10 Steps to Finding the Best Wedding Photographer
Follow these 10 steps to finding the best wedding photographer to document your special day.
#1. Choosing your Photography Style
Before you start researching wedding photographers, you will first need to decide what style of photography are you drawn too. Once you can decide your photography style, that will help determine which kind of photographer you will want to record your wedding day memories. The styles of wedding photography are:
Documentary Wedding Photography
Documentary wedding photography focuses on capturing candid moments, instead of posed portraits. Typical photos might include candid reactions of the bride with her bridesmaids laughing over a glass of champagne, guests congratulating the couple after the ceremony, the newlyweds having a romantic unscripted moment together during the photoshoot, through the speeches and of course the crazy moves on the dance floor during the reception.
With a pure photojournalistic approach, your photographer will very rarely interact with the people, and mostly capturing moments where people aren’t looking down the barrel of the camera, and capturing moments as they happen in a storytelling manner.
Traditional Wedding Photography
If you prefer classic portraits where the photographer is directing people into poses, you would be more drawn to traditional wedding photography and a photographer that specialises in portraiture.
Typical photos would include posed photos of the bride and groom, the bride with her bridesmaids, the groom with his groomsmen, and of course with the family as well in front of a variety of backdrops. Portraiture can include creativity, such as more dramatic compositions where the couple are asked to pose using props like chairs.
Traditional wedding photography generally is more structured and people are directed into how they stand/sit, where hands are positioned.
Fine Art Wedding Photography
While similar to documentary photography, this style gives the photographer greater artistic license to add their style into your photographs. While the photos reflect reality, it’s the photographer’s version of that reality.
The photos generally are artistic and beautiful, and appear as if they were shot on film with a dreamy effect, natural grain and more subtle appearance. Usually the couple or subject is in focus and blending into a blurred background. Movement also looks very natural in this style of photography and can often just be out of focus which is highly acceptable in the film photography genre.
The wedding photographers that still shoot with analogue film, tend to fall into the fine art wedding photography category. However, this affect can be still achieved with digital photography – through using certain lenses and shooting technique, adding an editing effect to give it that ‘looks like film’ effect. Most film shooters these days are hybrid photographers, the best of both worlds, shooting digital and film.
Start your search by researching local wedding photographers. Carefully review potential photographers’ websites to check out photos of other weddings they’ve shot. Flag the photographer’s websites which visually appeal to you most. This process should help you determine what style of photography you are drawn too. The design of the website may also give you clues about the photographer’s personality and style. For eg. if its a well designed website, it might suggest they are design savvy and their style is on trend. Check out how active your potential photographers are on social media, ie. their Facebook & Instagram profiles. Are the reviews from clients positive? How quickly does the photographer respond? Then create a shortlist of your top 5 wedding photographers.
#3. Set Up Interviews
Choosing your wedding photographer is not an easy decision nor one that can be made on just looking at their website. You need to meet with your potential photographers in person. If you are drawn to the images on their website, the next step would be to make sure their wedding photography packages fall in the ballpark of your photography budget. Then check to make sure they are available on your wedding date.
If the photographer is already booked on your date, you may want to check if they offer associate photographers. Associate photographers are other photographers that photograph under their brand name and typically have a similar style to that of the principal photographer, so if you already have a connection to that photographer, this could be a good alternative.
Set up in-person meetings with three to five potential photographers who are available on your wedding date to meet with them and determine whether your personalities get along. Many photographers approach meeting in a more casual environment these days, such as a cafe or their home studio, so they are less intimidating and generally a chance to get to know each other, talk about how you envisage your special day, openly discuss packages and try to work around your budget.
#4: Ask To View A Full Wedding Album
Don’t base your decision solely on what you see in a photographer’s portfolio. Typically a portfolio is a handful of the best wedding photos from a selection of different weddings, so you’re seeing the best of the best. This is perfect for the initial selection process as you get a well-rounded idea of the photographer’s work. But at the wedding meeting, ask to see two or three albums from real weddings they have photographed, so you can get a better idea of what the photographer shoots throughout a full wedding day, from groom/bride preparation through to the first dance.
#5. Review Images
When reviewing photographer’s images, look for the key moments that are important to you and you want captured. Also look at the editing, is the editing to your taste. Some photographers have a more natural editing style, where others have a stronger, creative editing style. How does the photographer compose or frame an image – are many on an angle or shot straight? Is there too much clutter in the frame? Exposures – is there general style more light and airy or dark and moody? It’s also very important that you detect if the photographer is good at capturing people’s emotions and they look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. While you both are the most important people on the day, you want to see smiling faces of your friends too, so does the photographer capture a lot of the guests or are they primarily focused on the couple?
