When starting the search for the perfect wedding photographer, you will be faced with thousands of choices. You will see different styles of photography, packages, personalities, and skill. How do you go about making the right choice for you? How do you choose from all the options?

Once you have narrowed it down to what type of photography style you like the most, and maybe have cut it down to a shortlist of photographers, to make your choice easier, I have compiled a list of things you need to do and ask the photographer, before you finalize your booking.

Portfolio:

Make sure you get to see the photographer’s full wedding portfolio. I am not talking about a few pictures in an album. If the photographer has a blog, go into all the wedding posts, and take a look at what types and how many photos of each wedding the photographer posts. Believe me, any photographer can get 10 or 20 great shots at a wedding, that does not mean the overall result of the wedding coverage is satisfactory. Ultimately look for consistency, style, and overall feel you get from every post. Do you like the overall look and feel of the photographers work? Or are there only one or two photographs that grabbed your attention? Make sure you see full weddings, captured from start to finish.

Experience:

In the wedding photography industry, the experience of the photographer should go hand in hand with the quality of work you receive. If there was ever a time to pay a little more to book the photographer with more experience, this would be it. An up-and-comer photographer might be extremely passionate and excited, which is not a bad trade to have, however if the passion and skill don’t match, be prepared to have your photograph quality compromised, since a new photographer might not be equipped to deal with certain difficult light conditions or situations. Rather use a new photographer for a shoot that can be redone if the end result is not satisfactory, like a couple session or family portraits. A wedding cannot be re-done!

Products:

When meeting with the photographer and they offer album options or any other types of product, make sure you get to see exactly what the product looks like. Ask for samples of the albums they offer, and make sure that if you book them that the sample you have seen will be the exact replica of what you will receive.

Make sure that if you might have slightly different photography needs they will be able to assist. Your photography should meet your photography needs.

Ask Questions: 

  • Feel free to ask your photographer questions about different scenario’s they might face on your day. Do you have a chance of rain on your day? Will they be able to handle that, or have a back up solution? Discuss the time of day you are getting married, as well as any logistical issues there might arise.
  • Ask about the equipment they use, and what they will do if something breaks, gives an error or malfunctions. Experienced and sought after wedding photographers would already require top-notch equipment, and it will be visible through their work. If you have any doubt about equipment used, especially if you want to go with a lower end photographer or a newbie, do some research on the equipment they use. If you have no idea what camera is good enough or what camera is required to photograph your wedding, here is a guideline as to what I think is the minimum equipment one would need to professionally capture a wedding:
  • Lenses: Nikon or Canon equivalent:  24- 70 F2.8mm & 70 – 200mm F2.8
  • (Extra add on lenses can be 50mm f1.4 or f1.8, as well as the 85 f1.4 or f1.8) as well as specialty lenses which serves a sole purpose.
  • Bodies: Canon – Nothing lower than the 60D
  • Nikon – Nothing lower than the D7000
  • Make sure that the photographer you book will be the one that will be photographing your wedding on the day.
  • Ask about the use of assistants or 2nd shooters. There is a distinct difference between an assistant and a 2nd shooter. An assistant does not necessarily possess photography skills, but  rather is someone that will help carry equipment etc. A 2nd shooter will be someone who has photography skill and has their own equipment, who can and will photograph on their own during the day, giving you extra coverage. Normally assistants are included in photographers package, but if you want 2nd shooters you will have to pay extra for their services since they are qualified individuals. Not all photographers use assistants or 2nd shooters, so make sure to discuss your needs etc.
  • Ask your photographer about the time of arrival on the day. Make sure it corresponds with your set time line. There should be enough time allowed for the photographer to get the shots he wants. Discuss the times your photographer will need specially before the ceremony, the family and couple photography session, as well as at the reception. Make sure all the happenings at the reception stays within the photographers booked hours if you want everything captured.
  • Remember to ask about their flexibility or any rates that might apply if your event runs longer than expected, and you need them to stay longer than originally discussed.
  • Ask about what they require to book and confirm their services. Some photographer might require up to 50% of the full package amount to book your day.
  • Find out what their cancellation/refund policy is. Normally if you cancel your wedding date after booking the photographer, the photographer might keep the the entire booking fee or portion thereof if the date cannot be re-booked.
  • Ask about travel fees that might apply
  • Ask your photographers input about concerns you might have with the flow of the day, the times scheduled or certain family issues etc. With all their experience they might set your mind at ease about certain things, or give you great tips on how to handle a otherwise sticky situation.

