5 Tips to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
It’s engagement season, that time frame from Thanksgiving to Valentines Day where guys are getting down on one knee and surprising the one they love with hopefully a knock-out ring! I have no idea when the term Engagement Season was coined but I noticed jewelry stores are now even advertising it in their commercials so I think its here to stay. I fall right in with the masses because I was proposed to on New Years Eve ;).
For wedding vendors after engagement season comes booking season when the newly engaged start figuring out their plans for their wedding day. So I thought I’d get a jump start on booking season and put together 5 tips to choose your wedding photographer!
After shooting weddings for 7+ years I’ve gathered a lot of knowledge that is really useful to newly engaged couples but can be rather boring to old married couples at cocktail parties. So I figured why not share it with people who care ;).
Instead of going through all the different styles of photographers out there I’m going to narrow in what I think you should look for and why. You want your wedding photos to be clean, crisp and bright. Not over-processed with lots of contrast and poppy colors and not vintage with a yellow or blue haze across everything.
Your wedding photos should be timeless celebrating two people in love, they should fit with any decor so you will be happy to have them hanging in your home even 20 years from now.
We choose our friends based on how we get along and what their personality is like and it should be on different when choosing your wedding photographer. You might think you’re not in the market for a new friend you are just hiring a vendor but would you stand in front of the band half naked while your bridesmaids put your dress on you? Probably not!
See your photographer will be there with you for more time on your wedding day than any other vendor. We are like your own personal paparazzi that is balancing capturing beautiful candid and posed images of you with not annoying you to death. Spending all that time together will go a lot better for us both if we like each other!
So if you meet a photographer that just seems to rub you the wrong way even though you love their portfolio keep looking because you want to remember your photography experience as happy and fun. This goes for the groom as well, you should both really like your photographer’s personality.
We’ve all heard the horror story of a friend who hired a friend to shoot their wedding instead of an experienced professional. Her flash never went off in half the images and the photos were all tilted. Tilting goes back to style and I say run for the hills if you see tilted photos! Equipment malfunctions happen but an experienced professional knows what to do to fix it in the moment.
When you hire a photographer with wedding-specific experience you know they have seen most situations when it comes to weddings and can handle whatever gets thrown at them. Ask them how many weddings they’ve photographed and can they show you full galleries of weddings in similar locations as yours? If you have specific requests for your photos ask ahead of time to see if they can accommodate them or refer you to someone who can.
I think the biggest thing my experience has taught me is the confidence to tell a client when I don’t think I can do what they want and refer them to someone who can. On the flip side, it’s also given me the confidence to tell them when I can and show them examples of how I’ve done it in the past.
You have to trust your photographer. If you love their style and personality and know they have the necessary experience and portfolio examples to match what you want don’t be afraid to let them do their job. A great wedding photographer will go over all the details with you from timelines to vendors to family photos and they will ask questions so they know if Aunt Mildred will cut someone if they try to get a photo of her with Uncle Frank.
Trust is also a biggie when it comes to shot lists. If you are hiring an experienced professional as we talked about above they know to get a photo of you walking down the aisle with your dad. The photographer might not know that your favorite cousin has flown in from Alaska and you haven’t seen her in years and want to get a photo together. For those shots please tell us!
Oh, the biggie I’ve saved it for last. The saying goes you get what you pay for and it definitely is true with wedding photography. I’ve heard and experienced myself the pain of hiring a cheaper newer photographer and then regretting it later. Photographers will tell you after the cake has been eaten, the flowers have died and the party is over the only thing left to remind you is the ring on your finger and the photos in your wedding album. It sounds cliche but it’s true.
Pricing definitely correlates with experience and I’ve noticed it almost directly ties into how many years a photographer has been shooting. I’ve seen that typically someone with less then a year of experience is under $1000. 1-2 years $1000-$2000, 3-4 years $3000-$4000 and so on. At 4+ years you usually find a price around $5000 for the VA, DC, MD area.
There are anomalies though, I know a gentleman in the business for over 20 years who charges under $4k and I know someone with 8 years experience charging $10k. Both are excellent photographers one just markets better than the other ;).
Here is an article with a breakdown on what a $50, 000 budget looks like when hiring vendors. If you are prioritizing one area like photography over another area like florals you might allocate a larger percentage to your photographer and less to your florist. Vice versa of course! You get to decide what is important to you as a couple.
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