Choosing a wedding photographer can be a daunting task! Googling “Wedding Photography + (your city)” yields an overwhelming amount of results, especially if you’re not even sure what you’re looking for. Understanding your own photographic needs will help you narrow down your search for wedding photographers and make the job a lot easier, not to mention, it will help you find a wedding photographer that is the perfect fit for you!
When searching for a wedding photographer, you have to keep several things in mind: Style, Needs, Budget & Personality. Does the photographer have a style that you like? Do they offer a variety of packages that can suit your needs? Can they do what you want on the budget you have allotted for yourself? Do you feel like your personality fits well with that of the photographers? Can you see yourself being comfortable with them on one of the most happy (and yet potentially the most stressful) day of your life? These are important questions you need to ask yourself in order to best choose a wedding photographer. Let’s explore this topic in a little more detail…
There are so many terms floating around that descrive wedding photography. A quick google search yields: traditional, candid, photojournalistic, illustrative, super-glam, natural light, artistic, prop-based and fine art – just to name a few! With so many “styles” out there, how can you possibly figure out what style you are?
I wrote an article last week about wedding photography styles and I would really encourage you to read that! Understanding your wedding photography style will help lead you to a photographer that’s better suited to you. Keep in mind, however, that different styles of wedding photography may require different timelines in your wedding day. For example, if you have chosen a photographer who is very contemporary and likes to play with different lighting and locations and use all kinds of unique poses you must allow for enough time on your wedding day for them to do their job properly. (This means talking to them first, getting an estimate of the time they need, and creating your timeline around that!)
Understanding your style also helps you understand your budget. In general, traditional and photojournalistic wedding photographers are slightly more affordable than fine art and some contemporary photographers since much more work is required by the fine art/contemporary photographer in order to produce their works of art.
Every couple has different needs on their wedding day. Some couples hate having their photos taken and only want photography for a minimum amount of time (simply to please family) while other couples want to be super models and have an entire paparazzi team follow them throughout the day.
Every photographer packages their services differently; some offer albums as part of a package while others let you purchase them later if you so choose. Some offer full day coverage only while others offer partial day coverage. Some photographers offer the option of a 2nd shooter while others prefer to work solo. Some photographers even give you the option of having a “Trash the Dress” of boudoir session added in as part of your wedding photos! Determine what your photographic needs are and that will help you choose a photographer. (If you only need a few hours of coverage, you can’t let yourself fall in love with a photographer who offers only full-day packages unless you’re willing to bend your budget!)
That being said… although most photographers are flexible enough to alter their packages every so slightly, you also cannot expect a photographer to be something they are not or offer you something that is totally out of the norm just to suit your needs. Photographers package their services according to what they know they can delivery. You cannot expect one photographer to “honour” or “copy” another photographers package. This is the situation I’m talking about Photographer ‘A’ has a full day package price of $3,000 with one photographer. Photographer ‘B’ also has a full day package price of $3,000 but offers 2 photographers. You like Photographer A’s work better, but you really want the 2nd photographer. You cannot expect Photographer ‘A’ to find a hire a 2nd photographer just so they can match Photographer ‘B”s package. Comparing two photographers is like comparing apples to oranges – they are separate artists who run separate companies.
Every bride and groom will allocate money differently when it comes to wedding expenses. There is no magical “percentage” of your budget that you should devote to photography, no matter what the wedding magazines and planning websites may tell you (Don’t worry, I’ll rant another that some other day!). The fact of the matter is: if your wedding day photos are incredibly important to you, then you may want to consider investing a larger portion of your budget into that service to ensure you get the quality you want.
Perhaps it’s the effect of the digital revolution, but these days most brides seem to be immediately disregarding any wedding photographer who doesn’t offer everything on DVD. Most brides also insist that all of these photos are fully edited without even understanding what ‘fully edited’ means. These same brides also want the option of having a second photographer, unlimited coverage on the day and even an engagement session. The unfortunate part is that these same brides suffer from sticker shock when they realize what the cost associated with their requests is.
So how does the digital revolution result in sticker shock? It’s because so many individuals assume that since there is no physical ‘darkroom’ anymore that prices should be cheaper. I’ve already written a pretty thorough article about why wedding photography seems to be so expensive, so I won’t get into it too much here. Let’s just say, though, that to a certain degree, quality is relative to price; however, there are two exceptions.
- The “Too Good To Be True” Photographer: If someone is willing to give you the world for just a few hundred dollars, you need to question whether their work is actually reliable and of high enough quality to be responsible for capturing your once-in-a-lifetime memories. How many weddings have they really done? Do they have appropriate and professional gear? What about backup gear? Are they insured? Maybe you’ll luck out and love their style regardless and choose them to be your wedding photographer, but most brides will turn the other way and run – FAST!
- The “Charging you Triple Because of Their ‘Amazing’ Reputation” Photographer: Some photographers have a reputation for being “absolutely amazing” no matter what kind of work they pump out and although some photographers are truly amazing and humble about it, every now and then you stumble on a photographer who uses their popular reputation to their advantage and jacks up their prices because they know people will pay anything to get them! You can usually find this situation in smaller towns and cities where there is less competition between photographers, however, it could happen anywhere. If you see a photographer whose prices are nearing the five-digit mark, you need to ask yourself what is so different about this photographer in order to justify prices that are so ridiculously high? Are they offering you something that no one else can? Are they really that good or are they simply riding the coat tails of their reputation and using that for their financial advantage?
On a final note about budgets, as important as it is for a professional photographer to offer reasonable prices, it is equally as important for the bride & groom to be resonable when shopping around for a photographer. There are some brides out there who want top-quality service from a pro who has been at this for years, combined with 1,000+ images, fully edited on DVD, unlimited coverage, a second photographer, albums and engagement sessions… but they only want to spend a thousand dollars. Sorry to break it to you, brides, but these kinds of expectations are simply unreasonable. Part of proper budgeting is to understanding the relationship between your requests and the amount of work it takes to complete those requests.
You can love a photographer’s work and you can be amazed by their prices… but what would you do if, after meeting them in person, you found them to be distracted or arrogant or even rude? What if they were nice, but you just didn’t feel yourself “click” with them? Would you still book with them?
Getting along well with your photographer is crucial! Your photographer will be the person you trust to capture the most important memories of your wedding day and if you butt-heads with them it will, in some part, reflect in your images. When you are comfortable with your photographer, you can work well together to create unique poses in a trusting atmosphere – this results in precious works of art and memories that will last a lifetime.
So what happens when you find two wedding photographers who you really, really like? What if both of them are your style, both have packages that meet your needs, both are within your budget and you have a great first impression of both of them? Although this situation is rare, it can happen. If you find yourself in this predicament, take a look at their album services! Even if you don’t want an album – take a look at what they have to offer and it will give you much insight into how they run their business. If they only offer 1 or 2 types of really expensive albums then they may not be as flexible as you first thought. If they don’t offer albums at all, it may be a sign that they are inexperienced or incapable of properly designing a finished product (which gives you a big hint about their skills!).
Choosing a the right wedding photographer can be a very difficult and frustrating task, but rest assured, when you look at your photos 20 years from now and you still love them, you’ll be so happy that you put so much hard work into it!