As both a newlywed and a professional photographer, I’m often asked “What should I look for when hiring a wedding photographer?” Obviously, you’ll need to consider your budget and who’s available in your market. But here’s my inside scoop on what really matters and what doesn’t.
For me, this is the most important criteria. Before you start worrying about if you can afford someone or whether they’re a “deal,” you need to make sure you really like the kind of photographs they take. Everyone has a different style, and most photographers have a philosophy about the kind of photos that define their style. Personally, I like to take photographs that are a little bit dreamy; that make a scene look a little better than it did in reality and also show real emotion. I don’t like to over-pose my subjects and disdain images that look forced or overly planned. My goal is to take a “perfect snapshot” rather than a staged portrait. To figure out if you like someone’s style, start by looking at their website, blog and/or Instagram posts.
You might also want to consider what really draws you to a particular photographer’s images when planning and choosing the venue for your event. For example, if you like light and bright images with a lot of outdoor shots, you might not want to get married in a dark church or hotel ballroom. The opportunities for the type of images you like will be far less frequent, and you could be disappointed with your overall collection.
Not everyone wants their entire wedding day photographed – from getting ready all the way through the sparkler exit (nor does everyone want a grand finale). So, think about the kind of coverage you need before you choose your photographer. Some photographers (including yours truly) specialize in smaller weddings or offer more limited coverage, and this might be a good choice for you. When I got married (or actually eloped), I only wanted photos from City Hall, so our photographer met us there. We have a few lovely photos from the day that we’ve framed and, for us, that was the perfect amount of coverage. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with wanting full-day coverage. Just know that there are alternatives and you might be able to hire a great photographer by buying less time.
Do you really like your photographer as well as their work? They’re going to be around a lot on your wedding day. So, even if you choose to limit your coverage, you’re going to have to interact with them for a significant period of time. Make sure you choose someone you feel at ease with. You don’t have to become best friends (although I just realized I’m still in touch with a lot of the couples I’ve photographed over the years and we often do become friends), but you need to feel comfortable together. If they make you laugh a little, that’s even better.
What Doesn’t Matter
For one thing, don’t worry about the equipment your photographer uses. If you’re hiring someone whose style you like, then they obviously have the gear to make those images. Some photographers like film, some like digital, some like vintage cameras, some like modern DSLRs and most of us use some combination of all of the above. You don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of how your images are being made. If you’re also a photographer, you can certainly have fun with this conversation (a lot of us like to dork out about how we do our jobs), but it doesn’t need to be a consideration in your decision.
Along those lines, don’t worry about the number of images you’ll get. A good photographer will edit your wedding photo inventory to give you all the best images from your day. The exact number will always vary but, in the end, you’ll get a lot of photographs; plenty to choose from for making albums. The specific number really doesn’t matter.
You also shouldn’t worry about whether the photographer has worked in your specific venue before. It can be a little helpful to shoot in a familiar place, but if your photographer hasn’t taken photos at your venue, they’ll check it out ahead of time to generate ideas and develop a plan. I’ve always been the most creative when I’m somewhere new, because everything looks fresh and inspiring.
Which reminds me: You also shouldn’t worry about giving your photographer a lot of direction. You hired them for their style, so give them their freedom. Let them work as they like to work and you’ll get the most amazing results (because you’re letting an artist truly be an artist).
It’s perfectly fine and helpful to tell your photographer what it is about their style you especially respond to and which of their images you like the best. If I know someone loves my candid photos, I’m going to spend time focusing on taking more of those at their wedding. You should also feel free to let your photographer know what photos are “must haves” – such as family group photos or a shot of grandma.
However, as much as I adore Pinterest as a place to get ideas for party planning, I strongly urge you not to send your photographer a bunch of images from that site (or another photographer’s website) to copy or “inspire” them. Doing this is essentially asking your photographer to copy someone else’s style, which is really next to impossible and, thus, usually spells disaster for both of you.
Putting It All Together
These days, there are so many amazing companies offering so many cool products directly to consumers (including prints and albums), I’ve come to believe the most important thing to get from your photographer are full-sized images or film scans of your edited photos. If you want to use their album services or order your prints directly from them, it can certainly streamline things, but it’s not really necessary anymore. As such, I wouldn’t worry at all about the products that come with your photos, I’d just make sure I get all the digital images. And back them up to the cloud. Twice.
Want more ideas? Read Laura’s regular blog at http://ellephotographer.com