Back in November 2018, I found myself in the middle of my own wedding prep whirlwind. As a wedding photographer who has both taken and viewed a tremendous amount of wedding photos over the years, I thought it would be easy for me to pick my own wedding photographer. When it came to the search, however, I was totally overwhelmed.
It was a valuable experience and I would like to share my top five tips with other brides-to-be who are looking for the perfect photographer!
#1. Define Your Vision
It all boils down to what you want your wedding to look like, everything from your signature color palette to the architectural style of the venue. Once those decisions are made, dive headfirst into the portfolios of photographers that match your style. Narrow down what draws you to them specifically and dissect what feels most authentic to you and your partner. Define key words that describe the feel and pattern of the images you love, and then seek out that style. Is it candid, unexpected, shot in natural light, posed, fleeting, artistic, journalistic, editorial, soft, modern, timeless, in color or black and white? Personally, I love FINE ART style and FILM photographers. Years of experience shooting film has taught me that a digital camera cannot compete with a film camera when it comes to creating creamy skin tones and airy imagery. To me, that style is the most timeless and earnest, with an aesthetic that will last for generations.
#2. Quality & Value
Wedding photography immortalizes the entire day for years to come. Once dinner has ended, the dancing is done, and the last piece of cake is gone, all that remains of the event are the photographs. Wedding photography packages begin at varying price points, but the most important consideration is the VALUE of the final gallery. Once you have evaluated how significant these images are to you and your family, determine your budget and compare the offered packages. Wedding photographers charge between $2500- $60,000 for their services. Just like anything else in life, the price of photographs for your event reflects many things: experience, expertise, brand, deliverables, and needs. When comparing packages, it is important to have INSIGHT into the factors of each package: hourly rates for additional coverage, whether a complimentary engagement shoot is included, etc. Understanding the effort involved for each package helps clarify the value behind the numbers. Keep in mind one simple rule: quality over quantity. One thing you never want to compromise is QUALITY—quality is the difference between 1,500 mediocre photos or 600 stunning images. All your photographs should be consistent in style, carefully composed, well-lit, meaningful, and flow in unison to tell the story of your wedding day in an effortless way. When I review a photographer’s portfolio, I pay attention to the composition, lighting, color and style of each photo, and determine whether the photographer tells a story with their craft. Fine art photographers pay careful attention to these aspects. More importantly, they tend to infuse images with profound meaning, because their works are meant to be appreciated as visual art.
# 4. Understand Your Rights
In accordance with U.S. Copyright law, photographers own the rights to the photographs they take. This extends to wedding photography, and most contracts will reflect that. This means that your wedding photographer may use those images promotionally on their website or blog, submit them for publication, or even place them in ads. This copyright extends to the digital proofs that you may receive, so most photographers have a policy that you may only share images that are watermarked or otherwise display proper credit. I normally grant clients the print rights to all images, which means you can physically print the images or order an album from another source. Any reputable vendor asked to create a product from another photographer’s prints should verify who holds the rights to those prints. I have done so myself and am very glad that I did; in some cases the photographer had not relinquished those rights. If the photographer that you choose does not grant print rights in the standard contract, you may work with them to negotiate the rights to the images in order to print them yourself or order an album from another source.
#5. Post-production Enhancements
You may wonder why it normally takes six to eight weeks or longer to see your wedding photo proofs. The reason is that your photographer shoots raw files far bigger than a typical image file, providing greater creative freedom to STYLIZE the images with corrections to color levels, lighting, and other enhancements. Your photographer may offer additional retouching and special effects options such as white balancing, beauty retouching, and stylized art effects such as super-saturated colors. Although it varies by person, many photographers say that they spend an additional 40 hours or more performing post-production enhancements to images from a single wedding. For a photographer with a busy schedule, it can take up to two months or more before delivering your wedding proofs.
Work with your prospective photographer to understand: How many images should you expect? Will they be high-resolution or low-resolution images? Will you be able to make your own prints, or does the photographer retain the rights to the images? Will the proofs you see be the retouched versions, or does that happen after you select the photos you want? What retouching and special effects options are offered, and what is the additional cost?
As someone who takes pride in the craft of wedding photography and who has gone through the process of hiring a wedding photographer, I am certain that the advice above will serve both you and your photographer well, capturing the essence of your wedding day and providing you and your partner with wedding photographs that will be enjoyed for years to come.