The 4 Most Important Considerations When Hiring a Wedding Photographer
What you should think about and questions you should ask!
Photography is one of the biggest ticket items in your wedding budget. The average cost ranges from $2,500 and $10,000, depending on your location and nature of your wedding, and how long you need the photographer for. It's also one of the more involved vendors; while you won't see your florist at the wedding, and maybe never at all, your photographer may be with you from the moment you start putting your makeup on till the moment you step in the getaway car. And these images are what you'll show your children and great-grandchildren....it's an incredibly important decision to make!
These days, the market is absolutely saturated; you can find many terrific photographers in your area that are experienced, personable, and talented. You have options!
However, that almost makes the task of selecting your wedding photographer more difficult. How do you know who to choose? There's so many factors to consider, but we think that everything really comes down to 4 basic elements. Keep these at the front of your mind when you're browsing online or interviewing potential photographers!
*Side note: one of our very own on the Kadlee team is actually a wedding photographer, herself. She knows what's important to brides and what's important to photographers, so she helped write this blog post to put you in a position to make the best decision!
#1 – Their Style
Really, this is the biggie. Do you like the bright and airy feel that is characterizing so many wedding albums this year? Do you prefer darker, moody tones? Do you like lots of color? Do you like grainy images? Do you like candids or more posed shots? Do you like the super edited, dramatic pics or do you want really natural photos? Closeups or at a distance? The number one consideration you should have when hiring a wedding photographer is the photos you're going to get back. When you're picking a photographer, look at their website, Instagram, and portfolio to get an idea of what kinds of pictures they like to take, and see if you like what they do.
The beautiful thing about wedding photography is that there are so many ways to tell a love story. And this is YOURS - so style is so important! Don't just start searching based on price or experience, although those things are important and we'll cover that in our next items. Make sure you're head over heels for their photos. And don't just go off of the Instagram; look at as many examples of their work as possible. Most photographers have blogs on their website where they showcase their favorite images from each wedding, so definitely look at those! You want to get a sense of what their work is really like, not just what they choose to highlight on one platform alone.
*Note: If you've done your exploration and are now in the interviewing phase, ask whether the person you're talking to will actually be the one shooting. Many times, the owner of the business will not be the one photographing your day - that will be one of their associates/employees/assistants. This is not a bad thing, by any means, but make sure you see examples of the specific shooter's work in case their style varies at all! And also try to have them included in all discussions moving forward, if possible, just so no communication is lost or muddled.
#2 – Their Experience
Since these are arguably the most important photos you'll ever have taken in your life, it's obvious that you want someone who knows what they're doing. You need to be confident in their ability to capture your big day! Try to find out how long they've been in business, and ask how many weddings they've done. Read reviews from previous clients on Google and Facebook, or on wedding sites where they're listed. Find out if they've ever shot a wedding at your venue - this is key - because they'll know where the most picturesque spots are and they'll be familiar with the lighting! Inquire whether they've worked with your videographer or other vendors. Try to gauge if they've photographed a wedding that's similar to yours in size and style, as well. Basically, what you're looking for here is concrete assurance that they won't be thrown by anything they encounter at your wedding, and that they know what to do.... you want to see evidence that they will capture and deliver beautiful images because they have done it for many others!
*Notes for the brides on a budget - there is an exception to this rule, and it's one that we think is worth discussing! If you hire someone less experienced, you're likely to get much lower rates and someone who is eager to prove themselves in the industry. Now, you still need some evidence that they know what they're doing.... you don't want to just hand a camera to your cousin that does nature photography as a hobby. But they don't have to be a known name to give you great pictures.
Our wedding photographer shared this with us: "I had been shooting couples and families for about a year when my friend's sister called me and asked me to be her wedding photographer. She knew I had never shot a wedding, but she loved the pictures I took of her sister and her husband, so she was willing to take a chance on me, and I will forever be so grateful to her....I put so much effort into guaranteeing I was as prepared as possible, and in the end, she and her family went crazy over the images I produced. She saved thousands on an experienced photographer. However, the two subsequent weddings I shot had tricky lighting situations, and while I did my best and the couples still loved their images, I'm sure that a more experienced photographer would have been able to produce clearer shots there. So, my advice is to determine the talent level of your beginner, if you are considering that, relative to the unique wedding details (will they need to coordinate large group shots, harsh sunlight, etc.), and then compare that with the price difference. You may find that you are willing to take a chance on a less experienced photographer and save!"
#3 – Their Personality
Like we mentioned above, the photographer is the only vendor who will be with you all day, so it's important that they're nice, that they are flexible, that they have a calming presence, and that they can get along well with strangers. You're a good judge of character - after all, you picked out your Prince Charming - but we cannot stress enough how important it is that you like your wedding photographer. If they're severely introverted, or too talkative, or easily frustrated, or just awkward (and we're not bashing people who are - we are all of the above), it's going to set the wrong tone for your day.
And keep in mind, this photographer will be interacting with all of your family and friends, as well, so they need to be able to kindly command a room, and be someone that other people will get along with...essentially, they just need to be likable. Your personality needs to mesh with theirs, up to a point, if you want to have the optimal wedding photography experience.
#4 – Their Packages
Ah, price. Those of you who have made it to this point are probably wondering why this wasn't listed first, but honestly, we believe this is where it ranks in importance compared to the other considerations. You can find a photographer with really cheap rates, but if you don't like their style, and they're not experienced, and you feel nervous or uncomfortable when they're around, that's going to negatively impact your wedding day. HOWEVER. Price is probably the consideration you are most worried/stressed about, so here are some questions to ask to confirm and clarify you get the most worth from what you pay.
- Ask about options - have them tell you what choices are available first.
- Ask about extras - most photographers have add-ons, like engagement sessions and rehearsal dinners and etc., that you can request
- Ask about hours - if you want extra time, find out how much that will cost (you may need to adjust your schedule to add time or subtract time, depending on your wants!)
- Ask about editing - is skin retouching an extra fee or included, etc.
- Ask about travel fees - see what distance they require an extra charge
- Ask about prints & album options - whether they're included and what that entails
- Ask about digital copies - those may not be included in the package
This may be the hardest part of the decision making process, and certainly is a critical consideration. Kadlee never recommends going over budget, but we do think beautiful photos are a non-negotiable, which is the whole reason why we sell our quality getting ready bridesmaids robes at such low cost. Find out exactly how much your dream photographer will cost you before getting too attached!
Style. Experience. Personality. Packages. These are the big ideas! When you decide what you want in these areas, the rest of the details will fall into place, and decision making becomes much easier.
What's has your journey trying to find a wedding photographer been like? Let us know in the comments!