Finding the right fit between you and your wedding photographer is the most important factor in deciding which photographer to hire for your wedding.
The first thing most couples do is search online for wedding photographers, or you may have liked the photographer at a friend’s wedding and now want to consider him or her for your own. In either case, your first step will be to start browsing through portfolios. Once you find a few whose shooting style and image quality meets with your expectations, the next step is to draw up a shortlist and start contacting the photographers on your list.
You’ve got the shortlist of photographer’s who’s work you like, and now you want to reach out to them either with a phone call or email. Once you do, your evaluation process should begin immediately. Did the photographer respond to your query in a reasonable amount of time? Did he or she answer any questions you posed. If the answer is yes to the above, it’s time to set up a meeting.
If you are contacting a photographer in another city you may want to try setting up a video call on Skype, Google or FaceTime. If that’s not feasible, a simple phone call should do.
It’s a good idea to prepare a few questions in advance and know what will be key deciding factors on whether you contract with this photographer or not. It’s best to be upfront with your wishes and budget, but it’s also worth having an open mind during this first meeting. An experienced wedding photographer has in all likelihood been at and participated in multiples more weddings than you have, so take this opportunity to benefit from his or her experience. There are no bad questions and if you want ideas, ask for them. Creativity is par for the course and a creative person will love the opportunity to offer ideas and engage in a little brainstorming with you.
As you have the conversation, it’s wise for one in the couple to lead the questions, and have the other pay attention to what’s happening. Not just the answers given, but the way they are given and the demeanour and general presence of the photographer. Do you like him or her? Is this someone you can see getting along with your guests? Ultimately, your wedding photographer is someone with whom you will share a lot of intimate moments on a very big day in your life. Is this someone you would enjoy that experience with?
The takeaway from your meeting/phone/video chat should be a go/no go decision on your part. You may still be evaluating one or two other shooters, but having invested this much time and effort in the search, you should by now know enough to request a quote and move on to the final stage of discussions.
Getting a fair price for your wedding photographer shouldn’t be hard. It’s not like buying a car where you may feel pressured into something you don’t want or are unsure of how much you can negotiate. A professional wedding photographer will have posted rates or available packages and clearly define what is included with each. These details as well as any specifics you discussed in your meeting should be elaborated on in a quote. You don’t want – and there shouldn’t be – any surprises. If the quote is prepared as expected and delivered in a timely fashion, you will then want to move to the final step and book your photographer.
Planning ahead can save you some money and allow you to get the best value from your wedding photographer. Many packages include engagement photos which is fun to do well ahead of the wedding date (though not necessarily). If your wedding is planned for the fall, you may want to schedule an engagement shoot in the spring or summer to generate images for your invitations, websites and other pre-wedding communications. In any case, the longer your lead time, the more comfortable you will be with having at least one major item checked off your wedding to do list.
Once you’ve accepted a quote, ask your photographer to draw up a contract. The contract should not be too different from the quote but it means you now have a legally binding agreement in place which ideally spells out exactly what you will receive from your photographer, according to which schedule and in which format. No surprises, no catches. The contract should reflect your complete understanding of what you want and expect from your photographer, and spell out in detail how much you will pay and the schedule for down payments, final payment etc.
Of all the myriad details you and your wedding planner will have to pay attention to leading up to your big day, your wedding photographer is arguably the most important. No other aspect of your wedding – the venue, the food, the colour scheme, not even the dress – will have as lasting an impact. When you book your photographer, understand that you are entrusting this person to create a document of a key moment in your life that will be shared and passed on through generations to come.
Ultimately, your selection of wedding photographer should be based not just on price, but the quality of the work you’ve seen in the photographer’s portfolio, and how comfortable you feel with your shooter. A good fit, in my definition, is alignment on everything that matters to you when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer.