Choosing a Wedding Photographer
Howdy y’all! And happy engagement if you’ve just been proposed to (or are planning it!) Now the search is on. The days of when your mother planned your wedding at the local church and the reception to follow included rice being tossed at you before you zoomed off in your 1954 Ford coupe are no more. I mean, that would be amazing but here we are in 2019. This is the age of media and if you’re a bride, a year of very important decisions. What venue do you want, what about the reception, and of course, what colors will you choose to accentuate your perfect day?
Along with all of those decisions, which are of course important and help define the feel and look of your wedding day, come vendor selections. DJs, caterers, florists, makeup and hair artists, wedding dress designers, shoes, nails, tuxedos, bridal party gifts, save the dates, invitations, and of course, photographers.
Sounds like a lot to think about, right? Well don’t sweat it. Not everything needs to happen overnight. In fact, if you can set a wedding date out a year to a year and a half in advance, that leaves plenty of time to choose your vendors, and pay them so you don’t have any leftover expenses after the wedding is over. (If you’re planning on a shorter turnaround time, don’t worry, it will still be just as amazing. The timeline just gets a little more full between proposal and wedding.)
And while we can talk about how to plan for your perfect wedding day with minimal stress, let’s save that for another time. Instead, let’s talk about wedding photographers.
After you book a venue, your next step should be to secure a photographer. I’m not going to lecture you on how a photographer is one of the most important parts of a wedding day because honestly, while it may be true for some, truly what is most important is that you get married to the love of your life, have a wonderful wedding day, and remember it with fondness and joy. That’s it. Wedding photography just helps you look back and remember all those moments that start to get fuzzy as time passes. (so by the end I really will have tried to nonchalantly perhaps convince you).
I can still remember so many little details from my wedding including driving a rental truck to get all our chairs on that day, getting dressed in our apartment, shaving off my beard (mistake), and of course the first time I saw Felicia get out of that 1941 Ford coupe that she pulled up in. (Seriously, she did). I remember placing the ring on her finger and kissing her for the first time as my wife. Our wedding day was wonderful. It rained, things didn’t go perfectly, and we are still happily married and living our best lives.
With that being said, there are still so many moments I revisit from my wedding day in photos. Thanks to my photographer, she captured tender moments between Felicia and her mom, funny moments I didn’t get to see, and of course all my family and friends in the crowd to see us promise ourselves to one another. Because I didn’t see any of that. I was in the present moment with my beautiful bride. There were people at my wedding that I didn’t even know were coming! And thanks to some reception introductions and wedding photos, I’ll always remember.
So let’s talk about choosing a photographer. Because while you might think that price is the only factor that goes into choosing someone, that’s the last point I’ll actually be talking about.
1. Personality. Yours and theirs. Photographers are more than just their pictures. We are people with personalities and experiences. Your first stop before booking a photographer is to ask you (and your fiance) what are the important aspects of what you’re looking for in wedding photography or in a more general sense, how do you want your wedding day to feel? Do you want it to be laid back and relaxed, should it be prompt and by the book, elegant and lavish with all the trimmings, or something a little different? Most of the people I have spoken with say that they want their guests and family to have a good time and that they want them to remember how much fun their wedding day was. Depending on your personality type, laid back, detailed, or somewhere in between, will help you to decide who is best suited for you. Photographers come in many sizes, shapes and abilities. Now that you’ve reflected on what is important and who you are, my next suggestion is to meet the photographers that you have researched in person--or via Skype. Photographers love nothing more than to buy you a coffee--or something stronger--and sit down to talk about you! Literally, one of my most favorite things is to hear about how a couple met and all of the funny details, the mishaps, and all the cozy love that came with it along with way. While speaking to a photographer, you should see how you three get along because honestly, you may spend more time with the photographer than you do even your future spouse on your wedding day. We are one of the few vendors that spends almost all day with you and even if you aren’t sitting and chatting the whole time, they’re still with you through prep, details, portraits, ceremony and reception. By being comfortable and less guarded around this person with a camera in their hands, you’re bet to have a much better day knowing that you can rest easy because you chose someone you enjoy being around. (of course that’s not all there is to it but that’s the beginning).
2. Style. This is something that could easily span pages and pages. Instead I’ll cover three trend styles that I see as a photographer, discuss the differences, and link some work to it. Light and airy--this is an approach used where many of the images have a dreamy, light and bright feel. In my opinion I think that they represent a wedding very well, especially if you’re having something very formal and grand outdoors with lots of natural light. L&A photographers use bright backgrounds and bright foregrounds which create a cohesive feel to all of your images. Next up are dark and moody photographers. These photographers use darker backgrounds and a unique editing style to hone in the romance and coziness of your day. Sometimes they will desaturate certain brighter colors such as greens and yellows to bring them down and to create a more uniform look for the images. Finally, we have photographers who shoot with more natural color. We might use the word timeless but it just really means that your colors and image will look how it does in real life. With style comes the approach to your wedding and how it’s photographed and not just processed afterward. There are a few types of approaches here but I’ll cover the most common ones.
