HOW DO I FIND A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
One of the most important days of your life is your wedding day. You take months to carefully plan every moment and every detail so that your day will be exactly the way you have dreamed it to be. After all of your planning do you really want to trust a friend with a nice camera to document your day?
Wedding photography is one of the most difficult types of photography and it takes years to master. It is more than just having an expensive camera or just taking as many pictures as possible to try to cover everything. Rowena and I almost always work together as a team on wedding day, but when we don’t have that option, we always hear from those assisting us that, “Wedding photography is so much more complicated than I thought it was.” The simple answer is they are correct. The reason we wrote this article is to help you to hire the right photographer for you, even if that photographer isn’t us.
First we’re going to cover some of the people skills that you should look for with your wedding photographer. These are things that you really need to pay attention to during your initial meeting and discussions with your list of potential photographers. Often these are things that when overlooked lead to a disaster on your wedding day.
Client Raves Reviews and Testimonials
Wedding photographers are business people and as such are in a position to be selling themselves. A good way to fact check what they are saying is with reviews. As with any other business or product, the more reviews you are able to look at, the more informed you will be as a consumer. Helpful reviews from other clients will inform you not only of the final product, but also the experience the photographers at the company provide. A photographers personality will be touched on in most reviews, both the good and the bad.
We are in an age where we can go beyond just the photographers website to find reviews. Social media like Facebook often can be a source of reviews along with websites like the Knot or Yelp depending on your location. Knowing if the photographers personality will mesh with yours can save a lot of frustration on your wedding day.
You can see some of our reviews here.
Expertise – Technical knowledge with a creative touch
Being both a technical and a creative wedding photographer is just the beginning. The difference between an amateur and a professional wedding photographer is a major one. There are a lot of photographers who are technically perfect settings wise, but their images lack creativity. There are also photographers who are very creative, but their images are flawed due to the lack of technical proficiency. A professional wedding photographer should be capable to consistently produce a mixture of both. This blend of skills is a tough combination to mix as the human brain is often hardwired to be simply one or the other. This isn’t just for wedding photographers, this is for people in general. Technical people are usually technical and creatives are usually just creative.
Weddings are a unique event with ever changing situations and lighting conditions. Having the technical skills to adjust the camera based on those conditions allow a technical photographer to capture exposed, well-lit images no matter what conditions they are working in. Professionals are shooting in manual mode making the adjustments or in assisted modes that will work in the parameters they want for the camera. If your potential photographer only shoots in automatic, they are letting the camera decide what happens not the reverse. A creative photographer will be bringing their creative eye to the scene shooting from a unique perspective to accomplish their artistic vision creating beautiful images instead of just snapping photos. A photographer who is both technical and creative will be able to consistently reproduce the images in their portfolio which otherwise could be just happy accidents.
Photography Style – Are they consistent enough to have a style of wedding photography and do you like it?
If you have begun your research you will have found there are a lot of different styles of wedding photography. Hopefully you will have started to notice what styles you do and do not like. Wedding photographers styles will often change overtime, but there should be a consistency in their portfolio. You will also get a much better feel for a photographers style from their website and blog over social media sites like Instagram. If you have a style of photography in mind, but it is not the style you are seeing done by a potential photographer, while the photographer may be able to reproduce it, you should probably find a photographer who shoots that way naturally. Photography is literally painting with light. As artists we can often stretch, but the portfolio of work is the style of art we like to create. Taking the extra time to research the style you like and the style of the photographer can help set expectations that can be met easily.
Coverage – Having More than One Wedding Photographer, “Why do I need more than one wedding photographer?”
There are some really amazing photographers who shoot weddings by themselves, most professionals would never take the rise of shooting on their own. We always have two weddings photographers at our weddings not to try to raise our rates. We do it for several reasons. Think of weddings as you would a novel or a script for television or movie. There is a main primary storyline playing out with several smaller side stories occurring at the same moment. While there are a lot of great memorable moments during a wedding day, the ceremony is kind of the most important. The story of the ceremony revolves around the bride and the groom, but during this important period of time, the side stories are also taking place. The smile of a father or mother wiping a tear from their cheek while the bride and groom exchange vows. The look on the groomsmen or the bridesmaids faces and their reactions to the first kiss.
Not even the best photographer sitting atop the latest top 100 list for the year can be at all places at once at the same time capturing all of the moments as they happen. To balance this, we start with two photographers each with different tasks and focus. One is assigned the bride, the other is assigned the groom until specific moments when the second will break off to focus on reaction shots from the family and guests. For larger weddings we employ a third photographer to focus entirely on creative shots constantly looking for opportunities to compliment the lead and second photographers.
When do you need a third photographer? We always have two photographers, but if you are hiring a single photographer having less than 100 people would be ideal for that type of situation. 100-200 people at your wedding you really do need two and if you are going over 200 people we strongly recommend a 3rd photographer or you need to understand from the beginning of the process you will not get coverage of the whole event without them.
Quality – Take Quality of images over Quantity of images every single time
Try not to get caught up in the number of products offered by the different photographers. When you are researching your wedding photographer, stay focused on the quality of the images provided by the photographer not the quantity. Our studio typically provides 60 to 100 photographs per hour between our two photographers, but not all weddings are the same. Some weddings we only provide 25 images per hour. Weddings are not cookie cutter events and providing quality image are always our focus over quantity. We understand that you may have budget constraints for your wedding budget. Remember that you can always purchase an album or additional prints or wall art or any other product at a later date. Sometimes that later date is in 5 years or even 10 years. The thing you can’t do is have a do over and have another photographer document your day. You can’t change the quality of the images no matter how hard you try. What happens on the wedding day can not be altered after the wedding day is over.
Sure exceptions to this would be booking a day after shoot to make up missed formal pictures do to weather. It’s an additional cost, but it can help you get additional images that were not possible on your day. We customize our packages to our clients needs. If you want something more than our Essentials package, but not everything that is in our All-day coverage with everything package we can customize a package to meet your budget, but don’t go with a cheaper photographer simply because they are willing to give you all the products you want today at the sacrifice of quality images. If possible, always keep at least two photographers in your package.
Photographer Experience – Are They a Professional or Part Time Wedding Photographer
This article is a little long, but we are covering as much as we can for you. Now that we’ve touched on technique, creativity, personality, and style, you should look at the photographers experience. Is the photographer you are looking to hire a professional or are they just a weekend warrior with a camera? Is this their first time or are they experienced with weddings?
We have said previously that weddings are tough. It is a combination of candid event moments, posed formals, both planned and reactionary moments. There are lots and lots of variables that constantly force the wedding photographer to adjust on the fly. We, Shawn & Rowena, were fortunate that in our first year we were able to second shoot and lead-shoot 15 weddings which brought us from inexperienced into what would be considered knowledgeable. We learned a lot about ourselves during that time and the adrenalin rush that comes from having anything and everything thrown at you. While we were learning on the fly with weddings we had our experience with events, portraits and headshots to guide us.
Just because the photographer you are looking at isn’t experienced or at a pro level yet, doesn’t mean you should write them off. Look at their entire collection of images from each event they have shot.As a rough guide as everyone learns at a different pace you can base experience by the following.
An inexperienced / amateur wedding photographer will have shot 1-10 weddings. (Usually only experienced as an assistant photographer)
A knowledgeable wedding photographer will have shot 11-20 weddings
A wedding photographer can be considered experienced after 21-30 weddings (Usually transitioned from assistant to lead photographers by this point)
If they are still shooting weddings aft 31+ the can be considered a Professional