So wedding planning for you and your fiancé is either in full swing or maybe you are just getting started. In either case, let me start by first offering our “Congratulations” to you both. We know there is a lot that needs to be done and you certainly want everything to be perfect when the day finally arrives. Typically one of the bigger items on your list of things you need to find is a photographer. Sounds easy right? Well, for some it may be very easy. Maybe you already have someone you know or have used in the past that is your “go to” person and you are all set. Perfect! Maybe though you’re starting from scratch. Who do you call? Where do you even start? What questions should you ask? One of the more popular methods nowadays is to put the search out on FB asking for recommendations and probably, like so many, you got a ton of suggestions and now you have way too many options and still don’t know who to pick. Seems like checking that “Photographer” box on your list isn’t as easy as you thought it might be.
Hopefully we can offer some help. Yes, as a professional photographer I would love to have the opportunity to talk with you about your wedding plans and answer any questions you may have. Am I absolutely the right photographer for you and your fiancé? Possibly, but my goal today though is to hopefully give you some things to think about and some questions to ask to help you narrow down your search and when talking with potential candidates. I know this can be one of the most important decisions for your wedding day and, not to add any pressure, but for your wedding day photos there are no “do overs” so you really need to spend a little bit of time and do some serious research. Now, if you’re ready, let’s get started.
Not too many couples have unlimited funds so minding the wedding budget is important. Regardless if your photography budget is somewhat limited, or if you are fortunate enough to have more freedom, you need to make sure that you have full confidence in the photographer that you hire. As you start your search you will quickly find that photographers come in all price ranges from a volunteer family member or friend all the way to those ultra-high end professionals asking thousands of dollars. So will busting your budget guarantee the results you are hoping for? I say, be cautious. The fact is that you can spend a ton of money and receive far less than “good”quality images or, you may find that person who was super inexpensive and get stunning photos. So how do you know if you are getting your money’s worth? The best advice that I can give here is to ask to see some wedding day images from the prospective photographers portfolio?
While we are on the topic of experience, a couple of other fair questions are, “How long have you been doing weddings?”, “How many weddings have you done or how many do you average in a year?”. Someone who shoots 50 weddings a year can be very efficient at what they do but know you might become just another wedding date in their production process?
Evaluating Image Quality
Asking to see some samples of one’s work is perfectly acceptable and most reputable shooters will actually encourage you to show what they have done for other couples. With samples in hand this is your opportunity to do some investigation. While you are looking through the images be sure to notice not just the content of the photos but also the quality. A photographer will generally only show you there very best work so what are some of the things you should be looking for to help you make a decision whether or not to consider this person?
- Are you being shown wedding photos or something else? I know that everyone has to start somewhere and maybe for the person you are considering this would be their first wedding. I was in that situation at one time myself and I was fortunate enough to have someone trust me with their special day. In my case I think that confidence came from the work I had done with my high school seniors. I didn’t have any wedding photography to show at the time but the portrait work that they had seen gave them confidence in my ability. Whatever the case, ask to see images!
- Are the colors vibrant? Maybe they are way too vibrant or they may look very washed out. Do they have that very yellow or even bluish tint.
- Are the images well lit and possibly have some creative lighting or are they dark with heavy shadows or maybe way too blown out from really harsh flash.
- Are the images clear and sharp? Check for blurry and out of focus photos. Are the images well proportioned and balanced or are they zoomed way out so far you can’t even tell who is in the image or zoomed way in with heads chopped off (..and not in an intentional creative way?)
- What types of photos are you seeing? Are they capturing some of the details of the day in a creative way? Things like the rings, shoes, dresses, flowers, etc or are you seeing more standard “snapshot” types of photos?
See if you can get the style of the photographer? Every photographer will have their own style of taking photos so consider if the style of those sample images matches your own style and tastes as this will give you some idea of what to expect.
Once your wedding day has come to an end, what is the final product that you will receive and how long can you expect to wait? This can range from digital files to an album or prints but bear in mind this can mean a variety of things.
Digital Files - Some photographers will offer to provide the digital files which can sound great but be sure to know what that really means. This can range from being handed the “as shot” memory card(s) straight out of the camera at the end of the day to professionally retouched hi-resolution files. Also, be sure to ask if the images you receive will be watermarked with the photographers logo and what permissions you have for the images. Can you post them on social media? Can you have them printed yourself if you want? Remember though that not all photographers will offer to provide or sell you a non-watermarked digital file but if they do you can generally expect to pay dearly for them. I had a photographer tell me once that they will only offer non-watermarked, fully copyright released digital image files for $2,500 each!!
