We recently exhibited at the Washingtonian Bride & Groom Magazines Unveiled 2018 bridal showcase and also had the opportunity to sit on a discussion panel with other wonderful DC area photographers. The topic was How To Choose a Wedding Photographer and as I sat down to prepare, I thought "that would make a great blog post." So here it is!
- Start early - Your wedding photographs will be around long after the flowers have wilted, the cake and catering have been eaten and the songs played by your DJ are oldies but goodies. It's important to start your search for the right photographer early in the planning process - preferably right after you select your venue and wedding date (and perhaps your planner). This gives you time to search for the right fit and not have to settle for 3rd or 4th choices (or worse). If documenting the biggest celebration of your life for prosperity is important to you, don't wait until the last minute to find your photographer.
- Choose your style - There are many styles of wedding photography but I've distilled them down to two areas you should be most concerned with. The first has to do with the look of the photographs. You should view a fair amount of wedding photography and determine what look you like best. Dark and moody or light and airy? Vibrant colors or muted, desaturated ones. Do you like a more filmic analog look or more hi-def digital? The second areas has to do with how the photos are captured. Do you want a mixture of portraits and candid photographs or do you want everything to be candid and unposed? You may also like more of a lifestyle approach, where you'll be lightly posed or directed in a way that looks and feels more natural than strictly posed, and more polished than strictly candid. Once you determine these two things, you'll have narrowed down what you like enough to focus on a much smaller subset of photographers out there. Discard terminology like traditional, modern, vintage, fine art - one person's modern is another person's vintage. All you need to be concerned about is what you like, then you can move on to step three.
- Value experience - you aren't just hiring a professional photographer to take pretty pictures on a perfect day. You are hiring them to solve problems and deliver under tough and/or unforeseen circumstances. Like when it rains on your outdoor ceremony plans, or there are challenging lighting situations such as too much or too little light, or when your wedding party is nervous and stiff in front of the camera. This is when an experienced professional is worth their weight in gold.
- Interview wisely - Once you narrow things down to a short-list of photographers, you need to talk to each of them and the discussion needs to be more than just "how much are your packages" or "what type of camera do you use". Be sure to talk about their approach and their experience and most importantly, make sure their personality gels well with yours. You will be spending all day with your photographer, make sure you like their personality as much as their imagery. Booking an engagement shoot is a great way to really get to know your photographer before the big day.
- Dig deeper - look beyond the curated portfolio and ask to see a couple full wedding galleries or wedding albums. Portfolio images likely have extra polish to make them perfect, but there shouldn't be a huge drop off when your photographer delivers your entire gallery. Make sure the work is consistent, tells the story of the day, and includes areas that are important to you (i.e. family portraits or lots of photos of friends and family having fun at the reception).
- Start with the end in mind - if you know that you are going to want a wedding album to pass down to future generations, look for a photographer that features albums and other physical products like wall art. Some photographers focus on delivering digital files while others specialize in albums and wall art. The ones that deliver albums with nearly every wedding are likely to do a better job than those who only do a few each year.