Of course I would love to work with anyone in need of my services but I’m a firm believer that as there are couples who are a perfect match to my specific style of photography, there also are couples who are not. And these couples should be working with their perfect match. With so many amazingly talented wedding photographers choosing one can be daunting, but know that the right one is out there, hoping to connect with you. Here are some tips and secrets that I, as a professional photographer myself, know can be extremely helpful in finding the ONE (photographer that is).
1 TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
If photography matters to you then it’s definitely worth spending time looking for the right photographer. The first rule is to follow your gut, so if someone’s work speaks to you, that is a photographer seriously worth considering. And, like with most things wedding, only listen to your partner on this matter. These are YOUR photos.
2 THE (RE)SEARCH
So many couples who reach out to me usually say “I don’t know anything about photography” or “I’m not artistic!”, so how do you narrow it down? I think starting out with pros that your wedding coordinator has recommended is a safe bet, mainly because any good wedding coordinator will only use professionals they can vouch for. Also, checking out photographers you’ve seen at a friend’s wedding is very smart. This way you can ask your friends about their experience. These are both great places to start, but it’s totally normal to feel like you should do your own research, especially if it feels like you haven’t found the one yet.
Google, of course, is an endless mine of good resources, but watch out, if someone ranks high it means that they are great at SEO (the things one does to their website so search engines can spot it) but is no guarantee the quality of the images or that they match your taste. Make sure to do research well beyond that first page. AND use different keywords, include searches for weddings at the venue you are getting married at or the specific style of photography you want (more on that later).
Just like with Google, don’t let social media’s algorithm decide things for you and don’t let the number of followers of a professional guide your decision. As much as so many amazing photographers have high follower counts, those numbers only truly prove that time and possibly money were spent on getting those numbers up. Now-a-days rarely a commercial account gets a ton of attention organically. With that said, hashtags are very useful. Use the same search words as for Google, this might lead you to someone who already shot at your venue and is amazing but won’t rank high with #weddingphotographer 😉
3 UNDERSTANDING WEDDING PHOTOS
Let’s understand WHAT we shoot. Wedding photos can be roughly subdivided into the categories I listed below. Aside from wedding portraits of the bride and groom any photographer will take photos of the ceremony and if you choose a long coverage, the reception too (toasts, formal dances, cake cutting, the party). Aside from that we also do:
Formal portraits – photos of bride and groom with family members and wedding party, when everyone is posed, looking at the camera. They are called formals because they are the most traditional, formal. Some photographers might not do these portraits as an artistic choice. ´
Detail shots – photos of your beautiful and special stuff. From personal details (your dress, rings, shoes, bouquet) to ceremony setup and reception decor, this is everything that you put your time, energy and money in and anything that holds significance (like grandma’s earrings). Some people think a photo of your shoes is stupid while some people will save those shoes for decades, but I personally feel that all of these elements help take you back in time to that day. And, if you receive hundreds of files of your wedding day, trust me there’s a context for a photo of your shoes.
Getting ready – photos of the preparations period before the ceremony, when you get dressed. Possibly the most candid rich time of the day, it can also be used to do a lot of formal portraits. If you have been dreaming about this day, do not skim on this.
Cocktail hour photos – during cocktail hour (time between ceremony and dinner) photographers will do photos of your guests. Normally they are point-and-shoot style, but they can also emphasize candid shots. These are designed to capture who was there, normally the job of a second shooter.
When analyzing a professional’s work, make sure to consider these categories, what makes sense for you and how the photographer you are eyeing approaches these shots.
4 NARROW IT DOWN: PICK A STYLE
You could say that there are two main “poles” within wedding photography. On one side are the portrait-artists and on the other, the photojournalists and a lot of good stuff in between. It’s fair to point out that most photographers will pull a little bit of both.
Simply put, the portraitists are very strong (and very into) portraits. It could be that they are into insanely posed images that are so dramatic that one image alone will represent your whole relationship (and probably win awards). Or it could mean that they will technically be impeccable when posing all your 30+ family members and deliver strong formals. Either way, they control a lot of the scene and pose heavily. Included in this are the editorial and traditional styles.
On the other end of the spectrum are the real photojournalists who will not touch anything in the scene (not even that can of Coke someone left behind you) and direct very little of the scene. The photojournalist is really strong (and really into) moments and emotion. Not just happy tears and laughter, but sometimes incredible photos of your bridesmaids eating tacos. Included in this is the documentary and natural styles.
In the middle are illustrative and fine art wedding photography as well as my own style: lifestyle.
Lifestyle wedding photography sits in between the poles, but closer to the photojournalist, I do not pose but will style the scene and give you direction to get you in the right mood. My jam is candid work carefully composed. So, natural, but with no water bottles in the background. People who like my work are usually camera-shy or dislike posed images. They also care that the images correctly reflect who they are and their personalities. If this resonates with you, you want to look into that end of the scale closer to the documental or photojournalistic.
