Choosing a photographer for your wedding
Brides deal with the challenges of securing all the services necessary to produce their wedding day. It’s amazing the level of production that it takes to pull off such an event for 75-150 people. It seems that the title “bride-to-be” might be more accurately read “producer/ director”. At many of the wedding planning resources on the web, you will find a long list of details to fill your days and months before the big day. It must be overwhelming.
I’ve been witness to hundreds of beautiful weddings and I can tell you that it is a magical time. Do everything you can to make it perfect, then take a step back and leave room for “Beauty… as it occurs naturally”.
My tip for every “producer/ director” bride-to-be is in a word PRIORITIZE.
Sit down and take that huge list you’ve just downloaded and reorganize it.
Make your own list with the most important thing to you at the top then work your way down.
If you are planning to use a wedding planner or event coordinator, get them on board early. It will cut your work load considerably and possibly even change your title back to “bride-to-be”.
Next, consider that the two most time sensitive services to hire are your wedding VENUE and PHOTOGRAPHER.
Typically, the really excellent photographers and the great venues book a year in advance and can take only one client per day. So at the top of that list should be VENUE and right after that should be PHOTOGRAPHER.
Both will require a non-refundable deposit to reserve the day for your wedding. Understand that we’re not crafty devious individuals looking to snatch your deposit money. To the contrary, we are professionals scheduling our next year’s work the most secure way possible. Sound and fruitful relationships are all about commitment.
In the past I’ve taken bookings with the promise of the deposit in 2 weeks during which time I turn down as many as 2 other clients that wanted to book me on that same day. Then, I get the phone call saying “Oh, we’re very sorry but we’ve changed our date and decided to use someone else.” Now, I make it a point to tell my potential clients that it is the deposit that books the day and I give them a comfortable time to go over the contract, ask questions and send me the check. Basically I set a closing date, after which I will accept the next interested client.
Every wedding is different. Possibly, the venue and the photographer may not be at the top of your list, but the point is PRIORITIZE around your #1 and #2 date-sensitive resources or vendors. Then do your homework, and secure the details that are most important to you and every thing else will fall in place.
Ok, so… you’re shopping for a wedding photographer or you wouldn’t be here reading my website. The truth is, choosing a photographer for your wedding does not have to be a difficult process. Here are some tips to help you find the right person for the job. So, do the research and make sure it’s a good fit. If you remember these 6 tips during your shopping, your photos should be something to enjoy for a lifetime.
Tips on Choosing a Wedding Photographer
Tip #1: Photos… Photos… Photos
First of all choose the photographers to interview by the photos they produce. You will find a wide range of descriptive terms attached to today’s wedding photography. For example: documentary, traditional, photojournalistic, contemporary are all terms used to describe style and approach. The descriptions you will NOT find are inexperienced, uninsured or ill equipped! Do the research, look at as many wedding photos as you can and see what you like. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions about insurance, digital back up, training, education and back up equipment.
Today that’s quick and easy research because serious professional photographers love to talk about what they do. They will have a website you can visit and when you ask the difficult questions they are happy to answer. Other’s may use Facebook or other social media. Use these to study their style and abilities. In this way, you can save time doing personal interviews by narrowing the selection before you start making appointments. AND… by all means, go and meet the photographer face to face or at least Skype with them to get a good idea of who they are. Remember, you will be working together for a major part of your wedding day!
From their honeymoon in Hawaii, Tammy Mather writes:
“Even mahalo nui loa does does not begin to express how we feel about working with you and the photos. They are breathtaking. You work like a ninja! You are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And your eye for what’s important manifested itself in a myriad of ways and made the day and photos perfect. For example, thank you for not asking us to stand for posed photos with each member of the wedding party individually — and letting us get to the party!”
“We knew we wanted to work with you from the moment we saw your portfolio. What we didn’t realize at the time, but as our friend Laura (the budding photographer) pointed out to us when she looked at your portfolio before the wedding, is that one of the many reasons we would love our wedding photos is that they are as much NOT like, as they are like the photos in your portfolio. They share your sensibility and artistry, which we fell in love with, but they are unique to our wedding, shaped by the moments of the day. You didn’t ask us to strike poses that are repeated again and again in your portfolio. You made the photos as uniquely ours as the day. Laura looked at a portfolio of another photographer for an engaged friend of hers and Laura’s advice was, “Well, I hope you like what you see there because that’s what your wedding pictures will look like.” She was amazed by the variety of your work – just like we are.”
Tip #2: Personality matters
We are all unique individuals and as humans we get along better with certain types of people. When you interview photographers ask yourself a few basic questions:
- Do I like this person?
- Is he or she comfortable to be around?
- Would I choose to spend the day with this person in a close professional situation?
A photographer is hired to photograph the event, not to direct it or command more attention than the Bride and Groom. My approach to wedding photography is more photojournalistic in that sense. I believe that a wedding photographer should blend into the event, look for and capture the magic of the day and direct only the creative portraits of the bride and groom, wedding party and family grouping.
