Advice/Personal

5 Tips For Hiring The Right Wedding Photographer

DSC_0976.jpg

Hooray! You just got engaged, how freakin’ awesome! You have your date, and venue but what about a photographer? It’s usually around this time that you take a step back and really start to see how much having a wedding is and what your all in budget is. Let me tell you, you are not alone, and this is totally okay and normal - even I went through it myself with my own wedding! Searching for a wedding photographer isn't as difficult or daunting as it seems.

There is a reason for the saying you can’t have cheap and good, and good isn’t cheap. Wedding photography is one of those industries that the saying is 1000% true. Let’s say your scrolling through Instagram searching for photographers in your area and you find a photographer that has some beautiful photos. Awesome! You check out their bio and it says something like “natural light photographer, capturing your memories, lover of light” You read this and think awesome they want to capture my memories and love light! You send them a message because they don’t have a link on their Instagram and they send you back some pricing. They are under the prices of other photographers you found, which seems pretty awesome! Even though you’re in love another photographers work and they have examples of venues that are similar to yours, you think how can I pass this up? What a good deal, I can save some money!

This is where a lot of couples stop searching and book the cheaper photographer right away. Let’s take a moment before you book to make sure you ask the right questions and ensure you’re not making a huge mistake. Here are five things that I find important to know and look for when booking the right wedding photographer for you.

DSC_7666.jpg

Do they have a website?

This is hands down my number one thing to look for when booking a wedding photographer, not only as a photographer but as a consumer and past bride. It’s no secret that web hosting is 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.

What you want to look for:

- Look for an about page that shows a photo of their face as well talking about their style, how long they’ve been a photographer and what they can do for you.

- Look for an up to date blog page or a gallery that includes full wedding galleries. You want to make sure the blog posts are up to date and the newest one being within the last month at the latest.

- Look for an FAQ page. FAQ pages are huge for wedding photographers, it really sets apart the newer photographers from the seasoned photographers.

- Look for reviews on their website. Most photographers have them scattered around their website or on a single page.

What you want to ask:

- Ask for full wedding galleries, you want to see the wedding day from start to finish. You want to know how they handle venues like yours, such as a catholic church where there are strict photo rules or dark reception venues.

- Ask for reviews from other clients if you don’t see them on their website. Reviews show you first had other client’s experiences, if you don’t see any on their website check Facebook, Google, The Knot or Weddingwire.

- If they don’t have an FAQ page, check out this list of questions I put together.

Are they setting up expectations for you?

“It’s been months since our wedding, and I haven’t received my photos. I can’t even get a hold of them…My wedding photos are blurry…My photographer lost my photos…My photographer never showed up to the wedding… My wedding is this weekend and my photographer is sick and can’t make it…I haven’t heard from my wedding photographer in months and they won’t respond to my calls/emails are you available?”

Not hiring a professional wedding photographer is one of THE BIGGEST REGRETS couples say about their wedding. Don’t believe me? I’ve had family, friends and clients tell me stories like this. An old coworker of mine didn’t receive their wedding gallery until NINE MONTHS after their wedding, and it was his wife’s best friend who took the photos. That friendship was ruined because of it. My cousin told me about her sister in law’s wedding, and how the photographer dressed very inappropriately to the wedding and would just wander off and no one could find them. She doesn’t even show her photos to anyone and is embarrassed by them. I’ve had multiple couples end up booking me because they never heard from the person they booked in the first place or the photographer accidentally double booked themselves. I’m glad I was still available for their dates, but that isn’t always the case.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying you can’t find a good photographer for a decent and reasonable price. The point is that there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper, especially in the age where DSLR cameras are affordable for the average consumer. I’m all about deals but hiring a cheap photographer on one of the biggest days of your life isn’t the time. You should be looking for a photographer within your budget, and I totally get it’s difficult to stretch your budget for one that is a bit above. The point is to not underrate importance of your wedding photos when making your overall budget.

