Choosing a Wedding Photographer Checklist
Looking for a wedding photographer? I know what you’re thinking: everyone you know has or has access to a decent digital camera, so why not save a truckload of cash and just ask a friend or sibling with a decent eye to photograph your wedding. Resist the temptation, I tell you, or prepare for regret. Here’s the thing―owning a great camera and having a little bit of knowledge doesn’t make someone a great photographer, any more than buying the most expensive guitar hanging on the wall and knowing how to play a G chord makes you a great musician. Professionals are called such for a reason, so here’s a handy checklist of things you should consider when choosing your wedding photographer. The national divorce rate notwithstanding, let’s assume for the moment you only have one crack at executing the perfect wedding, so do your best to get it right the first time.
This is perhaps one of the most important elements of choosing a wedding photographer but is easily overlooked. Pick someone you get along with. A photographer may have an awesome portfolio, a great price and come highly recommended from someone you trust, but if you think he or she is a jerk, keep looking. You will be spending the whole day together, and if there’s tension between you and the photographer it will reveal itself. Conversely, if your photographer can make you and your guests smile and laugh and forget about the fact you’re being photographed, that too will be revealed in the prints. When you’re scouting for photographers, plan to interview them about their style, approach, experience and training. If they’re good, they’ll be interviewing you also. They don’t want to work with someone they don’t like any more than you do, so if you’re dealing with a professional you should expect the interview to be a two way street. You might start your search by asking your married friends and family for recommendations, or try joining an online community like IndieBride and asking people in your geographical area for suggestions.
Broadly speaking, you can break down wedding photography styles into two main categories: photojournalism and traditional. In photojournalism style, the photographer documents the event without intruding: that is, he or she will likely not pose anyone, but rather try to capture those magic moments as they happen. In traditional style the photographer will pose and arrange shots, but that doesn’t mean it has to be conservative or stiff; just take a look at photographer Jill Thomas’ work with posed shots. Both styles have their merits, and you may want a photographer who can do both―just make sure everyone is clear and in agreement about the style you’re going for. If you go for traditional, create a shot-list: a list of all the must-have shots with specific family members. Then appoint someone you know, who also knows the families, to wrangle people into their shots. Don’t task your photographer with this―he or she doesn’t know Uncle Rufus, and won’t be able to find him when he’s needed for a shot. When a photographer is showing you their portfolio, remember you’re seeing a carefully edited collection of their best work. If possible, ask them to show you photos from one wedding, rather than the hits of 20 weddings. And just because a photographer takes great landscape shots, that doesn’t confer talent in the world of wedding photography; make sure you see what they can do with weddings and not other types of photography.
We all know budgets are shape-shifters, prone to changing based on the options presented. One way to combat this is to set your budget for a photographer, then ask your prospects what they each will offer you for what you are prepared to pay. This is a good way of comparing apples to apples, and will also help you decide if a budget increase is warranted. Make sure you understand exactly what is included in the price, and definitely ask about additional costs for prints/albums after the wedding. Almost all photographers will have a variety of packages to offer you at different prices. Do not come away without knowing who keeps the originals and what the procedure is for getting prints; some photographers hold onto originals and you must go through them to get prints. Others will hand over everything and leave you to sort it out. Just make you sure you know what you’re getting for the money, which leads me to my next point. . .
Get it in writing. This will be the reference document where everything you’ve paid for is spelled out. Regardless of what you and the photographer agreed upon verbally, this is the binding agreement. It should include items such as:
- Dates, start and end time, location
- Price, and what’s included
- Delivery of prints/originals―how long after the wedding
- Who exactly will be shooting: the person you interviewed, or a staffer? Get names and number of staff
- Cancellation and refund policy
- Overtime fees
Don’t sign a contract on the spot. Take it home, read it, and make sure you understand it. Whatever seems mysterious or missing, point it out and ask questions.
Now that you’re armed with your wedding photographer checklist, take a look at our vast array of wedding invites to choose from, including the exclusive Martha Stewart Weddings Collection on pingg. From engagements, to bachelorettes, to the big day―we’ve got you covered.
By the way: Congratulations, and here’s to planning the perfect wedding!