When selecting a wedding photographer, there are three important elements you should keep in mind: personality, the photographer’s style, and cost. The first two are related to character traits unique only to that person and cannot be copied. The third element fluctuates due to many different variables. Let’s talk about each in the order of importance.
First and most importantly are the character and personality of the individual who you will hire to capture your day, and invite as a guest to your wedding. These characteristics may not be the first thing you think about when choosing a photographer, however, it will definitely be the most important factor in the decision-making process.
The most obvious component is to determine whether or not you like the images and style that this particular photographer has to show you. Before you even schedule an in-person consultation, it may be helpful to browse through that photographer’s website. After you have scoured pages and pages of samples, your instincts will help you eliminate those photographers you don’t want to see and help you to figure out which ones you do. It is definitely important to be intrigued or excited by the images a photographer has to offer. If you have made an appointment or decided to visit the photographer, chances are you already are interested in their work but this is not always the most important factor.
What is? Personality.
Now that you are in this person’s studio or space, the questions you have to ask yourself are:
Do I like this person?
Do I trust them to handle such an important day in my life?
Do I feel comfortable with this person?
Will my friends and family like him?
Would I invite him or her to my wedding?
You could find the Ansel Adams of wedding photographers, but if he or she annoys you in any way and you are determined to politely overlook that fact, the only person who is going to suffer is you. The bottom line is, if you don’t like your photographer for any reason, your wedding images and your memories are going to be reflected upon as if looking into a tarnished mirror.
The second element and almost as equally important as personality is the photographer’s eye. That is, the way he or she sees and captures the wedding day. This unique trait separates one photographer from the next, and is considered “the photographer’s fingerprint.” In other words, a photographer can copy another’s style, but the fact is no two photographers see exactly the same way. Therefore, when looking at different photographer’s work, really take notice of how and what they see.
Do the images move you?
Are they emotional?
Do they tell a complete story?
Are they artistic and creative?
Are they real, and do the people look comfortable?
Finally, out of all the photographers you met with, whose images did you gravitate towards the most? Usually, the answer to these questions, and the definitive question “Who is the right photographer for me?” is only an inner voice away. Just listen and trust.
Finally, the last deciding factor is usually the cost. You have likely spent hours, if not days, of your time interviewing photographer after photographer and now you have found the perfect one for you. The images are amazing and he or she has a great personality, and it all feels right. However, your inner voice picked someone who is a little out of your budget. What do you do?
When it comes to budgeting, ask yourself an important question:
After the wedding is over, what am I going to have left?
Answer: Your pictures and your memories.
Everything else is going to be forgotten, eventually remembered only through your photographs. According to a survey run buy the largest online wedding website, the number one regret couples had is that they wished they would have spent more money on their wedding photography.
Shopping for a wedding photographer is like buying a house: you get what you pay for. In both cases, the purchase is based on emotion. Buying a little more than you can afford is always a wise investment that you won’t regret as long as you have put in the time to find the perfect one for you.
With that said, it doesn’t mean there are not ways to get the most for your dollar. One way is to buy all albums and portraits, anything you might want up front as part of a package instead of buying a la cart afterward. Another way is make sure you understand what it will cost before and after the wedding. Sometimes a photographer’s packages appear to be less expensive at first glance, then after the wedding you get hit with add-ons you did not expect. Then you end up spending more money than you would have with a photographer who appeared to have been more expensive.
Shopping for a wedding photographer is like buying a house: you get what you pay for.
Don’t make the mistake of weeding out photographers because you called or e-mailed them for prices and then crossed them off your list because they exceed a certain dollar amount that you determined photography should cost. Finding a great photographer is much like discovering a great restaurant. Let’s say you were to call around to ten different eateries and ask, “How much are your meals?” If you never take the opportunity to meet the owner, taste the food or experience the ambiance and charm of the restaurant you cannot make an educated decision. All of these things make dining a great experience, and simply calling on the telephone won’t give you the same education. So, go taste the food. Wouldn’t you feel better spending more afterward because you loved your photographer and your images were so great you want to buy them all, than to get less than you imagined and end up spending more than you dreamed?
In summary, there is no secret formula or one photographer who fits every couple. What separates the good from the bad is in the eye of the beholder; after all, art is subjective. Just make sure you feel great about the person you hire and see a distinction in the work. Give careful consideration to your photography budget and invest as much as you can into that part of your wedding. In the end, you can't afford to be disappointed when the curtains close on your wedding day.
Opening photograph by Walters & Walters