What you want to look for:

- Look for reviews from past clients. I know I’ve already said this, but it’s one thing that I will say over and over. Reviews are the one way to see what the client experience is with them.

- Look for prompt responses with emails/phone calls. The quicker the response time the better, but if they aren’t responding within 24 hours I would move on. You should feel like a priority for them not an afterthought.

- Look for information on their website about their client experience and clear expectations of what you’re going to receive.

What you want to ask:

- Ask if they offer payment plans with their wedding packages. Most photographers have no problem splitting up the total amount into more manageable payments for you.

- If they have packages listed and they don’t quite fit what you’re looking for ask if they offer custom packages to work with your budget/needs.

- Ask: how they handle if they are sick on your wedding day, how long it takes to get photos back, how many images will be in the gallery, what they wear to the wedding day, do they backup images, and any other questions that you’ve seen turn into issues with other couples.

jenmitch.jpg

Do they specialize in wedding photography?

This is something a lot of couples don’t really consider, but I want to make note of it. When I was looking for my wedding photographer, I wanted someone who knows weddings inside and out. I want to see lots of wedding photos of the whole wedding day 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 the greatest 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.

What you want to look for:

- Look for their website being mainly of wedding photos and talking about weddings.

- Look for them to be the expert on wedding photography with blog posts or PDFs with information on weddings.

- Look for less than four categories under their portfolio section. You should see weddings, engagement sessions/couples and maybe something else, but any more than four and they don’t specialize in weddings.

What you want to ask:

- Ask why they chose weddings over any other type of photography.

- Ask how long they’ve been photographing weddings and how many they’ve photographed.

Is the work on their portfolio/gallery 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 wedding galleries and to give an idea of how many images clients receive for the number of hours they book. I don’t want to hide anything from my clients, and neither should the photographer you choose to book. Why does consistency matter? You want to make sure that photographer delivers the same quality of work every time they photograph a wedding. Consistency doesn’t mean that every photo looks the same, it’s about them delivering the same quality of work regardless of time of day, lighting situations, etc. If you are having an indoor ceremony/reception make sure the photographer you choose has work showcasing indoor work and not just natural light.

What you want to look for:

- Look for current and updated blog posts on their website.

- Look for updated social media posts and that they are posting frequently.

- Look for a variety of photos from getting ready, the ceremony, portraits and the reception. You want to see a variety in their photos, not just portraits.

What you want to ask:

- Ask for recent full wedding galleries. This is such a huge thing that it’s worth mentioning more than once, you want to see more than one full wedding gallery.

- Ask if they have photographed a wedding at your venue or similar. It’s not necessary that they have photographed at your venue but knowing they can handle the lighting situations at a venue similar is important.

- Ask if they have specific gear to handle the lighting situations at your venue or if your church doesn’t allow photographers to be close to the alter that they have the right lenses to photograph from the back.

DSC_1838.jpg

Are they legal?

If you really want to know why wedding photography is expensive, this is one of the big reasons. Sales tax, self-employment tax, and income tax takes about 30-40% of what you’re paying the photographer. That money goes directly to the government not into the photographer’s pocket, and that’s not including other expenses.

Why is being legal important? Because your wedding photos are important! Hiring anyone less than leaves you vulnerable to all the situations mentioned above, you don’t want to hire a photographer that can’t handle the pressures of your wedding day. Having a contract backed by a lawyer, business insurance, a sales tax license and a business license are all things to protect you and the photographer and to make sure you’re both on the same page with expectations.

What you want to look for:

- Look for an LLC after their business name or look through your state’s business directory for their business name. If you’re not sure, ask them what business structure they have.

- Look for information on backup equipment, backup photographers and how they backup your images. It might not seem like much to do with them being legal, but they are going to have backup plans on backup plans to ensure your day goes smoothly.

What you want to ask:

- Ask to see their wedding photography contract before booking. The contract should lay out clear expectations for both parties and be more than one page.

- Ask if they charge sales tax on top of their wedding packages or if it’s included with the price.

