You've all heard the stories. Whether it be from your friends....coworkers.... or other people in the wedding industry. Chances are, we all know someone who HATED their wedding photos.
Yeah. Sad trombone.
It's enough to strike fear in the heart of any bride who is mid-planning-mode and faced with the daunting task of choosing a shooter out of the bajillion choices out there.
Have faith, Grasshopper. There are ways of thinning the herd and getting yourself a photographer who will "get you" and rock out your big day. There are ways to be crazy, head-over-heels in love with your pictures.
1. Choose Wisely.
Sometimes, in my nerd head, I imagine brides walking into a room full of anxious wedding photographers...much like Indiana Jones did at the end of the Last Crusade...needing to choose the correct grail or be rendered dead where he stood. Some old knight in the corner saying "Chooooose wisely......"
Choosing one of us to be your one and only photographer can be ROUGH stuff, dude. I know. There are literally eleventy billion of us. That's a legit number. Our market is way over-staffed and we all have different styles, approaches, pricing strategies, and customer service levels.
What helps is taking it one thing at a time and really educating yourself on your likes and dislikes. First and foremost, what is your budget? This will eliminate a chunk of folks right off the bat.
Then, what is the style you are looking for? Do you even KNOW? Do you like more candid coverage (sometimes called photojournalistic or reportage)? Do you like light and airy editing? A film look? Dramatic lighting and editorial posing? These are all wildly different approaches and if you're drawn to one, but seek out shooters that specialize in another....you're gonna have a bad time.
2. The Get-Along Gang
This may seem like a "no-duh" moment, but you have to "meld" with your photographer. Seriously, don't just pick someone who is "okay" but has the personality of a slug on Xanax. Because you're gonna be with this person ALL. DAY. LONG. and people with crappy personalities can really bring down the whole room.
Plus, you want someone who has enthusiasm for their work and your day. This will bring out the best in your pictures. Because if they're just phoning it in....it's gonna totally show.
3. Know Thy Wedding.
If your wedding is country chic, don't expect beach pictures. If your wedding is in January, you're probably gonna freeze your patooties off during portraits and that's going to affect the amount of time you're going to want to stand outside (it's also going to affect timing of your whole day, since it gets dark around 3pm in Wisconsin).
Just KNOW your day....know the flow of your wedding and the style of your wedding. Know how your choices will affect the way the story is going to be able to be told.
4. Timey Wimey
Speaking of timing....timelines rule the day. They are mega-important. So if you want to end up loving your images, you probably want to give the shooter enough time to capture images you can love....instead of shoving 3 hours of picture time into 30 minutes.
Sit down with your photographer and create a timeline you both can jive with. The photographer should know how long everything takes to complete in a satisfactory manner.
5. Check Yo Self
We are 1 person. 2 if you hire a 2 person team. We are not magic, time-travelers, or shapeshifters. There are some things, as human beings, we cannot accomplish no matter what.
If you want table shots.....you have to give us AT LEAST an hour to complete them (so, in essence, you probably want to rethink the table shots there, bud.)
If you want heavily lit portraits....you need to hire someone that knows their way around a flash, not just assume all photographers know how to get that look.
If you want someone else's wedding entirely recreated with precision.....you should probably
have a come-to-Jesus moment with yourself.....which brings us to.....
6. This is YOUR day, Not Everyone Else's
We've talked about Pinterest before, but it's a blessing and a curse. I know all the images on their wedding boards look amazing....but remember this is YOUR day...and should reflect YOU.
You want to look back at your images and be crazy in love with them because they reflect your style and the way your day actually went, not re-created set-ups of other people's images.
7. Money Matters
Here's where I get down to brass tacks. If you want to love your images, you have to be prepared to spend the money where it counts. I know everyone has a budget....even opulent weddings have a budget. This is part of Step 1 and research. I have a lot of people contact me who really have no idea what a wedding photographer should cost, so they may end up with a bit of sticker shock.
So here's a bit of a quick and dirty cheat sheet:
The AVERAGE wedding cost in the United States is $31,213, this according to TheKnot.com (and I'm gonna go ahead and assume they researched that thoroughly). Now, most guides suggest you allocate 10-12% of your total budget on Photography. So, that would make the average you're looking at between $3121.30 and $3745.56. That's AVERAGE.
If you want an ABOVE average photographer....one that has been, say, doing it for longer, offers more in the way of albums, coverage, or customer service, prepare to pay more. If you can't afford the average cost, you're probably going to have to be more diligent in your vetting of shooters. Because I can tell you now, knowing the industry as a I do, there are a LOT of folks below that average. And they're not bad photographers. In fact, a lot of them are GREAT photographers.
Averages are just that: averages. Not everyone is average. And that's okay.
The point is, if you are spending, say, $800 on a photographer for 8 hours of coverage and you're expecting to be presented with the work of someone who charges $5000 for 8 hours of coverage, you're likely going to be disappointed. The person who charges $5000 has shot hundreds of weddings, studied wedding photography, knows lighting and posing and angles well. The $800 photographer is probably new....maybe doesn't have the best grasp on running a wedding day. They're gonna make a few mistakes here and there. Probably over-edits their stuff. Because we all started there. We know. We all have dirty newbie secrets in our closet (I see you there, selective-color-lover circa 2008!)
We cost what we cost for a reason. The numbers are not arbitrary.
8. Spread Love Everywhere.
If you want to be crazy in love with your pictures, it helps to be crazy in love to begin with. I tell you, the best wedding pictures I have taken are of folks who were just madly IN LOVE. It just oozes off of them. It colors the whole day and it makes my job fun as hell.
I know wedding days are super stressful....but if you take a moment, soak it in, and really try to spread the love around, your shooter will likely catch that....and you'll love the results.
The whole point is, hiring a professional wedding photographer is just like hiring any other professional: you need to do your research. Meet with a handful of us....see who you get along with. See whose work excites you.
Any photographer worth their salt WANTS you to come away from your experience crazy in love with their work. We live for it. I get anxious way in the pit of my stomach each and every time I send out a final edit because I'm just DYING to get that feedback that my clients loved what I did for them. It's the reason I do what I do....and I set out on every single wedding day wanting so badly to make you fall in love.
Good luck on your search and may you ALL end your wedding experience crazy in love!