Your photos are what is left after your day is over and choosing your photographer is a big deal. Here are some tips to help make the process of finding a wedding photographer feel easy and clear.
The question to start with … what style of photography are you drawn to?
There are wedding photography styles that are more documentary and some are more fine art. There are big differences between both. Some photographers have an editing style that is light and airy, some are dark and moody or somewhere in between. Some are also still defining their style. Find a look that you are drawn to and seek out a photographer that shows consistency in delivering images in that style.
Do they have your date available?
Before you fall in love with someone’s work, make sure they are available on your date. Many photographers book 9-12 months in advance. Saturdays between May and October go quick in Colorado! This should be the next decision that you make after booking your venue (and maybe your caterer!)
Next, does the photographer fall within your budget?
Are you clear on what the packages include? Is travel included? Will there be an additional charge for prints after the gallery is delivered? Have a really good understanding of what you get with the packages. Start by creating a timeline and defining the number of hours that you’ll need for your day. (Need help with a timeline? Check out this blog: https://carolinecolvinphotography.com/wedding-day-timeline-planning-tips/)
If all boxes above are checked, the most important question to ask next is, do you feel comfortable with this person?
There are a bazillion talented photographers out there. In Colorado especially, it is a very saturated market. If you love the person’s style and they fall within your budget, the next box to check is to ask yourself, do I want this person around me all day? There are some very intimate and private moments on a wedding day (like when your dress goes on!) and you want to be 100% comfortable having your photographer around during some of those vulnerable moments. When you find someone that puts you at ease during the meeting, who cares about supporting you during your planning process and on your day, you’ve found the right fit.
How many photos will I receive?
Documentary-style photographers will deliver more photos to your gallery. A fine art photographer takes more time perfecting the perfect shot and will delivery far less. I aim for 100 photos per hour with two photographers (although it can vary depending on travel between locations, weather, venue, time of year, etc).
Will I get the full-resolution images?
This is important. I don’t see it too often anymore, but be sure that your contract specifies that the images delivered will be full-sized and not web-sized. You can’t gift grandma with a web-sized image for her mantel.
Do I have printing rights?
If you have printing rights you should receive a photo release so that you can take your photos anywhere you’d like to have them printed. If you don’t have printing rights you are likely required to order your prints through your photographer’s photo lab, which will be more of an investment after your wedding. Photographers often do this so that you don’t take your images to Walgreens, blow up a huge print, display it at home and then give them credit. Printing professional quality photos at a one hour lab does not work. The color is not good. It will look bad. Don’t do it. If you work with me and want recommendations for quality labs so that you can print your photos on your own, ask me and I’ll share. (but also keep in mind that printing through your photographer does support small business!) FYI – some photographers require you to purchase prints through them after the wedding as part of the contract. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it is communicated in person and the contract.
What is the backup plan if something happens to you?
This is also important. Out-of-state photographers who are working alone do not have a backup plan. Hiring someone local will most likely have a community of friends in the industry to call on if an emergency happens. I hire second photographers who are capable of stepping up to photograph the wedding if an emergency happens and I would then do the editing.
Do they have experience with your kind of wedding?
Ask to see work that is similar to the day you are planning. If you are having a Jewish ceremony, ask to see a Ketubah signing ceremony. Are you getting married in a church? That light can be tricky! Check out some work from similar lighting scenarios. If your ceremony is on a mountain top at noon, or in a small chapel by candlelight? Be sure to ask if they have worked under unique lighting scenarios before.
Are the photographer insured?
This is evidence that your photographer is a professional. Carrying insurance is also required by some venues. Your photographer should be insured if they are accepting wedding clients
Will they meet you in person?
When it is possible, I like to meet my couples in person. I want to get to know them as much as they want to get to know me. If I feel that I’m not a great fit for a couple, I’ll often refer them to someone who can do a better job for them. Meeting in person is a good way to figure out quickly if you are a good match.
How long will it take to deliver your photos?
This should be asked in the interview, but also be in writing in the contract. Delivery timelines are an area where I have heard some horror stories. Life happens and when it does I make sure to communicate to my clients. If the delivery is going to be a couple of days later than the one month turn around that I promise my clients, I have found that picking up the phone and communicating that goes a long way and is better than pushing through a late night to meet a delivery deadline. My goal is to deliver the wedding gallery one month after the wedding date.
Are they familiar with your venue?
I don’t think your photographer must have worked at your venue before. A new venue can be exciting and spark creativity. If I’m working at a venue for the first time, I do spend time researching it online or scouting it in person. I’ll also reach out to my photography community to see what tips they have about lighting and ceremony setup.
What is the plan if it rains?
I love getting this question. I have several photos from rainy days that are my favorites because the emotion is so rich. A little rain isn’t going to prevent you from marrying the person you love and it will likely make for a great story after. The most important thing I can do on a wedding day is hand you a cute umbrella and help you to keep your cool by staying calm and reassuring you.
Who will be your 2nd photographer?
This is good to know because you want to make sure that person is experienced and will be respectful. If you are comfortable with your photographer and trust him/her, then don’t think too much about this, but their answer may help you to decide whether you can feel comfortable. I have seconds in my community that I’ve worked with for years. New ones I always check their work closely and set up a call or coffee with them. I want to spend a wedding day with someone I enjoy being around and who keeps me grounded and would not take any chances on bringing someone who I don’t completely trust.
Can we customize our package?
Packages don’t always perfectly fit wedding timelines or budgets and having some flexibility can help create an experience that is just right for you.
My experience with couples is that we both know right away and are pretty over the moon about finding each other. This decision is a big one. Take it seriously and do your research. Once the contract is signed you can relax knowing you have the right person to help you through the planning process and is SO excited to be by your side throughout your wedding day.