Discuss elements of their package

  • During your search you will come across different packages, one photographer might offer one thing, while another photographer completely leaves it out on their packages. If you see something that might spark a few questions, don’t be afraid to ask. When you see a photographer offering Unedited Raw footage, ask him why he would offer something that seems uncommon. Personally something like the supplying of RAW footage should spark concern, since 99% of photographers will painstakingly go through every single photo taken on your wedding day, apply editing techniques and adjustments which in the end will carry through their style of shooting as well as display your photos at their best. Believe me, nobody wants unedited photographs, which most of the time if taken in RAW format, will need special programs to open as well as edit or adjust. Many photographers will also refrain from giving their clients any RAW images that might be re-edited or manipulated by someone else, since that will not be a true reflection of the photographers work.
  • If you find that a certain package one of your favorite photographers are offering does not include certain elements you might require, don’t be afraid to ask if it can be added, or if in the case they can custom make you a quote to fit your specific needs.
  • Make sure the package states how many photographs you will receive with your package. Normally an 8 wedding packages should consist of 350 + edited photographs. Photographers takes more photos than stated on the package, which will enable them to pick the best of the best to supply to you. If you want more photographs than stated, ask them if there is an extra fee to get more edited photos etc.
  • Make sure to discuss exactly what you need and make sure they can meet your expectations.

Legal stuff:

When booking your photographer, you should have a contractual agreement, which is binding for both parties. Make sure all the requirements and elements of your package are clearly stated and signed by both parties.

Other photographers at your wedding:

Find out from your photographer if they will have a problem if family members or friends also take photos on the day. Please remember that sometimes, having a family member or friend take photographs as well as the professional photographer, they might get in the way or become a slight irritation to the professional photographer since there will be someone else always either trying to get the shot, or will try to distract the bride & groom etc. Another problem that might arise is that your photographer will spend hours and hours on your photos to create little masterpieces. Having someone following the photographer around and taking similar photographs, which they directly post to social media etc. might take away the excitement of getting your professional wedding photos. To get insight on exactly how your friends and family might get in the way, read this article on how wedding guests can ruin your wedding photos.

RUIN

 

What if you don’t like the end result?

It is very important to choose a photographer who’s work you like. When you look at previous weddings they photographed, do you like their overall shooting and editing style? What will happen if you receive your final product and are not happy with the way it was edited?

Discuss any type of “style & feel” you would like your photos to have beforehand, so the photographer knows exactly what you are expecting, and make sure they will be able to supply you with what you want.

Have they photographed at your venue before?

Experienced photographers can take a quick walk around an unfamiliar venue and instantly identify locations that will make stunning photographs. So it is not always necessary for them to go scouting beforehand. The equipment they have will be capable to handle any situation or location that might prove to be  a bit challenging.

However, it would be preferable if your photographer has been at the venue before, or has photographed another wedding at the same location.

If you are booking a newbie or an inexperienced photographer, ask them if they will be willing to go and do scouting before the big day, just incase your venue is a bit challenging in regards to light, restrictions or will prove challenging in the chance or bad weather conditions so they can be prepared on the day.

Personalities:

Make sure your personalities mesh with those of the photographer. I cannot stress this point enough. You should feel comfortable with having the photographer playing a very large part in your special day. You will constantly be faced with directions, suggestions and advice from your photographer on the day, which will result in either bringing out the best out of you as a couple while you have your photos taken, or you will be annoyed. Believe me, the moment your photographer starts annoying you or there is a personality clash, it is evident in your photographs. It shows!

References:

Nowadays with social media as well as all information readily available you will be sure to easily find out what kind of experience previous clients had with a photographer. If you were referred, ask around if others have heard of this photographer. Don’t underestimate word of mouth. To ask a photographer to supply references might also be an option, but doing a little digging yourself might get you a true response to service received from that particular photographer.

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