Prints - There are plenty of places these days than can print your digital files ranging anywhere from your local Wal-Mart to plenty of places on-line at very low cost. If you are planning to purchase prints from your photographer, find out if they work with a professional photo lab and can provide a wide variety of prints, albums, or large wall art pieces? Be cautious that you are not going to just be getting overpriced prints that were sent somewhere local. I do want to say here that you can get good looking prints from these places but in my experience I have seen a lot of inconsistency in colors and even strangely cropped photos.
Delivery - The events of the big day are done and for the moment maybe all you have are photos posted online from friends and family. Now you wait for your images from your photographer but how long will you be waiting? We have all heard stories of couples having to wait for months, and in a few cases, I have heard of people waiting over a year, to get their photos. And then again, as I said before, maybe you get handed a memory card as you head off to your honeymoon!
Alien faces - By now we have probably all seen the infamously “retouched” family photo where everyone looks like aliens. Maybe you have also seen images that have been severely overworked to the point that peoples faces tend to look like plastic. Good retouching is used to enhance an already good image. It should never be an obvious distraction nor can it be expected to salvage a poor quality image. What type of retouching, if any, will your photos receive? Will your photographer do the work themselves or will they send it out for someone else? Again, ask to see some specific examples of your photographers finished product.
Colors and Filters - We are all probably familiar with the variety of filters that we can apply to pics we post on Instagram. While there are some really cool look out there for your cell phone snapshots, simply applying a filter and a really heavy vignette, that fuzzy black outline around the image is not really retouching. Just my opinion.
Black and Whites - Black and whites are a personal favorite of mine and can really add something special to the right image. If you are a fan of b/w as well then be sure to ask about them with your photographer. However, just as I have said before, ask to see some sample images. Are they true b/w and not just a b/w filter? How can you tell the difference? A true b/w with have some deep blacks and the whites nice and bright and actually white? Typically a b/w filter turns the image into gray tones rather than blacks and whites.
This is kind of an important question but you have to be careful because some folks love gear and will overwhelm you with very technical jargon. Here are some of the things you want to ask.
“What type of camera equipment do you use?” – The options will run from an iPhone (yes, it does happen) to simple point-and-shoots all the way up to the professional level big boys. Do keep in mind though that low quality gear can certainly hurt a great image but the best gear in the world will not guarantee a great image if it is not used correctly. Probably the best analogy I have heard for this was, “I have an awesome guitar sitting at home and I’m really not musical and I never took lessons or even ever practiced but I’m every bit as a good as Eric Clapton?”
“Will you be bringing an assistant?” - Some photographers will have an assistant with them to help organize the groups and handle the gear so the photographer can really focus all of their attention on taking photos. Also ask if the price includes a second photographer (“Second shooter”) or if one is available if you are interested.
“How many cameras do you typically bring/use?” – For this question the you really want this answer to be, at a minimum, two. I say this because unfortunately accidents and unforeseen issues do happen and, especially on your wedding day, you simply have to get the picture. If your photographer plans to only use one camera, ask what happens if the camera just stops working, the battery dies, gets dropped or they get too close to the opening of the champagne and it gets soaked. What is the backup plan?
“How do you protect our photos?” – Most don’t think about this one but with everything being digital these days you are always at risk of a memory card or computer failure that can put your wedding day photos at risk. Ask if your photographer’s cameras supports dual memory cards for immediate backup during the event. Also ask how your images will be protected once they get back home at the end of the day? Are your images backed up in multiple safe locations.
The Timeline For The Day
Every wedding is different with little uniquenesses for each couple that makes their day special for them. Depending on what you are looking for as far as coverage for your day you can arrange for everything from just the wedding ceremony to a full day. Ask when your photographer plans to arrive and how long they will be staying. What are their recommendations for taking photos throughout the day? The ceremony is a given but what is the plan for those getting ready photos for both the guys and the girls? What about getting with just the guys and just the girls?
Now, go get started!!
I hope this little bit of information was helpful for you. As I said earlier, I may not be the right fit for what you are looking for in a photographer. My hope for you is that you do find that perfect photographer who suits your style and delivers to you images and memories of your wedding day that will blow you away every time that you look at them.
If you are wondering if I might in fact be the right person for you I would certainly be more than happy to talk with you. I can be reached via:
or by text (937-416-5582).