Finding a wedding photographer that’s “the one” is like finding your groom all over again. (Well–sort of.) It is pretty important, though: when the cake’s been eaten, the gown’s been stored away in the attic, what’s left? Your memories and any images that your photographer was able to capture. Of course you hope that those photos have captured not only your own vision of the day, but all the details you didn’t see—your grandmother crying at your wedding vows; your sisters joyously laughing at your Dad burning up the dance floor; your gorgeous tabletops before any guests arrived. Must we go on?
Believe us when we say you WANT a wedding photographer you wholeheartedly trust, personally and professionally. This doesn’t mean you had to know each other for 10 years; this relationship is one that can develop quickly. It may even be love at first sight—you’ll know you’ve met “the one” the moment you’ve met the one.
At the end of the day, your photographer holds the key to your wedding memories. She’ll capture everything you wanted to remember and much, much more. The more she feels she knows “you” as a couple, the better she’ll do in capturing your big day. To find “the one” who’ll snap the quiet moment you shared with your groom after the ceremony, but also the flower girl asleep on her father’s shoulder, and won’t forget to take a close-up of the macaroons on the dessert table or the locket tucked inside your wedding bouquet, you’ll need to ask A LOT of questions and spend A LOT of time obsessing over photographers’ wedding portfolios (online and in person).
But before you even get to that point, you’ll need to know a little something about wedding photography in the first place and about your own nuptials. Know what YOU want first before you ask how THEY can deliver. Here are the questions you must ask YOURSELVES before you even book a meeting with a photographer.
1. What kinds of photographs do you like? No, not them, YOU! Most wedding photographers do photojournalistic but within that group are ones who can make your images have a vintage feel, a documentary-style look, a traditional feel to the portraits. Some might toe the line of trendy or fashion-forward. What do you want your pictures to look like? How would you describe your style? You can start gathering LIKES and DISLIKES by tearing out, tagging, or pinning images from magazines, websites, Pinterest, wherever. These don’t have to be stills, portraits, or wedding photos at all. A good photographer will understand your style just by looking at what kinds of images you are drawn to.
2. What do you want in the prints package? What are you looking to get from the photographer? Prints? Proofs? Do you want this photographer to do a wedding album for you of final selects you made or they made? Do you want a CD with everything including out-takes? Can you order prints? Reprints? How will friends and family be able to order prints? And how fast do you want to see something after the wedding? “Most packages include at least coverage and an online gallery plus usually a disc with hi-res image files,” says Brooke Fitts of Brookelyn Photography in New York. “Other package additions might be an engagement session, album, or print credit.” Ultimately, photography packages will differ from photographer to photographer so be sure to ask what their packages include and ask yourselves what is it that you want to walk away with.
3. How large is your wedding? How many guests you invited will impact how a photographer can wrap their head around getting everything you want done in the timeframe you want it done in. “[Size] is important from a photographer’s perspective to ensure there’s enough coverage to be sure a moment isn’t missed,” says Jasmine Star of Jasmine Star Photography in California. “If a bride is planning a 450-person wedding, the photographer might want to bring an extra photographer for additional coverage.”
4. Where is the wedding taking place? Are you having it in a hotel ballroom? On a vineyard? Is it a destination wedding? A wedding in a family friend’s home? Not only will there be logistical issues to contend with (can the photographer drive there in a couple hours or need to fly and stay over for the weekend?) but there are mechanical details to be hammered out, preferably ahead of time. Says Star, “When the photographer knows more about the venue in advance, the better she is equipped to deal with architectural or lighting challenges if they present themselves.”
5. What are your must-take shots? What’s really important to you on this day? Do you want to be sure you capture people and emotions? Details? A little of both? The food, the favors, the huppah, your cute-as-pumpkin-pie ring bearer’s big gummy smile? Do you want a photographer who doesn’t even have to ask about photographing the yellow Converse you’ve paired with your custom-designed gown (duh)? Or do you want to be sure she captures your Maid of Honor anxiously rehearsing her speech? Really think about what’s important to you and make sure you see this in their portfolio.
6. What’s your budget? Wedding photography don’t come cheap. But, the range for every photographer is probably so vast based on your specific needs. Know what you can afford before you have the chat about prices and packages. “There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect photographer and later realizing her fees are beyond your reach,” says Star. “It’s best to manage expectations in advance, find a photographer who aligns with your budget, and then book according to aesthetic preferences, not who’ll offer the best deal.”
7. How private are you as a couple? Don’t forget to consider your exposure. With Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and who the heck knows what else, your wedding might very well be seen by, oh, all of America. Worldwide. In the stratosphere. Some brides may love seeing their images on their photographer’s website and popping up in magazines and on wedding blogs. Others might be mortified that their “intimate wedding” doesn’t feel so “intimate” anymore. Understand your rights to privacy and your photographer’s rights to copyright. But remember this: A photographer is an artist and it’s imperative that they be able to showcase their work. Any photographer will need to use their images to promote their own business and gain new clients. Explains Star, “Having discussions about privacy concerns are tantamount to a successful working relationship, but brides should keep in mind that they likely found a photographer’s work by images on the web… If they remove the very thing that drew them to the artist in the first place, chances are the photographer may not want to take the wedding because she cannot showcase the work. It’s like a commissioned painter asked to keep his paintings in a dark basement.” Bottom line: Know exactly how much exposure-to-others you are okay with. Try to be reasonable given this digital world we live in. And ask the right questions before you sign the dotted line.
8. How involved do you want to be? Lastly, ask yourselves how “in control” you think you’ll be. Do you want a wedding photographer who’ll make snapshot decisions? Are you okay veering from the plan and letting the day take its natural course? Are you obsessive and controlling and you know it and you need to lay out a must-take shot list, must-not-waste-time shot list? How involved do you want to be on your wedding day when it comes to what the photographer is snapping and when? Really being honest with yourself and with your potential photographer will help you (and them) know if it’s a match made in heaven or hell. How will you know she’s “the one”? “Trust your instinct,” says Lara Robby of Lara Robby Photography in New York. “Do you connect with them? Do they get your vision?” And please, we beg you, please—once you’ve gone with your gut and made your decision, TRUST your wedding photographer! There’s a reason you hired him or her so the best thing you can do for yourself (and to get the best photos from them) is to let them do their job!
For more photography insider tips, check out 10 Must-Have Photographs, 10 Expert Tips For Creating The Perfect Wedding Photos, and 7 Questions To Ask Your Wedding Photographer.
[Photo: Jasmine Star]