Advice For Choosing a Wedding Photographer





It seems that most everyone these days has a digital SLR camera and is offering to shoot weddings with it. But, there is something to be said with, “you get what you pay for.” So it’s important to know what to look for, and what to avoid, when deciding on a wedding photographer.

Personality
The wedding photographer will most likely be around the bride and groom more than any other person on the wedding day. It is important that the photographer have a personality that they enjoy being around.

Some photographers are casual and laid back about everything while some are a little more controlling at running the show. The casual laid back photographer is most likely not going to get in the way much, and is going to capture the candid shots that everyone loves. The more controlling photographer is going to be able to get people where they need to be and set up some perfect shots for the fireplace mantle.

Most photographers probably fall somewhere in-between the two.  There are also other personality types such as the overly friendly person vs. the quite person. No one personality is better than another: it’s all up to the bride and groom to decide who they want to spend the day with.
Some studios will hire other photographers to work for them. When having the consultation with the studio, identify if that person will be photographing the wedding or someone else, and ask to meet the person who will be there on the wedding day.

Albums, Prints, and Disks
If buying the optional book or album, check the quality ahead of time. Will people be able to flip through it years later?  Will it hold together? Does the photographer do a good job of using the album to tell a story of the wedding day? These are all things one should consider before making a purchase.

If photographic prints are provided, what type of paper and inks are used? Does the photographer do the prints or do they send them to a quality lab? If a disk is provided, what is on the disk? For example, do they provide high resolution JPG files that the clients can use to make prints later? Or are they low resolution, which will only work on websites but won’t create a quality print?

There is nothing wrong with the photographer limiting what is in the initial package and charging more for extras like a full resolution disk or additional prints. Just make sure to ask questions, understand the order, and that everything is documented in the contract.
Examples
Photographers are only going to show people their best work. Since most photographers do online galleries, ask to get a link to a couple of other client galleries. Look through and see what the overall work looks like. This has an additional benefit of setting the client’s expectations realistically, because not all photographs taken will look like they belong on the cover of a bride magazine.

Style
Any good photographer is going to do a combination of “candid” and “formal” pictures. And it’s important to have both. Are the formal shots posed in a way that the client will be happy with? Do the candids look natural and memorable? The style of the photographer should match the mood of what the bride and groom imagine for their wedding memories.  

Thanks to Photoshop and ever-changing technology, will the pictures be cool-looking now, but dated later? Think glam shots from the 80’s. Also, are the images consistent? Does the photographer use a lot of soft or hard lighting, high contrast or low, and identify what the breakdown between black and white and color images is?

Price
It’s important to set a realistic budget for a photographer. Once that budget has been set, make sure to understand what is being provided by the photographer for that price, including the cost of any extras. Examples of extras include: extra time, additional prints or disks, albums, and more.

Photographers don’t just charge for a product, they charge for time, and that needs to be taken into consideration when hiring a professional. Processing pictures and creating albums are all time put in after the wedding day. The final product should reflect the time put into it by the photographer.

References
Popular sites like frugalbride.com will tell people to get references but, for the most part, references are a waste of time. Photographers aren’t going to provide a reference to someone who is dissatisfied with their service. They are only going to provide happy clients as references. And if they don’t have happy clients, they could provide friends or family pretending to be happy clients. There is no way to verify who the person providing the reference is and how true it is, so why bother wasting time?

Number of pictures
With digital technology the number of photographs taken at a wedding are too numerous to use. What is really important is the quality of the photographs received. A photographer can take a thousand images at a wedding, but if only 10 of them are any good, it’s kind of a waste.

No Experience
Try to avoid finding someone who just bought a digital camera and is looking to make a few bucks on the side. Yes, this will cut down on the overall budget of the wedding, but the quality of the product and quality of the service will most likely reflect as such. Everyone has to start somewhere and gain experience. But for photographers this can be done via classes and as an assistant for other photographers. It doesn’t have to be at your wedding, so make sure to have experienced people.

There is a lot of stress on a wedding day for everyone involved and it is important to have someone taking the pictures who has worked with other photographers and knows how to deal with situations as they arise. It’s also important not to have someone who is trying to figure out how the flash works after lining up the guests for formal pictures. By having an experienced photographer, there is one less thing for the bride and groom to worry about.

Low Quality Equipment
Nowadays most everyone uses digital equipment. And DSLR cameras can be cheaply purchased, but there is a difference between a Canon Rebel and a Canon 5D, or a Nikon D90 and Nikon D3. There is a reason one costs in the hundreds and the others in the thousands.  There is more to a camera than just megapixels and there is a huge difference between a $200 hundred dollar lens and a $2,000 dollar lens.

The backup camera can be a lower-end camera, but the primary camera and lenses should be higher quality. Don’t be afraid to do some research on equipment for verification.
Some photographers can get fantastic shots with some pretty low-end equipment, and some use it as a style choice for the results it provides. But, quite often the photographers who are charging a reasonable price will take some of that revenue and invest it in quality equipment.

Professionalism
A photographer is someone that arrives before the wedding begins, spends the day interacting with just about everyone who attends, and will usually stay until the end of the night. It is important that that person be professional, courteous, and blends in properly with the guests. If the photographer is disorganized or has a bad attitude, they should probably be avoided.

There are photographers who will show up in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans, and that works for them as it is who they are and how they want to present themselves. Others will show up in black slacks and a black shirt, in an attempt to blend in as best as possible. It is up to the bride and groom to decide on how they want the photographer to present themselves.  If they want a photographer in a suit or specific wardrobe, they should make sure to clarify it in advance. It doesn’t need to be in the contract, but should be discussed.

To Summarize
There is a reason a professional photographer’s album looks better than one an average person might create using an at-home template. There is also a reason a professional’s picture looks better than an amateur with a newly purchased digital camera. Even so, it is important to balance quality with cost of service because, at the end of the day, the cake will be eaten, the flowers will rot, and the memories will fade, but the photographs will last a lifetime.

With so many wedding photographers to choose from, there is no reason to settle on a photographer that isn’t going to be exactly what is wanted. Sometimes personalities match and sometimes they don’t: there is nothing wrong with acknowledging it. A photographer shouldn’t take it offensively if a client chooses not to book them. But they might ask why. If they do, be honest and be polite. If they are any good, they will take that feedback and use it as an opportunity for improvement.