17 Tips: How to Hire a Wedding Photographer
Few of your wedding vendors will have such a life-long impact on your wedding day memories as your wedding photographer.
It might seem like an issue at the time if the cake decorations are the wrong color, or if the florist sends daisies instead of lilies, but in reality these things will likely soon be forgotten. Your wedding photographer, however, will create a pictorial record of your important day that will likely endure for generations. But what questions should you ask and what factors should you consider when you hire a wedding photographer?
Here are 17 top tips from wedding photography professionals to help everyone choose a wedding photographer that will not only enhance your wedding day experience, but also your lifelong wedding day memories. And yes, we are wedding photographers in Savannah, GA, but we know you’ll find these tips useful no matter where you’re planning your wedding.
Phase 1: Consider your options
Tip #1: Make it PERSONAL: Yes, your wedding photographer will likely be one of many vendors for your wedding day. But unlike your florist, caterer, reception venue or DJ, your wedding photographer will share and contribute to your wedding on a very intimate level. They will capture great emotion, family connections and the bonds of important friendships, and the results of their work will likely be the most enduring tangible component of your wedding. It is crucial then that you hire a wedding photographer who’s artistic style is consistent with your sense of style AND someone you connect with and trust on a personal level. You’ll likely spend a lot of time working with your photographer before, during and after your wedding, so choose someone you actually like working with.
Tip #2: Define the role: Think about the importance you put on your wedding photography and talk with your photographer about the level of engagement you expect to have with them on your wedding day. Do you expect them to have minimal impact on the flow of the day and discreetly capture events as they happen, in a “photojournalistic” style? Or would you like them to be more engaged, to create more artistic images, requiring them to provide more direction and guidance?
Tip #3: Check out the options: Do you know where and when you’re getting married? Great! An internet search for wedding photographers in the city/region of your wedding is your likely next step. Even if a trusted friend has recommended a local wedding photographer, you should still explore other options. Remember, this is a very personal choice (see Tip #1), and what works for one person may not necessarily work for you.
Visit the websites of photographers in the area and look for portfolios that demonstrate a photographic style that appeals to you. Check out their “About Us” or “Meet Us” page to see of they might be a good fit personally. Next, check their websites for pricing information (some offer it, others do not), and narrow the field to those who fall within your budget (Tip: Place those who you like but are too expensive into a “holding file”…you may want to come back to look at them again if the apparently affordable photographers are not available or don’t meet your early expectations).
Now you’ve got yourself a shortlist! Reach out to the candidates by phone or email and arrange to meeting with them in person (if possible) or via phone or Skype. Plan on meeting with at least three, so you get a good feel for your options and can make a choice based on such factors as photographic style, expertise, experience, package offering, price and value, and personal connection.
Phase 2: Booking your wedding photographer
Tip #4: Hire a professional WITH LIABILITY INSURANCE: You may be risking more than just the quality of your wedding photographs if you choose a low-cost photographer.
At a very minimum, ask your wedding photographer candidates if they operate a registered business and carry general liability insurance (even better, ask to see documented proof of business registration and insurance). If your photographer is not insured you are putting yourself, your guests and your financial future at unnecessary risk. Who will pay, for example, if a guest trips over the photographer’s bag and sustains a serious injury, or if a photography light stand falls through a window at the reception venue?
Tip #5: Get a contract: Your photographer should provide you with a written contract that clearly describes the wedding photography services (and products, if any) they will provide (and when), and your obligations in return. Lack of a contract will diminish your legal protections should the photographer fail to deliver to your expectations and will increase the possibility that you may not receive all that you believe you are entitled to in return for your investment.
Tip #6: Get in early: Many of the big items on your wedding planning to-do list will require a lot of coordination and consultation before they can be finalized. Booking your wedding photographer, however, is a big item that that can (and should) be accomplished early. Good photographers may book a year or more in advance. If you find a photographer early whose style you like and who meets the criteria outlined in the tips above, book them while you can. It will be one less thing for you to worry about as the rest of the planning becomes more intense. In addition, your wedding photographer can likely contribute to some of the planning items, especially the wedding day schedule/timeline, to make the rest of the process less daunting for you.
Phase 3: Planning the perfect wedding photographs
Tip #6: Be specific: Two people can like or dislike the same photograph for entirely different reasons. One might like the lighting, while another is drawn by the composition. It is important then that you be specific when talking with your photographer about what you like (or dislike) in certain images or styles. Don’t leave it up to the photographer to guess your intentions. Also, talk with your photographer about what you do and don’t like about yourself in photographs. Again, be specific. Your photographer will have a better chance to shoot the features you like and minimize the features you’re not so keen on, and you’ll love your wedding photographs even more!
Tip #7: Opt for the engagement session: Some wedding photographers include an engagement photography session with their wedding packages. Others offer it separately or as an add-on. Whatever the arrangement, if at all possible, take advantage of the opportunity to do an engagement session or couple session with your photographer before your wedding. Not only will you have beautiful photographs that will form part of your complete wedding story, but you will have a chance to build a rapport and trust with your photographer, and iron out any little disconnects before the big day.
Tip #8: Timing is everything: Before you commit to a wedding day schedule with your other wedding day vendors, talk with your photographer about whether your plan will allow you to achieve your photography goals. The time of day and location, for example, could affect the ability to capture certain types images. Similarly, some of the photographs on your wish list may take longer or shorter to achieve than you have allowed, and therefore might create a gap or unreasonable time crunches in your wedding day timeline. Your photographer will help you reconcile your wedding photography hopes with your wedding schedule reality, and help you make adjustments to achieve the right outcomes.
