Weddings truly are a celebration of love. The day you have spent so much time preparing for, dreaming of, and investing in, will go by quickly. And believe me when I tell you this: It will go by in a blink. After all the guests have gone home and the cake has been eaten, all of the tiny details that you painstakingly curated will exist only in your memories and in photographs after that day. Your photographs are the only wedding expense that will GAIN value with time. And let me let you in on a little secret….These photos are not really for you. Of course you will love them and cherish them, but your photographs are actually capturing and documenting the beginning of your legacy. These photos are for future generations to look back and see where they came from. This is pretty heavy to think about, but it is one of the main reasons to invest in a wedding photographer who can tell the unique story of your day. So how do you choose? Out of the thousands of choices in photographers, how do you pick the right one?
In my opinion it comes down to storytelling; literally telling YOUR love story. Each couple has their own love story and every photographer has their own flare for the best way to tell that story through photographs. Two photographers in the exact same room, watching the exact same moments unfold, with the exact same gear can create vastly different images. You will want to spend time looking through different photographer’s portfolios. Pay attention to each photographer’s style. Look for images that speak to you.
As you’re looking through portfolios, keep an eye out for what identifies the photographer’s portfolio as their own, this is their style. Maybe that style is vivid, bold colors. Or maybe is a dark and moody vibe. Or maybe it is the way they capture that dreamy golden hour light. Find what speaks to you and how you imagine your story being told to future generations. Use social media to your advantage. Pour over tons and tons of wedding photos until you know which style you love and then seek out a photographer who specializes in that style. Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone who specializes in one style and expect them to change that style for you. Just as some people prefer the opera to a rock concert, some people prefer bold vivid photography to light and airy photography. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, but you would never go to the opera and expect to see a rock concert because that is your preference and you paid to hear music.
Another important thing to consider is your budget. And while it is important to stick to your budget, it is just as important to know what good photography consistent with the style you have chosen costs in your area. Just as there is a huge range in style, there is a huge range in pricing as well. You will want to be sure that your photographer has the experience to shoot your wedding and all the tools necessary to get the job done. I'm talking about professional grade gear, back up gear, insurance etc. I'm sure you could find someone to shoot your wedding on Craigslist for $200 or a friend with a good camera who will do it for free. One thing I will say about pricing is the same thing that is true of most things: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Know what wedding photography in your market costs and expect to set a budget in that range.
After you have narrowed down the players based on their body of work and your budget you need to make sure your personalities are compatible. You will spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than anyone else (including your new spouse). Let that sink in for a minute . Since the photographer will likely start documenting while you are getting ready it is not an exaggeration to say you will be spending more time with the photographer than your spouse. Now imagine spending that much time with someone who’s company you did not enjoy…on the most important day of your life. So how do you know if you will like them? Look for their personality to come across in their social media, on their “about me” pages of their websites and more importantly… connect with them personally while you are in the “interviewing” process. Maybe this connection will be via email, or maybe phone. It can be skype, facetime, an in person meeting, or whatever works for you and the photographer. But please don’t let the first time you connect with your photographer be when they show up to shoot your wedding. Having an engagement shoot is a great way for both you and the photographer to know what to expect from each other on the wedding day. I recommend an engagement session to all my couples for this reason.
This is a big decision so it is important to research. Its also a good idea to ask for recommendations and testimonials not just from friends and family, but from online sources as well. What do other who have hired them have to say about the experience?
The last factor to consider is experience. Weddings are far different than styled shots, family sessions, etc. The stress of a wedding day isn't for the weak of heart. It takes time and experience to be able to deal with the stress of a wedding day in a calm and professional manner. Experienced professionals know how to make people feel comfortable, as well as deal with situations that may arise in ways that a new photographer may not. Your wedding is not the time for someone to try something new. It may be tempting to ask a friend with a good camera to shoot your wedding to save money, but this rarely ends well. There are no re-dos for your wedding photos. It's like the old saying goes, “Experience can be expensive, but under the wrong conditions, could prove to be priceless”.
Last but not least: Go with your gut. You will know when you make the right connection. Did you fall in love with the photographer’s style? And when you made a personal connection you hit it off and felt like old friends? Have you done your research to be sure they have all the necessary professional requirements such as insurance, back up gear etc? Have you researched and found reviews from former clients and other wedding professionals? Is the price tag within the budget that you have set (which you researched beforehand to know what quality photography in your area costs)? If you have answered, “Yes” to these questions, I believe you have found the right photographer.
My last piece of advice after you have chosen your photographer is to trust them to capture your memories. Enjoy your day, soak it in and let the professional worry about documenting your love story.