Choose a Photographer:
- Settle on a Style
Before you begin researching photographers, you’ll need to first decide what type of photography style you prefer, as that will help determine which kind of photographer you’ll want.
2. Do Your Homework
Start your search by reading reviews from recent brides and browsing hundreds of local listings. Carefully review potential photographers’ websites and blogs to check out photos of other weddings they’ve shot, which will give you an idea of their style. The design of the website may also give you clues about the photographer’s personality and sensibility. Check out their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages too, if possible. Is the feedback from clients positive? How does the photographer respond?
3. Set Up Interviews
This is not a decision that can be made on looks alone—you must meet your potential photographers in person. If you like what you see on their sites—and their fees are in your ballpark range—call to see if they’re available for your wedding date. If the photographer is already booked on your date, you may want to see if they have an associate or can recommend another shooter with a similar style. Set up in-person meetings with three to five potential photographers who are available on your wedding date to look at more of their work and assess whether your personalities mesh. Be prepared to talk about your venue, your wedding style and what you envision for your photos.
4. See a Few Full Wedding Albums
Don’t base your decision solely on what you see in a photographer’s highlights gallery or album. For good reason, photographers show prospective clients a portfolio of their best pictures, all from different weddings, so you’re seeing the best of the best. The problem with that is you won’t get a well-rounded idea of their work. Ask to see two or three full galleries from real weddings they’ve shot (not someone else at their company) so you can get a better idea of what your complete collection of photos might look like after the wedding. If you see that the full gallery photos are just about as good as the ones chosen in the highlight gallery (that is, they’re all so good it’s impossible to choose!), you’re on the right track. And ask to see at least
one or two complete albums of weddings that are insimilar settings to yours. For example, if you’re planning an indoor affair with dark lighting, don’t just look at weddings shot outdoors in natural sunlight. And if you’re planning to say “I do” on a beach at sunset, you’ll want to see examples of that.
5: Review Albums With a Critical Eye
When reviewing a photographer’s album, look for the key moments you want captured: Did they get photos of both the bride and the groom when they locked eyes for the first time? Also look for crispness of images, thoughtful compositions (does a shot look good the way it was framed, or is there too much clutter in the frame?) and good lighting (beware of washed-out pictures where small details are blurred—unless that’s the style you’re after). It’s also very important that you detect sensitivity in capturing people’s emotions; make sure the photographer’s subjects look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. While you two are, of course, important, you want to see smiling shots of your friends too.
6: Confirm Your Shooter(s)
Many larger photo studios have more than one photographer on staff, and unless you specify it in your contract, the lead photographer may not be the one shooting your day. Since every professional has a different style, technique and personality, you need to make sure that the one you interview and “click” with will be the same one who works your wedding. Also, include specific stipulations in the contract about who will cover for the photographer should something happen on the actual day. Check whether the photographer will bring any assistants to your wedding, and if so, how many? If you have room in your budget, consider hiring a second shooter. Many top-notch photographers include a second shooter in the contract, but if this isn’t a part of thedeal, you may want to ask about the possibility. The main benefit to having two shooters is that you, of course, get twice as much coverage. For example, during your formal photo session, one photographer can capture the formal photos, while the second one can get behind-the-scenes, photojournalistic photos, like your guests mingling. If you’re having a larger wedding (250 guests or more), you might even want to ask about having three shooters so your photography team can be sure to capture the event from all angles.
7: Compare Packages
You won’t be able to nail down an exact dollar amount until you’re sure of what you want, how many albums you need and where your photographer is based, and packages range all the way up to $15,000-plus on the higher end of the spectrum. When interviewing candidates, ask for a general range based on the photographer’s standard “shooting fee” and package, plus their standard rates for the type of album you think you’ll want and the amount of coverage you’re hoping to book them for (day of, full weekend). It’s important to find out what’s included in the standard package, plus the basic range for any extras you may want, like an engagement shoot, special effects or additional coverage, so you can compare rates. In particular, find out exactly how many hours of coverage are included. Ideally, you want your photographer to be there for your full wedding day—from when you start getting ready until after you make your grand exit from the reception. While packages vary, most include about 6 to 12 hours to cover everything from preceremony events (getting ready with your bridesmaids or first-look photos) to the end of the reception. It’s usually better to pay for more coverage if there’s a chance you’ll run over and you definitely want your photographer there until the end (overtime is usually charged at a higher hourly rate). Also consider whether you’ll want to do an engagement shoot or have your wedding photographer shoot other events during your wedding weekend (the guys’ golf outing, the bridesmaid lunch).
8: Ask About Your Rights
Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken at the wedding, even the ones of you. In other words, the photographer can use them promotionally (on their website or blog, submit them for publication and even use them in ads). That also means that you can’t just post the digital proofs they send you—most photographers have a policy that you can only share watermarked images or images with their credit on them. Also, unless you negotiate otherwise, if you want to print the images yourselves or order an album from another source, you’ll have to buy the rights to the images.
9: Get the Post Production Details
It usually takes at least a month to get all those photo proofsback from your photographer. Why? Your photographer is shooting enormous raw files far bigger than your typical JPG. Shooting raw files gives your photographer greater ability to correct the photo, but it also takes a longer time to upload, process and edit all those files (in order to correct color levels and so on). It varies, but many photographers say that they spend an additional 40 hours editing images from a single wedding, so it can take up to six to eight weeks (or longer, depending on the photographer and how busy they are) to get proofs back. Here’s what to ask: How many images should I expect? Will they be high resolution or low resolution? Will I be able to get prints made myself, or does the photographer retain the rights to the images? Will the proofs I see be the retouched versions, or does that happen after I select the photos I want? Speaking of retouching, ask about retouching options and special effects (which can range from simple
white balancing to beauty retouching and stylized art effects like super-saturated colors) and the additional cost for both.