It’s all real. You’re engaged, and now the craziest and most wonderful process of your life to date begins.
The holidays have just finished and you’re beaming because your beloved dropped down on their knee and asked you the greatest question this side of heaven. With your family around, and a tear in your eye, you said a “yes” with a little shake that only communicated excitement, never nervousness, because it was so easy to say it. And now, a new kind of hustle comes which is the beginning of your wedding planning process, and it is awesome.
If you’re anything like my wife and I, you actually had a good bit planned before you even had a ring on your finger. We have busy schedules, like a lot of people do these days, and we knew that we wanted to get married this past year but that meant that we had to go ahead and reserve that time. Choosing our date evolved quickly into picking our bridal party, beginning our guest list, but then the most important part came; choosing a wedding photographer.
Together, we knew that our photographer was going to be the one of the most important decisions that we’d make for our wedding. Yes, being in the industry makes that seem obvious, however it’s something that I cannot stress enough. This decision is vital to how and when you remember your day, on top of reliving the emotions that played into each and every moment. This is the decision that truly, will let you unplug from the world and plug into your day because they’ll run interference, keep you on schedule, and help communicate for you and that couldn’t be more valuable.
If you’ll let me, I’d love to help give you some tips on how this process should work for you. And how to land together on a photographer for your wedding, and ideally for your life. A majority of us in this industry are in it for the long haul, and we love it when couples turn to families and families continue to grow, all the while still coming back to allow us the privilege of telling their story.
With that said, let’s dive in! Here are 7 tips to help you pick your wedding photographer:
1. Bills, bills, bills – This is going to be the first step in the process, which is making sure you’re both on the same page of what you’re wanting to spend. Deciding where photography lands in your budget will be the biggest factor in who you’re able to hire, and it’s okay if it’s not your top priority. This is your wedding day and you should feel freedom to spend where you want to spend. So if photography isn’t a huge priority to you, no sweat. You don’t need to feel the pressure to keep reading, I promise. If photography is the top priority, then keep reading. Here’s the scoop, a lot of people will be offering the same kind of packages/hours but will cost sometimes tremendously different amounts. The greatest factor? Experience. The craziest part? The images can look the same or even the perceived talent is pretty straight across the board. That’s why step 1 is super important, but it’s also good to understand that those who are experienced are tested and have come out the other end proven to be a good investment. And that experience comes with a higher price because the demand is higher. So if you love their work, but it’s a little out of your budget, finding the room to make it happen will be a decision that you will never regret.
2. Get the feels, and keep them. – Style of photographs is super important. Hopefully, their work is why you’re reaching out to them in the first place. Ask yourself these important questions: do I like their work only because it’s in a cool place? Do their images make me feel something? Do I feel connected and transported to this moment? Do I feel like they look like real human beings? // So much can be lost in the translation of mismanaged or unmet expectations especially when it comes to the finished product. Make sure you do your homework, look through portfolios, and see how they see. I like to tell people that this is like the process of starting a new book: if they lock you in first chapter, keep reading. If you’re struggling to keep attention and engage, put the book away. In this case, close out of the tab. Let your first impressions be what guides you and go from there.
3. Survey says? – This is the realm of reputation. Don’t be afraid to seek out reviews on popular places like The Knot, Wedding Wire, Facebook, or any other kind of vendor network. And don’t feel like this is dishonest or shady; this is homework. We pride ourselves on the fact that people have good experiences and want to share them. Some photographers put them on their website, and some use channels outside of their website, either way the reviews are out there. But in the same regard. if a friend has used them ask about their experience and let the results/testimony speak for itself. There is no greater referral than one from a happy client.
4. What else do they do? – ATTN: This one is pretty biased. Meaning if tip number 1 didn’t mean anything to you, this one won’t either. – One of the most consistent pieces of advice I give people is that if you can, find someone that is full time in this field. The job requires a lot of attention, a lot of communication and a lot of intentional focus. It’s not saying that your photographer should be on call all the time, or that you should be able to call them at 2am about something because you’re up late planning (boundaries for all parties in this one). What it means is that if you can, let it be someone who 40 hours a week makes this kind of thing happen for couples all year round. Plus, this means that if they’re full time, owning a business, and have been for a few years, they’ve got the business part down and you can rest assured knowing you’ve got a professional from all angles. Plus, if they value their time and their craft like that, you can rest assured knowing that they’ll value yours just the same if not even more. I know that saying you should go with someone full time can limit the chance of you considering someone really talented who’s part time or someone who’s working to be full time, and that’s okay.
5. Connection goes further than likes and dislikes. – When you think about this from a relationship standpoint, it’s helpful to understand and seek out what they believe, their likes and dislikes, their sense of humor, and any thing else that can make up their personality. So yes, read “about” pages, see how they sound when they write in their blog posts. More often than not, you can follow your favorites on social media and see a behind the scenes look and more intimate viewpoint of who they are and how they live this beautiful thing called life! Lastly, it never fails to talk in person. Consultations can be time consuming but consider it the last piece of the puzzle to make sure this whole thing “clicks”.
6. You get out what you put in. – This, hands down, has been the biggest piece of advice I’ve given anyone who’s asked over the years on how to nail down this process. Keep in mind that your wedding photographer will be an investment financially, yes, but more often than not they ask for emotional investment as well. For us personally, building solid and foundational relationships with our couples is paramount and the same goes for a lot of my fellow photographers. We love photographing you at your best, and you’re at your best when you feel the most comfortable. You’re the most comfortable when you can let your guard down, and you let your guard down when you’re around people who know you. Yes, we will work tirelessly to make sure that even if it’s a one stop and go thing, you’ll get great photographs. However, investing in all areas with your wedding photographer will make this experience just the best. So the biggest tip, make sure your wedding photographer is someone that you feel like you’d want to let into your life, and vice versa.
7. K.I.S.S. “keep it simple, stupid” – If you caught my homage to The Office just now, perfect. If you didn’t, please don’t think I called you stupid, you should probably just watch The Office. The final piece is to make sure that you’re not overthinking. In the end, you need to trust your gut. If you’ve done all these and on paper it should work or feel good, but it doesn’t? Don’t waste your time and money, and hop back on the search train. It’ll be worth the headache for a week until you find someone new. And then, start again.
My deepest hope is that you find someone that fits all of this. That lines up with every piece of what you want and truly, I believe that your dream and ideal photographer is out there. Even if it’s not me, it’s so important to understand that this is going to be a fun process and it should remain to be one. Let your guards down, reach out to people, let them into your love, and find someone that stewards that opportunity with the greatest grace and joy. Congratulations to you and your beloved, I wish you nothing but the best in your days ahead. Marriage is the best.
In the spirit of the hunt, here are some of my most talented friends who run businesses with integrity and who’s style is unmatched: The Donars // Julia Wade // Cheyenne Schultz // Erica Serrano // Tyler Branch // Anchor and Veil