Wedding Planning - Choosing The Right Photographer
Your wedding day will happen but only once. You may have already chosen the perfect ceremony and reception sites; you most likely have your eye on a remarkably beautiful and stunning gown already, too. Your wedding will indeed be a gorgeous celebration that could not possibly be forgotten. Although, as the years go by those detailed memories may begin to fade a bit. That's why there are few other pre-wedding tasks more important than choosing the photographer-- the one person who will capture all those precious moments as they unfold throughout your wedding day. And those wedding day emotions can be captured one time only-- second chances will not be an option. For that reason it's essential to put as much hard work into finding a photographer as you did when you scoped out the perfect reception site and wedding gown.
Before moving on, we'd like to point out how extremely important it is to hire a professional photographer-- preferably someone who specializes in weddings. Unless you know someone personally who is a professional, your wedding day is hardly the time to allow any of your family members or friends to test their photography skills. We'll repeat again: your wedding day will happen only once. Other than memories, your pictures will be the one thing left you'll own to document and remind you of how perfect your day really was. Even though your Uncle Joe's intentions are sincere, kindly let him know that you want him at your wedding to enjoy himself and partake in all the festivities, instead of spending all his time trying to capture wedding photos. A professional will not only have the experience and expertise, but he or she will also have the appropriate professional equipment needed in order to take the best pictures. If a tight budget is an issue, it would still be best to order the smallest and most economical package from a professional than it would be to have a non-professional do the job for you. Remember you are going for the quality of the pictures, not the quantity.
With that said, begin your searches well in advance. Plan to book a photographer at least 8-12 months before the wedding date. Take advantage of any bridal shows happening in your area. A bridal show alone will afford you the chance to view numerous albums from local photographers and gather their brochures with contact information. Begin asking friends, family members and co-workers for their recommendations-- especially if you know someone who just recently got married. Then begin making a list of prospective photographers in which you will call. The reason you'll want to call them first is so you can ask them two important questions that should determine whether or not it is worth your time to interview them.
1. Ask them about their availability on your wedding date. If they are already booked, you can cross them off the list instantly.
2. Inquire about their rates. You probably won't get exact dollar amounts for every package or print they offer, but a ballpark figure will help you determine whether or not they will fit within your budget.
Try calling at least 8-10 various photographers.
After making these initial calls, choose at least 3 photographers to interview in person. The interview will provide you the chance to visit their studio, view their work and inquire about their services in person. As you meet with the photographer, take notice of his or her personality and attitude. Your wedding day will have no room for a sarcastic, rude or demanding photographer. Imagine this person interacting with you and your guests on your wedding day. Go with your gut feeling on this one, you can't go wrong.
The photographer should provide you with several fully completed albums from fairly recent weddings they've photographed. Don't be satisfied looking only at albums that contain numerous pictures from various weddings. Ask to view a full wedding album. The photographer's talents will shine through in a full wedding album that consistently displays quality, focused photographs that have captured genuine emotions from the bride, groom and guests' faces.
When viewing these albums, also take notice of the photographer's style. Does he specialize in wedding portraits, or candid shots? Does he do an impeccable job at capturing facial expressions and emotions? Is the photographer attentive to detail? (I.e. do you see a lot of rumpled hairdo's and stray hairs, crooked bowties, etc?) Decide whether or not his style works with the style you want. Think for a moment about how you will want your wedding album to turn out. How do you envision the pictures in your album? Is it filled with formal portraits, or more candid snapshots? Do you want color photographs, or do you prefer the look of Black and White? Maybe you'd like a mix of the two. Consider exactly what you have in mind and figure out whether or not the photographer's style will fulfill those needs. Be sure to address any of your questions or concerns about their services. Here are a few more tips to follow and questions you should ask before choosing any particular photographer.
- Of course one of your first questions should be about their rates. Many photographers provide package rates while a few others may charge by the hour or per print. Get specifics and ask them to fill you in on everything that will be included. If they charge by package rates, ask if the packages also include the engagement session, formal portraits and parents' albums. Is there any overtime fees or extra charges for travel time? How will these fees be calculated?
- Ask how much will be required in order to secure his or her services for your wedding day. When is the balance due?
- Who will be present at the wedding? Will it just be the photographer you are interviewing, or will he or she bring an assistant along? How will they be attired?
- Be certain to ask the photographer what their policy is in the event that he or she has an emergency or gets ill and will not be able to photograph your wedding. Do they send a substitute? Whom do they choose to take their place?
- Usually negatives are not included with your wedding album package. You may want to ask them about this. Ask them how long they keep the negatives if they do not include them in the package. This may be good information to know should you want to purchase additional prints sometime in the future or in the unfortunate event that the album gets lost or destroyed (you'd be able to replace it).
- When will the proofs be available for viewing? Usually the photographer will arrange for a time when friends and family members can come for a viewing and order prints as well.
- What style and quality of albums does the photographer provide? Ask to see the variety of albums. Do they provide framing services as well?
- When do they expect the album(s) to be completed after you have made your print selections?
- What is their cancellation policy?
- Does the photographer have a policy about providing them with a meal at the wedding? After all, he or she will be working many long hours that day and they will need to replenish themselves in order to keep the energy needed to get the job done well. Even if the photographer brings his or her own meal, they will still need a short break in order to eat. Be sure to go over this with them.
Now that you've gone through the process of interviewing several photographers, it is time to make your decision. Which photographer appeared the most professional? Did he or she seem attentive and sensitive to your wants and needs? Did they have a friendly personality? Did they seem to have a genuine love and dedication for their work? Remember, all those little aspects will show through on your wedding day. Before making a final decision, ask for references. Call several of the references when you get home, before you make a definite decision.
After you've chosen a photographer be sure to get the full terms and agreements in writing. A verbal contract will not protect your investment in his or her services. Read the finished contract thoroughly and go over it with him or her. Be sure the both of you sign the contract and keep a copy for your records.
Now that you've finished one of the hardest tasks of planning a wedding, relax. If you've done your "homework" and interviewed several photographers carefully, you should be left with no reason why you shouldn't be able to put your trust into them. Remember it is not only their duty, but also their passion to capture beautiful, memorable pictures. Reassure yourself by staying in contact with your photographer up to the wedding day. Jot down a list of "must take" photos and go over them with him or her. Be open to the photographer's suggestions as well. After all, their business is weddings and capturing the moments of the day onto film. They will undoubtedly have many good ideas - some you may not have even thought of. Let their talents benefit you on this day.
Realize also that the photographer will be working very hard before and during your wedding. He or she will be giving their all to capture the best pictures. We all know that you and your groom understand how important their job is (of course it's important-it is your wedding!), but it is also important that the guests respect his hard work at the wedding as well. It would be a good idea to inform the guests that they should refrain from snapping photos at the same time the photographer is doing so (the Best Man can take care of this). Their flashes will be distracting as well as blinding and may have a disappointing affect on the outcome of the photo he was trying to take. Have the guests kindly wait until the photographer is finished before they go snapping away with their cameras. With a little cooperation from both sides, the photographer will have the best chance at stealing those precious moments onto film.
Soon enough your wedding day will come and go, but rest assured, you'll have the invaluable treasure of a wedding album to document your special day for many years to come. And, all of this will be thanks to your photographer.