At this point in both my professional and personal lives, I’m surrounded by weddings. Both my shooting partner and myself are recently married, a lot of my friends and co-workers are in various stages of getting married, and of course, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of couples select me to photograph their days. One thing I’ve come to notice with all of this going on around me, is that most couples are really at a loss on how to select their photographer, and what criteria are actually important. Today I’m going to discuss the top 5 most important criteria a couple should look for when selecting a photographer.
5. Competence - Lets get this out of the way first. One would think that if someone were advertising himself or herself as a wedding photographer that they must have the basics of photography down. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Without harping on this too much, I’ve seen first hand just how easy it is to be tricked into selecting a photographer who’s only concern is cashing your check. Fortunately, it’s VERY easy to eliminate the people who do wedding photography only for the paycheck, and find a photographer who cares as much about your wedding as you do. Any photographer worth their salt should be able to breeze through the following:
- – What gear do you use, and how often do you update it? – Photographers always have been, and always will be, equipment junkies at heart. We LOVE getting new gear, updating our equipment and adding new toys to our stable of tools. It’s fun. Anyone who just brushes this question off is either hiding something, or uninterested in what they are doing. A camera might be a tool, but it’s not as bland as a hammer. Ask my wife; she’ll confirm that I’m like a little kid at Christmas every time UPS shows up at our house…
- - Aside from Wedding Photography, how else are you invested into photography? – Wedding photographers weren’t born as wedding photographers. We all started with a love of photography, and a passion for capturing our visions with a camera. Photography is an art, and a good wedding photographer will still follow personal interests and will be feeding their photographic urge in other ways than just photographing weddings. This could be anything from submitting work to fine art galleries to teaching college classes part time or traveling and shooting serene landscapes around the world. But there WILL be some other outlet. If not, then you’re talking to someone who is not personally invested into what they are doing. You’re personally invested in your wedding, right? Why would you expect less from the people you choose to be involved?
- - Let me see more than one complete wedding. – This could be in the form of physical wedding albums, online albums, or proof sheets, but it’s important that you see the finished work, from start to finish. Anyone can get one or two shots right, especially at a wedding, where everyone looks great and the environment and surroundings are staged for beauty and emotion. However, if you are able to evaluate the photographer from start to finish, you will get a great impression of what they are capable of. Remember, what they are showing you is what they want you to see – It’s their best work.
4. Professionalism - Who are you dealing with here? Is your photographer a professional? Are they on time? Are they prepared? Are they dressed appropriately? Are they in control of the situations you expect them to be in control of? If you’re not satisfied with the answers to all of these questions – move on. Your photographer’s actions and demeanor throughout all of your contact leading up to your selection should give you a crystal clear idea of who they are and how they conduct their business. If they can’t handle responding to your emails in a timely manner, or show up to your meeting on time, how can you trust them to capture everything on your wedding day? This is a business, and being competent with a camera is only half the battle.
3. Fulfilling your needs – Every day, I see a huge disconnect between couples and photographers in this area… It should be obvious – no couple has ever needed this service before this point in their lives, so how could they possibly know what they need? In my opinion, it falls on the photographer to be able to clearly explain every single aspect of how the photography aspect of a wedding should work, and tailor their services to meet the specific needs and desires of the couple. Before selecting a photographer, the couple should understand how everything will work, from the contract to the wedding day to the selection and delivery of the printed albums and photographs. I have seen so many instances of couples that have signed contracts that are almost the exact opposite of what they actually want out of their photography, and of course, frustration and unhappiness ensues. It’s very important for the photographer to both explain and provide examples for any choice that the couple needs to decide on, and it’s very important for a couple to not sign a contract until they are satisfied with the answers.
2. Style - This is an easy one. Do you like the photographs your photographer takes? A photographer cannot change their style. It’s an extension of their personality. It’s a part of them. If you give 100 photographers an assignment, you’ll get 100 different results. While it’s always a great idea to give your photographers some examples of photographs you like and styles that interest you, if the photographers previous work doesn’t match up with what you like, you won’t get photographs you like. It’s that simple. I always ask for my clients to send me some photographs that resonate with them, and it gives me a good idea of whether or not I can meet their expectations.
1. Personality - I saved this for number 1, because I believe it’s very important and very under emphasized. Your photographer’s personality and his or her ability to fit in and interact with you and your guests will have a HUGE impact on the photos. You need to be able to relax and be comfortable around your photographer. Simply put – How can you expect your photographer to capture the emotion and energy of your wedding if every interaction you have with them is awkward, out of place, confusing or frustrating? The personality of your photographer will be present of every single aspect of your wedding photography, and the last thing any couple needs while planning their wedding is an additional point of stress. Find a photographer who makes things easier and fun for you.
Hopefully this clears up some things for a lot of you looking for your wedding photographer, and even provides some insight for wedding photographers who are trying to do things to better provide for their clients…
I am more than happy to answer any questions for any couple looking for a photographer, and invite all feedback and discussions…
Check back next week for ‘Wedding Contracts – Decoded’
As always, if you have any questions or comments, by all means, jump in. The more information we get out there, the better!