Ok, so now you’re engaged and your todo list is going to grow by the day. One of the biggies on that list is finding the perfect wedding photographer. Looking for the right photographer can be one of the more intimidating parts of wedding planning. When you book a wedding photographer you’re purchasing a product (albums, canvases, prints etc) but you also need to find someone you can trust completely. Knowing where to begin can be a challenge. Here are some tips to get you started.
OK, we’ve set the date…when should we start looking for our photographer?
You really can’t start too soon. Planning on having your photographer booked at least six months in advance of your day is a good goal. Any less than that the risk is not bingeing able to hire your first choice. Also, having less than six months restricts your options for bridal and engagement sessions. If you live in a region that has more extreme temperatures you may find yourself limited to a hot or cold time of the year. Finally, more time to cultivate the relationship with your photographer is always a good thing.
Alright, I’ll start looking…how do I start?
If you have friends that have been married within the last year, start asking them about their wedding photographers. Ask to look at their albums, images and just as importantly pick their brains about the experience of working with that photographer. Google is also ad incredible tool. Search for photographers in your area and don’t forget to search using the name of your venue. Look for photographers that have blogged about your wedding location. Make a favorites folder in your web browser and limit yourself to 15-20 wedding photographers. Once you hit 20 always knock someone off of the list when adding someone new. From that list make a “Top 5” list. Contact those photographers and set up consolations. From that point you already love their photography. Personality, budget and availability will likely be the deciding factors.
How much do I need to know about their camera equipment?
Photographers love to talk about gear, so don’t be afraid to ask about their cameras, lenses and backup strategies. Photographers that shoot digital should be shooting on the latest camera bodies. Technology has made huge leaps in the last 18 months and the creative possibilities available to photographers in low light are better than ever. Your photographer should have backup camera bodies and and assortment of large aperture lenses specialized for low light photography.
Ask your photographer how they handle the security of your images after the wedding. Typical solutions should included multiple backups in their studio as well as secure off site backups such as duplicate hard drives in a back safety deposit box. They should have “worst case” plans. Hard drives are mechanical and will fail, and home and studio accidents can happen. You want to know the long term safety of your wedding day images has been planned for.
We hadn’t really thought about an engagement session, is one really necessary?
The time in your life between your engagement and wedding is one of the most exciting you’ll experience. Having a photographic time capsule by virtue of an engagement session is something that you’ll be more grateful for as the years pass. Not only that, the time and experience spent with your photographer before the wedding day goes a long way towards establishing the trust a photographer needs to create their best work. Having spent time creatively together before your wedding, you will understand the way your photographer works and having seen the results you’ll trust that work. Knowing that you can just enjoy the day and your wedding photographer will be there to scoop up the moments is a wonderful feeling on your wedding day.
How important is a second photographer?
There is a lot of talk about second shooters these days. Quite frankly, you don’t want to hire a photographer that couldn’t capture your day solo. One person cannot capture every moment but neither can two. A second shooter may add a small measure of security but it is often marginal. Some photographers would disagree with me on this point but from my perspective as a wedding photographer I would rather be concentrating on my clients and their moments on their wedding day than managing a second photographer. If you are paying extra for a second photographer I encourage you to ask to view a portfolio of that shooters images. Photographers often charge for a 2nd photographer and then use unpaid assistants that are looking for experience.
If you are having a very large wedding with many attendants (250+ guests) that’s when a second photographer really adds value.
What should I expect after my wedding?
Talk to your photographer about expectations after your wedding day. Of all the vendors you choose, your photographer may be the only one you talk to after the big day. Have your photographer explain the time frame for image delivery, album design etc. This is my typical time frame for an example. I blog teasers within a week after the wedding. The entire wedding if posted in an online proofing gallery 3-4 weeks after the wedding. From that point by clients choose their favorites for their wedding album. Once I have the favorites, I start the design process. The bride and groom give the final OK on the layout and then it’s about 4-6 weeks to have the album created. The whole process typically takes around six months. DVD of high resolution images is delivered with the wedding album. Every photographer is slightly different for how they handle delivery after the wedding so make sure you know what to expect.
Phil Holland is a Dallas wedding photographer. As owner of Holland Photo Studio he provides creative wedding photography for brides in grooms in Dallas and any destination. If you have any questions not covered here don’t hesitate to let him know in the comments or through an email. All of the images in this post are his handiwork! 🙂