Tips on Hiring a Wedding Photographer from a Photographer
How to Pick Your Wedding Photographer
Over the years, I’ve been emailed, called and chatted up about my wedding photography services. More often than not, I book a wedding when I receive an email or a call from a bride inquiring about her date. I’ve been lucky to work with some simply wonderful, kind and amazing clients who are respectful of my time and who value my work. Rarely am I emailed by a bride who is “price checking” all of the photographers in my area and has no real interest in hiring me. But, it does happen on occasion and I hear from other photographers that it happens to them, and it happens a lot.
Most brides don’t know where to start when they begin their search for a wedding photographer and sometimes they stumble along the way. So, I’ve decided to put together a few helpful tips on how to pick your wedding photographer, from a photographer’s point of view. These are things that most photographers want you to know, but maybe aren’t willing to say.
1) Ask Around - Sometimes the best way to find great photographers and avoid the less-than-stellar ones is to start your search by asking around. Your friends will give you an honest review of the photographer(s) they’ve worked with. Ask a handful of people who’ve recently gotten married. You may find that a few names will be repeated, and checking out those photographers who come well recommended is a great place to begin your search. By asking around, you may also find that a photographer may come with some bad reviews and that will help you narrow your search, too.
2) Be Selective – Don’t take the shotgun approach to finding the photographer for you. It’s best to do some research and narrow down your search to somewhere between two to four photographers. Take some time to look through their websites. Make notes of their pricing, styles and anything else that’s important to you, ie: do they provide a DVD of images, what kinds of albums do they offer, etc. Once you’ve emailed them, a good wedding photographer will want to take the time to email you personally, talk with you on the phone and even set-up an in-person consultation. Don’t waste your time or the photographers’ by emailing a dozen studios. Be selective and your decision will be quicker and easier in the long run.
3) Be Honest – If you find that a photographer you’ve contacted is outside of your budget or their style doesn’t work with your vision, let them know sooner than later. We won’t judge you if your budget can’t accomodate our services. We won’t be angry or upset if you like another person’s work better than ours. All we ask is that you are honest with us and respectful of our time. If our price tag is too expensive for you, it’s okay, really! If you met another photographer and decide to hire them, that’s okay, too!
Don’t make up excuses and please don’t ignore our follow-up attempts. Just let us know what’s happening with your plans, and be timely about it; otherwise, we will invest more of our time and energy in sending you emails or calling to see how your planning is going. Give us the same courtesy you would give your long-time hairstylist or friend if you had to cancel an appointment. Once we know that you’ve decided not to hire us, we can move on to the next task on our list.
4) Be Polite & Respectful – Most photographers are individual business owners and have about a hundred things on their plate at any given time. Our time is valuable, so if we’ve committed an hour to meet with you, please arrive on time and be prepared to have a meaningful conversation. Please don’t start the meeting by going over a list of questions you printed off of The Knot. Most photographers are invested in their client relationships. We want to get to know you, chat about your plans and talk about what’s important to you in regards to your wedding photography. Yes, we’ll answer all of your questions and are happy to do it, but please understand that hiring a photographer isn’t as black and white as a bullet point list full of questions. Your consultation should be warm, friendly and fun, not just Q&A.
Additionally, don’t book back-to-back interviews at the same location. I’ve heard too many stories of photographers arriving early to meet with a potential client at Starbucks only to find another photographer already there chatting with that client and discussing album options. That’s just plain uncomfortable for everyone involved. If your schedule is tight and you really need to meet with everyone on the same day, at least allow 15-20 minutes between each meeting so that awkward moment is avoided.
5) Do Ask Important Questions – There are a few questions that are important to ask during a consultation - The answers should weed out the professionals from the rest…
- Insurance – What kind of insurance do you have? (Some venues require a minimum of 2 million in liability insurance to shoot there!)
- Contract – Can I review your contract before I sign? (Don’t ever book a photographer without a contract)
- Worst Case Scenario – What happens if you get in a car wreck the week before my wedding? (There should be a clause in the contract protecting both you and the photographer – they should do everything possible to find you a suitable replacement)
- When will I receive my images/products? (Turnaround should be anywhere from 2-8 weeks – any longer than that and you’re waiting too long for your images)
6) Don’t Compare – Wedding photographers and photography packages cannot be compared apples to apples. Wedding photographers are like apples and oranges. We’re all fruit, but not alike at all. There are far too many variables to compare one photographer and his/her services to another. For example, you’ve selected three photographers, “A”, “B” and “C” to interview for your wedding. You like the work of all three, but they have different packages with similar pricing, or their packages are similar and the pricing is different. Why?? How do you compare??
Photographers A, B and C clearly all very different resumes so there are different values associated with their knowledge, experience and product offerings. With even a few variables, such as years in business, number of bookings per year, overhead/operating costs (studio vs. home office), you can see that there is no way to compare these photographers apples to apples. If one photographer books 50 weddings per year and has a studio, you can’t compare his cost to another photographer who books 15 weddings without a studio. There are just too many variables that make it nearly impossible to look at the two as though they are the same. The best thing to do when trying to pick your wedding photographer is to interview photographers A, B and C and view your consultations with them as completely unique interviews. Don’t compare the three choices to eachother. I know its hard to do, but think about each photographer individually. If you don’t like the products they offer , if you don’t feel a good connection with them on a personal level, or their work doesn’t resonate with you, move on (but dont’ forget to politely let them know that you won’t be hiring them!). Eventually, you will find that there is one photographer you will love more than the others. Go with your gut, trust your instincts and you’re sure to hire the best person for the job.