10 Questions To Consider When Choosing Your Wedding Photographer
Are you overwhelmed by all your options as you shop for a wedding photographer? It's tough to choose when you see thousands of fabulous images in online portfolios.
How do you narrow down your choices and make sure you're getting a reputable, reliable photographer who matches your preferred style, and who will deliver on their promises? Believe me, I understand how stressful this decision is; after all, your wedding photos will be the only tangible evidence of all the work you've put into your special day, not to mention the fun, emotion, and joy you and your guests experienced as you celebrated your marriage.
I want you to be confident when you choose your wedding photographer. It's a very personal choice, but it's also important to be objective, no matter how much you've fallen in love with their images.
Here's my advice, from an insider's perspective...
1. Do Some Research:
Scour a photographer's website to find out as much as you can. You'll want to put together a list of questions, and those that aren't answered online, you can save for your consultation.
Your goal is to find out how technically skilled and experienced a prospective photographer is, how invested they are in their business, and to eliminate the "fly-by-night" shooters that often hide behind fancy websites and a dozen or so random but decent sample images.
Responsible wedding photographers adhere to a set of policies that define their ethical standards and best practices. Clients should have a clear understanding of what they're entitled to—and when—upon booking their photographer.
2. Are they licensed, registered, and affiliated?
Legitimate businesses are licensed in their home cities and have an official designation as an entity (LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc). Your photographer should be a member of at least one industry association (Professional Photographers of America, for example) that vets their members for standard quality of services, technical ability, and best practices.
3. How long have they been a photographer, and how many weddings have they shot?
This is a two-parter, for good reason: Just because someone has been shooting Pulitzer-winning images of Syrian refugees for the past few years doesn't mean they're skilled in the subtleties of wedding photography. While combat photojournalists and wedding photographers all have to perform under pressure, think on our feet, work in a variety of unexpected conditions, and stay calm in the face of chaos—all the while meeting deadlines with phenomenal images—we wedding photographers have our own unique talents that help our clients get through their wedding day with minimum shellshock and maximum customer care.
4. View several complete weddings shot by each photographer
Don't rely on website portfolios as proof of quality. Be sure to ask how many weddings they've shot as the lead photographer. I recommend a minimum of 5 wedding galleries, either in preview form, albums, or slideshows. This will let you get a sense of their technical consistency and their aesthetic, as well as their ability to shoot in varying conditions.
Many photographers make sales based on a selection of random images from different events. Remember, even a busted clock is right twice a day!
I take great pride in producing a final image collection that exceeds my clients' expectations and represents the quality I present in my own portfolio, blog posts and social media images.
If you want to view several weddings in their entirety, contact me to request a link!
5. What kind of backup equipment to they bring?
Equipment fails. That's the nature of technology. Your photographer should have at least two main camera bodies and several high-quality lenses. They should have a backup camera that's no more than three years old (we often replace our cameras every two years, and use the "old" ones as spares) and backups for at least a few lenses.
Most of us carry at least two on-camera flashes, especially if one is fitted with a diffuser, as well as spare camera, flash batteries, battery chargers, and enough memory cards to store the Library of Congress.
6. How do they protect your files?
At their studio, your photographer should store backups of your original and retouched images on multiple external storage devices.
I download onto dual-backup RAID system in studio, as well as an off-site backup system just in case my house is destroyed by a house fire, robbed, or swept off to Oz... though thankfully, we're nowhere close to Tornado Alley.
I also keep—on my person—a portable hard drive loaded with all my shoots from the previous six months, as well as storing the images in an online gallery and another copy online on my Google Drive. Obsessive? Sure. But your images are precious and irreplaceable. We take every measure possible to protect our images - and then have insurance to boot just in case.
Even the highest-quality memory cards can fail, and they're the most vulnerable link in the archiving chain. Professional cameras (like mine) have dual memory card slots for instant backup in case one card becomes corrupted.
7. What will they do if they lose your files?
With careful storage and downloading protocols, there's little chance of your files going *poof*, but if an entire camera is somehow destroyed with hundreds of images on the memory cards (which is why I prefer to use and swap out smaller capacity cards, to minimize risk) or an EMP kills all electronics in the photographer's studio and possibly the world (I'm looking at you, North Korea) that's why we carry liability insurance. Your photographer's contract should outline her policies beyond that.
8. Turnaround: When do you get to see your images?
Some photographers deliver your files in six weeks; others? Whenev! You don't want to wait six months or more to enjoy your gallery reveal, especially when you're planning to give custom prints as gifts the next holiday season.
Ask your prospects when they deliver their products:
- Online previews (from your wedding date)
- Custom prints (from date of order)
- Custom albums (from date of order)
9. Stalk them online
Look for reviews on internet wedding sites. What are the issues in negative or lukewarm reviews? What are their most common accolades? You'll obviously want to avoid a photographer with a bunch of unhappy clients. Feel free to ask for references so you can ask brides specific questions about their experience.
10. Do you click on a personal level?
How well do you get along with him? Do you think he "gets" you? Your wedding photographer is going to be with you while you get ready, while you sneak away for some quiet moments throughout the day, and is in charge of directing the emotion, aesthetic, and the tone of your wedding album. He or She should understand who you are and ask questions of his own. If he seems nervous, defensive, or—please no—precious about his work, move along! Photographers should be happy to answer all of these questions and proudly!
Lastly, are they passionate about their work?
Here's why I recommend a video conference with your prospective photographer: Ask her why she became a wedding photographer, and watch her when she answers. Does she seem genuine? Does she suddenly become animated, and all... glowy? That's what you want to see.
Wedding photography can be a high-stress job. It means we lose weekends, miss our own friends and family's weddings (especially when we book up way in advance) and spend a lot of time staring at computer screens. It's not an easy buck; we do what we do because we absolutely love it.
When you ask me why I got into wedding photography, you'll hear something like this:
My decision to be a wedding photographer has honestly been the biggest blessing. Of course, there are all the positive things you'd expect to hear from a photographer—a day full of love, happiness, good food, dancing—how could you not love it? But then there's this truly real element of living life that we've all detached from as a society. Genuine personal connections. Being off unplugged from our smartphones for a whole day and being fully present, experiencing real moments.
Every wedding grounds me and gives me a reality check. I'm so blessed that every job connects me with new people who go from being strangers to cherished friends. I get to be creative. I get to bring joy to my clients. I get to challenge myself and grow through constant learning. And yep... once in a while, I get to eat cake.
I hope I've helped you down the path to finding the right photographer for you. And if that happens to be me, I'm honored to be a part of your day!