5 THE LIGHT
On a very (very!) basic level, you can split photographers into dark & moody or light & dreamy. My work, for instance, is on the light side, with clear, soft and clean images. But other pros are kicking ass producing dark and moody photos, with very dark blacks where you don’t see details. Depending on the environment you are getting married at one technique might look better than the other.
Another important consideration is if the images you like are natural light or artificially lit. Make no mistake both require extensive technical knowledge. Natural light means the photographer is using only the available light be that the strong sun or the candles and bistro lights at the reception, these are not controlled by the photographer and therefore can be extremely challenging to work with. Artificial light photographers will use various techniques and tools to create controlled light, they will be able to shoot anywhere and many of them will use said tools to create dramatic portraits.
6 TIMELESS, NOT TIMELY
Watch out for the images that look vintage or monochromatic, like with an Instagram filter. You should think about trends carefully, you could get over this in a few years. Unfortunately like with everything nowadays, this trend has gone viral and you might find the higher ranking pros who are using (and abusing) these post-production effects. At the same time if you just love that orange look or blue tint, then you know what path to follow, remember rule number 1.
7 BUDGET ALERT
Like with everything else at the wedding, you must set a budget for your wedding photography. Wedding coordinators usually give their clients a ballpark on what to expect as far as cost for a high quality professional. I’m not sure what the ballpark is in your area, but be prepared to spend 4 digits. This will narrow things down considerably.
The cheaper, the riskier. No way about it. Sometimes, someone who is cheap is so because they are starting out, so a bargain might be out there, but it will come with risks. Then again, it’s not because someone is expensive that they will kill it, we’ve heard first hand horror stories of “celebrity” and “influencer” photographers who were drinking on the job or were unkind to their clients. Check out reviews on the professionals on Google, WeddingWire or blogs of your choice.
Aside from quality and photography style, you should factor:
- What are the wedding coverage options? How many hours will the photographer be present? Do you want your day documented starting with your getting ready all the way to people on the dance floor? Or are you having something so simple that you just want incredible portraits and only the ceremony documented?
- Do they offer print products? Prints and books, is that something you want? I personally feel like my work is best presented in a wedding book. To hold a book in your hands or have a large print in a beautiful frame are a totally different experience than viewing them on your computer, let alone on your phone. The book, in particular, is especially powerful, it’s then that the images come together in concert and tell the story of the day, evoking those feelings in a dynamic way. There are a lot of labs and print shops online that will allow you to do that all by yourself, but a photographer who offers these features has done a lot of research. And in cases like mine, when the photographer designs the book for you, you’re getting the input of the creator on what will jive together.
- Do they have a second shooter? This is a big one. To understand what a second shooter does think about watching sports. When a big play happens, they will show the replay on TV from different angles, right? That’s it. A second shooter will give you a second point of view. It’s not to be confused with a 2 for 1 sale. From time to time the two photographers can be split to cover more ground, it depends on how the main shooter uses this resource. Husband-wife photographers, for instance, work together in different ways. Some shoot individually and even edit and post-produce individually while others will use the first-second hierarchy. In many cases, the second shooter is not as strong or experienced as the main shooter. That will not detract from the quality of the photography, remember you must trust the captain of the photography ship, they should know what to do with the second camera.
- Deciding on having a second shooter is a conversation you should have with your photographer. Some won’t even work without a second. But if they offer the option of shooting alone, they will explain how that will impact your coverage. If you are expecting a wedding with more than 100 guests, and if you have a large wedding party, it’s a safe bet that having a second shooter will be very beneficial.
8 REACH OUT
After you narrow it down to just a few photographers and make sure the ones you picked to fit your budget for wedding photography, reach out. Most photographers only show their complete pricing guide after you send an email. Make sure to include the date of your wedding and the venue.
Ask to see a complete photo gallery with what they have delivered to a client in the past. This will let you see the photographer’s true colors. You might find someone who does incredible editorial portraits but not much more than that. Or that they almost don’t do formals, or they don’t take photos of details at all. The one thing you don’t want to do is ask a photographer to do something you don’t see in their work. A really great professional will have their work already defined and you don’t want to try to force them to fit in a box they don’t belong, you’ll miss out on what they actually have to offer.
Talk to them. Their personality impacts their photography, make sure you like your photographer. A phone call won’t weed out every single problem but it will give you a good grip on who you are working with. Remember the photographer is someone who will be with you for a big portion of the day and who needs your trust to perform their best work. Call, Skype or meet with them and just like a new friend, if you hit it off it means you’ll have a good time together.
Hope this helps! If you have any questions, reach out!