Choosing a photographer for your wedding can often be as hard as choosing the right shoes. There are a lot of different things to consider, many of which a lot couples don’t even think about until it is too late or they have committed to one particular photographer.
What is your budget?
This can sometimes be the deal breaker, especially if you have a great photographer in mind but simply can’t afford them. So before you put all your eggs in one basket make sure the cost of potentially hiring them fits into your overall budget. With that being said, a lot of photographers are flexible. They may not necessarily come down in price, but perhaps it might make sense to only hire them for the most important part of the wedding. For example; I have worked with couples in the past who couldn’t afford the package they wanted, so we simply chose what were the most crucial hours of the day to them. Another option is to split up the day into 2 parts. Keep in mind that not all photographers are willing to do this.
The other option is to go with another photographer all together, one that is more in your price range. Just be sure that you are not ‘settling’. Take a look at their portfolio and make sure their style fits your needs. I get more into detail on this exact point in the next section.
Do you like their portfolio?
Go to their website. Check out blog posts, portfolio pages or anything else they may have. If you are trying to go with a more experienced photographer, go deep into their blog or portfolio and see if they have a consistent look and style. Are you looking for a candid style or more of a traditional look? Don’t hire a photographer only to turn around and tell them you want all your photos to look exactly like someone else’s. It’s unfair to the photographer and will often lead to photos that just don’t live up to what you expected. You should be hiring a photographer because you like what THEY do not because you won't them to emulate someone else's work.
How do you get along with them?
When I get a new client I highly encourage them to meet with me in person. Even if it’s a 10 minute meeting. It will also help put your mind at ease after getting to know the photographer a little bit better. Ask any questions you may have. Exactly what do they offer for each package? How would they define their shooting style? What happens if the wedding goes long? (this happens a lot) Are they flexible on traveling throughout the day? There are many more questions you can ask so have a list before you meet up.
One of the main concerns I get from clients is what happens if the wedding does run long. Will I just get up and leave in the middle of the first dance? Obviously not. But I do tell them that if it is an excessive amount of time, say more then 15 minutes or so there may be an extra charge.
How and when are the photos delivered?
Be careful with this one. I have heard many horror stories about couples not getting their photos until 6-9 months after the wedding. Even then, they have to buy prints or they only get a certain amount of the photos upfront. This doesn’t happen all the time, but be sure you talk with your photographer and discuss how this is handled. I personally write in the contract that each couple gets all the final photos on a DVD no later then 30 days after the wedding. This ensures there is no extensive delay and couples know what they are getting. For some couples that live outside the city I have sent a link in which they can download the files. USB sticks are also becoming quite popular and this is another option I usually mention to clients.
I figured I would touch upon this part mainly because I have had some confusion here in the past. If you hire a photographer for say 8 hours and some of those hours include the reception … how long do you plan on having them there for? Are they eating dinner? Is dinner considered a break in which you don’t think you need to pay them? When I shoot a wedding I always assume that, even if I am eating, my time doesn’t stop or get put on hold. If there is any confusion to this I am always up front. I do this mainly because I literally take 5 minutes to eat and then I am up and about shooting guests are anything else going on. Even if the meal is split up, I am always doing something.
Also, indicate to your photographer if you plan on having a meal for them at the wedding. If you aren’t, that is fine, at least they will know to bring their own snacks. One thing that helps is to have a spot set aside for the photographer where they can store their stuff while taking photos. I usually just keep my things in the corner by the DJ booth, or even by the front table in plain site so I can see it. But it all depends on the setup of the wedding. The best case scenario would be to have a locked room but this isn't always feasible.
One point I didn’t really go into detail with is signing a contract. Always, even if it is a basic one, get the photographer to write up a contract. Read it, understand it and then get both parties to sign it. This ensures that everyone is protected.
Trust me, I have a had a few weddings where couples have contacted me a week before their wedding because their photographer bailed on them. On the other end of the spectrum, I have also had one or two couples cancel on me due to the wedding being called off. As long as I have enough notice I am quite flexible and won’t charge but if it does happen, it should be indicated in the contract.
Aside from that, just be sure to get to know your photographer either through email or in person. Be upfront with what you are expecting but at the same time don’t be to overbearing, be sure to let the photographer do what they do best … which is take photos!