- Ask if they have liability insurance. Some venues require this from photographers, so it’s quite a big deal.

What does all this boil down to? Trust. Above all you need a photographer you can trust. You need to trust they are professional and can handle any situation the day brings. You need to trust that they are getting the best photos and know where to stand to make that happen. You are hiring them for their expertise with weddings, their style and their creativity.  

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? Finding a photographer that you vibe well with, can trust and values you as a client is so important. When you have a genuine connection with your photographer they capture your emotion and your wedding day the best.  

 
west-michigan-wedding-photographer.jpg
 




Interested in booking Sydney Marie Photography or do you have a few questions still? No problem! The more information on the form below you give, the easier I can help make this process go and make your wedding the most memorable day of your life.

5 Tips for a Stress-free Wedding Day

Illinois-wedding-photographer

I’ve been a wedding photographer now for seven years and what I’ve learned over the years is that weddings are stressful, but they don’t have to be. Planning and prepping are key to having a successful and stress-free wedding, but what should you do? Below are my top five tips for having a stress-free wedding day.

long-lake-outdoor-center-wedding-sydney-marie

Hire a day of coordinator.

If I just had to give one tip this would be it, wedding coordinators are a HUGE relief and take so much stress off you. It’s honestly the one thing I wish I did at my own wedding, and I had a very small 65-person wedding. Coordinators are the go-to person on your wedding day, taking the stress off you. For more information about day of coordinators check out Paper Hat Wedding’s post about what a wedding day coordinator does.

If a day of coordinator isn’t in the budget for you, don’t fret. Designate a go-to person who can take care of things for you. If you’re having a master and mistress of ceremony, I would suggest having them take care of things. They can help with finding specific people for family formals, communicating with vendors, set up and tear down and keeping everyone on time. Create a list of responsibilities and have a copy of the wedding timeline for them to make the day go as smooth as possible.

detroit-michigan-wedding-photographer

Have a solid timeline.

Timelines are SO important to keep your wedding day running smoothly and stress free. If you have a coordinator they will help create the timeline and keep everyone on track, but if you don’t ask your photographer to help create a timeline for your day. When building your timeline you want to schedule everything from a first look with dad, touch ups, transportation time to the venue, etc.. Be realistic about how long everything is going to take and add in a buffer before the ceremony in case things run behind schedule. Make sure your wedding party knows the timeline and that family photos are announced (make sure the family in the photos know they are in the photos) so time isn’t wasted trying to find people for photos.

holland-michigan-wedding-photographer

Have a backup plan for weather.

Most of my couples live in Michigan and let me tell you the weather can change three times in one day easily. Having a backup plan for any outdoor event such as a ceremony and even photos is so important to keep your day stress-free. Look for an indoor location or covered outdoor location that you can use in case of rain. Keep an eye on the forecast the week of your wedding, but don’t obsess and be upset over it. I’ve photographed so many weddings where it was going to rain but it ended up being a gorgeous day. Rainy wedding days are just as beautiful as sunny days, trust in your photographer to get beautiful wedding photos and don’t be afraid to get a little wet!

indiana-wedding-photographer

Have your wedding day essentials kit packed and with you all day.

I always stress the importance of having a wedding day essentials bag. You just never know what is going to happen and being prepared is going to reduce that stress. I’ve had to sew brides and bridesmaids into their dresses, handed out blotting paper for hot summer days, and even gave up my last tampon to a bridesmaid. I wrote a post with 20 wedding day essentials that most couples don’t think about. I would designate a member of your wedding party to be in charge of the kit of essentials for the whole day, so it doesn’t end up across town in someone’s car when you need it.

muskegon-michigan-wedding-photographer

Prep yourself.

Wedding planning is crazy but prepping yourself before your wedding is the best way to insure your day is stress-free. These are my top three things to do to prep yourself:

-          Have a hair and makeup trial. It’s important to know exactly how long your hair and makeup appointment will be for your timeline. It’s also important to make sure you are happy with the results before your day so extra time isn’t wasted getting everything the way you want it. As a good tip I would add an extra 30 minutes onto however long your stylist says the appointment will take - it gives a little buffer to insure you look amazing on your day.

