I recently stumbled upon an online conversation about a Summer 2014 bride who is still waiting for the images from her wedding. As a wedding photographer, this makes me very sad for the bride and a little bit angry at the same time. My goal as a wedding photographer is to capture beautiful images and deliver them to the bride and groom in a timely manner. I want every couple to enjoy their photos and have them to share with family and friends as quickly as possible. I felt, therefore, that a few tips on what to look for when hiring a wedding photographer would help brides so that they can have the best experience possible.
As you start your search for a wedding photographer, you will want to consider many things. There will be business issues, creative style, and technical differences. First, the business issues:
- Does the photographer have a business license and liability insurance? Having a license and insurance indicates that the photographer is serious about his/her business. This provides you with a level of protection as a customer, and should indicate a desire by the photographer to follow business and tax laws.
- Does the wedding photographer require that you sign a contract? Contracts are used to protect both parties. Make sure it is not a one-sided contract. Never hire a photographer without a contract that defines each side’s expectations and responsibilities.
- Remember that the internet is your friend. Google the photographer’s name. See what comes up. Does the photographer have a legitimate website? Is the photographer active? Can you find any reviews or comments about this photographer?
Now let’s look at the creative issues. Anyone can get lucky with their camera and take a gorgeous image in perfect light. Sadly, there are no guarantees that your wedding day is going to be filled with perfect light. Keep these creative issues in mind as you are searching for your wedding photographer:
- Ask to see a full wedding from start to finish. Look for consistency of quality in all images. Can the photographer shoot in bright sunlight at noon? Can the photographer shoot in a dimly lit ceremony/reception? Can the photographer shoot indoors? (That one may seem like a given, but you would be very shocked to know how many photographers cannot shoot indoors.)
- Are there are a variety of people in the photographer’s wedding portfolio? No two couples are alike; therefore, seeing that your photographer can beautifully shoot a wide variety of subjects will serve you and your guests.
- Does every image look like it is styled for a magazine shoot? If so, then it is probably from a workshop or a “styled session” in which the photographer worked with other vendors to create the best case scenario – beautiful models, gorgeous dress, professional hair and make-up, etc. I don’t know about you, but my own wedding wasn’t straight out of a magazine. It was nice and basic. Your photographer should be able to create beautiful shots without a team of stylists in tow.
- Know the photographer’s visual style. What is your vision for your wedding day? Traditional, artistic, photojournalistic? Make sure your desires are communicated and understood by any potential photographer. In fact, go one step further and know the photographer’s editing style. Do you know what type of style you like? Styles range from clean (with little to no processing) to heavily processed.
To help with this part, I took one of my own images and edited it a few different ways to give you an idea of how the same image can look very different. The styles are numerous, and you need to know what you want!
Last but definitely not least (in fact it may be the most important), let’s look at the technical side:
- Does the photographer use professional equipment or at the very least semi-professional equipment? This is something every bride needs to know. What type of equipment does the photographer use? Dig in. Ask questions. Come prepared when you meet with the photographer. I am not saying that a photographer with a base model DSLR camera cannot take beautiful images. However, high-quality, professional equipment better produces high-quality, consistent images.
- Does the photographer have a back-up plan? Back-up equipment is vital to every wedding photographer. A new photographer rarely considers what he/she will do if the worst happens. Several years ago, I purchased a new camera and used it at a wedding a few days later. Everything was going amazingly well, and I was thrilled with how my images were turning out. At the beginning of the reception, I changed my lens and knocked something loose in my brand new camera rendering it unusable. Had I not had my back-up camera, I would have been in the bathroom crying on the phone, begging for someone to bring me a camera. This also applies to memory cards, batteries, etc. A wedding photographer should never shoot a wedding without back-ups galore.
Please note, I’m not saying that you can’t hire your aunt’s co-worker who has a new camera and is giving you a great deal because she wants experience. I’m all for new photographers gaining experience and growing professionally, but as a bride you need to be aware of what you are getting. Please choose wisely. If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. At the very least, read through these tips and discuss these things with any photographer you choose. Twenty-five years from now, you won’t pull out your wedding cake and share a bite, you probably won’t go out for a night on the town in your wedding dress, and in fact, you may have lost the majority of your everyday spoons, but you will pull out those photos again and again, don’t regret your choice each time you do.
Suzanne McNeil Photography - Knoxville Wedding Photographer