Talk to Them Face-to-Face.
This is absolutely critical to hiring a wedding photographer. Often, we spend more time with our clients than they do with each other on a wedding day. Find somebody that you like and vibe with. Your comfort with your photographer is enormously important. It helps us get intimate, real moments and it helps you experience your wedding without worrying about ‘performing’. This is always our most important advice.
Book somebody without meeting them.
We’ve heard all the horror stories. The photographer bossed people around, was unprofessional, didn’t get the vibe. Make sure that before you hire somebody, you meet the photographer… The ACTUAL photographer. Some companies want you to book without meeting the person or even knowing which person it will be. This is a massive red flag.
Ask About Turnaround Times.
If we had a dollar for every time somebody told us about incredibly long waits, we’d be retired. Ask your photographer about their turnaround time. Ask when you’ll see a preview and when you’ll get all your photos (we always deliver in 28 days or less!). Make sure it’s in the contract that they send you. But also make sure that you’re going to be patient enough to follow the timelines they give you. Set those expectations up front.
Assume You Won't Care.
People often don’t care about the timelines when they hire somebody, but care tremendously once the wedding is done. A good turnaround time has a huge impact on your overall happiness as a client. This should definitely be a factor in your decision.
Ask To See a Full Wedding.
Seeing a full wedding shows you a photographers work ethic. As you look through, check to see that the photographer captured personality and unexpected moments, rather than just checking off the ‘formalities’. Look to see if there are creative compositions or if they were just standing in place when shooting. That’s a tell tale sign of a photographer’s work ethic.
Look at only a few photos.
Busy photographers shoot hundreds of thousands of photos every year. If you hire somebody based off a small portfolio or their Instagram, you’re only seeing the best of the best and might not get a sense of how they handle a whole day.
Look for 'In Between' Moments.
Time and time again our clients tell us that while they love the portraits, often the most meaningful photos are the ones that capture the personalities of the people. Look for these moments from a photographer. This shows that they’re actively looking to capture your personality.
Only Look at Portraits.
Most photographers portfolios are filled with portraits they’ve set up (we’re guilty too!). We do this to show images that relatable to all couples. However, portraits often make up a very small part of the day. Focusing only on them can give a false impression of what your wedding photos will look like.
Look for Creativity.
When looking through a photographers’ work, it can often be hard to spot differences. Look for a photographer that sees things differently than others. That could be the angles they shoot from, the personality that shines through the couples or the interesting lighting in the photos. All of this shows you things about the photographer. It tells you how comfortable their couples are and how much technical knowledge they have.
Get Fooled by Trendy Edits.
One of the biggest mistakes we see couples make is thinking that a photographer has ‘style’ because they use a trendy filter or preset on their images. When you’re looking for a photographer, look past the ‘tones’ of the photo (that stuff goes out of style quickly) and try to see the content of the photo. That is what will last.
Follow Them on Instagram.
We all know Instagram is a great place to see photos, but the real beauty of Instagram is the ability to get to know your photographer (and vice versa). For us, the more contact we have with our clients, the better we feel going into their wedding. Use Instagram as a way to feel comfortable with each other and form a bit of friendship. That’s what social media is best at.
Hire Them Because of Instagram.
We all know the dangers of social media: curated versions of things that aren’t quite real life. While Instagram can give a good snap shot of a photographer’s work, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll love them based on their Instagram account. Meet them. Explore their website and blog. A person’s social media skills don’t always transfer to their people skills.
Look for Diverse Skills.
As photographers, we want to shoot different things, new places and diverse groups of people. Rather than looking for something (or someone) that’s ‘exactly’ like you, ask the photographer for examples of similar situations. For example, if your wedding is outdoors at night, ask the photographer to show you how they handle lighting in that situation. Their response will likely be more helpful than simply showing you somebody of your same religion, ethnicity or orientation.
Worry if they Haven't Shot at Your Venue Before.
We’re always a little sad when somebody only wants to hire a photographer that’s shot at their venue before. Many photographers believe that we do some of our best work when we’re in a new place. Venues refer photographers for many reasons… some of which are pretty shady. Direct venue experience typically isn’t that important.
Ask Personal, Difficult Questions.
Our favorite meetings are when couples share what’s important to them and ask us questions that make us think. Questions like “What is the worst part of your job?” or “What happens when your camera breaks?” are great. They will give you a sense for how much your photographer loves their job and how they deal with tough situations.
Get Questions from the Internet.
The aggregate wedding sites will tell you to ask about things like insurance and backup plans. Those are worthwhile questions. However, 95% of photographers will give you the same answers. Asking personal questions can provide much more helpful responses.
Find Real Reviews.
Client reviews are hugely important in any industry. Seeing other couples rave about your photographer is a great way to help understand how they treat their clients. We’re huge proponents of reviews, especially on sites that we don’t control. This is what WeddingWire, TheKnot and Google are best for… but…
Value Reviews over Relationship.
Like all industries, trusting reviews can only take you so far. Some photographers will reward their couples for creating a positive review. Unsolicited reviews are always a best case scenario, but it’s hard to know that. If you’re not sure if you can trust reviews, getting to know a photographer personally is often far more relevant to your actual experience.
Decide What You Value.
Budgets aren’t unlimited and good photography can be expensive… but it’s also one of the only things that you take with you long after the wedding. If you find a photographer you love, try to find a way to fit them into your budget. Most photographers will even let you buy an album or change your package later. We actually offer a Registry so that couples can have their guests contribute to things that they may want (engagement sessions, albums, etc.)
The cost of photographers varies tremendously. Photography is a luxury, so you shouldn’t go broke to have it. However, if you can swing it, it’s one part of your wedding that’s worth not cutting corners. There are lots of things that don’t last beyond that day. Photography isn’t one of them. Find people you like and work you love. You won’t regret it!