-          Break in your wedding shoes. There is a LOT of walking and being on your feet during your wedding day and no one wants to spend it in pain. Do yourself a favor and spend some time in your shoes a few times a week leading up to your wedding. You’ll thank me later.

-          Have a checklist for everything you need to pack for your wedding day/honeymoon. If your heading straight into your honeymoon from your wedding night make sure you have everything you need: passport, clothes, hairbrush, etc. packed and ready to go. For your wedding day make sure your rings, jewelry, vows and whatever else you need are all packed in a bag that is going with you.

grand-rapids-michigan-wedding-photographer-ring.jpg

Not everything goes according to plan, and that’s totally okay! At the end of the day it’s important to remember what this day is about – celebrating your love for each other! Your wedding day will come and go in a flash, be present in every moment and enjoy every second.

Looking for a wedding photographer? Let’s connect and chat about your day!

 
stress-free-wedding-day-tips.jpg
 




Interested in booking Sydney Marie Photography or do you have a few questions still? No problem! The more information on the form below you give, the easier I can help make this process go and make your wedding the most memorable day of your life.

5 Questions to Ask A Wedding Photographer | West Michigan Wedding Photographer | Sydney Marie Photography

holland-michigan-wedding-photographer (4).jpg

I know there are a ton of online lists of questions to ask a photographer before you hire for your wedding. But to be honest most of those questions are unnecessary and are already answered on most photographers’ websites – in their FAQ section. Of course, asking if they have your date available is an absolute must, but I’m talking about after that initial email with them. When you’ve found some contenders, who have packages in a price that fit your needs, what questions are you going to ask to separate the one from the rest. The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to searching for your wedding photographer is that most photographers are freelance. You’re dealing with individual artists whose policies, processes and style vary from photographer to photographer. So, what questions help you find the best photographer for your wedding day? I’ve picked out five key questions that will help you narrow down your search.

DSC_8096.jpg

1.       What led you to wedding photography?

The most basic question on the list, but it gives you a TON of insight and answers more than just one question. From this question you’ll get how they got into photography (especially weddings), how long they’ve been a photographer, why they love weddings and continue to photograph weddings, and how many weddings they’ve photographed.  It allows for the photographer to share their passion with you as well as their history.

Hiring a photographer who is seasoned and still loves their job is so key. I’m not going to lie and say that being a wedding photographer is an easy job, you really must LOVE it to keep going for 5+ years. It takes a lot of passion, patience, and hard work to keep going with 20+ weddings a year. This also shows you that they will be around for a few more years after your wedding and won’t close up shop on a whim.

DSC_3000.jpg

2. How would you describe your work?

This one seems like a no brainer to ask, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve met and talked to potential clients and this question never gets brought up. Asking the photographer gives you a better idea of what you’re going to receive from your own images. After this question I would follow up with asking for full wedding galleries from your venue or one similar to see how they handle the lighting and what a full wedding day looks like.

When they describe their work, they might use photography terms you’re not sure of, here are some of the terms you’ll hear:

Editing styles:

Light and airy – You’ll also hear natural light photographer in this category, the images you’ll see are softer and more romantic. They can range from having a clean and classic look to a very overexposed or blown out look.

Dark and moody – Characterized by the deep shadows and minimal highlights, you’ll see this style a lot in photographers who categorize themselves as a fine art photographer.

True to life – What you see is what you get. The photographer matches colors and tones in their editing to what you saw on your wedding day as true as possible.

Muted – This is a newer style with colors like green and blue being desaturated, sometimes with this style you’ll see more of an orangish hue. This style is more on the moody side but doesn’t limit itself to be a darker photo.

Photography styles:

Traditional/Classic – The modern take on the posed photos in your parents wedding album. Traditional photographers focus on capturing the details that are important to you, including family photos, décor, and other images that you might have on your shot list.

