My perspective on how to choose your wedding photographer

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’d have posted it sooner, but I’m always photographing weddings! I’d like more hours in the day. Here are my thoughts, for better or for worse, better late than never.

When I meet a new couple, I see in their faces a look that says, “What do we say, what do we ask?” It’s not as bad as a deer in the headlights, but they’ve never hired a wedding photographer before and are unsure of what to ask. Read on to get the lay of the land for a first consultation with a wedding photographer.

Five Easy Pieces

Your wedding photos are forever and, naturally, you want just the right photographer for you. How to you find him in the sea of “professional wedding photographers” in your area?

It’s really not that difficult.

Here’s how it usually goes. You’ve talked to friends. You’ve looked at the work of many photographers on their websites. You’ve gotten referrals from a kajillion people. Now it’s time to set appointments to meet the person who will turn your wedding day into images that dazzle, photographs that you’re delighted with, and a day spent with your photographer that just sailed with ease. You loved it and just know that you can’t wait to see your wedding photographs.

You love his work

A hugely important part of this meeting is seeing his work, obviously! If your heart starts to flutter and your tummy does flip-flops when you see his work, you know you love it. You should see not just a few, but many many of his photographs that make you say, Yes! that’s what I want! From the variety in his work, you should be absolutely certain that he will be able to tailor his photography to fit the unique look of your wedding into unique photographs that are you–not anyone else.

You are loving what you see and enjoy the way he presents it to you. Does he let you take your time and really look–really really look–at his work? Does he talk about your wedding, not other weddings? Do you see that he has a point of view but that he also doesn’t shoot each wedding in the same way? Stay away from cookie-cutter photography!

First and last is relationship

A feeling of instant comfort and rapport is important. You’re feeling at ease after a few pleasant exchanges. It’s like knowing you are comfortable with another professional that you’ve hired. Discomfort? Awkwardness? Nope! Cross those out! The mood is light! You’re talking about your wedding after all. A joyous day. An important day. An enjoyable day.

Getting a sense that he’s at ease with himself, and interested in you and your wedding is also key. If you find yourself really comfortable just chatting with him, you’re on the right track. The conversation ambles along easily. You’re smiling. He’s smiling. You sense you could have fun going out for a light meal and more conversation after the consultation is over. As you sit and talk, do you feel like you’d like him to just start taking some photos of you now? That’s how comfortable you should be with your photographer.

Does he have depth of experience?

It goes without saying that he needs to be experienced; lots of experience. Experience shooting in difficult lighting. Experience shooting when the wind picks up. Experience photographing around the limitations of your chosen venue (for example, your church or synagogue won’t allow something, like the distance the photographer must be from this or that).

He’s candid when answering your questions. How long has he been doing this? How did he learn photography? Why does he want to be a wedding photographer? What kind of equipment does he use? Why did he choose that kind instead of another? What kind of post-processing software is he using? Is he really experienced using it? Does he get along with it?

There are a lot of partnerships going on here. You and your photographer, your photographer and his equipment, your photographer and his ability to work with your wedding planner, your officiant, your photographer and his assistants, your photographer and his software, your photographer and your parents or your in-laws to be.

He’s able to answer all of your questions without any hemming and hawing. He’s experienced. He knows it. He’s confident. He’s calm and easy with the answers you need. And he’s not overbearing.

He gains your trust

Are you completely confident that he can do what you’ve seen in his portfolio? He didn’t just get lucky with one wedding, did he? No! He creates a beautiful wedding album–every time.

Are you absolutely sure that he’ll be there on the right day at the right time? What’s his track record? In the unlikely event that he is unable to be there–and this means really unlikely–like he was hit by lighting, heaven forbid!–can he assure you that he will have an experienced, suitable replacement? Do his assistants also have depth of experience? If he couldn’t be there because he’s in the hospital, would he refer you to the absolute best photographer he knows, even if that photographer is his competition? Does he care that much about your wedding?

Does he explain everything clearly? He should explain how the day will go. What he will ask you to do in order to get some of the shots that are more posed, like the family group photos. How much contact you’ll have with him during the day. How his assistant–if there is one–will work along with him and with you. He should explain how booking the date is done, the contract and its details, and his fee. All clearly. It’s all on the table and there are no unanswered questions, no hidden fees, no surprises. There should be no wiggly-weasly language at this point. Just clearness. Just clarity.

He has to love his work

He’s gotta love his work! He has to be passionate. He has to be a maniac about his love and interest in wedding photography. Does he convey that to you? He looks forward to each wedding with enthusiasm and fresh eyes.

He’s a wedding photographer–a full-time wedding photographer. Better than that, he’s a heavily-booked wedding photographer.

He’s also the sort of photographer who sees interesting photos everywhere he goes. He almost always carries a camera. He photographs almost everything he sees. He’s interested in new equipment and whether or not it will give added value, a new edge to his photographs. He’s practicing all the time. He goes to workshops. He’s won awards.

First and last is relationship

The last is the first–it all comes down to relationship. Do you click with him? You should be comfortable, assured, and have no worries about your wedding photography. One more thing off your mind. One more thing put into highly capable hands. And you’re looking forward to it!

If you found him, you’ll know. Trust your gut. You’ve chosen your husband to be. Choosing your wedding photographer is almost as easy and just as much fun.

P.S.

Special thanks to Diane for helping me putting my thoughts together in this article.

  • Albert - July 16, 2009 - 8:33 pm

    Great article! The article has some really great points on how to choose your photographer. I agree that the portfolio is important because not only can you see consistency, but also the photographer’s creativity and eye for great shots.

  • Jeannie Fung - September 4, 2009 - 3:18 pm

    Joseph, Thank God we had that relationship. =)

    Thanks for all the helpful points, tips and advices.

  • Jackson - October 21, 2009 - 10:56 pm

    so true Josef, good thing we knew we wanted you to be our photographer from the very first meeting! your work absolutely wowed us and it was an easy decision after that!

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