5 Tips for Finding Your Dream Wedding Photographer
1. Stop listening to all the wedding blogs/magazines about wedding photography. They are NOT the experts.
Okay, don’t blindly ignore all of them. There is undoubtedly good information to be found on the internet about planning your wedding day. But definitely vet your sources. If you’re reading an article on wedding photography, make sure it’s written by an actual wedding photographer. But don’t stop there. Make sure that photographer is a full time professional photographer. We’re the ones who have the experience to truly give advice on the subject. We know how to schedule your wedding day to allow plenty of time for the best photographs. We’re the ones who know how to translate your wants into actual wedding day coverage (like whether it’s a good idea to have a second photographer) and into tangible memories long after the wedding day (like a gorgeous heirloom wedding album). And we can certainly keep you from making bad decisions like not feeding your photographer after being on his/her feet for hours on your wedding day.
2. Find your photographer through unconventional routes.
If Google isn’t working for you, think outside the box when searching for your perfect photographer. Social media is a great start. Do you love Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook? Then you should be using those outlets to find your ideal photographer! Search hashtags like #YOURSTATEweddingphotographer or #YOURVENUEweddingphotographer to see what catches your attention. Not a big social media user? Ask another wedding vendor you’ve already booked who they’d suggest to photograph your wedding. Ever been a guest at a friend’s wedding and thought their photographer was doing a great job? Ask your friend for their recommendation and then follow up by checking out the photographer’s website and portfolio! There are plenty of ways to be creative in finding a photographer beyond Google.
I do suggest using caution when finding a photographer through social media and/or a wedding blog/magazine’s “preferred vendor” list. Oftentimes photographers are not researched to make sure they fit a certain criteria (I once discovered a non-film photographer on a film photography exclusive wedding blog’s vendor list!). And ALWAYS be sure to ask for full wedding galleries if you suspect all you’re seeing on a photographer’s website or social media is from styled shoots. Styled shoots do not always translate to real wedding days. You want a wedding photographer with real world experience, not someone who is only good at paying for advertising space and setting up shoots that are completely controlled and unrealistic.
3. Don’t be afraid to book an out of state photographer.
Simply put, if you find your ideal photographer, make it work. Photographers love to travel to new places and we consider it a HUGE honor to be asked to photograph a wedding in a different state. If you’ve fallen in love with a particular photographer, but are concerned about not enough wiggle room in the budget to account for their travel, get creative on ways to make it work. Maybe settling for 8 hours of coverage instead of 10 will mean the difference in paying to bring your favorite photographer into town? Or cutting out wedding favors no one will even realize were eliminated will free up some space in the budget? Haven’t picked a wedding date and booked a venue yet? Consider adding another month or two to your engagement so you can save up for your dream photographer (and also cut out the Starbucks every day to help you reach that goal quicker!).
Bonus tip: Make sure you have clear expectations with your photographer on their travel arrangements. Some photographers, like myself, prefer to book their own airfare so there is more control over moving things around in the case of bad weather/delays. It can be hard to coordinate back up flights and such if you can’t reach a couple who is busy with wedding-related items two days before they tie the knot. I also charge all my own airfare upfront within the booked collection so there are no surprises or additional fees later. Others may require the couple to reimburse the actual costs after the wedding before the final package is delivered.
4. Connect with your photographer.
Once you’ve connected with a photographer’s images, it’s time to reach out and let them know you’re interested in hiring them to your dream team of wedding vendors! At this point, I cannot express enough how crucial it is to meet your photographer in person BEFORE the wedding day. At the very least, I request a phone or Skype consultation with all my potential wedding couples. Nothing is lost in translation when you meet in person or speak on the phone. You have a chance to ask questions and get answers quickly, see and touch product samples, and get an overall sense of how you vibe with the photographer you’re considering hiring for the most important day of your life. Aside from perhaps the wedding planner, you’ll spend the most time with your photographer on your wedding day. You want to make sure you like being around your photographer and trust him/her. That is hard to do through email. But no worries! Email is still perfect for most of the post-booking communication, after a relationship has already been established.
5. Make it official with clear expectations. AKA, sign a contract!
Contracts are meant to protect all parties who sign it. So make sure you have one with your photographer! More importantly, make sure you READ your contract before signing it. By having a consultation or phone call with your photographer, you can both set clear expectations on what is needed before, during, and after your wedding day. Then the contract should back up everything you discussed. Some of the items included in my contract are completion schedules, what is included in the couple’s package, and payment schedules. Having everything written down clears the way for trust and creativity with translates into incredible images!
I hope this post has been helpful as you begin your search for your dream photographer! What was your favorite tip?
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