Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

How To Pick A Wedding Photographer

Welcome back.

I’m going to talk just a little bit about how to pick a wedding photographer. I think the method I’m laying out is the best method to assure you end up with what you really want, a day full of memories that is beautifully captured at a price you can live with. I prescribe a simple three step process.

Step 1: What do you see?

As soon as you put your upcoming wedding out into the ether you should expect an avalanche of wedding photographers to contact you. They will come in all shapes and sizes from the grizzled old pro who shot his first wedding when you had to use film and it was only available in black and white to the super slick super stylish photographer to the stars who has prices that start at $10,000 per wedding. These days you are even likely to know someone; a friend, coworker or cousin, that has a pretty neat camera and they may even throw their hats into the ring.

Possibly my favorite bridesmaid pictures.

Possibly my favorite bridesmaid pictures.

Everyone starts with the idea of budget first but I believe when you assess wedding photographers, or really any photographer, you should start with the pictures. Do they have pictures in their portfolios that speak to you, pictures that you would want to be seen in? Hell do they even have pictures of people that look like you. Because if they don’t have great pictures before you hire them what makes you think they will have them after you hire them?

How many different weddings can you pick out from their portfolio? If they have 300 pictures available but they are all from the same wedding thats probably not the level of experience you want on your special day.

Lastly do they show you enough pictures to get a feeling for how an entire wedding day went? You should be able to see 20-30 images from a number of weddings. This should give you the confidence to move forward and figure out among the hundreds of photographers vying for your attention which are the select few you should chose as candidates.

Step 2: How do they present themselves to you?

This might seem a strange thing to make the second step but you have to take into account the state of professional photography today. Because of the march of technological advances in the field of photography it is one of these professions where someone can walk into a retail store spend a few hundred dollars and walk out declaring themselves to be a "professional". So the first thing you’ll want to look at is how professional they really are.

These guys were so fun to shoot.

These guys were so fun to shoot.

Do they have a business website and an email address that uses their business name? This seems like a small thing but think of it this way; my website, which is pretty fancy pants, costs me roughly $200 a year including email. So if a person doesn’t have this, for whatever reasons they chose not to have it, it says that they don’t think that $200 a year is worth it. And if someone doesn’t think their business is worth spending $200 a year on should you be trusting them to capture your once in a lifetime experience?

Do they have professional business cards and literature? Do they have professional contracts? Do they have insurance? All of these things are the trappings of a professional photographer and you should expect any photographer who is going to capture the most important day of your life to have these things.

The second part of how they present themselves is how do they express themselves both in writing and in speech. This may not seem that important but in reality the best pictures come from people who are comfortable. Does your photographer seem like they will be able to keep you and your beloved comfortable during an engagement shoot and a wedding? Do they seem like they can make your Aunt Greta smile or at least be able to make your brother-in-law to be do anything other than that surly half grimace he seems to have been born with?

How your photographer makes people feel matters starting with you, their customer.

Step 3: What does it cost you?

The ring is the thing.

The ring is the thing.

Price is a factor, and roughly 40% of people have no idea what wedding photography is going to cost. At least once a month I get an email from someone who believes that the $400 they have set aside for their wedding is going to get them 8 hours of coverage from a professional photographer. And thats almost never going to cover any reasonable length of time from an accomplished professional photographer.

I’d say that you should have a budget between $1,500 and $3,000 minimum. You can certainly find packages for more or less than this but this will at least get you in the ballpark of great photographers.

With price being so important why do I say you should move this down to the last thing you consider. I think once you’ve selected 2 or 3 photographers who have styles you like and who you believe you can trust to manage your big day you’ll find that will probably have relatively similar costs. Then you will find that you have budgeted correctly or you haven’t. If you have not set up a proper budget then you simply need to either increase your budget or lower your expectations of your photographer.

Anyway this has been a fairly long post and I’ll leave you to think about it bit. Thanks for stopping by, see you next time when I’ll peel back the curtain and try to expose why wedding photography costs what it costs.