Wedding planning can be fun, exciting, stressful, overwhelming and about a million other adjectives. There are over an abundance of vendors out there, especially here in West Michigan and that doesn’t exclude photographers. The good news? You have options! The bad news? The process of narrowing down that one photographer you must have on your wedding day may be really difficult. Wedding photography is more than just the ability to take pretty pictures, we wear many hats on that day and beyond, ranging anywhere from a friend, wedding planner, crowd wrangler, dress fluffer, counselor, family mediator and the list goes on. Below, I will give you a rundown of things to look for, questions to ask yourself and the potential photographer, red flags to watch out for and as much valuable information as I can think of!
There are two places I would start – determining your budget and choosing your favorite style of photography. Budget and style are both subjective but crucial part of the search. Your budget can determine the quality and experience of your photographer. If you’re unsure what a wedding photographer budget should look like, it may be helpful to start looking at photographers you like and reaching out for pricing.
I recommend spending some time googling and looking through Pinterest at different photography styles. There are so many different approaches and editing styles nowadays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just lost in your search. Do you prefer light and airy, dark and moody, clean and classic, bright and bold? Once you’ve narrowed your editing style down, you’ll next want to decide on the photographer’s approach. How much direction do you want from your photographer? Again, there are several options ranging from a very hands-off approach to a very involved, directional approach. I’ve learned in my 9 years as a wedding photographer that being adaptable to my clients and their needs is the best approach for me and my business model. I’m able to fluctuate from being very hands-off to very involved depending on what my clients need and part of the day we’re at. Every couple is different in their comfort level in front of the camera and being able to work with that is extremely important.
Read reviews! If they have 95% positive reviews, I would consider that a good sign. Don’t forget negative reviews can happen and that doesn’t necessarily mean that a bad review is an accurate representation of this photographer and their business. If there are consistent complaints, such as poor communication or late delivery, I would consider these red flags and move on. Negative reviews with complaints of non-delivery or no-shows are absolute deal-breakers and I would run away immediately.
It is so important to view full galleries! Photographers only post the best of the best in their portfolio so while you can get a snippet of what they’re like, you’ll get a better vision of what this photographer is delivering for a full day of wedding coverage. I recommend viewing at least two full wedding galleries and if you’re having engagement photos done, check some of those galleries out as well. If a photographer is unable to produce full galleries, I would also consider this a red flag. An established, experienced photographer will always be happy to provide full galleries.
It’s really important for me to feel connected to my clients. The whole experience is much better when you have a great relationship. You’ll be spending a lot more time than just the wedding day with this person, why wouldn’t you want to be friends with them? Being able to communicate effectively and with ease is a great asset to your relationships. While this is a business transaction, there are always ways to separate business from the relationship and building a great relationship with your photographer is crucial.
Talk about expectations. What’s the turn around time? How many images can be expected? What would the wedding day look like with them as your photographer? Is there a backup plan in case an emergency arises? Is the person you’re interviewing going to be your photographer on the day of the wedding? The more questions you ask, the more expectations are set and the better your relationship will be with your photographer.
Do. Not. Book. Without. A. Contract. PERIOD! Contracts are not only for their protection but for yours! I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from both sides about the absence of contracts and how burned couples and/or photographers have been burned. Contracts set expectations (I use this word a lot!) and boundaries. Be sure to review the contract thoroughly and ask for clarification on any portion that is unclear to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for minor changes if you need. In my many years, I’ve had a handful of clients ask to keep their photos off social media. Because I’m not portfolio building, of course, I can accommodate that request, though it’s so hard to not share those few beautiful weddings.
Ensure the photographer has liability insurance and is a registered business. Venues commonly require all vendors to carry liability insurance and must submit proof prior to the event. It would be extremely unfortunate to find out just prior to your wedding that your photographer doesn’t have the proper insurances and cannot work with you.
While this might not cover everything, I believe this is a good majority of the important topics. Do your research and ask questions. If you don’t know what other questions to ask, I encourage you to start googling and find more blogs on the topic. As a photographer, I want my clients to be fully educated, confident in their decision and to trust me that I have their backs the entire process. In the end, trust your instincts, do your research and set your expectations and you’ll find a wonderful photographer for your special day!