Traditional--many of the images they’ll take are posed--most everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. These images aren’t necessarily forced but rather planned and thought out. There are some action shots as well but many of the images are meant to be planned and thoughtful.
Lifestyle--a candid approach to the photographer but with direction and a setting of the scene. Lifestyle photographers allow natural moments to happen but help to make them look their best by preparing everyone, setting things up, and ensuring that a bride’s day is captured as it happens.
Dramatic and Artistic--different in that dramatic usually includes some very cool lighting approaches from a photographer. Dramatic may partially fall under the artistic approach as well--but it’s similar to allowing a couple to act naturally but by setting the scene in a very picturesque kind of way. Brides and grooms may be far away in the image, showcasing the entire venue or location, it may be up close with intimate details, etc.
Documentary--a style of approach where the photographer purely captures the candid, intimate, and natural happenings of the day. When it is time, they’ll set up groups to look their best against the best background but will not overemphasize posed portraiture.
All of these types of styles and editing approaches make up the artistic aspects of a photographer. So by knowing that you like a dark and moody by dramatic approach because you think it looks amazing--will help you pick your favorite photographers. If you enjoy a more natural approach with candid but intimate moments or an other mix--you’ll find who you’re looking for. Review a photographer’s website, look at their blog and see their images, and of course, meet up in person!
3. Add-ons! This is a particularly important part of what a photographer can offer you. While all photographers will be taking pictures of you on your wedding day--and most likely you’ll be receiving a lot of digital images via an online gallery or perhaps a USB “thumb drive” something important to think about is how will you be viewing them? Well, of course you’ll share your favorites on Facebook--but did you just pay thousands of dollars to share 20 images to Facebook? If that were the case, I’d recommend to every bride that they save their money and NOT use a photographer. (insert laugh track here). I’m just kidding but I always ask my brides and my friends who have other photographers booked, how they plan on seeing their images. Most state that they’ll get them printed after the wedding. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Once your wedding is over--the honeymoon has passed and you’re back to the normal life you lived before all the planning--but now with an amazing partner, you won’t want to spend any more money on your wedding. Weddings are expensive--and even if you budget, it can still range from $5000 to $50000. The average cost of a wedding in Indiana in 2018 was $22,000. While you can’t necessarily put a price tag on happiness because weddings are important an one of the most special days of your life. So that means that you should be thinking of how you want to look back on your best day. If your photographer offers an album option, seriously consider adding it into your wedding day coverage. It’s easier to pay it off before the wedding than after--in fact--while I can’t speak for every photographer, most will allow you to make monthly payments on your wedding photography--after a deposit of course. Personally, after my deposit--clients can pay monthly, quarterly, or all at once. And while an add-on like an album might cost a little extra--it’s something that you won’t have to design and can trust that your photographer has done the absolute most research in choosing their albums for the quality, cost to client, and ease of use. We use words like “heirloom quality” which means that it’s something that you’re going to pass down to your family--to your children--to your grandchildren. And you help design it. I offer albums to my clients after they’ve chosen their favorite images, I put a chronological viewing of your wedding day together in your album. Then after it’s put together I send it for you to review--you OK it or we make changes--and then voila, it arrives directly to your door. Easy peasy. It’s paid for and no more money comes out of your pocket after the wedding. Now you can start saving up for your new home, your next big vacation, or other special additions to your new family!
4.Price--our last bit of blog is about price--the most “taboo” subject of all things. Except that price really isn’t. It’s just a matter of life--services and goods cost money. We go to the supermarket and buy milk, we purchase items that make our lives better, that enhance our lives--that enrich us. Wedding photography should enhance your wedding day, enrich your experience, and help you to live a better happily ever after because if your wedding day is documented appropriately, looking back is that much sweeter.
While I cannot tell you how much to spend on anything--I can tell you that if you find a photographer that you love--that you get along with--and that has a product that you want for your wedding day, don’t bat an eye--call them up. Wedding images are the one thing that you take away from your special day-they’re the only thing that stands the test of time while our memory fades 30, 40, 60 years down the road. Wedding photography today isn’t just some schmo snapping a few aimless pictures--it’s creating a piece of art of each moment. It will show you all of the amazing people that came to your wedding, your grandmother and grandfather that won’t be around forever--you’ll see pictures of your dad tearing up as he sees you for the first time in your wedding gown, your first kiss, your first dance, and the last one too.
It’s good to know what you can afford when going into searching for wedding photography--because I do believe that everything has a budget. But remember when thinking about the entire day--these are the things that last a lifetime--the flowers die, the cake gets eaten, but your wedding photographs are for a lifetime--and beyond.