10 Steps to Finding the Perfect Wedding Photographer
Your wedding photographs are how you’ll be able to remember your special day, therefore it’s important that you invest the time and research into finding a wedding photographer who will be able to create beautiful artwork that takes you back in time. Having planned a wedding myself, I know how daunting and overwhelming it can seem so I’ve put together this list of 10 Steps to Finding the Perfect Wedding Photographer to help you along!
1. Start looking right away
Most photographers book a year to a year and a half in advance. A good time to start looking for your wedding photographer is as soon as you get engaged and secure your venue for your wedding. The sooner you start to look, the better chance you have of securing the professional, experienced photographer you’ve been dreaming of!
2. Budget – How much should we spend?
This is a tricky question, because everyone has a different wedding budget. I will start by saying again, these are the only memories that you will have of your wedding day in 30 years, so of course I believe it’s important to invest a good portion of your budget into this area. Since wedding photographers are artists, we all value our work and time differently. We also all offer different components to our packages. The starting rate for professional, seasoned (trained, many years of experience) wedding photographers in Calgary and Alberta is typically around $3000. The average wedding photography cost for these types of photographers in this area for a full day (8-12 hours) ranges from $4000 – $6000.00. Identifying your budget early will help to narrow your search down and eliminate photographers from your short list that are perhaps new to weddings, or high end photographers that are beyond your pricing. This allows for less interviews and heartache later on.
3. Style – How do I pick from so many to choose from?
Before you really start to narrow down your list of photographers, you and your fiance should sit down and decide what kind of style represents you and your personalities authentically!
The candid / documentary style is the style that most photographers work in (including myself). This style is exactly as the name suggests, it means capturing those raw, in the moment emotions and events as they unfold with minimal posing. Rather than posing, I like to call it “minimal guidance” for some of the shots during your formals together. This style showcases your personalities and highlights the romance of the day without looking staged or over-done.
If you are more traditional, you may choose to have your portraits formally posed and staged in a studio with professional lighting. This gives a very different look to your photos. Think back to when your parents got married, very classic and staged, typically in front of a variety of backdrops.
Fine art is a pretty broad term and can be likened to a documentary style, but it is a little different. These photos will typically be very “cinematic” looking. Hard studio lighting (whether used indoors or outdoors) dramatic, bold colours or very muted and perhaps grainy. The Fine art genre gives the photographer license to infuse your imagery with their very unique and interesting take. These are also typically more posed since artificial lighting (strobes) are typically used.
Out of the box / Edgy
The Edgy style typically uses wider lenses, very tilted angles such as shots from far above looking down. Typically, artificial lighting is used for a harder look. The composition can be unique and different too. Maybe just shots of your feet standing side by side, or the background taking up the majority of the photo with bright graffiti in the background.
Keep in mind that it’s also possible to find photographers with a blend of styles. Often, if you have one stand-alone shot that you want to try they are usually happy to accommodate.
Photographers are people too, and our personalities as artists can be all over the map! This is the area I put the most value in next to style and talent. Think about it, this is a person you are going to be spending the majority of your day with. You want this person to connect and mesh with you and your family and guests in order to draw out and capture those beautiful moments naturally. Your wedding formals should be a fun experience to look back fondly on. Therefore, suss out the photographers personality when you meet with them. Are they fun and bubbly like you? Will they get along with your family, or do they prefer to focus on the work with minimal engagement? You want to make sure you pick someone who is great at listening, calm, collected and assertive when necessary, and outgoing enough to garner smiles and laughs from nervous family members.
We all start somewhere, but if you are looking for a seasoned professional you will want to make sure other people have had a great experience with the photographers you are interested in. One place to look is Google Reviews (available in Google Maps or Google + searches). Another option is Wedding Wire. You can also ask your photographer if any of their previous clients would like to chat with you personally about their experiences! Although each wedding is unique and sometimes snags are presented, it’s good to know how your photographer will handle these situations.
The consultation goes hand in hand with personalities. It’s a great chance to not only see if you all click (pun intended!) but to ask any questions that you might have and see some of the photographer’s work in print. The consultation is typically a great chance to book your photographer with a retainer, but be wary of photographers who push you to book or offer deep discounts or incentives to book on the spot. It should be an easy decision, without pressure.
The list of questions you send photographers is important, and you want to make sure you find someone who will either answer your questions in a timely manner via email, or is able to answer them comfortably when you meet with them. If your short-listed photographer covers everything and you don’t have many questions, consider that a great hint that they know what they are talking about and will take the best care of you.
8. Wedding Albums and Portfolio
The wedding albums and portfolio (whether physical or online) are a great way to get a better feeling about a photographer. Most photographers don’t showcase every wedding they’ve ever shot (that would be unrealistic and our websites would never load!) Your short-listed photographer should however have a sampling of weddings to look at online and in print. Do they show one or two images on their website only? Or is there at least a few from a wedding? A variety of weddings, lighting and locations will give you a better idea of their style and experience.
9. Comparing work and packages
Again, we all value our work and time differently as artists. You and your fiance should determine together what is important to you. Does the photographer offer anything above and beyond what others offer that can be reflected in their pricing? Site visits, emails, phone calls, planning sessions, prints or digital files? Do they edit all of your photos or only a portion? How many photos will you receive? Are there albums included? Determining these things will help you to narrow down what you value most in your wedding photographer and what you are willing to pay for.
10. After the wedding day
Find a photographer who is forthcoming about what you will receive the day of your wedding and in the final package. We all shoot a different number of weddings per year, so our timelines for delivery can vary. It’s important to know approximately when you will receive your sneak peeks and final images, and how they will be delivered to you, as well as what your printing rights are.
BONUS: Go with your gut!
Lastly, go with your gut instinct! If someone really rubbed you the wrong way despite their portfolio looking good, perhaps it’s best to go in another direction. If you feel excited, connected and love the photographers work, chat with your fiance and see if they feel the same. Typically your instincts are on the money and if you act quickly, you could have the wedding photographer of your dreams!
Need more inspiration? Check out this post on how to prepare for rain on your wedding day!