Imagine sitting at a table with two engagement rings laid before you. Each ring has a polished rose gold band with intricate detail and a stunning stone set beautifully in the center. Each are gorgeous, but one retails at $100 and the other over $5000. Why? Because one is 14K rose gold with a flawless diamond, and the other is plated sterling silver and cubic zirconia. Maybe at first glance you didn’t notice a difference, but they are two fundamentally different objects. And quite honestly, nothing is wrong with either - they just serve different purposes and are designed for different people with different values.
Sometimes, looking for the perfect wedding photographer for your day can feel a bit like the above scenario. Every photographer has unique strengths and weaknesses, but it's hard to understand what they when there is so little information online and every photographer only puts their very best work on their website. And it all looks really, really good. So how do you find the perfect photographer for you and your day when there are so many attractive options that all look so similar?
I believe there are four basic things that differentiate wedding photographers, and having this information will help you make the most informed decision on who will be the perfect choice for you and your day.
The consistency and style of a photographer’s photographs are the first and most obvious way to determine whether or not they are a good fit for you. Ask yourself...
- Is their work consistent overall? Or are their images too dark, too light, too faded, too yellow, too contrast-y, too vibrant, or too dull? Even if you can't quite put your finger on what it is, pay attention to if something just feels off to you.
- Are these images timeless? Will I still love them in 50 years, or will they look dated and out of style?
- Is there anything about their style that you don’t love? Is it overly photoshopped or not retouched enough? Do the couples look awkward or too posed? Are the background choices overly simple or too complex for your tastes?
- Do you prefer a traditional posed style or a more candid, natural one? Does this photographer offer the look that I love?
- Is this the style I’m looking for? Every photographer has a different style because every bride is looking for something different, and that’s completely and totally okay! However, it is important to know what you’re looking for in order to find someone who is the perfect match. For example, if you want your images to be light, airy, and romantic, it’s best not to choose a photographer who has photographs that are mostly dark, contrasty, and moody. They’re not a good match for you. So think about the words that best describe you and your ideal style, and try to find photographers who match that. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Is your style...
- Fun and lighthearted?
- Passionate and moody?
- Gentle and romantic?
- Loud and crazy?
- Bright and colorful?
- Soft and subdued?
A great way to determine a photographer’s overall style is to look at a full gallery from one wedding day. Seeing all of the images from beginning to end is invaluable for determining consistency, style, and professionalism.
2. Experienced Professionalism
When it comes to preserving memories for future generations, experience matters. A seasoned professional photographer will know how to anticipate important moments throughout the day, remain flexible through schedule changes, and guide you through your timeline in a way that allows you to truly enjoy your wedding. Honestly, making photographs is only part of what a professional photographers does on a wedding day, and it’s important that you’re able to trust your photographer with the stress, challenges, and surprises that come with big events. The following are a few things to think about and questions to ask when determining the experience level of your photographer:
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH WEDDINGS LIKE MINE?
It’s not necessarily important that your photographer has shot at your specific venue previously, but it is important that they have experience with the type of wedding you’re planning. An church wedding at night requires a different set of skills than an outdoor wedding at noon, and your photographer should be able to handle the specific challenges unique to your day.
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE FLASH AND ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING?
While you may prefer the look of natural light, the truth is not every aspect of every wedding day can be photographed in ideal light. A great photographer will know how to modify the situation they’re in to provide optimal lighting in all situations.
HOW WILL THEY HANDLE MY SPECIFIC SITUATION?
Every wedding is different, and only you know the unique challenges that will come with your day. Be sure to think through anything that might pose a challenge to your photographer and have an honest conversation about that. For example, if you’re determined to have your ceremony at sunset and not see your groom before you walk down the aisle, then all of the portraits of the two of you will be taken in the dark. You should have the confidence that your photographer can handle this situation.
3. Tangible Products
Before Lucas and I were married, I didn’t really understand the value of printed, tangible heirlooms. I thought that the only thing I wanted from our wedding day was the digital files because I didn't think past the first time I'd be able to look at them. But, over the course of time I realized that I never really looked at our photographs digitally. In fact, in the two years that we’ve been married, I’ve only looked at our online gallery maybe 5 times. At the most. But the photographs that we have printed? I look at them all the time. Our album sits proudly in the middle of our coffee table, and I look at it almost every day.
