Shopping for wedding vendors can be stressful and many bridal couples have no idea where to start. I’ve put together a list of tips to help you get started and learn how to pick your ideal wedding photographer for your dream wedding, one who will exceed your expectations and go above and beyond to serve you.
If you have never been a part of a wedding or had family members get married, finding a wedding photographer that is the right fit for you can be an overwhelming process. These tips are to help you learn what to ask and what to look for when interviewing wedding photographers (I highly recommend a sit down or video call with at least 2 different photographers to be able to compare what they offer)
First things first. If you just don’t feel the vibe and the chemistry is not there… this is not likely a best fit for you or your photographer!
Check out potential candidates social media. Does their bio offers some insight into their personality. Read the reviews, look for comments like “it was like working with good friend” or “such a confident and calming presence”, “I felt completely at ease, knowing my photographer had our best interest at heart”. If they have any behind the scenes highlights on stories, go watch them. Like what you see? Schedule an in-person meeting.
While you may spend the most time leading up to the wedding with your wedding planner, your photographer will be right next to you throughout your entire wedding day. This is why it’s so important to meet with your photographer in person (or Zoom!) so you can get to know each other better.
“I believe the right fit is out there for everyone, so that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily the ideal photographer for everyone. So with that, when you’re looking for your photographer, read their reviews, reach out to them, and build a relationship.”
0.2 LOOK FOR CONSISTENCY ACROSS AN ENTIRE WEDDING DAY
Many wedding bloggers will tell you to ask for a full gallery from a photographer you’re considering. I think this is super valuable advice & something you should definitely do! Why? viewing an entire wedding gallery will give you great insight into the skills and experience of your photographer. It will showcase their ability to remain consistent and capture beautiful images throughout your whole day.
You want to look for consistency throughout an entire wedding day. Can a photographer produce great detailed photos amidst the chaos of the bride’s room? Can they wrangle your extended family & get the formal photos your mom wants & make everyone look good while doing it? Do their reception photos live up to your expectations? Is lighting, creativity and styling consistent from the first image to the last?
Ok so those first two Tips are pretty standard & most people will agree on these. The rest of these points are purely my opinion on how to find a photographer who can go above and beyond to exceed your expectations.
0.3 CAN HANDLE VARIOUS LIGHTING SCENARIOS
Let’s go back to the ‘consistency’ point from above. Are a wide variety of lighting scenarios represented?
Your wedding day may take place in at least 4 different locations: the bride’s room, the ceremony, the reception, & anywhere that portraits take place. As well as different times of day when the sun is going from harsh overhead light to a golden haze at sunset.
~The bride’s room may have fluorescent lighting with zero windows.
~The ceremony space may have huge stained glass windows bathing the room in a orange and pink-colored light.
~The reception space may be a large barn with dark wood paneling throughout. And it’s party time, the lights are dimmed & the disco ball is going.
The easiest wedding to shoot is a wedding in the daytime, with a ceremony under shade and great natural light. If that applies to you, ignore the rest of this paragraph. If, however, you’re getting married in a dark church or you’re having an outdoor evening wedding reception, it’s really important that you specifically look for a photographer that’s skilled with those lighting environments. Don’t assume that experience equals skill in low lighting. Look for weddings shot in similar lighting environments in your photographer’s portfolio, and ask them specifically how they would handle your particular situation. (Some photographers use external lights for dark receptions, while others may rely on their camera’s ability to see well in the dark.)
If you are unsure after looking at their galleries…. ask them how they would handle these situations.
.4 REAL WEDDINGS VS STYLED SHOOTS
Be sure you’re looking at real weddings a photographer has shot, not just styled shoots. You may need to ask the photographer if they are presenting you images from a styled shoot or even their work as a second shooter as opposed to a wedding where they were the lead photographer.
While beautiful, stunning and full of inspiration, photos from styled wedding shoots can give brides a false sense of security in the ability of any photographer. Photographing a mock wedding in a controlled environment is vastly different than being able to provide consistent, beautiful images on a real wedding day!
I am not knocking on styled shoots. I think they are great and an amazing resource for photographers to hone their skills. It is an amazing learning opportunity, but they are a very controlled environment with a lead photographer guiding the process.
Styled shoots are just that: styled. They are perfect. And, they are perfectly controlled. The hair and make up artist is on hand to touch up after every set. The dress designer fluffs & smooths the dress every 5 seconds. The cake is styrofoam so it won’t melt in the heat. The subjects are paid models. The florist is there making sure the flowers are lively and fresh. The lead photographer is guiding and instructing what to look for and how to pose your models.
