Hiring a wedding photographer (or any wedding professional for that matter) can feel daunting. I remember going through the process with my husband, my Real Simple Wedding Guide in hand (may it rest in peace) trying to ask the right questions. If you’re anything like us, you’re excited, but also a little overwhelmed. You might have sent info requests to handfuls of each type of vendor and all the replies to your inbox are raising your stress level. I won’t beat around the bush. If I was to go back and do it again, these are the 5 details I’d consider before hiring a wedding photographer.
This is actually a two part question where one has to do with style and one has to do with content.
Style in terms of color, brightness or darkness, contrast and vibrance will be the first thing you notice. Are you more attracted to warm tones and dark shadows, or do you like photos that have a softer feel with pastel colors? Maybe you’re looking at my photos and love the brightness and vibrant, true to life colors. Take note of what you love about the overall look of the images you’re drawn too. Photographers spend years honing their look and won’t change their editing style, so it’s important to be sure that you LOVE the look of their work.
Content refers to the way the photographer shows their wedding couples. This is where you’ll look for how the couple is portrayed in photos. For instance when scrolling through a gallery or blog post, does the collective set of images give you a feeling of drama, lightheartedness, romance? Maybe there are lots of classic, formal looking photos. Every photographer has their own proverbial lens through which they’ll see your wedding day and what moments will catch their eye. I am perpetually looking for laughter and sass, so you’ll often see in-the-moment smiles and belly laughing in my images. Another photographer might have an eye for regal or passionate moments and so their overall portfolio may have a more serious feel. That doesn’t mean that in the course of your wedding day we won’t see and capture those other moments, BUT it does denote exactly what is second nature to our eyes and overall art expression.
Nailing down what type of photography style and image content you are drawn to will give you a solid starting point for your photographer search. And it’ll put you at ease knowing that you’ll love the look and feel of your wedding day photos!
This actually works in conjunction with # one. If you love a light and muted style full of natural light, but your venue(s) is/are dark with little or no window light, you’ll want to keep this in mind during your searching phase. As you find photographers you love, look to see if they’ve got any examples from venues with similar lighting environments to yours. If they don’t, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker (maybe they’ve been dying to shoot at your venue or have beautiful examples they didn’t show on their website), but you should definitely feel free to ask questions about how they’d handle the different scenario.
By value I mean, how important is it to you to have professional photos AND how many dollars does that equal. Eye roll time, I know. And you probably already looked up what you “should” spend.
Dare I say, it doesn’t matter what the average amount spent on a particular service in your area is. It only matters what you can and are willing to pay. For instance, The Knot and WeddingWire both estimate the average amount spent on wedding photography is 10-12% of the wedding budget. With this “standard,” for a $20,000 wedding you should expect to divert about $2000 to photography. BUT that doesn’t take any other factors into account! Is this a $20k elopement wedding with 20 guests, or a big traditional wedding with 200 guests? You and I know what a huge difference the number of guests makes to where money goes. So if YOU think you’d like to allot more or less to photography, that is totally up to you. Proceed as you’d like and feel free to IGNORE big wedding media.
As an example, Mr. B and I went WAY OVER the average percentage spent. We got married years before photography was a blip on my career radar, so I was searching the internet just like you. We were so confused trying to figure it all out, but we knew what our top priorities were. According to costofwedding.com our “expected” photography expenditure came to about $2500, BUT WE SPENT $6000! In fact, we cut some floral and totally ejected videography in order to add to our photography package. Besides the venue and food, photography was our top priority so we decided to say yes to what we really wanted. Only you can do this for yourselves. It doesn’t matter what I, or your mom, or The Knot or anyone says.
Start with a ballpark wedding photography budget. At the beginning, just like Mr. B and I, you probably don’t know exactly how much you have to spend on wedding photography, but you have an idea where you’d like to start. If it is a lower priority for you, it’ll be easy to check pricing and decide if you want to inquire further. If it’s a high priority for you, you’ll know you have some leeway to say yes to a more valuable photography experience by saying no to things lower on the list.
There are a lot of facets to this question because what any particular photographer may think you need based on your specific event, will vary. Things like hours of coverage, products and the need for a 2nd shooter can drastically affect pricing.
For instance, I have certain minimums for different scenarios. For weddings with over 50 guests, I always include a 2nd shooter. But for certain smaller size weddings, the 2nd shooter is an option. I’ve also determined that more traditional sized and scheduled wedding days require a minimum of 8 hours to capture the most important events. However, for elopements, I’ll schedule as few as 4 hours (though all-day elopement photography is the bomb dot com!!). You can see how detailed the process can get, which is why every wedding photography package can vary.
Think about the type of event you’re planning and have an idea what you’d like included so you can get various pricing options. Do you want coverage from the first mimosa until the last guest leaves the venue? Are you willing to end your coverage after the cake cutting? Think about if you’d like an album, or wall art like canvases or metal prints. Will you be gifting prints to parents and wedding attendants, etc?
Whatever you think about contact beyond email, you have to get on the phone before you hire a wedding photographer. Think of it this way, your photographer is going to be with you ALL DAY LONG so what’s a 20 minute phone call if it means you’ll be assured you can actually enjoy each other?! I can think of few things worse on your wedding day than feeling like the photographer doesn’t get you…and then having to spend 8+ hours together.
Don’t avoid a phone call with your potential photographer if they ask for one before proceeding with booking. And if they don’t ask for one, you should. Your attitude towards your photographer and how they make you feel has a HUGE effect on the outcome of your photos and how you’ll feel about them. You’re essentially choosing between a) fighting back feeling annoyed or misunderstood all day (is it easy for you to be in photos when you feel like that?) and b) being yourself and soaking up every moment of epic joy. If you chose B, get on the phone, or Skype or ask for an in person happy hour meeting. The point is to have verbal contact for a few minutes to get a vibe.
But Dawn I follow this person on social media. I already know what they’re like! Yes, okay, you might have a general sense of the way they talk and their thoughts. BUT that doesn’t mean it’ll all translate over to your relationship with them IN REAL LIFE. The phone call is an insurance policy that ensures you like their online person as much as their real life person. Capisce?
If you’re craving more info, I invite you to read up on my other wedding tips. There are articles for every stage of your planning and more on the way! If you’re feeling my whole vibe and can definitely imagine me making magic with your marriage day, get in touch!