One of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding is connecting with vendors and knowing which one is the right choice for you. The wedding business is booming and there are plenty of options to choose from when deciding everything from the florist to the reception entertainment. So, when you begin searching for a photographer how do you know who is right for you? Most people would say, “well I looked at their website and liked their photos so I’m going with him/her.” Not a bad way to make a decision because loving your photographer’s style is important but there are lots of other questions to be answered and issues to consider before spending your hard earned money.
When planning your wedding an important fact to consider is that photographers tend to book out early, especially for Saturday Summer weddings – so it’s best to start researching your options early so you have plenty of time to get the photographer you want booked on your date. Ideally you want to start thinking about booking your photographer 10-12 months in advance. Typically couples start off their wedding planning by choosing the date first and then try to schedule all of their chosen vendors for that date but if you get a late start on planning this approach may backfire and make your planning even more stressful. Try to be flexible with your date when you begin to book vendors, in the long run that may help you land the vendors that you know you’ll really love who may otherwise be unavailable on your set wedding day. Another idea is to consider a Sunday wedding (gasp! I know totally insane idea especially in Wisconsin but hear me out..), Sundays are usually more open for vendors and prices are usually considerably lower, especially when booking a venue.
1. Style: Choose a Photography Style
Every professional wedding photographer has a distinct style to their photography. This may be easy to spot by looking through their portfolios and other times it’s much more subtle. Wedding photography has really evolved over the past 40 years. I recently started touching up my parent’s wedding photos that were shot in 1974 and I noticed a definite style of photography called Portraiture. All of my parent’s wedding photos were posed or staged. Think of a photo of the entire family standing on the alter in the church smiling at the camera. Lots of people really love and cherish these types of photos unfortunately ALL of the photos looked this way.
Many couples will choose their photographer by looking at the photographer’s portfolio which is a great way to identify their overall style. Some photographers may have a very creative or edgy style of photography that is recognized by the use of creative and unusual perspective shots, strong colors and out of the box settings for their photo shoots.
My photography style is considered photojournalism or documentary. This means I take story-telling approach to documenting your day capturing moments and your emotions.
2. Personality: Ensure a Good Fit
Your photographer is going to be spending one of the most important days of your life right by your side so it’s important that you not only love your photographer’s style but that you also mesh well with their personality. One of the ways that I try to capture emotion in my images is by snapping shots when I’m just talking with the bride and the groom. If you feel comfortable you are at ease and most “yourself”. My goal is to document your day, your true self and the essence of your relationship. It’s a good idea to interview several photographers to ensure you are choosing someone who you think you’ll enjoy hanging out with on your big day. At the very least give them a call. If you don’t get a good vibe from a photographer on the phone they may not be right for you. A wise photographer once said is that you want to work with someone who you think, “hey I could be their friend”. At all cost, try to avoid choosing your photographer based on price. The old saying that you get what you pay for is TRUE (I’ll talk more about that later because it’s uber important).
3. Packages: Ask the Crucial Questions
When considering which photographer is right for you consider what products and packages they offer. Keep in mind that not only is it important how long they will be with you on your wedding day and how many total images they will deliver – it is also so crucial to ensure they offer PRINT products. Why? Good question! For more on this check out my INVESTMENT page.
Do their packages include digital images and what are your printing rights?
Do they offer albums – how many pages are included in the album – what is the album quality? Do they have their products printed by a professional photo lab?
Do they offer engagement sessions?Does the photographer offer encore sessions? Trash the dress sessions?
Can they do video? How long are the videos and what is the quality?
4. Professionalism: Make sure they are Legit
What makes a photographer legit you ask? To ensure the highest level of professionalism and quality of product you need to ask a few simple questions when interviewing perspective photographers about 1) gear, 2) insurance and 3) contracts.
GEAR: What kind of gear does the photographer bring to a shoot? Do they have 2 camera bodies available? What would happen if they drop their camera on the day of your wedding – do they have a back up? Extra lenses, batteries and plenty of storage?
INSURANCE: Your vendor may actually require that your photographer carry general liability insurance. This insurance not only covers the photographer but also the vendor and you in the event that Grandma trips and falls while getting ready for her close-up (note this has NEVER happened to me!!).
CONTRACTS: You want to ensure that the terms and prices that you and your photographer agreed upon are actually contained in a contract signed by both parties. Before signing your contract be sure to ask who will be photographing your wedding. Some large photography companies have several shooters. The person you spoke with on the phone or met in person may not be the person who will show up on your wedding day. If you want a specific shooter make certain that is specified in your contract.
You also want to ensure that your agreed upon prices are also listed in your contract and the dates when your payments are due. A contract should be in place to ensure you are getting what you paid for and it legal protects you as well as your photographer.
5. Post Production
One of the most common questions I am asked is how long it will take to get the finished product or “when can I expect to have my digital files in hand?”. That is an excellent question because it’s a complicated answer! To fully answer I want to break down what you are actually paying for when you hire a professional photographer. On your wedding day I may spend 8-12 hours shooting. It’s not uncommon for me to take over 2500 photos over the course of the day. Many of those photos are taken in bursts – meaning I will take 10 shots within several seconds to ensure I capture just the right moment (this is especially helpful when photographing that first kiss).
Over the next several weeks I will be sorting, renaming and editing your photos which I shoot as a RAW file. RAW files are then turned into jpeg images that are smaller more compressed files but they are still very high resolution images. I sort through those 2500 to find only the best shoots and then begin hand editing each photo ensuring proper exposure, color and some minor edits. Typically I will deliver to you 200-300 fully edited images. All files are then uploaded to my on-line gallery website where you can view all of your files and order additional prints and gallery wraps. It’s important to know if your photographer offers the option to purchase your digital images and if so how will you receive them. Are the images given to you on a DVD or a USB drive? If you have a preference make sure you relay that to the photographer.
Post-production time can differ for each photographer especially based on their workload. It’s great to choose a popular photographer who shoots a wedding every weekend but their turn around time for editing may be longer because they shoot many weddings. Just because someone shoots 50 weddings a year that doesn’t mean they produce a higher quality product – actually just the opposite is usually true. Typical turn around time to see your photos is 6-8 weeks.
If this is all sounding too daunting and making you uneasy, don’t worry. It’s gonna be OK.
Choosing a photographer may sound complicated but if you do a little research and ask the right questions you can feel confident in the decision you made. If you are feeling uneasy don’t sign a contract. Sleep on it. Talk to your friends. Call the photographer again and ask the questions that are keeping you awake at night. At the end of your wedding day you will have your memories and your photos to document those special moments so take your time and make the decision that feels right for you and your fiance.
Natalie Weber is a Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin offering photography and memory preservation services to Wisconsin’s Lakeshore communities from Mequon to Door County.