Most importantly, there’s no timeline. Guests aren’t waiting for a ceremony to begin or dinner to be served. For outdoor styled shoots, our only time constraint is the sun setting.
All this to say, real weddings have a mind of their own. There’s the pressure of the timeline. There’s good old fashioned family drama. There’s a myriad of things that could flip the timeline on its head. Being able to work in these types of environments & still produce quality photographs that meet & exceed your expectations is not an inexperienced photographer can do well.
Dayle’s Tip: Ask To See Full Galleries; styled shoots are really a big deal right now, everyone is doing them, but those shoots are not realistic for brides and grooms on their wedding day. A lot of times the majority of what you’re seeing on a photographer’s website is images curated from Styled Shoots. So make sure you ask for photos from the photographer’s full gallery so you can get images of actual wedding day photos!
.5 PHOTOGRAPHERS STYLE
What style do you want to have for your entire wedding? Maybe you want classic and chic with a modern twist, or you’d prefer a rustic and laid-back wedding. Whatever your style, make sure it’s prominent. Once you pick one, find photographs that capture that style. What draws you to them? Do they have a lot of formal portraits and group shots, or do they have a more intimate touch? This will help you decide if you need a classic or dramatic photographer. A lot of the work in modern photography is done in post-processing. When you’re looking at a photographer’s portfolio, it’s helpful to know that images don’t come out of the camera the way that you see them. This will help you pick a photographer whose post-processing you like. The most common types of processing at the moment are:
CLEAN: Process true to life.
LIGHT AND AIRY: Dreamy, lots of light, almost gauzy.
FILM EMULATION: This can range from dark and moody, somewhat less vibrant colours.
.5 PACKAGES, PRICE AND WHAT THEY OFFER
When looking at someone’s pricing, be careful to see what’s included in the package you’re looking at. Things like second shooters, additional hours, hi-res JPGs, albums, and engagement sessions may be included in the price quote, or might be extra money. Just make sure you’re not signing up to pay more later for things you definitely want (i.e., having your wedding photos taken isn’t worth all that much if you have to pay $3,000 extra to get the files). That said, things like albums and prints can always be ordered later when you’re not facing the burden of paying for a wedding, so if you love someone’s art, but they don’t include as many bells and whistles with their package, go for the art.
When comparing two or more photographers for your wedding you may wonder why there is so much discrepancy in price and packages?
Prices usually depend on a variety of things but mostly are based on the following things:
.01 WEDDING EXPERIENCE & KNOWLEDGE – new photographers tend to be on the lower end of price until they can build their portfolio. Many portrait photographers start with doing portraits for friends and family then work they way up to paid opportunities. Most of these begin to dabble in Wedding Photography once they get a chance to shoot a wedding. (most often a friend of the couple) I recommend to all new photographers to reach out and offer to second shoot multiple weddings prior to taking the lead on a wedding. There is so many more things to know and what to look for other than being able to capture great photos.
.02 SIDE GIG OR FULL TIME PROFESSIONAL- most of the local photographers also have other full or part time jobs and love doing photography as a hobby and a side gig. There is nothing wrong with this, I did this for years. I do feel however that clients who have a professional photographer daily in the business are more likely to have the focus and the knowledge needed to exceed your wedding day expectations.
.03 EQUIPMENT, EDUCATION AND BUSINESS INSURANCE- Professional Photographers who offer wedding photography must have professional gear. From camera, external lights and high end lenses. These all have shelf lives and do need to be replaced every few years. Every wedding is putting mileage on the equipment just like multiple long trips with your car. With all this gear also comes the need to be well educated on how to use them in all the different lighting / weather situations previously discussed. You will want a photographer who is knowledgeable and comfortable with any scenario that may come.
You also would be wise to have a photographer who has adequate insurance in the event that anything goes wrong with your wedding or wedding files before delivery. Although you may not be able to get lost images back but at least with a professionally insured photographer, your payment will be refunded fully. I am personally registered with PPOC, Professional Photographers of Canada. It is an highly recognized organization that holds their members to a professional standard of photography and ensures all members are properly trained and insured.
The sum of it all is that you want to be comfortable with your photographer and have the utmost confidence that they will exceed your photography expectations while being professional, relatable, fun and in charge of your day. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions