A couple months ago Kristina Fossback Ferris, owner and principal designer of Vision of Elegance Events, asked me to share with her readers a few factors to keep in mind when hiring a wedding photographer. As you can imagine, I’ve had numerous friends and family members reach out to me over the years once they get engaged asking me this one question: “How do we find the right photographer for our wedding?” So I was thrilled to share the tips I had compiled for my nearest and dearest on the VOE blog. Chances are if you’re here, you’re in the same boat, and as you consider my services and those of so many other fantastic Chicago photographers, you might have a tough time narrowing down your choices. Or maybe you’re not even sure where to begin your search. So today, I’m republishing that article here to take some of the mystery out of your planning process!
Finding a photographer for your wedding can be one of the more daunting tasks on your planning list. We’re surrounded with so many beautiful magazines, wedding blogs, and perfectly curated Instagram feeds that it can be overwhelming! Not to mention that it’s a pretty significant investment and likely in the top 3-5 priorities for your big day.
The more you refine what it is that you like and want, the better you’ll be able to determine which photographer is the right fit for you and your partner. It requires some work on the front end, but if you take some time to answer these questions, you’ll be more confident in your decision.
I like to think of four main categories you’ll want to pay attention to as you narrow down your search for a photographer.
THE PHOTOS THEMSELVES (Of course!)
What do you like best from the photography you’ve seen online and in albums? Do you like more traditional photos, very artistic ones, or a combination of both? Do you like romantic, emotional photos, or playful photos? Can you picture yourself in the images the photographer shows in his/her albums and website? Do they feel like “you”?
Are the poses natural and relaxed or do the couples in the photos feel stiff? Are the colors true to life, or have they applied a vintage wash or filter to a lot of their photos? While the vintage effect is trendy now, in 20-30 years, you’ll want photos that are natural.
Make sure you see a combination of artistic photos as well as great portraits (couples and groups looking at the camera). The website will show the best of the best photos of couples, but when you look at an album, be sure you can see a representation of a few complete weddings from the beginning to end. Pay attention to the photos in each part of the day– getting ready/prep time when bride puts on her dress, ceremony, couple photos, family photos, and reception. Any photographer can “get lucky” at a few great shots, but seeing a few albums of the whole day will give you confidence in their skill.
This should almost be #1 on the list. Excellence of imagery should be a given, but it’s SO very important you hire someone with whom you feel comfortable! Being in front of the camera can be really difficult, and you want someone who will help you feel relaxed and that you can have fun with, not a stranger with a camera in their hands the day of the wedding. Your photographer will be with you ALL DAY LONG. This is just as important as all the other logistics, so make sure you feel good about them and that you can trust them.
Make sure there is a good balance between friendly and professional. Someone who is so formal you can’t relax isn’t good, but neither is the photographer who wants to be your best friend but doesn’t create a seamless experience for you. A clearly directed meeting and a packet of materials to walk away with goes a long way.
BUSINESS EXPERIENCE + BEST PRACTICES
The level of experience a photographer has with weddings in particular is very important. The schedule and unexpected things that happen throughout the course of the day are tough to anticipate, and even the most talented photographer can be thrown off his/her game if they are not experienced with all the varying logistics of a wedding day. He or she should be able to anticipate, troubleshoot, and remain calm- as well as help you do so. Here are some helpful things to ask:
Do you help us plan the photo portion of the day in terms of timing and locations?
Do you allow enough margin in the schedule for photos of us, the bridal party and family in case things are running behind?
How many photographers will shoot the wedding? (I shot weddings for years without a second person, but I’ve discovered that having at least 2 photographers throughout the day is crucial to me doing my job excellently and capturing everything that is going on.)
Do you have backup equipment if something goes wrong? Are you insured for accidents, theft, and liability? (While these are things you don’t want to think about, but someone who is serious about running their business will have these systems in place.)
PRODUCTS AND EXPERIENCE
Do they offer an engagement session? Is this included with the package/collection? I HIGHLY recommend doing an e-session, even if you don’t love the idea of being in front of the camera. You will feel so much more comfortable the day of your wedding if you do, plus you’ll get some fun photos!
Do you have the option to obtain the high resolution files with usage rights? This will enable you to make your own prints and use images on Facebook or online.
Do you want an album? It’s usually less expensive to order this before the wedding and you will definitely want this down the road! Even though it’s a digital era, you are not going to look at your hundreds of images every day or every week, and having an album will be the best way to showcase your favorite images from the wedding. So many couples think they will make their own album afterwards, but then realize they don’t have the time. And the quality of a professionally designed album really is worth the extra money.
The best news about working with a fabulous planner like Kristina is that she has already done a lot of this legwork. Part of her job is vetting wedding professionals for their level of experience, artistry, and expertise. And because her own values reflect a high level of integrity, she only refers photographers she trusts completely so you always know you’re in good hands. At this point it really comes down to personality and photography style to help you and your partner determine who will be the best fit to work together on your wedding.
Have more questions? I love helping couples hone in on what’s most important to you! Reach out if you want to learn more. I wish you the very best in your planning!