Tip #9: When timing goes out the window: It’s a pretty rare wedding that stays on schedule. Talk with your photographer ahead of the wedding about back up plans in case things start running behind, and discuss what you are or are not willing to sacrifice if the schedule goes array. For example, if the ceremony runs over time, should your photographer shorten the family formal portrait session (and if so, which family formals should be first to come of the list), or shorten the wedding party photos, or will you push back the wedding party’s arrival at the reception? Perhaps there are actions you can take to reduce the chance of things running over time (for example, arrange for a key guest to organize everyone for the family formal portraits, to speed things along).
Tip #10: To “first look” or not to “first look”: Many couples today choose to do a “first look”, which is essentially a chance for the bride and groom to see each other just prior to the ceremony. Some couples love that this gives the bride the chance to reveal her dress to her husband-to-be and for the two to share a quiet moment before the wedding gets underway. This intimate and often emotional get-together can make for a wonderful photo opportunity and a chance to get some of the bride and groom portraits done early so there’s less rush after the ceremony and before the reception.
Tip #11: Everyone’s a photographer, but…: You’re investing your money and your trust in your photographer’s technical expertise, artistic ability and experience. Even the best photographer, however, can be challenged by well-intentioned wedding camera-carrying (and smart phone-carrying) guests. If a guest suddenly jumps up with to snap the first kiss with his cell phone and blocks the shot of your wedding photographer, the moment will be lost. Or if a relative tries to snap family portraits while your wedding photographer is doing family formals, it’s likely your professional photos will be affected. A good photographer will plan for this as best as possible, sometimes by having a second cameraperson positioned to capture key moments from more than one angle. You have the option to contribute to the effort simply communicating with your guests about your wedding photography plans. Often a simple sentence on the wedding invitation is all it takes, for example: “We’re hiring a great wedding photographer so feel free to leave your camera at home (and your smart phone in your pocket) and we’ll be sure to share all of our photos with you.”
Tip #12: Second shooter?: When you hire a wedding photographer, talk with them about whether a second photographer (sometimes called a “second shooter”) or a photography assistant will be necessary on the day to capture the images you want.
Tip #13: Family (formal) planning: Lots of couples today opt for a more casual, natural style of wedding photography…but most couples do request traditional formal family images, even if sometimes just to appease their parents. To ensure you receive all the important family photos that you (or your parents) expect, and with a minimum of fuss, make sure you’re photographer understands:
- The groupings that make up your “must-have” list of formal photographs.
- Any family dynamics that need to be factored into planning the formal shots (e.g. feuding family members).
- Who will be responsible for organizing the required family members? The photographer (or his/her assistant)? You? A trusted family member?
It is a good idea to make sure that they family members on your list of must-have shots are aware of where and when they will be required for formal family photographs, and of your dependence on them to be present so as to not adversely affect the timing of the day or the images that you want.
Be realistic about the amount of time necessary for formal family pictures; you might need to allow between 2-5 minutes for each formal picture (especially for larger groups). Consider how will that affect timing for your wedding party photographs and your arrival time at the reception.
Tip #14: It’s all in the details: Planning your wedding will likely involve countless decisions, often about tiny details, all of which come together to create a beautiful celebration. These details deserve to be captured in the photographic record of your wedding day. Just as you work with your photographer on your “must-have” list of formal family photos, so too should you compile your list of “must have” wedding detail shots. Consider such things as place settings, center-pieces, flowers, ceremony and reception decorations, invitations, etc.
Tip #15: Consider the importance of the entire “Party”: Other than you and your partner, the people likely to appear most in your photos are the members of your wedding party. Make sure they understand how much you’re depending on them to be cooperative in the wedding photos. If one of them constantly shy’s away from the camera, or has a grumpy scowl on their face, it will adversely affect many of your images (including many of the most important ones). To help them shine in your awesome wedding photographs, send them our article You’re in the wedding party! How to look amazing in wedding photos!, so they know how to prepare and what to expect on the day.
Phase 4: On your wedding day
Tip #16: Allow yourself to be “guided” to avoid looking “posed”: Many modern couples cringe at the idea of “posed” wedding photographs (often because they recall the stiff formal poses that were popular in the past). Unless you’ve opted for a truly photojournalistic wedding photographer, your skilled wedding photographer will likely “guide” you through many of your photographs to create beautiful and flattering images. They’ll guide you into the right light, and into natural positions that highlight your best features. Relax and enjoy the experience. It’s usually when a subject becomes overly self-conscious and nervous, and too concerned with the presence of a camera, that the images can look unnaturally posed and awkward.
Tip #17: Be smiley: Sometimes throughout your wedding day you’ll know the camera is on you. Sometimes you won’t. To make sure you look great in all your photo (even the ones you didn’t know about) try to maintain a smile throughout the day…and if not a smile, at least maintain a happy disposition that will shine through in candid photographs even when you don’t know the lens is pointed at you.
Conclusion: Hire a wedding photographer, gain a resource
Planning your wedding day can be fun, maddening, exciting and frightening. Follow these tips, and choose your photographer carefully, and you will find yourself an ally and resource who will support you through the planning process…and then create beautiful images that you will cherish for a lifetime (and your family will cherish long after that). Good luck!
Did you find this helpful, or do you have more questions? Do you have additional advice to help couples hire their wedding photographer? Have you had a wonderful (or horrible) wedding photography experience? Leave us a comment below.
Interested in working with Truly Madly Deeply for your engagement, elopement or wedding photography? Give us a call at the studio on (912) 235-2420, use the Contact Form to send us a message, or read more at our Engagement, Elopement & Wedding Portfolio & Pricing pages.
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