We are half way there in the 10 steps to finding the best wedding photographer …
Don’t underestimate the importance of liking and connecting with your photographer.
Some questions to consider. Is the photographer genuinely excited by your vision of your wedding day? How do they communicate with you, are their instructions clear and delivered in a friendly way, do they listen to you?
In order to get the best wedding photos, a photographer needs to be confident without being arrogant, have good social graces, is relatable, knowns when to be unobtrusive, and most importantly assertive when required to be able to direct people and put you and your guests at ease.
Remember, your photographer will be by your side for the majority of your wedding day, and the more comfortable both of you are with the photographer, the more natural your wedding photos will turn out.
Also consider, how helpful your photographer is in the planning of your wedding – here is my helpful guide to creating your wedding day photography timeline. Are they helpful with recommending other wedding suppliers – here is my list of recommended Brisbane wedding suppliers. There are also more articles on Planning Your Wedding.
#7. Confirm Who Your Photographer Is
There are various kinds of photographers these days – solo shooters, two photographer teams and photography studios with many photographers shooting under the studio brand.
It is recommended that you ask the question, is the person you are meeting with the photographer or just the studio representative. Unless it is specified in your contract, the studio’s lead photographer may not be the one shooting your day, but an associate photographer that works for the studio.
Since every professional has a different style, technique and personality, you need to make sure that the person who interviews you and that you connect with, will in fact be the same one who works with you on your wedding day.
You will also want to check that the photography package you choose, whether it includes one photographer or two photographers. If you are having 100+ guests and have room in your budget, consider hiring a second photographer if its not included in the package. The main benefit to having two shooters is that you, of course, get twice as much coverage. For example, one photographer can capture the bridal party location shoot while the second photographer is capturing candids of the guests during cocktail hour.
#8. Photography Packages
You won’t be able to lock in an exact dollar amount on your photography package until you are sure of what you want included – do you want just digital files, do you want an album, do you want parent albums, do you want wall art, does the photographer charge travel fees. Photography packages can range anywhere from $2,000 all the way up to $15,000+ at the higher end of the spectrum at studios with multi-award winning photographers.
When interviewing prospective photographers, ask for a general range based on what couples typically spend on their wedding photography. How many pages are included in the base album, and what are the additional costs for additional pages in the album – this is where couple’s can get caught blowing their budgets because they didn’t realise how many pages it actually takes to include all the important photos plus favourite images.
It’s important to find out what’s included in the standard package – ideally you want your photographer to be there for the full wedding day, from both bride and groom getting ready until after you make your exit from the reception. Photography coverage can vary, from 6 hours to 12 hour.
Are there any extra costs – for an engagement shoot, is editing and retouching additional, additional coverage – so you can compare rates between your top 5 wedding photographer candidates. It’s generally better to pay for more coverage from the outset, incase there’s a chance you’ll run over time, as you definitely want your photographer there until the end.
#9. Ask What Are Your Rights
Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns copyrights to all photos taken at the wedding, but you have usage rights. In other words, the photographer can use them for marketing (on their website or blog, submit them for publication and use them in ads) and you can print them for personal use. It is always best to read your contract and ask the photographer any questions before signing.
#10. Post-production Details
Generally, most photographers take between 4-8weeks to turn around the images, factoring in off-peak and peak wedding season.
Photographers shoot an enormous amount of frames at each wedding that are enormous file sizes. This gives the photographer greater ability to edit the photos, but it also takes a longer time to upload, backup, process and edit all those files (in order to correct colours and exposures and so on). It varies, but many photographers say that they spend around 30-40 hours editing images from a single wedding, so it can take 4-8 weeks (or longer, depending on the photographer and how busy they are) to get proofs back.
Questions you should be asking: How many images should I expect to receive? Do I receive all the images taken? Are the images supplies as high resolution or low resolution? Can I print my photos myself or can I only order prints through the photographer? Will the images I receive be edited/retouched (each photographer has their own version of how they edit and what is part of their edit process, and whether editing and retouching means two different things)?
I hope these 10 Steps to Finding the Best Wedding Photographer has helped you muddle through all the industry babble and on the road to taking the next steps to booking your photographer. I would be more than happy to answer these questions for you in regards to my wedding photography services, simply shoot me an email or call me to arrange a time to meet.