Updated: Dec 3, 2020
I know. There are soooo many photographers. And you have soooo many things to plan for your wedding so how on earth are you expected to sort through the hundreds of photographers to find the perfect fit for you??
Many people say that finding a photographer who matches your personality is the most important thing. I disagree! Of course, you want to get along with the person who will be following you around with a camera during the most momentous days of your life! But there are tons of people out there that you get along with who might not be super competent with a camera.
Here’s the truth…
When you choose a photographer you are selecting a product (the actual photos) and a service (the experience/photographer). If the service is a blast but the product is lacking quality, you’ll be regretting your choice. Both service and product are important – and good photographers provide both!
Just to make sure you get good product, here are the 5 most important questions to ask your photographer:
1. WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
My first question was, “Are you a professional?” but everyone who owns a DSLR camera and has been paid $40 to take their neighbor’s headshots will say yes to that.
An experienced photographer knows how to pose every body type and make you feel comfortable in front of a camera. They know how to shoot in all conditions.
How many weddings do you shoot each year?
This is a good question because you want someone who shoots a LOT. A part time mom who only does 5 weddings a year is probably not your best choice. Your photographer should be actively using their skills.
What camera do you use?
A photographer with a cheap camera either hasn’t decided to invest in themselves or can’t afford to upgrade to good equipment. You’ll never find a professional painter using cheap brushes. Your photographer should have professional grade equipment that can perform well.
You can take note of the camera they have and look it up. If it is less than $1500 they probably can’t afford other necessary equipment and they probably don’t shoot very many weddings.
Why do you shoot weddings?
This question will help you gauge where your photographer is coming from. Some photographers shoot weddings because it makes them more money than senior portraits can.
Some photographers live and breathe weddings because they are OBSESSED with love. I have been in the bridal industry for years and plan to stay here for my entire life! …it’s the only socially acceptable job where I can be a professional fangirl and take pictures of your love life!
What file type do you shoot in?
The correct answer to this question is “RAW”.
The short version is this: cameras shoot in compressed JPG format (small images, low quality) or RAW (huge images, professional quality). Professional photographers shoot in RAW, edit the images and then deliver good quality JPGs to you.
To clarify, you do want to receive high-resolution JPGs in the end (because that is the file type you can print and post). But the photographer should be doing all their shooting and editing with RAW files.
The long and short of it (or the tall and short…what is that phrase??) is that you want a photographer who has passion for weddings and has made all their mistakes on other weddings. If you hire an experienced photographer the emergency at your wedding won’t be their first emergency. Enough said.
2. IS YOUR PORTFOLIO…GOOD?
Ok that question is so cringey! No worries though – you might not even need to ask this.
Skim through their Instagram and the portfolio page on their website. Look at the variety of images they display. If they only show close up images, are they any good at wide shots? Wedding ring photos are gorgeous (and every girl needs a good one) but if you only see flat lays and detail shots how do you know if they can pose a human?
Also, make sure you like their editing style. If you like bright colors, the photographer with moody editing probably isn’t for you.
FACT: Some photographers are not good at editing.
Here is an example of editing...the first image is right out of camera, unedited, and incomplete. The second image is the edited image, ready for print. The colors are better, skin tones are better, and all the distracting industrial stuff on the ceiling has been removed.
You need a photographer who knows how to manipulate the colors, highlights, shadows, etc of an image to make it look amazing.
3. DO YOU HAVE CONSULTATIONS?
This is SOOO important!! So many photographers don’t have consultations and it blows my mind!! How can the photographer provide you with personalized, custom photography if they haven't taken the time to get to know you??
When a bride books with me the first thing we do is schedule a consultation. It’s a 30+min meeting where a few really important things happen:
1) we get to know each other. We read each other’s vibes and become friends!
2) We do wedding planning for logistics, like making sure we have time for all the photos she wants.
3) I catch her vision for what kind of photography she likes and is expecting.
Let me tell you a horror story.
Once upon a time I went to a wedding as a guest. The photographer clearly didn’t have a consultation with this bride. I could tell because the photographer didn’t know what family photos the bride wanted and it was slowing down the entire group. Then came the horror: the photographer asked the bride, “Where are your parents?”
You guys. The bride’s parents weren’t at the wedding because they didn’t support the marriage!!! And then this poor bride had to announce that in front of everyone.
Your photographer should go out of her way to make sure you feel comfortable and confident on the wedding day. She should know if your best friend is coming out from Virginia to be at your wedding, she should know if you are missing a finger or if you hate the way your chin looks from a certain angle. She should know that your blue eyes are your favorite feature and that your necklace belonged to your great grandma. (All of those are true stories from my brides!)
A photographer cannot be prepared to shoot your wedding if they don’t have a consultation with you.
4. DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
Have you ever tried to juggle? Yeah, I have. It didn’t go well. Have you ever tried to make a bunch of goals and meet all of them at the same time (think new year's resolutions). Yeah, I have. It didn’t go well.
Ask any business man (or woman!) – specializing in one thing is way better than generalizing in everything. Example: a photographer whose Instagram bio says “Specializing in weddings, newborns, seniors, events and families” is not actually specializing! If the photographer has X hours a week to devote to photography, you want someone who is devoting all of those hours to the type of photography you are looking for. They might be sooo good at senior photos on a one-on-one photo shoot, but do they know how to pose a bride and groom in harsh lighting? No success in other areas of photography = ability within another.
For years I have been specializing in two genres of photography: weddings and boudoir. All of my time is spent mastering those two things...and I'm good at them! BUT if you handed me a newborn baby and asked me to pose the baby, I wouldn't know what to do. Spend your money on a photographer who is kicking butt at their genre.
Another thought: a photographer who specializes in one type of photography is successful enough to say “no” to other shoots. In other words, specializing usually is indicative of a successful photographer.
5. HOW MANY HOURS OF COVERAGE DO I GET?
Many photographers put a limit on how many hours they will shoot for you. Like, “Oh! You only paid for 60 minutes of engagement photos! We are at 59 minutes so it's time to wrap it up!”
No! That makes no sense! If the sunset is incredible and the moments are perfect we are going to keep taking pictures!
But here is how I see it:
You hire me to document your wedding day…so I’m going to be there for anything you want documented! Girl, your name is written aaaaalll over that calendar day. Unlimited hours.
Make sure your photographer is more interested in documenting your wedding well than making a few more dollars per hour.
BONUS: DO YOU HAVE A SECOND SHOOTER?
This is HUGE. Having a second camera can document extra candids and angles. A trained second shooter comes to every wedding with me, to catch the candid moments and second angles of important events.
Make sure your photographer is equipped to document your wedding correctly.