Until you get married, you probably haven’t had to hire a photographer, at least not beyond senior photos. You’ve never had to hire a caterer, DJ or band, florist, or have fancy invitations made. A wedding is probably the biggest party most people ever throw in their life (at least if they aren’t eloping) so the pressure to do everything perfectly can really start to take its toll.
Today’s couples are so much more “in the know” than they were even 10 years ago. Social media has completely exploded with groups where brides can ask questions about who to hire and what to ask. Wedding websites like The Knot have preset lists of questions to ask vendors too. If you go to the bookstore and pick up a wedding planner, those are also full of lists of things to ask. Its no wonder that planning a wedding becomes incredibly overwhelming quickly! Gone are the days when you could just look at someone’s work and hire them based on their final product, because books and the internet tell you that you must ask LOTS OF QUESTIONS.
Well, I’m here to simplify the insanity for you, at least when it comes to photography. Its no secret that there are a LOT of photographers out there, and at all kinds of different price points. Its easy for someone to make a website and take a few pretty photos and call themselves a photographer now, but you want someone you can trust will do a great job, no matter what happens on your wedding day. However, I personally don’t believe that it is beneficial to you to ask 50 questions unless you know what answers you are looking for. Many photographers say “make sure you ask what gear they have!” kind of questions, but unless you 100% understand gear, what difference does their answer make? (PS, there are photographers that create complete magic with “crappy” gear and photographers that have the best of everything that create ho-hum photos).
So, here is my list of what you REALLY need to research before hiring someone, without all the other overwhelming details.
1. Ask to see a full wedding gallery or two of weddings that are similar to what you are planning (example… ask to see a barn wedding if your wedding is going to be at a barn venue).
The goal here is just to determine whether you like their style from start to finish. Maybe they do great outdoors but fall apart indoors in the dark. Just look at the weddings they shoot and see if you can visualize yourself having photos like theirs and loving them. There’s 100 different ways to deal with lighting and literally every photographer has their own way of doing things. So just look at what the final result looks like and trust that their process is going to get you what you want. Look at how they pose people and look at the locations and angles they use to take photos. Look at how the photos are edited. Are they clean and natural or do they have certain color casts to them (lighter greens, browns, etc)? Determine what your favorite “look” is because your photos will probably look like whatever they show you in their galleries.
Many photographers will tell you to run from “natural light” photographers. Yes, you should be cautious of anyone that says they ONLY use natural light. Your photos will most likely be a disaster if it rains or your venue is dark. However, if they show you galleries that you still love, including the dark photos, then you do you.
I personally use a mix of both natural available light, off-camera flash, strobe lighting, and LED wands. So yes, I’m a believer that if your photographer says they do work with artificial lighting, they’re a much better candidate than a natural light ONLY photographer, because they’ll be equipped to handle pretty much any light situation. Refer back to #1, again, and determine whether the look of the photos suits your style and take note of the photos that happened inside dark reception areas. Do they look suitable to you? They should.
2. Ask if they have backup gear.
Get it in writing if you have to. This is just because equipment does sometimes fail, and you wouldn’t want to be left with no photos if that did happen. You don’t have to get the specifics on every piece of gear, but just ask if the backup gear is similar to the main gear and you’re good to go.
3. Read their reviews.
Reviews are all over the internet, or at least they should be if your photographer has been around very long. Sources to look up reviews include The Knot, Weddingwire, Facebook, Google+, Yelp, and Thumbtack. Most photographers are on at least one of these sites, and people who are really established are usually on at least 2-3 of these. Be careful even with reading reviews and look for legit looking ones, not the ones that are clearly family and friends. Look at the ones that were clearly from brides and/or grooms as they are the ones who had to deal with their photographer the most.
4. Determine whether you like their personality or not.
True story, when I got married, I hired a guy that seemed to take great photos and was a great price. He made a comment before I booked him and said he was getting out of the wedding industry in a year or so. I IGNORED THAT GIANT RED FLAG and hired him. He turned out to be short with us during our engagement session and snapped at me over and over for blinking too much (it was the days of film so less photos were taken and blinks mattered). A week later he sent me an envelope full of proofs where my FIANCEE had his eyes closed in literally every photo but 2 of them, with a post it note saying “I think you can see where the problem lies”. It was cold, impersonal, and unprofessional. I gave up my deposit and hired a different photographer 2 months before my wedding because I just couldn’t trust that this guy would be chill on my wedding day.
So, I encourage you to meet up with whomever you are considering hiring. Find out whether you feel at ease around them. If they spent the whole day around you (because they will be around you constantly), are they someone that would grate on your nerves or would you feel totally comfortable with them? They don’t need to be “best friend” material, but they should be able to make you feel comfortable.
5. Remember the goal is still to get awesome photos at the end of it all.
You could have the trendiest, coolest, most sought after photographer around, only to be let down in the end if their style isn’t what you love, or if their technical skills are lacking. People are drawn to the “life of the party” types or the one who promises to let you in their cool exclusive group or become your best friend, but at the end of it all, your photos are what you’re going to be left with, so make sure you refer back to #1 and look at those galleries to make sure the work they are putting out looks like what you want. Sometimes its easier to work with someone who is not a friend or family member because you can be completely honest about what you like and dislike without worrying about how they’ll feel about it. Your photographer should be a professional and deliver a professional product.
Other random helpful questions you can ask as well:
How long does it take to deliver the final product(s)?
What will I be able to order from you?
If delivered digital files, do I get rights to print them?
Do you work with a second photographer and are they as good as you?
Oh and lastly
IF IT SEEMS LIKE TOO GOOD OF A PRICE TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS. Crazy low prices usually mean one of the following: The person is either brand new and relatively unskilled, the person is a hobbyist and doesn’t have a strong background in weddings, or the person has some other issue with their work, personality, or otherwise that just doesn’t draw people to them so they have to compete on price. Established professional photographers have a lot of overhead costs like taxes, insurance, gear, and training, that need to be covered, which is why their prices can seem high compared to others. You get one shot at getting decent wedding photos, don’t risk that if wedding photos are super important to you.
Contact me today if you’d like to see some full wedding galleries and get a quote. I’d love to hear about your wedding plans and to see if we are a fit!