And I realized that these are the photographs that I want to show my friends. These are the photographs that I want to one day pass down to our children… and the photographs that will still be around to pass down to their children.
I believe that digital files are a fantastic thing, but they were never meant to be the finished product. Your wedding photographs were meant to be viewed as a physical work of art and they deserve to be printed. And not just printed, but printed well. In a manner that will be professional and high quality enough to stand the test of time.
Not all wedding albums are created equal. Quality varies greatly even among professional albums, and I only want you to receive the best. So as you’re looking at albums, be sure to look for the following signs of quality build and construction:
- Are they folded or cut down the middle? Generally, a cut page will last longer, as there will be less stress from the page turning. However, larger albums require a folded page to allow for a stronger binding. A professional will know the difference between folded and cut pages and be able to explain which would work better for your specific needs.
- Are the pages glossy, matte, or somewhere in between? Each type of paper has pros/cons, as well as a specific look and feel. Most couples have a preference, so be sure to ask to see different types of paper to see which one you like best.
- Is there any discoloration? Both yellowing of the pages and fading of the images are signs that this album will not last.
- When the album is closed, are all of the pages laying flat or is there any sort or warping?
- Are they laying flat?
- Is there any crinkling?
- Are any corners peeling up?
- Is it genuine leather?
- If you’d like something besides leather, are there other options available? Are they archival?
- Are the corners fading or peeling off?
- How is the cover material holding up in general?
- Are the images printed consistent with the colors and vibrancy of the images viewed online? Are they dull and flat, overly contrasty, or perfectly consistent?
4. Customer Service
This is honestly the basis of a wonderful experience with your wedding photographer. If a photographer makes beautiful photographs, has lots of experience, provides a beautiful product, but has terrible customer service, you’re going to be unhappy with your experience. Regardless. I want to do everything I can to ensure you receive the absolutely best experience, so as you’re looking around, be sure to find out and pay attention to...
HOW LONG IT TAKES TO RECEIVE AN EMAIL RESPONSE?
While I work hard to reply to my clients within 24 hours, quick communication isn't always a priority for many business owners. If it’s days or weeks before you hear back from a photographer, it’s likely that it won’t improve as time goes on. There is nothing more frustrating that being unable to contact a vendor, so definitely be sure to pay attention to this.
HOW WILLING THEY ARE TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS?
A great wedding photographer will be more than willing to answer any question you have about your wedding… even if it’s not directly related to photography. I LOVE being a resource for my brides, and take great joy in answering their questions… from “how long do you think this will take?” and “have you worked with this DJ before?” to “will these flowers and colors clash with my venue?”. If your photographer has a lot of experience with weddings, be sure to utilize it to get the most out of your day!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECEIVE PHOTOGRAPHS?
All of my clients receive their photographs within 30 days of their wedding. However, every photographer is different, so be sure your expectations regarding when you’ll receive your photographs match up with their realistic turn around time.
HOW DOES THE ALBUM DESIGN PROCESS WORK?
Every photographer does this a bit differently, so it’s important to be sure your expectations match their guidelines!
DOES THIS PERSON TREAT ME LIKE MY WEDDING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WEDDING THEY’RE PHOTOGRAPHING?
I think this comes down to passion. When you love your job and adore your clients, you honestly do believe that each wedding you’re at is the best, and you work hard to create the best photographs you've ever made. Every time. Does your photographer treat you like this, or do you feel like you are you just a number - one of the many brides who comes through their studio each year?
HOW WELL DO YOU GET ALONG WITH THIS PHOTOGRAPHER?
You end up spending more time with your photographer on your wedding day than anyone - even your groom! Because you work together so closely on such an important day of your life, I believe it’s important that you get to know each other and truly enjoy each other’s company. Different personality types mesh differently, so it’s impossible to recommend anything specific to look for, but definitely consider this as you’re weighing your options. Because you don’t want to look back on your wedding day and remember spending it with a person you didn’t love being around.