Photojournalistic/Documentary – The photographer follows you, capturing events as they unfold in order to tell the story of your wedding. They don’t give direction or pose and try to fade into the background to capture the wedding day as pure as possible.

Candid/Lifestyle – Closely tied with documentary but includes direction and styling with approachable feel and a relaxed result. Photographers with give prompts or things for you to do that are more natural, but also set up the scene for the result they want.

Editorial/Dramatic – Posing with more serious facial expressions and lighting that is influenced by high end fashion photography.

Fine art – The mindset of a fine art photographer is that every moment has the potential to turn into a piece in an art gallery. However, you see this come up with a lot of photographers who just want to sound fancy, if you’re looking for this style, I would suggest looking into an editorial style photographer.  

DSC_6951.jpg

3. What is your favorite part of a wedding day to photograph?

Why this question? It gives you an idea of what photographer is going to give you the best experience and the photos you want. For example, if you’re all about the reception and want a ton of your guests on the dance floor, you’re probably not going to get the photos you want with a photographer who likes to concentrate on posed portraits and details. Knowing what is most important to you on your wedding day and having a photographer that can excel at it is key. If you’re all about reception photos (or if you’re venue is low light/darker), you’re going to want to make sure you have a photographer who can handle lighting the dance floor and has examples that showcase that.

Every photographer is different depending on what part of the wedding they focus on. Your more editorial and detailed photographers are going to need more time before the ceremony for styled photos of your rings, flowers etc... Whereas a photographer who is more about the candid moments are going to be more open for how the day unfolds.

DSC_4161.jpg

4. What is your workflow for the wedding images?

What you want to hear with this question: What is your turn around time? Do you do a sneak peek? When do I get to see the sneak peek? Are the photos I see in the gallery edited? How much editing and retouching do you do? Do you offer extensive retouching? How do I receive my images?

This is the question for what happens after your wedding day, knowing when and how you’re getting photos is one of the most important things to know before signing any contract. How long is their turn around, is it a month? Six weeks? Two months? Having an expectation of when they will be completed and having that in the contract is key to keeping the photographer in check with your images. Many photographers post a sneak peek of images to hold you over till the full gallery is completed. Things to ask about the sneak peek: Are the images the final edit? How many images are included in the sneak peek? Where online do you post them? Can I use them on social media?

After asking about their style you should have a good expectation of what the photos are going to look like, but if you’d like more extensive retouching you’ll need to find a photographer that offers that service. Photographers really don’t like to be asked to Photoshop images during or after a session, especially photographers that consider themselves more of a candid or journalistic photographer. If you already know you’d like more than the basic editing, talking about this before signing a contract. Being upfront with what you’re looking for with your photographer and asking what they offer is the best way to avoid being disappointed with your photos or having to pay extra for your photographer to send out the images to be edited.

DSC_1327.jpg

What makes you stand out from other photographers in the area?

 

This is not a rude question, it’s a chance for the photographer to win you over with what they do that the others don’t. Do they post a sneak peek within 24 hours of your wedding? Do they offer help and education on preparing for your wedding day and help build a wedding day timeline? Do they include an engagement session? Do they offer help on what to wear at the engagement session and when to have it? Do they gift prints/other items when you book or after the wedding? If you don’t ask what they offer you won’t know what to compare past style and the other questions above.

There isn’t going to be one photographer that offers EVERYTHING including the kitchen sink. That’s just impossible in a business sense, and honestly unfair of anyone to expect. As a couple, you should sit down and really weigh out your options. What is important to you? Would you rather have a quick turn around with nothing extra? Are gifts more valuable than personalized client education? Figuring out what is important to you is the best way find the right photographer that checks all your wedding photography needs and wants.  

valparaiso-indiana-aberdeen-manor-wedding-photographer (52).jpg

Good luck on your search! Click here for more information on Sydney Marie Photography.

 
questions-to-ask-wedding-photographer.jpg
 




Interested in booking Sydney Marie Photography or do you have a few questions still? No problem! The more information on the form below you give, the easier I can help make this process go and make your wedding the most memorable day of your life.

