If you're reading this, odds are you're a newly engaged couple who are planning their big day. Just like to give you a big congratulations .
So you've decided to start the new adventure in your life. So many things to plan for and get setup. I'm hopeful that this guide will help you in picking the right photographer for your big day. First things first, questions you've got to ask yourself...
How much do I want to spend on my photographer?
This is always a tricky one, as everyone's budget is different, but the key thing to remember is that when all is said and done, other then your memories, the photos are what you'll have to remember the big day.
Will you be happy just to have picture remembering the day, or do you want the best of the best pictures?
As with anything, the typical rule applies, you get what you pay for. I should note, this is not always the situation, you could end up with someone who's just starting out and learning, and it might just come naturally to them, and you end up with better then expected photos, so this tip isn't always accurate.
What am I expecting as the final deliverable?
Do you want just digital photos, or do you want a package where you know you'll get getting an album with xx number of pages? Perhaps you just want the digital images with the option to buy an album or large prints after the fact.
Having an idea on what you want will help you along your way, as some photographers don't offer packages, but just charge by the hour, others just do tiered packages.
How long do I want the photographer for?
Did you only want a photographer for a few hours to do formal pictures or do you want them to capture you getting ready? (hair, makeup, dress, etc)
Hours will play an important roll in what your final cost will be.
Where is the photographer coming from?
While a local photographer would be nice to have, there are LOTS of photographers that are willing to travel.
Local is nice as you can easily meet face to face, but in todays day and age, a Skype call can work just as easily.
Keeping it local can of course limit your choices depending on the size of your community.
If you're posting online looking for a photographer, I would suggest you include in your post, at least some of above answers. It will help you in the long run. As an example, if your budget is $2,000, then the $5,000 photographers won't bother responding. You will hopefully only get a list of photographers that meet your criteria.
So you've asked yourself some of the basic questions, now what? Well depending on where you've been looking for your photographer, you could have a choice of a few or if you've asked in some wedding groups, you could be swamped with 30+ choices. If you've only got a few to choose from, picking isn't so bad, but larger number of choices is where it can be over whelming. The points below will help no matter what, but are more aiming at larger choices.
If you're getting recommendations coming through some online group, I'd suggest waiting 12-24 hours before really digging in, just so you've got all your choices there instead of going back and trying to remember what ones you've look at and what ones you've not looked at. I'd then recommend starting to go through them by checking out the links to their websites. Keep a log or bookmark the ones you're visiting for easy reference. Have a quick look at the wedding pictures presented and if you like the style / look of their work, mark it down. Hopefully once you've done this, you're list will be a lot smaller. All photographers have different styles, so they may be great photographers, but just not the style you want.
Once you've got your short list, go back to their websites and spend a bit more time looking at the pictures. You might see something you missed on the first round that might push you one way or the other. I'd also suggest looking at their other non wedding pictures, as it is still their work and might help sway you one way or another. Also look to see if they've got any reviews on their website. This can go a long way knowing others have taken the time to send the photographer positive feedback.
Now hopefully your list is a lot shorter at this point. If not, I'd got back again and look at the photographer's work and try to get your list smaller. At this stage my suggestion would be to actually make first contact with the photographers in question. Just start with the basics, are they available on you're day? (I'd suggest making sure this point is in your original fact finding mission) Can they offer you anything within your budget, and if so, what do you get for that? Just digitals, album, prints, etc. Will they travel to you, and if so, does that affect the cost and by how much?
After you've hopefully received your replies, your list is narrowed down even more. At this point, I'd suggest actually getting on the phone and talking with them first hand. This will give you a good idea how friendly they are. Ask any questions that come to mind. (see list below) They should be willing to listen and interact with you. Remember the day is about you. The photographer should be working for you and for the most part be flexible to give you want you want for your final product.
You're almost there. At this point hopefully you've got it narrowed down to only a couple choices. Now would be a good time for either a face to face meeting to discuss the fine points or a Skype meeting if the photographer is from out of town. Don't let the out of town part discourage you. If you've gone this far, and the photographer is still on board, they'll be there. Their reputation rides on it at this point.
Some possible questions for your photographer.
How experienced are you at shooting weddings?
Do you subcontract out, or will you be the one shooting the wedding?
Will I get high resolution images?
Do you have backup equipment?
How much of a deposit is required?
Will there be a contract to sign?
If you're wanting digital photos, how many should I expect and how will they be delivered?
How long for delivery of the digital images?
Any extra fee for travel time?
It should be noted, if you're budget is low, then a number of the above answers may not be what you're hoping to hear, but when budget is low, you're mostly getting the photographers will less experience and no extra equipment. This should be expected on a tight budget.
I hope these tips help you on your journey to find that perfect photographer for your day. If you have any questions regarding any of these points / tips, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
More then one photographer required? My personal recommendation is that if you're wedding is upwards of 125 people, a second photographer is recommended. Check with your possible choices to see how this will affect your final cost.
How do the deposit and final payment work? Each photographer is different, so make sure you know up front what to expect.
If your initial list has links to websites that don't work, skip over them. It's just one step closer to your final choice. You've got enough work, let alone adding more work by having to go back and ask for the fixed link, etc.
You shouldn't have to chase a photographer for a reply. If they are busy, it might take a couple of days to get back to you, and if you really think you like them, then perhaps one follow up if you want, but after that, if they don't get back to you, then it's possible something has come up, or they're not interested in working with you.
There is a photographer for any budget. Just because you've only got a small wedding and only want to spend a small amount doesn't mean you can't get a photographer. Just keep in mind what I said above, for the most part, you get what you pay for, but every photographer has to start somewhere. The higher rates typically = more experienced and higher end equipment.
Finally one last point. Trust your gut. If something feels right or doesn't feel right, odds are it's the right feeling. Your own instincts should point you into the right direction.