Choosing a photographer is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make during the wedding planning process. After all, the moments your shutterbug captures will be preserved in time forever, whether in portraits hanging on your living room walls or in albums you’ll take out from time to time to remember your amazing day. So, when setting out to pick your photographer, be sure to have done your research so you can make an informed decision and end up with pictures you’ll be proud of.
Photo courtesy of Chris Joriann Fine Art Photography
Not sure where to start? We’re sharing 10 expert tips straight from the source—an actual, sought-after photographer who’s spent countless hours capturing Florida couples’ wedding days. Here, Joriann Maye, owner of Chris Joriann Fine Art Photography, offers 10 insightful tips to help you find your wedding photographer, ensuring a perfect fit for when it comes time to say “I do.”
Their work should have a “Wow!” factor.
When you look at their images, their work should strike a chord. Speak to you. Stand out from the rest. It should be love at first sight! Are they artistic? Do they shoot from interesting perspectives? Is their use of lighting and composition unique? Do they capture the emotion of the moment?
Ask around—reputations are great for a reason.
The best photographers will have a strong following, a solid reputation, and often be widely published. Ask your venue if they have a preferred list of photographers to share. Ask your friends and family who they used, who they loved. Look at their albums. Pick their brains. The best studios will seldom advertise, as they will book up quickly based solely on word of mouth and preferred vendor lists. Look through your favorite magazines. The best of the best are sought out not just by clients but also by editors.
Stalk them! (Well, their blogs, at least.)
Wedding photographers’ blogs show their work within weeks of shooting events. Many allow you to subscribe with a click so that you are alerted each time they post. Is their work consistent? Do they capture events similar to the feel of your wedding vibe? This is where you can see who they really are, even more so than in an online portfolio. Ideally, you’ll even be able to view several weddings shot by that photographer at your venue.
Make sure there’s a mutual connection.
Be sure to connect with your photographer on a personal level. Your personalities should click in some way. If not, move on. It is essential to not only getting the best pictures, but also having an enjoyable, stress-free wedding day. You need to like your photographer. If you can set up an in-person meeting, do. If you’re not local, then at least schedule a phone consult.
Both their shooting style and their post-processing technique must be in sync with your vision.
First, make sure their style of shooting is a good match for you. Do they favor natural light over flash? Are they more photojournalistic, editorial, or traditional? Do you want your photographer to simply be a fly on the wall, or would you prefer some editorial direction and romantic portraiture? Are details important to you, and do you want your photos shot like they’re out right of a magazine?
The way an image is processed is also important. Ask if they will post-process and edit your images. If so, make sure their style is in sync with your aesthetic. Some will process with a high-contrast, vibrant look with rich colors that pop. Others will opt for a matte, low-contrast, organic look with muted pastels, similar to vintage film. And yet others will go for a simple, clean, lightly processed look, giving the photos a natural appearance.
Start your search for a photographer ASAP.
Top photographers book their schedules over a year in advance. Most clients select their date and venue first, then their photographer second. However, if you have a particular photographer in mind, you should reach out as soon as you are engaged to check availability—even before you lock in your wedding date.
Find out exactly what end products you get for your fees.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and lots of them! If an album is your end goal, remember that all albums are not created equal. How many sides do you get? Do they charge per image? What kind of paper are they printing on? Do all the images in the album include retouching? Is their album design artistic, and does it tell your story? Can you be involved in the design process? Do they offer custom keepsake boxes? Do they offer replica parent albums? And most important—are the albums they are showing you a sample of their actual work and design?
Here are some more questions to ask: What about digital images? Approximately how many are captured? When, and in what format, will you receive them? Are they shooting RAW [a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when a photo is taken, yielding a higher-quality photograph], then delivering you post-processed, hi-resolution JPEGS? Do you have the printing privileges and copyright? Do they offer an online proofing/ordering gallery? Ask for access to a sample gallery so you can view the interface in advance. Many studios now offer custom smartphone apps.
Ask if they will advise on your photography timeline.
Be sure to find someone who will help you plan your photography timeline. They should be willing to talk through what will be covered and help you create a detailed photo game plan. Even if you have an event planner, getting a photographer-created timeline is important in having a stress-free day, and in ensuring that enough time is being allocated for them to do their best work. It not only shows that they are organized and efficient, but it certainly makes your life easier when you receive a photo timeline directly from your photographer a month before your event.
Are they a newbie or a seasoned pro? How to tell the difference.
Portfolios can be misleading, and they can often be created from weddings that new photographers have been assistant shooting on, meaning that they weren’t the primary photographer. If experience is important to you, simply ask them how many weddings they have been the lead photographer for. If the number is fewer than 20, then this is somewhat new to them—at least, compared to seasoned pros, whose average is between 200 and 500 events. Don’t be afraid to ask to see a full proof gallery or two. Browse through their blogs. Do they offer a second shooter? Ask about their equipment: Do they shoot with full-frame cameras? Do they use a series of L lenses? Bounced or off-camera flash? This will let you know if their equipment is top of the line. Most importantly, make sure they have redundancy, meaning more than one camera body. This is imperative for safety purposes.
Don’t scrimp on your photography budget.
Try not to let price dictate your choice. An amazing photographer is often worth the splurge! If you find that your favorite photographer is a bit out of your price range, you might be able to pull funds from other areas. No one will notice if you change your peonies to garden roses … something that simple might be the difference between good and great photography. Remember, an amazing wedding photographer can make even a backyard wedding look like a million bucks!
All photos courtesy of Chris Joriann Fine Art Photography