I've been mulling over in my head how I want to write this blog post for quite some time. Being a wedding photographer myself, I already knew what I wanted. Recently, a friend of mine asked me about what to look for when booking a photographer, and what information she needed to get a quote. As I explained things to her about things that I look for in a photographer, and also things that I do as a photographer talking to brides, the idea for this post came to me.
Searching for a wedding photographer, isn't as difficult or daunting as it seems. Here are five things that I find important when booking a wedding photographer, from a bride and photographer's perspective:
Do their packages fit in your overall budget:
By now, you should have an idea of the overall budget you want to spend for your wedding, and an idea of what you’re willing to spend on wedding photography. When looking for a photographer, find someone that fits into your budget for what you need covered. The best wedding example I see of this is on that TV show, Say Yes to the Dress. There is always someone that wants the bride to try on a gown that is three times her budget. Then the bride falls in love with this gown, and can’t get it out of her head and judges everything else she tries on to that gown. This is exactly the same thing, look for photographers that have packages in your price range.
If you’ve fallen in love with a photographer that is slightly over the budget you’ve set to spend, ask if they will do a payment plan to help you afford them. Most photographers I’ve worked with have no problem with this; we are all hard working business owners and understand that money is extra tight when planning a wedding.
Do their packages fit your needs:
This goes hand in hand with fitting your overall budget. You want to make sure that their packages fit what you need. What exactly do you need? For an idea of a wedding timeline, visit another one of my blog posts here. The main things to decide is if you want getting ready pictures included with your wedding pictures, and how much time you want for formal portraits. The average time for formal portraits, including family and bridal party is right around 2-3 hours, depending on size of family/bridal party and location travel.
Most photographers offer hourly packages, usually 6 to 10 hours. Some might even say all day coverage, but you have to be very cautious when you read this. Ask if there is an hour maximum with the all day coverage, and if they are offering more than 10 hours for a price that seems too good to be true, it most likely is. If that is the case, ask if you can see full weddings to see how many images they are delivering to their clients. The average I see from other photographers, as well as myself is about 50-75 images per hour, depending on if there is only one or two photographers.
Do they have a website:
This is a big thing for me, not only as a photographer but as a consumer and bride. It’s no secret that webhosting is pretty affordable. A domain name is usually around $10-20, and most websites cost less than $20 a month. Facebook and Instagram are awesome social media tools, but for your wedding, you should be looking for someone who is invested in themselves so they can invest in you.
I’ve heard so many horror stories from friends, family and even clients that hire me for sessions. My cousin just recently told me two stories from a guest/bridesmaids perspective of weddings she attended. The first one was a pretty upscale wedding, and the photographer was not dressed appropriately for the wedding, and was drinking the whole reception. The second one, her friend was so upset with her images (not 100% sure why) but none are hanging in her house, and no one has seen them, she just hates them. How does having a website prescreen that? Look for an about me/us page, you want to see bios on all the photographers in the company. You want the photographer you choose to fit your style, and to make you feel comfortable. Don’t just hire someone just because you need someone; take some thought into it so you don’t have to be telling your friends and family a horror story.
Is the work on the portfolio/gallery on their website consistent:
Looking through a photographer’s portfolio I look for two things, consistency and current work. As a wedding photographer, I always offer to show full weddings to show that the whole wedding is consistent, and to give an idea of how many images clients receive for the amount of time they book. I don’t want to hide anything from my clients, and neither should your photographer. Why does consistency matter? You want to make sure that photographer delivers the same quality of work every time they photograph a wedding. If you are having an indoor ceremony/reception make sure the photographer you choose has work showcasing indoor work and not just natural light.
Current work is another thing to look for, and the best place to look is the photographer’s blog. On their blog you can see if they’ve photographed your venue or something similar, as well as how much time they put into their blog. Unless they photograph 30+ weddings a year there should be an updated blog at least twice a month, if not more. You can also look at social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram to see if they are actively updating with current work.
Do they specialize in wedding photography:
This is something most brides don’t really consider, but I want to make note of it. I want someone who knows weddings in and out to be my photographer. I want to see lots of wedding work, and blog posts like this to help me out. It's the same concept as the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.” You want someone who adds to your day and capture your wedding the way you want it to be captured. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hire a photographer that does more than weddings. But just be mindful of someone who says they’ll photograph anything and doesn’t have a strong portfolio for any of the types of sessions.
Personally, wedding photography is where I shine. I’m not very good at photographing newborns or kids and I don’t want to take your money for those. I will gladly refer you to someone with my style of work that photographs those types of photography.
Photographer’s tip: If you’re still on the fence about a photographer, meet with them. I always suggest an in person client meeting if they are in the area, and if not there is Skype, Google Hangouts, and even Facebook video chat to talk to a photographer.
Also, when booking ANY vendor, especially a photographer, make sure they have a contract, and that they go over it with you if you have any questions about what it states.Any time you give a vendor money for a service there should be a contract, and it should be a decent length.
At the end of the day, all you have left is the pictures. The foods all gone, the flowers wither, and everyone goes back to their everyday normal life. Do you want to be 10-20 years down the road and see pictures from a family member that didn't know what they were doing? I know I don’t and I want to invest in having something I’m proud to show my kids. Talking to my mom she’s not the happiest with her wedding pictures, and I hear that from many people, even other photographers. Don’t give in, or give up. Find someone that is worth it and values you as a client.