How Do I Choose A Wedding Photographer?

By: Joe & Linda Crosby

Once you and your fiancé have chosen the date and the venue for the wedding and reception, one of the very next things that should be booked is your photographer.

After all the vows are said, and the celebration is over the images captured are all that is left. These captured images will be the memories frozen in time that you will be able to share for generations to come.

When looking for your photographer, start by asking friends or family that have recently gone through the entire process to help point you in the right direction.

Vermont Bride Magazine offers a handy listing of local talent and their websites that will help you decide who will photograph your most important day.

In your search you will want to consider some of these key questions that will help you narrow your selections.

What is our budget for photography? Does this business have good references? What is their level of experience? Do they shoot film or digital? Is there an experienced second shooter? If so, how well do they work together? Are they using professional gear such as pro camera bodies and fast lenses and have mastered their use? Do they have back-up gear in case of malfunction? If they shoot film, how many rolls do they normally shoot? If they shoot digital as most do today, do they have a good understanding of postproduction? Are they taking advantage of the many image enhancement tools available such as Photoshop to achieve optimal results? Does this business have a solid reputation for delivering in a timely manner? Do they have a solid customer service that will provide the type of photos we are expecting to display on our walls and in our wedding album and remain within our budget? What is their dominant shooting style?

Now, what should you be looking for to give you some insight into different styles of photography?

A good traditional wedding photographer is well organized. They must have a good understanding of what is expected of them at the venue. They are courteous at all times and are good listeners. They will have scouted the venue in advance for well-lit areas to take advantage of natural available light with interesting backgrounds, and leading lines. They might also add fill light with strobes off-camera especially during formal shots. They communicate well with small and large groups. They effectively direct posing, in an attempt to create a desired mood. All this and within the allowed shooting schedule.

A good photojournalistic photographer should have the people skills of the traditional. Most shut off the flash to remain stealthy and shoot the majority of the wedding day in natural light. Most images will not have the subject looking at the camera, but will rather be capturing the moments rather than creating them. The true photojournalist photographer only intervenes when necessary.

Today’s modern wedding photographer who combines the traditional, and photojournalistic styles are referred to as portrait journalists. They have the necessary skills to combine both styles into fine art and fashion into your wedding album to achieve the best of both worlds. It is important that they are able to show you samples of at least two complete wedding packages. Look for these different styles when you view their portfolios.

Next, you must determine your budget. A good benchmark is to consider spending between ten and fifteen percent of your budget on the photography. Years from now, the photographs and albums of your special day will be the tangible items that you have to be able to share your day (and all the planning that went into it) with family and friends. In these hard economic times, some photographers might allow you to pay in monthly installments, up to the date of the wedding, but typically expect a 25-50% deposit.

Start with your top three choices and make appointments to meet each of them in person to see samples of their work. Ask for a copy of their typical wedding contract that highlights in detail what their services are and what is delivered. It is important to carefully read the entire contract.

Ask to see some enlargements to help you determine their file quality is high enough if you decide to print large.

You also must determine how comfortable you are around your potential photographer. Remember that you will be spending most of your wedding day with them. If after meeting all photographers and viewing their samples in person, you are still not sure, set up another meeting to go over more details and answer questions you may have before deciding. If you are having a lot of children at the wedding, you may want to ask about their experience dealing with kids.

Still not decided? Then perhaps you might consider asking your top choice to do your engagement shoot. This will give you the opportunity to see how they work and interact with you during a shoot. The shoot is usually only an hour or so and can run from $125 to $750, so be sure to ask how much first.

Take the search for your professional photographer seriously. Try not to be overwhelmed by all the variables. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t rush into your decision. Take it one step at a time. Be diligent and you will no doubt have the outcome you desire.