. And others give packages with a set number of hours. It helps to have a ballpark idea in mind of what you are hoping for, but make sure to request that your photographer help with planning out the timeline of your wedding day. Then you need to clarify how much of the day you actually want your photographer present. For example, do you need your photographer present during your visit to the hair salon in the morning? Or do you want your photographer present up until the very last dance is finished, lights are brought up and guests are leaving? In our experience, 8-10 hours of photography coverage will ensure you get the majority of the important details from your wedding day, although you can always adjust accordingly based on your needs.
7. NUMBER OF PHOTOGRAPHERS: Unless your wedding is very small (max 50 guests), many weddings would do well to have two photographers present. From having more details and candid moments captured, to having both bride AND groom expressions captured during first looks and walking down the aisle, some images are only possible when there are two photographers present.
8. ALBUMS: A wedding album is the most important keepsake you can receive from your wedding day – don’t underestimate its importance as your first family heirloom. Make sure to review the quality of the albums of the photographer. Look at cover materials, binding quality, paper finish and thickness, number of pages, the style/design of the layout, whether it includes a box or other protective case, etc. There is a vast range of albums available, so make sure you will be getting great quality and value in the biggest heirloom from your wedding day.
9. PRODUCT OPTIONS: Also make sure to review the full range of product options offered by the photographer. Do they offer both wedding AND engagement albums? Prints, canvas, metals or other wall art? Digital images or not? Parent albums, gift albums, greeting cards, or any other extras? Sometimes it’s hard to know what you might want to order from your wedding images, so make sure that you have a good variety of options that you are interested in considering when the time comes.
10. PROFESSIONAL: This item is last on my list, but it might be one of the most important. Please make sure that the photographer you choose to work with is a professional wedding photographer. I know that the term can be widely interpreted. (Full-time? Part-time? Occasional? How many weddings have they photographed? etc.) Asking a friend or relative with a DSLR to be your photographer, if they have little to no experience photographing weddings, can potentially lead to disaster and you could end up with no or very few usable photos from your wedding day. If you do want to be certain you get beautiful, high-quality photos that artistically capture every facet of your wedding day, make sure that you can trust that your photographer is a professional and can work through any scenario or challenge that may be presented.
I hope this road map and tips will be helpful to you as you navigate your way through the world of hiring your wedding photographer. Best of luck and happy wedding planning!