20 Wedding Day Essentials That You Didn't Know You Needed

blue-dress-barn-benton-harbor-michigan-fall-wedding (13).jpg

Being a wedding photographer, I've seen and learned a few things about weddings and wedding day prep. There is usually an aunt or grandma who has a big box full of random items that end up being needed. With any wedding day you never know what is going to happen, here are 20 items that most people don't think about when prepping for their wedding day.

  • Wedding timeline and the numbers for all your vendors. Having your timeline on hand as well as any vendor phone numbers is key for wedding day success. At one of my past weddings, the limo broke down and I ended up calling the bride after 20 minutes of waiting at the photo location. NO GOOD. Let your vendors know what is going on if there is any problems!

  • Blotting Sheets. This was my number one at my own wedding, I even gave little packs of them to my wedding party. For summer weddings or if you're oily with makeup on, blotting sheets save the day!

  • Cough Drops. My favorite are actually Vitamin C drops, they help with any kind of cough you might have. Perfect for the ceremony!

  • Pantyliners/tampons/pads. You never know when and where Aunt Flo is going to show up, be prepared. Your ladies will thank you!

  • Glue/Glue Dots. If anything, glue dots are a life saver. They can be used for pretty much any tear or anything you need glued together in a hurry.

  • Lighter. A lighter can seal a fraying ribbon, seal a plastic bag and so much more.

  • Clear Nail Polish. So much more than just a shiny coat, nail polish can be used to re-glue gems on bouquets and belts or seal a fraying ribbon.

  • Straws. Bringing cans of soda or bottles of water? Bring some straws too, keep your lipstick fresh and on your lips!

  • Breath Strips. Choose breath mints or strips over gum! Especially for pictures, no one wants to see gum in your mouth mid chew.

  • Cotton Pads. They are seriously have so many uses. From using them to remove nail polish, apply/remove makeup and cleanup!

blue-dress-barn-benton-harbor-michigan-fall-wedding (92).jpg
  • Pepto Bismol/Tums. Someone will need it, promise.

  • Poo-Pouri. I know, I know. But seriously, hear me out. There are so many getting ready areas in venues that have one small stall/bathroom. Number 2 is going to happen, might as well make the best of the situation (and yes, this stuff works!)

  • Baby Powder. Not everyone has the perfect thigh gap, baby powder is amazing for the summer season and reducing chaffing.

  • Tweezers: Bad brows? Got a splinter? Tweezers can do that and so much more.

  • Floss. Floss is a serious fix all! Since it's white and thin, it's a perfect camouflage on a wedding dress bustle or tie snaps.

  • Sewing Kit with Scissors. If I had to count how many times I've had to sew someone into their dress... seriously having a small sewing kit is a top essential, plus you will need scissors (there is always one bridesmaid that didn't take the tag off their dress).

  • Band Aids. Because blisters, high heels (I'd also recommend getting pre-heels!!) and those accidental cuts from last minute decorating.

  • Eye Drops. As a girl with contacts, I always have eye drops on me. You never know what could happen, or who is a little hungover from the night before.

  • Stain Stick/Pen. You're sitting in your dress, eating a sandwich and a mustard covered tomato falls on you. What do you do, grab the stain stick.

  • Static & Wrinkle Spray. PLEASE SOMEONE BRING SOME, especially for chiffon dresses. You'd be amazed how easy bridesmaids dresses wrinkle and get full of static, even after steaming for what feels like forever.

blue-dress-barn-benton-harbor-michigan-fall-wedding (142).jpg

Weddings are days of celebration and fun, being prepared for the little unexpected things will help the day run smooth. I hope this list helps you with your wedding day prep! 

 
wedding-day-essentials-that-you-need.jpg
 




Interested in booking Sydney Marie Photography or do you have a few questions still? No problem! The more information on the form below you give, the easier I can help make this process go and make your wedding the most memorable day of your life.