Once you start looking for a wedding photographer you might be a bit overwhelmed with the amount of photographers out there. How to choose your wedding photographer out of the thousands that seem to exist? They all differ in the way they work, in style and price point. Even the easiest way of comparing them, by comparing prices, seems a though job within wedding photography land. As everyone seems to have a different system for determining their prices, not to mention they all have a different level of shooting, editing and customer service. Plus comparing pricing probably isn't the best way to find the photographer that fits your wedding. The cheapest wedding photographer might not be able to deliver what you're looking for, nor provide a professional service (with back-ups and such). So...
Here's how I advise you go about choosing a photographer
1. Find out what photography style you like (aka what kind of wedding photographer you want to have on your wedding day). Roughly you have 2 options: documentary/journalistic or editorial. The journalistic photographer is often 'the fly on the wall' typ of photographer. He/she registers everything without directing, without intervening in your day and capturing real emotions and genuine facial expressions. The editorial photographer strives to create perfect photos. They will direct you into the best light and into the best poses.
If you like my images you're probably looking for a documentary kind of photographer who does include a photosession in which you'll get a bit of guidance. I have a primarily documentary style of shooting so there isn’t any posing or forced smiles involved. The only exception is the photoshoot (between about 50 minutes and 2 hours) and any formal group shots, during which I will give you some directions (if you want those, most of my clients aren’t big fans of formals and neither am I to be honest but of course we can do them and I'll try my very best to make them as fun and go by as smooth as possible). Still, even then I don’t really pose, I do give little assignments so you’ll be pointing your attention towards each other instead of towards me and my camera. In my book it’s your job to enjoy yourselves, not to make sure you look your best in the photos (that’s sort of my job ;) )
2. Find out what kind of editing style you like. This determines for instance how the colors and contrast in your images will appear. There are wedding photographers who edit their images bright and colorful so the colors really pop out of their images, there's a light, often called "fine art" look which looks like the pastel colours seen in old slightly over-exposed Fuji 400 film photos. Maybe you love black and white photography or you might like vintage fadded, yellowy kind of editing. Most photographers develop an editing style they love and stick to it. Some photographers do a pick and mix of editing per photo or per wedding, which on first glance might look like a good idea but it also means that you can't really know in advance what kind of editing your photographer will choose for your images. On top of this uncertainty factor, the different editing styles will look kind of messy in your album as it won't look like a coherent story that took place at the same place and time.
My images fall into the fine art film category of editing although my images tend to be a bit more "luminous" and "less yellow-ish" than most fine art photographers edit.
Another thing you might want to look into is what most people talk about when they speak of "photoshopping". Some photographers want to keep everything as real as possible. Others will make you look younger, slimmer or less tired. They will make your eyes more blue, replace entire skies or turn an entire image into something out of a fairytale. Personally I like to stay somewhere in between. I won't change your appearance but I will shop out a bag of crips that was left under some bushes, an easily deleted emergency exit sign, a pimple or other small eyesores of which removal will enhance the image. However I won't swap skies or decrease anyones waistlines (I promise I won't increase it either ;) ).
3. Before choosing a wedding photographer, ask them if you can expect any extra costs after the wedding. Although at first my prices might seem a bit higher than your average European wedding photographer I firmly am against any hidden costs and will not charge you anything besides the price we agree upon when you are booking me.
4. Ask to see a full gallery or a wedding album (or 2) before you decide on which wedding photographer to hire. Even the most inexperienced photographer will be able to gather 15 quite nice looking photos to put on their website. That does not mean they will be able to get you awesome photos in all different lighting situations and a consistent set of photos throughout your wedding day. So it's essential you get to see 1 or several complete galleries or wedding albums.
5. Don't automatically choose a photographer who is on a preferred vendor list at your wedding venue. Often they have paid to be on the list and are not necessarily the best choice for you or your wedding. Besides, they are probably pretty bored by the venue by now and it's hard for them to look at your wedding with fresh eyes. If you see their photos in the particular venue and think: OMG I love these, then go for it! Most preferred vendors have experience in your wedding venue, so if you love their work chances are pretty good you won't be disappointed. But if you just think: these will do, please look elsewhere until you find a photographer who's photos excite you.
It might surprise you but some venues just put vendors on their preferred lists that are willing to pay the highest fee to them. This is not a good basis to choose a preferred vendor on. In my view a preferred vendor should be talented and great and/or fun to work with, not necessarily the one who's willing to pay the venue most for their referrals. Personally I'm not on any recommended vendor lists of venues (I am on the lists of some wedding planners and other vendors though ;) ), as I love that my destination wedding work let's me discover different places and venues. I'm fine with going to a place a couple of times of course, but I wouldn't want to shoot at the same venue every week.
6. Determine your photography budget. When people start planning their wedding a lot of them are shocked to learn how much things like a venue, catering, a tailored dress and a professional wedding photographer costs. Some people even become convinced that wedding professionals simply overcharge when you drop the word “wedding”. When doing the maths, and considering a big chunk of what a couple pays goes towards running a photography business and doesn’t end up in the photographers’ pocket to begin with, some photographers get upset and write entire blogposts about where each euro, dollar and pound ends up. But it’s really simple: I’m a wedding photographer, that’s what I do for a living. I commit all my time to create beautiful images and a great relationship with my clients. I can’t shoot more than 15 full day weddings in a years time (only 10 of them in high season) if I want to do both those things properly. When a couple hires me to shoot their wedding they pay about a 15th part of my yearly salary (+ the costs of running a business).
Still, if you don’t have the budget to hire an experienced professional wedding photographer you still have options. You could ask a friend/family member (although that will rob them of attending your wedding as a guest). Or you could hire a photographer who is just starting out, because even the most inexperienced photographer is able to make 1 or 2 good photos. This does involve several risks though: once a couple called me 1 week before their wedding because their original photographer had cancelled and didn’t give them any replacement or even a recommendation for another photographer. If you book a professional they (or at least I) will make sure another photographer will be there in the very rare case (I’ve never missed a wedding in 8 years of my business) that I'm physically not able to come to your wedding. Then there’s a plethora of other things that can go wrong. Their camera could break during your wedding (I always bring at least 2), their memory card could be corrupted or accidentally erased (I work with camera’s that have 2 card slots so all your photos will always be saved on 2 memory cards) or their hard disc could die after they’ve erased their memory cards and before they delivered your images (I store all my edited and unedited photos in multiple on and off-site places). Of course those people starting out can be very passionate photographers and also be utterly talented too! I’m just saying that if you have the budget, you might want to think twice about saving on your photographer.
7. How many photographers do you want?
Do you want 1 or 2 photographers? Not every photographer is comfortable with bringing a second shooter. However, having 2 photographers has a lot of pros. I almost always bring a Wit Photography team member nowadays. Read more about the advantages of having 2 photographers here.
8. Do you like the person behind the camera?
It's really important that you understand, like and get along with your wedding photographer. They'll be with you your entire wedding day! You don't want to spend it with someone who you don't like, don't get or even annoys you. So please go and talk (this can be on the phone or through skype too) to the photographer you are considering. And if you get married in a country where they speak another language then your own, make sure you find a photographer that speaks your native language (or speaks English very well, if you are comfortable enough with English yourself). You can take a photographer with you from your own country or try to find a local photographer who speaks your language.
Some brides prefer to have a woman as their photographer as they find it a bit awkward to have a man capturing their getting ready (I know I would if I'm honest).
Are you still looking for a wedding photographer and do you think we might be a good fit? Send me a message, tell me all about your plans and let me check if I'm still available for your wedding date.
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