Wedding Planning 101: CHOOSING Your Photographer
One of the most common pieces of advice we received while personally planning our weddings was to “hire a good photographer,” particularly because your wedding photos will shape the way you look back at your wedding for years to come. They document all those moments that you witnessed and the ones that you didn’t because you were hidden away getting ready or stuffing your face with food before you go out to greet all your guests for the rest of the night (speaking from experience!). That’s why finding the right photographer can be such a painstaking task - you’re willing to search high and low for him or her until you find the right fit, which can take a weeks or even months. But how do you know your photographer is your photographer? We’ve outlined a few tips from our own experiences and industry experts on how to know which photographer is The One!
Find a photographer that shares your aesthetic. Chances are you picked your dress, venue, accessories, and every other detail with your overall aesthetic in mind. Use that as a gauge for your right photographer. Are you getting married in a romantic garden setting? Do you want an organic, airy feel to your photographs? A film photographer might be a better fit and will provide you with photos that have a softer look and feel. Perhaps you prefer a more editorial look and feel or you’re getting married somewhere with less natural light or a moodier locale (think Northern California during June Gloom), you might prefer a digital photographer who can work better in dim conditions and can emphasize the contrasting look you gravitate towards. Peruse online portfolios and weddings published on various bridal blogs (Once Wed, Over the Moon, Green Wedding Shoes, Style Me Pretty, to name a few) to get a sense of the photographer’s particular style. Once you’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 photographers, ask to see their photo galleries of past weddings they’ve shot. It will give you a good idea of what you can expect to receive for your own wedding gallery.
Set a budget. Your photographer will likely be one of the most expensive aspects of your wedding day, so you have to be mindful of your overall budget. Established photographers (like those featured on Harper’s Bazaar’s list of Best Wedding Photographers and Brides Top Wedding Photographers of 2018 or frequently featured in Vogue Weddings) will likely cost around $10,000 for a full 8-10 hour shooting schedule. And while their wedding packages often include engagement or rehearsal dinner photos and small prints of your wedding photos, their fees typically do not include travel and accommodation. So if you’re getting married in Palm Beach, but you have your heart set on a photographer based out of New York City, you’ll likely be spending $500 or more for their travel and stay (and even more if you’re having an international wedding!). If you cannot justify paying for travel and stay on top of their standard fee, it might be wise to focus your search on photographers based in your city or general area. Another way to keep a budget in check is to be upfront with the photographers you’ve been corresponding with. They might refer you to an assistant or a colleague who can work with your budget but shoots with a similar style in mind. That way, you’ll likely end up with photos you adore and sticking to your budget! That’s a win in our books!
Don’t be afraid to ask around. Planning a wedding can be stressful, especially if you’re planning your wedding yourself. Utilize vendors you’ve already secured as resources. If you happen to be using a wedding planner, whether she’s full-service or month-of or day-of, ask her for recommendations. Or maybe you’ve already secured a florist you love. Ask the floral company for a list of photographers they have a relationship with. Aesthetically-minded vendors will likely form bonds with one another and refer each other to clients. There’s a pretty good chance that at least one of your vendors has an established relationship with a few photographers with a similar aesthetic or work philosophy.
Make sure you vibe with your photographer. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had your photo taken and you look downright uncomfortable! That forced smile never lies. To avoid such disastrous photos, make sure you interview a narrowed list of possible photographers. Over the phone is great, but over FaceTime or in person is even better. When you ask your potential photographer about their style, work philosophy, experience, it is nice to be able to see their face and make sure they aren’t just telling you what you want to hear. You can also better describe your vision for your wedding photos - candids versus posed shots, what parts of the day you want to highlight most, and what details you want to remember most, etc. When you feel at ease and trust your photographer, your photos will just naturally look better.