Guide To Hiring A Wedding Photographer
Wedding planning can be quite overwhelming. The amount of possible options available to the average bride will make anyone want to run away and elope. To add to the stress, you have tons of wedding resource sites listing top questions to ask your vendors or how to choose the right wedding professional. It is truly a full-time job to plan a wedding. Many become even more overwhelmed once they dip their foot into the area of wedding photography. The variety in prices and styles can truly make one’s head spin.
Although I can’t tell you a secret formula as to how to choose the right wedding photographer, I can give you the information needed to educate you on how to start your search and what to look for. This way when it comes time to sign your name on the dotted line, you are absolutely certain of your decision and feel comfortable with whom you have chosen. Doubt free.
So you are ready to start your search for a wedding photographer. You have the ring, you are set on your venue, and wedding dresses are just a pin away. Before you go crazy on Google and start perusing through the hundreds of wedding photographers available in your area, you may need to think of two really big things first. Budget and Style. If you try to start searching for a photographer before figuring these two things out, you are going to kill the wedding planning spark that was initiated when you said ‘yes’. Guaranteed. Let’s try to avoid this.
First, and foremost, create a budget. Find out how much total you have to spend on the wedding and then write down the things that are most important to you, putting them into order from greatest to least. Photography tends to always be in the top three. This is because your photographer is your only means of remembering your wedding day once details start to fade from the ol’ memory bank. I am not here to tell you how much to spend, but I am here to educate you on the different levels of wedding photography pricing you may find.
Photographers tend to price themselves in relation to their experience. This can be years in business, whether or not they have ironed out any kinks in workflow, branding, strength of style, etc. With that said, you are going to find three main pricing brackets. The higher end photographers have the most experience in the industry and have successfully worked out the majority of kinks, if not all. They will have the most confidence when taking shots and guiding you through the day and can be an asset in time of need. Lighting conditions and the ability to gather, calm, and lead in a self-sufficient manner is their forte. Their prices will most likely start around the $2600 mark (give or take a couple of hundred) in the Pittsburgh and SW Florida areas (where I have experience in). This price will most likely give you 8 – 10 hours of wedding day coverage with no products or additional services such as engagement sessions. Sometimes you may find a photographer in the upper tier that will offer a complimentary engagement session, but usually not common.
Below that group is your middle of the road wedding photographers. They are priced around $2000 for the same package you may get with an upper tier wedding photographer. Their experience will be less than the upper tier of photographers but if you are on a tighter budget, they are a great alternative. This area of wedding photographers will also have the most variability in pricing. One photographer may be $1600 for the same package that another charges $2000 for. Get a feel for who they are, the confidence level they possess, and the consistency of their portfolio. If you love their work and reviews and after you have met with them, they seem like a perfect fit – book them.
Lastly, there are what we call the “portfolio builders”. These photographers range in price but usually tend to be well under $1000 for a full day of shooting. Depending on the size of their portfolio, it could be $600 for a full day or $1000. You can find these photographers in wedding groups found on Facebook and forums like the wedding boards found on the Knot.com. Another great place to look are your local colleges that have a decent arts program.
No matter the price range, you need to review not only their portfolio but their extended portfolio. This means full wedding galleries. Weddings have so many moving parts to it that you want to ensure that when under the pressure and stress that a typical wedding day may present, your photographer can keep their cool and continue shooting at a consistent quality. In addition to their quality of work, read the testimonials from past couples. Quality of service is just as important and will give you some insight as to what to expect when working with them.
Another thing you should be looking at before even contacting a photographer, are the styles available. Wedding photography is art and the people behind the camera are professional artists. Each artist has his or her own signature or style much like Picasso versus Michaelangelo, two amazing painters but very different. If you are wanting a dark and moody vintage feel, then photographers like Hot Metal Studio will be who you want to aim your focus towards. If a photographer tells you they can do that kind of style, but their portfolio doesn’t support it. Walk away. Those who can do this style of wedding photography do it because that is where their heart is and the last thing you want is to hire someone who is imitating the style just to earn your dollar. Artists who replicate other artists in the fine art world usually only do so for those they respect and admire, not for the money.
So have some fun in this area and just browse what is available in the area of wedding photography. Find out who you are through the styles you find. I have seen brides who are very modern and chic, become attracted to the softer vintage style of wedding photos. It’s amazing what we find out about ourselves through art.
Photo by: Hot Metal Studio Style: Dark – Moody
Photo by: Maria Angela Photography Style: Light – Editorial
QUESTIONS TO ASK
You have your budget in hand and you have figured out what style of wedding photography you love, so now what? Here are some questions you may want to ask your selection of potential photographers.
Weddings are fast paced with a lot of moving parts. Having someone that knows how to take a good photo is DEFINITELY not the only important aspect of a good wedding photographer. There are various businesses that a photographer may have to coordinate with on the day of and people they have to organize and pose like family portraits. Many have folded under the stress that a wedding day brings. As a bride, you get a taste of it just through the planning process. The more weddings a photographer has under his or her belt, the better they will perform under pressure and stress. They have grown accustomed to the environment of a wedding and the issues that may arise without warning. This in turn gives you the reassurance that you do not have to babysit your photographer and can focus more on enjoying your wedding day.
Questions to ask:
- How long have you been shooting weddings?
- How many weddings have you photographed?
- Have you photographed at my venue before?
Always have a plan B, C, D, and maybe sometimes even E. This is a day that really cannot be redone for any reason so having the “better safe than sorry” mentality is almost a requirement in the industry. You want to make sure your photographer is ready for any unforeseen issues. This includes memory card malfunctioning, backup equipment, and cancellation policies. Liability insurance is also a great thing to ask for with your photographer, many venues require it.
Questions to ask:
- What steps do you take to prevent image loss?
- What happens if I cancel or reschedule my wedding?
- What happens if you cannot make it to our wedding?
- Will you be the person photographing our wedding?
- Do you have backup equipment?
- Do you have liability insurance?
This is huge. You are able to get a look into how your photographer will perform on your wedding day and what it is like to work with them. Brides and Grooms use websites such as The Knot, Wedding Wire, Google, Onewed, and even Facebook. Just be careful on some of these review paths. For example, Facebook allows anyone and everyone to have the chance to review a business without any verification process. I have three reviews from people who live in other parts of the world like Thailand. Facebook has nothing in place for businesses to remedy this so make sure to not only look at the star ratings on social media but to actually read the reviews and use your own judgement on the validity of the testimonial.
Questions to ask:
- Where can I find reviews for your company? (if not displayed or found in a quick Google search)
What is included
Once you have the answers to your questions regarding experience, back up plans, and the satisfaction of past wedding couples, you are going to want to know what exactly are you paying for? Do you get your full resolution images? Is editing included of all images or just the ones that you select for an album?
Questions to ask:
- Is editing of all images included or just the ones we select for the album?
- Are the images delivered in digital form only or can we opt to have a thumbdrive or CD?
- Are we allowed to share and print as much as we want?
- Are the images cropped or resized?
- Can we add on services or products down the road?
RESERVE YOUR WEDDING DATE
You did it! You at least narrowed down your choices to your top three photographers. For some, at this point, they are ready to throw down a retainer and sign an agreement with their choice photographer. For others, there is one last thing to do and that is either meet in person or at least have a phone call consultation. Which ever works best for you, your photographer will be more than happy to accommodate. Congratulations! Now that you have booked your wedding photographer, you now have to look at DJ, Hair, Make-up, Linen Rentals, and more. Don’t stress though, your wedding photographer may be able to help recommend some trusted professionals and what is better than referrals? Nothing.