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Last night while perusing through some articles on one of the widely popular wedding industry websites, I came across a number of articles geared toward engaged couples who are actively planning their weddings. Once I finished my reading, what really led me to writing this post was how horribly misinformed the advice in all three articles were. Some of which included asking your photographer for their paper resume or articles that offered printable quizzes to give to your photographer to fill out.
Now, I’m not a very critical person — of myself or of others. I believe these articles were written with only the best intention; to help the readers. However, I do believe that when you choose to advise others on something it should always be something that you’ve already acquired a significant level of experience, knowledge of or expertise in. For instance, if I needed say, financial investment advice I wouldn’t seek advice from a dentist just because he once met with a financial advisor. I’d just head straight to the source! My point is — if you need some guidance on how to find the perfect photographer for your upcoming wedding it’s always best to seek advice from an actual wedding photographer.
Unlike the writers and content creators who wrote these articles, a wedding photographer is the one person who passionately lives and breathes photography. The one who’s attended a number of events and weddings as a working professional and unlike the wedding guests; the one who’s there from the very beginning to the absolute end of your special day and during all of the intricate moments in between.
As I sat down to write this article, I thought about a great consultation and chat I had with a potential client last week and reflected on the fact that not one of the questions and concerns she and her spouse-to-be had were even remotely similiar to the “advice” given in the articles I mentioned above. So, after much thoughtful observation and a tad bit of research here’s the top 3 key things to consider in order to find the perfect wedding photographer for you.
1. THEIR PORTFOLIO
Ok so this may seem like the most obvious starting point (and probably one that you’ve already tackled — great!) It’s also the most important in my opinion. The reason for this is that much like any other art form, photographers have a number of DIFFERENT styles. Styles can range anywhere from TRADITIONAL/CLASSIC to PHOTOJOURNALISTIC/EDITORIAL to ARTISTIC/ILLUSTRATIVE — to name a few. The reason why it’s important to take a long, mindful look through a photographers portfolio is to be able to identify and understand their style of photography and then decide if it meshes with what you envision for your wedding photos.
Since us photographers are a batch of folks each with our own unique styles, I suggest you examine whether or not the style of their photos also matches your personalities. Does it resonate with the overall aesthetic of your ceremony? Perhaps your wedding is super non-traditional, bohemian and non-denominational while your photographer of choice has a portfolio of gorgeous yet classically traditional church wedding ceremonies and ballroom receptions.
Now this isn’t to say that a photographer like this isn’t skilled or talented at what it is they do, however they may not entirely comprehend what it is you’re looking for in terms of style. My point is, make sure you find a photographer who truly understands how you want your wedding day to be remembered. Photography is a visual art. All forms of visual art seek to convey emotion and communicates without the use of words. A good rule of thumb is to ALWAYS trust your immediate feelings — they’ll never ever steer you wrong. So, when a photographer shows you their portfolio and you find yourself having that “A-HA” moment followed by warm and fuzzy nodes of quiet excitement upon seeing their work, that’s a VERY good indicator that their style is your style.
My recent consultation told me that she chose me specifically because my style struck her as being very “organic, free-flowing and natural.” It’s always a great sign when a client describes my vision better than I could — talk about a working relationship made in heaven!
2. MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CONSULTATION
The consultation. Another crucial part of choosing your wedding photographer. I know you may cringe at the mere thought of the number of hours and energy it’ll take out of your life to schedule and meet with photographers and I’ll wont mislead you — it can take awhile BUT, it’ll always be well worth all of that time, energy and effort.
A consultation with your photographer is mutually beneficial. It’s dedicated time for you to give your wedding photographer an understanding of who the two of you are, both as individuals and as a couple and to truly understand your story. As I mentioned previously; us photographers are unique. Our styles, personalities, the way in which we interact, communicate and present ourselves to clients. Think of it this way: your wedding photographer is the one person who will be with you before your big day even really begins. That is, they’ll be there before your hair and make-up are done. before you’re suited up and when both you and your love exit your ceremony and steal that one brief, quiet moment together. Depending on the type of wedding you’re planning, this could mean upwards of 9+ hours with your wedding photographer.