Some portion of the day should be devoted to personal portraits and if you want the best work out of your photographer, give him the time and space he needs to produce for you. Photographs are among a very few items that you will have in hand after the day has passed.
Tip #3: Performance
As a professional I love it when I get personal referrals. It means someone was very pleased with my services. Don’t hesitate to ask a photographer for personal references.
An excellent photographer will have any number of couples that are willing to field questions about their wedding photography experience. Other wedding professionals such as the florist, or the event coordinator may have valuable input, but I suggest that you go to the source, talk to the couple.
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Shelley Flanigan Kilbon of Fort Collins, Colorado writes:
“Larry was absolutely wonderful to work with from start to finish. His flexibility, professionalism, friendliness, and sheer talent captured our day perfectly.”
“Instead of a wedding album full of posed shots that no one really cares about, we have a documentary of our wedding day. The look that passed between us as our ceremony started, the beauty and spirituality of the place surrounding us, our joy as we kissed and held each other for the first time as a married couple — all of this he captured on film.”
“Even our posed family shots have a personality we never thought possible. When we look at our album today, we do more than just remember the day . . . we relive it.”
Tip #4: Experience counts
To be an excellent wedding photographer takes a tremendous amount of technical and personal skills (as well as the willingness to be lassoed by a bride!) . Skills that are learned from both formal education and real time experience. Keep in mind that not all wedding photographers do this professionally. There are all levels of commitment and proficiency ranging from the hobbyist or the aspiring student to the experienced professional that does this for a living. Dealing with every detail of a wedding and interacting with the Bride & Groom, their families and at times hundreds of people and still maintaining the highest level of technical application possible; that takes experience and proficiency.
Find out how much experience a photographer has and consider this:
Getting a ‘great deal’ on your wedding photography may or may not produce the images of your wedding day that you were envisioning.
Tip #5: Price
The old adage “You get what you pay for,” is usually true for wedding photography. There are only so many weekends in the year and the number of weddings a single photographer can book is limited. Therefore as a photographer comes into greater demand by developing his artistry and experience the price will most likely reflect that fact.
So, as you are planning your budget, if excellent photos are important to you don’t scrimp in this area. Ten years from now, the photos you bought will be there on your table to remind you of the other details that might otherwise be forgotten.
Tip #6: Communication
Finally, once the decision is made and you’ve booked your photographer it is very important to communicate what you like, what you imagine and what you expect. As a photographer it’s difficult to get inside someone’s head and understand their particular sense of style. Obviously, if you’ve decided to hire a particular photographer you must like their style. I think you should go one step further to insure that you get the best possible photos. Communicate visually.
I encourage clients to share their Pinterest Boards or other samples of what they like. Visual communication from my client feeds the creative process and helps me to make the photos a very personal collection of images from their wedding day.
Jessica Dorr Hansen of Seattle, Washington writes:
“These are the things I remember from my wedding: watching guests arrive for the ceremony, the smile on my husband’s face as I walked down the aisle, the toast my grandmother gave in Polish at the reception, our first kiss, and our first dance.”
“Here’s what I don’t remember from my wedding: posing for a lot of photos. That’s not to say I didn’t. I have a beautiful book filled with incredible photos of my family, Steve’s family and our newly blended families, which proves that we did in fact pose for photos. I just don’t remember it and that is the biggest complement I can give Larry.”
“I hardly noticed he was there.”
“He told me that all he needed was a little time before and after the ceremony and then he’d blend in to the background. And he was right. In addition to the posed shots, some of the photos I treasure the most are the photos I wasn’t there to see – the candid photos of friends and family at the ceremony and reception.”
“The photos are all beautiful, highlighting both the attendees and the setting. They’re personal – capturing a young cousin who found a dog she wanted to take home, signing our marriage certificate on my brother’s back because we didn’t have a table, and the big, teary grin that never left my mother’s face.”
“They’re professional – each posed shot took one or two shots at the most and they’re all flawless. They’re perfect. Larry Stanley listened to what was important to me and delivered it so easily, so effortlessly, and so exactly that I could savor the day, my family and my wedding.”
Larry Stanley’s approach to wedding photography
“BEAUTY… AS IT OCCURS NATURALLY “
The phrase “beauty… as it occurs naturally” has come to define my view as a professional photographer and as a human being. I see my work as one that looks for and captures the beautiful moments that arise in every aspect of life. The celebration of the union of two people in marriage is full of this naturally occurring imagery.
Each wedding is as unique as the individuals being joined. With this appreciation, I take each wedding as a personal assignment; giving of myself, my vision and 30 years of experience photographing people worldwide to seek out and record the beautiful and meaningful moments as they occur.
The end result of my approach to wedding photography is a very personal, artistic and creative collection of images of your wedding day without drawing unnecessary attention to myself. Along with the images of the candid moments of the event, portraits and family groupings are photographed quickly with a sense of spontaneity and joy in order to provide you and your families with a meaningful record of your time together.
This non-obtrusive approach allows me to blend in and capture the magical moments of this day that is uniquely yours. I am always in awe as I watch the arising of “beauty… as it occurs naturally”.