With the busy engagement season upon us, brides are beginning the search for that one and only, their wedding photographer! I am often asked during consultations, “What questions should I really by asking?” Bridal magazines provide lists of questions for you to ask, unfortunately, these are often not the right questions and can actually be detrimental to your search because they are artificial, to say the least. We try to keep it simple and take a common-sense approach based on our own experience and client feedback.
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What should you be focused on when hiring your wedding photographer? First and foremost:
1} QUALITY • There’s never a second chance to make the first impression. Correct but not quite in our profession. The website can be polished to the maximum with photos edited to perfection, presenting a selection of the best shots from the past few years and… that’s great! Hail to the kings of editing but what will matter at the end of the day is how does the coverage of YOUR wedding turn out so yes – you have the right and you SHOULD ask to see an entire gallery from a recent wedding. With most photographers nowadays it will be online. Spend some time at home to go over the gallery. How well did the photographer manage to cover different parts of the day? How consistent is the coverage? Are there enough emotional moments? Is there a good variety of images (details, close-ups, wide-angle shots showing an entire scene). Are the reception shots well lit? Is the light pleasing (soft, directional, modeling) or do the photos look similar to what comes out from your own point & shoot camera when photographing in a dark room? Are vertical photos free of harsh side shadows behind the subject? Are the photos focused where they need to be or are too many of them blurry and unclear? Are skin tones from indoor shots, ceremony, and reception looking the same as on the photos were taken outdoors? Be critical, all of these questions will indicate your photographer's technical proficiency as well as editing skills. It’s one of the most important days of your life that’s about to be documented so do not get diluted by the shot of a cute flower girl that is easy to get – look for some signature, unique and compelling photos that you haven’t seen anywhere else. Raise the bar high! Don’t just settle for something that looks average or inconsistent!
2} PERSONALITY • This is just as important as the quality of work. A friendly and organic relationship is key! Wedding photography is about relationships. You are about to hire someone that will be around you during the entire day so do not kid yourself – if you don’t “click” during the consultation – let it go. You absolutely HAVE TO feel comfortable around your wedding photographer (even about the way they dress). Unless they are a hardcore photojournalist there will be a few moments during your wedding day when you will be posed, they will give you direction. Being in front of the lens can be intimidating, especially when a lot of friends and family are watching. A friendly and organic relationship is the key here! Pay attention to your photographer’s personality and behavior. If there is anything annoying about it – take it into consideration when making your final decision!
3} EXPERIENCE • How long have they been in the business? Are there testimonials from previous brides available? How many weddings can you see on their blog? How many weddings have they photographed? All of these questions can mean a lot to you… or not. You have to be the judge here. Some brides will consider this one of the most important factors and will only hire a photographer that has been around longer than the Rolling Stones while some will value a fresh approach and young spirit more than twenty years worth of portfolio images. This decision should be made carefully. Would you rather an experienced surgeon or an intern in the operating room? Yes, your photos will outlast you! At least they should.
4} STYLE • When you look at photos what brings a smile to your face? Is the content of the photos what you would like to see captured at your wedding? Before you judge the photographer’s style answer some questions for yourself, like: am I looking for someone contemporary and edgy or do I prefer safe and traditional? Do I like photos that are dynamic, unposed and show real moments or is am I leaning towards those carefully posed where the subjects are always camera aware? Pay attention to what the photographer says about their style on the website, in blog posts and in their own words during the consultation. Make no mistake – it’s close to impossible for a photographer to change their style just for your wedding. What you see on their blog and their portfolio is how they prefer to work. If it’s not ‘up your alley’ – do not schedule the consultation. The artwork is very subjective and that is totally alright. What some people will love others will hate. To some brides, technical excellence and a simple approach to wedding photography are the number one priority. To others, artistic vision and wicked ideas are more appealing. The important thing is to know what you prefer as a bride and as a person. Look for that before you even contact a photographer.
5} THE PRESENTATION • Are you meeting the photographer at a coffee shop or a professional studio? How is the work packaged? Is it just a bunch of prints thrown on the table, a slideshow on their iPad, or are you looking at beautiful, custom-designed albums? How a photographer presents themselves to you speaks volumes about what you can expect from them. How easy will it be to get in touch with a photographer that doesn’t have a studio? Do the albums look just like your parents’ wedding album from 20 years ago? These are all red flags! Your photographer should be a full-time professional that keeps up with trends and new products. Your photographer should be interested in YOU, not just giving you a memorized sales pitch. Communication is so important, there should be a good exchange of questions and answers on both sides of the conversation. The details of your wedding day should be important to them, not just another day’s work.
6} THE PRICE • This is one of the most important factors for engaged couples to consider. Of course, budget is important and we as wedding photographers understand and respect that. Weddings are expensive and it’s understandable that you would want to save a few hundred dollars wherever possible. While there are certain areas where cost can be cut, we strongly discourage brides from cutting corners when it comes to photography. Your friend’s friend with the newest DSLR is NOT the answer. Uncle Timmy will also not deliver the quality and level of work that a true pro who puts their entire heart and skill in what they do can. Going with someone who is offering to shoot your wedding for free ‘to build their portfolio’ – nope, not recommended either. They will have plenty of opportunities if they start working as a second shooter with a more established photographer. Just the same as you wouldn’t like to have a surgeon perform his first surgery on you – don’t put your weddings into hands of a complete novice. (Oh ya, the surgeon again) The difference is usually clearly visible when it is too late to change your mind. Just as there is a client for every photographer’s price level – there is a GOOD photographer for every budget. If the photographer you really love and want to hire is a bit more expensive than what you think you can invest, there is probably a good reason. Are they extremely popular? Are there a lot of weddings on their blog? What are other brides saying? Are their testimonials convincing and real? If so, this is probably a good sign. We know you’ve heard this before, but it’s so true- you get what you pay for!
7} THE CONTRACT • It’s a good idea to read the contract. No, I mean it – you really should READ the contract. Most photographer’s contracts are no longer than three pages. Make sure you are comfortable with all the clauses and the payment schedule. If you have questions – do not hesitate to ask them BEFORE placing your signature at the bottom. You are entering the legal agreement that binds both sides into certain responsibilities.
8‘} TECHNICAL DETAILS • While in general equipment is less important than the knowledge and skill that determine it’s use, the latest digital cameras do offer considerably more creative freedom and dramatically increase in quality compared to a few older models. Backup equipment is a necessity along with business insurance. These are basics that every serious photographer should have and you should ask about them. Those are basics and you should ask about them. If a second photographer is mentioned in the contract/package that you are booking – who are they? Are they really a second professional photographer that is fully capable of delivering a comparable quality of coverage or is it a student/apprentice? There is no reason not to shoot RAW images (though you might hear some), other than the fact that RAW images require more memory cards. RAW images are larger files that allow the photographer to have more freedom for tweaking images during post-processing, and what photographer doesn’t want to have that option?
If you are a bride who recently got engaged, congratulations! I hope the above suggestions will help you make an educated choice for your wedding photography and therefore make the challenging task of wedding planning a bit easier! Call to set up a consultation to chat about what Michaelangelo’s Photography has to offer for your wedding photography. 440.260.7660 or email us