This is a massive amount of time to spend with someone other than a friend or family member!
Personally, this is one of the reasons why I adore shooting weddings. I love people. I love their idiosyncrasies and the art of quiet observation. It’s in those moments that I truly see the beauty of the individual — everytime. Plus, I simply enjoy being around people. I’m comfortable with emotion, intimacy and transparency; which to me, is the epitome of any wedding ceremony and union.
If you choose to bypass the consultation, you run the risk of not knowing beforehand whether or not your personalities mix well. As I mentioned in my first point; we ALL have an inner compass deep inside of us that we use each and every day of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s called “intuition.” Any productive consultation need not take anymore than 45 minutes to 1 hour of your time. Check in and ask yourself how you feel in this persons presence. Do you feel comfortable? A sense of ease? Does your wedding photographer exude a passion and knowledge of their work? Are they doing a ton of talking or are they more concerned with understanding your wants and needs as it relates to memorializing your special day? If these things are all apparent and in place during your consult, GREAT! If not, then the energy will most likely be the same during your wedding day and I can almost guarantee this same energy will be reflected in your photos. Remember — check in with yourself and TRUST your instincts.
Photographers are working professionals you hire to create and memorialize a visual narrative of your wedding day. Planning a wedding is hard work! Therefore, my goal is to make the process of searching for a wedding photographer as seamless as possible. Perhaps other photographers may have a different take on this, but consultations should ALWAYS work around my clients schedule (not the other way around!) I’ve had consultations in my clients’ offices’, homes, Starbucks, restaurants, via Facetime, phone and even while on a New York City train (yes, I sure did!).
What exactly are you paying for when you hire a wedding photographer? This depends on a few obvious and not so obvious things. Is your wedding a remote destination wedding that requires airfare costs and accomodations for your wedding photographer? Interested in purchasing some gorgeous prints and albums from your photographer? These are some more obvious details that will naturally increase your costs. I’ll let you in on a secret though — there’s truly no standard “frame of reference” we use to establish pricing. But, as with any product or service industry — there are reasons for everything. I firmly believe that all wedding photographers (and most freelance, creative professionals) all price out their services and products according to what they feel they’re worth. This isn’t a “bad” thing, however the medium of photography, much like all services is essentially a “You-get-what-you-pay-for” industry.
According to www.snapknot.com, a wedding photographer resource website, the average cost of a wedding photographer for 8 hours in NYC is $3,552. While Los Angeles taps in at $3,230 and the national average is a cool $2,814 (check out their infographic HERE). So if a wedding photographer is pricing themselves significantly lower than the average specific to your city, there’s a reason for it.
Any seasoned or even semi-seasoned wedding photographer is well aware of the work and energy that goes into shooting a wedding and/or event. We also know the work goes on long after the actual shoot. Post editing, printing processes and creating keepsakes involve a large volume of time and energy. Try to keep in mind that when you hire your wedding photographer, you’re hiring their experience, their unique ability to manage and deliver services to you without distraction and thus allowing you to completely immerse yourself in your special day.
When I secure new clients, they’ll quickly learn they’re not only investing in my creative eye, my use of nature, natural light and my photojournalistic style. But it’s also an investment in my keen emotional intelligence which allows me to tell a visual narrative with my images. They’re investing in my ability to gently lead, instruct and organize as needed. To remain just as calm and courteous as I was during our initial consultation — regardless of what’s going on externally at any given moment. Most importantly, they’re investing in my easygoing, personable and humorous personality and my innate ability to interact with people of varied backgrounds, cultures and personalities. Beyond this, they’re investing in my post editing process skills (which takes time to do beautifully!) They’re investing in my client delivery services and archival services giving them direct access to their images on my own password protected section of my website, just in case they need time to decide on how to archive their wedding photographs for years to come.
Lastly, they’re paying for “extras” I offer, such as archival quality prints, prints on natural wood and personalized photo albums.
I really do hope you found this post helpful in your search. Be sure to follow me on PINTEREST for all things Weddings & Wedding Photography. Tell me, what have your experiences been with wedding photographers in your city? Have questions for me that I didn’t cover? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck in your search!
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