Congratulations on your engagement! You and your significant other have spent every weekend scouting for the perfect venue, countless tastings to find the most delicious and visually eye-popping cuisine from the best caterers. You finally found your dream dress, and worked with your event planner on a theme and color scheme and that reflects your personal style. Now it’s time to think about who will be there on your big day to capture the essence of your wedding style and personality and preserve it forever. Here are some tips on hiring the perfect photographer
-Many photographers book up early, sometimes two years in advance if it’s a popular weekend like Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, so hiring a photographer shouldn’t be last on your list.
-Ask your friends whom they used and loved working with. Look at wedding pictures from friends’ weddings that you really liked. Your wedding planner or event designer will also give you names of photographers who they think would be a good fit.
-Websites. The web is a great place to explore, as you know. Ask to see a complete wedding story, not just a few good images from a bunch of different weddings.
-Magazines. Not necessarily for the ads, but most wedding publications now run editorials of real weddings that list all the wedding professionals that made the event
-Photographers travel well. If there is a photographer you know where you live and love their work, bring them! Almost all photographers travel internationally for destination weddings these days. I’ve been commissioned to cover a welcome dinner on Thursday, day-before portraits of guests on Friday, the wedding day Saturday and a farewell brunch party on Sunday.
You and your photographer will be spending lots of time together, which is why it’s important to feel comfortable with them. My coverage style is “fly on the wall” photo journalism unless I’m doing portraits, so the majority of my work are candid moments, details and seeking out great light. The best compliment I get often after the wedding, “We didn’t even know you were there.”
The images and albums are important, but so is the personality of the photographer. If you are talking to a studio or a multi-operational company, know that they can substitute photographers last minute, so make sure the photographer you meet with and work you view is actually the one showing up to spend the entire day with you. Your photographer is the only wedding professional to still be working with you months after your event for custom services like albums, prints and cards.
-Don’t hire the cheapest photographer if they are not your favorite… To quote John Ruskin, “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man’s lawful prey.”
I’ve been contacted by a few panicked brides a week before their wedding complaining that a large studio is going to substitute another photographer. Unless you have in writing that whom you met with is who will be photographing your wedding, you will generally not be able get your deposit or retainer back. I view my wedding services like a commissioned artist–I would never substitute myself, as photography is a personal service.
It is also important to find out what happens if your photographer gets ill and cannot perform on your wedding day. I try to stay healthy and have never missed a date (knock on wood!) I do I have a clause that my client will receive all of his/her retainer fee back if something were to happen and I was unable to perform. In that situation, I would also give photographer of the same caliber as there is a large network of great talent in the bay area I know personally.
-Ask about post weddings goods and services like album design, prints and the negatives. Who will be designing your album? How long is the process? Are the negatives ‘watermarked’ (a light studio imprint over each image so they can only be used for viewing purposes). Are they high resolution (to make very large prints)? Are the negatives in the package or do you purchase them separately?
Lastly, remember that your job is to have fun and relax on your wedding day, that’s why you pay professionals to iron out the wrinkles. One thing I love about photographing weddings is that they are so unpredictable no matter how much you plan, which makes them sometimes challenging and always fun.