As a wedding professional with over ten years’ experience, I have helped plan thousands of small, intimate wedding ceremonies and elopements. If there’s one mistake I have seen many couples make it’s NOT choosing the right photographer for their wedding day. Aside from the ceremony officiant, the wedding photographer is probably the most important professional they’ll hire for this life event.
I have worked with many photographers and, over time, I have built a solid team of professionals that I use for my wedding packages. In order to become a part of my team, it is important not only that I see their portfolios but that I also “audition” them first as back-up photographers at my weddings. This gives me the opportunity to see their work style, their level of professionalism and their social interaction with clients who are most likely already a little stressed on their special day.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to providing great service and ensuring that my couples have an enjoyable and memorable wedding day. Here are some things to consider when choosing your wedding photographer:
- Just because someone is a good photographer doesn’t make them a great WEDDING photographer.There is an art to shooting weddings that doesn’t develop overnight. Yes, it takes a special eye to envision romantic poses and capture memorable moments, but it takes years of practice to refine those skills. To be able to photograph an actual ceremony without interrupting it or to capture those fleeting looks and tender caresses between the wedding couple – it’s not as easy as it looks!
One wedding ceremony that stands out in my memory involved a photographer who, I later found out, specialized in catalog photography. He assured the couple that he had extensive experience and of course, his portfolio was filled with beautiful shots of well-posed models. During the ceremony and to my dismay, as the groom slipped the ring on his bride’s finger, the photographer stopped the officiant and asked the couple to “hold that pose” so he could capture the moment on film. What would have normally been a sweet and tender moment turned tacky and contrived in just seconds, not to mention the horrible interruption!
Another couple I worked with decided to hire a well-known fashion photographer. I advised them to work with one of my photographers instead – not for the money – but because I wanted to be sure they had a wonderful experience and the photos to prove it! Sometime after the wedding, the bride told me that although there were some good shots, they never took photos with their parents or their wedding party. There were no photos of their cake, bridal bouquet or dress – photos that may seem cliché and standard but are welcomed after the fact.
- Having a “good friend” take your wedding photos can set you up for disappointment. Your friend Edward is the guy that always shows up to all the parties and special events with camera in tow. It’s his passion and he’s good at it. The candid moments he captured at the last July 4th barbecue were awesome and those pictures he posted on Facebook when everyone went camping were pretty good too! It’s a story I’ve heard many times from couples as we plan their wedding.
I explain to them that it’s a lot of pressure to place on someone like a close friend or relative who probably wants to do something nice for them but are not professional wedding photographers. What happens if your friend doesn’t get the shots you wanted or they’re not of the level of quality you would definitely get from a professional? How do you tell your friend without getting feelings hurt and ruining friendships?
Worse yet, there are no “do-overs” when it comes to your wedding ceremony. You only have that one moment to get the photos right. This is why I ask these couples to reconsider this option and avoid a situation that can quickly become uncomfortable. By hiring one of my tried and true professionals, the wedding couple is guaranteed to get great photos of their special day. Better yet, their friend can partake in and enjoy the wedding celebration just like all the other guests! If the friend insists on taking photos, that’s fine too. Let them serve as a “second” set of eyes and as a back-up photographer. It’s a win-win for all!
- Be prepared to spend a nice portion of your wedding budget on your photographer.Oftentimes when couples inquire about my wedding packages, one of the first things they tend to want to save money on is the photography services. When it comes to purchasing services, if something costs more, it’s probably because it requires more care and attention! So true when it comes to wedding services, but more so the photography.
Couples will tell me they have a personal friend who will be shooting their ceremony because “they take good pictures.” Or they’ll come across a photographer who is willing to do the job for less than half of the going rate. Other times, they’ll go so far as to say they don’t really need or want professional pictures – especially since everyone has great camera capabilities on their phones. This couldn’t be further from the truth! At that point what runs through my mind is the thought of these beautiful couples possibly cheating themselves out of some wonderful memories on the most important day of their lives together.
One couple from out of town searched on Yelp! for their photographer and finally settled on one with great reviews. This photographer was charging a nominal fee for her services but promised quality work. The wedding day arrived. The venue was decorated beautifully; the groom waited anxiously at the front with his best man while the bride waited in the wings to be escorted by her father. Family and friends took their places and the officiant was ready to start.
I looked around and that’s when I realized the photographer was nowhere to be found! Finally, He showed up – 10 minutes late and wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes! How this photographer ever generated 5-star reviews, I’ll never know. Clearly, his level of professionalism was not there and the lack of reverence for my clients’ special day was nowhere to be found! For my couples, I assure them that my team is professional, on time, and properly dressed for the occasion.
In the end, your wedding day can only be captured through photography once, so you want to ensure everything goes well. The photographer’s job starts well before your wedding day and will continue after your ceremony as you pick out photos for your wedding album and to adorn the walls of your home. You want to receive the best service possible and make sure you are not disappointed with the outcome. Only intelligent, experienced, and seasoned photographers value their work and use their time appropriately. The bottom line is that many times, you get what you pay for.