If you are planning a wedding then you've probably been researching the many different websites and information available on the web related wedding vendors. You've probably also felt a bit overwhelmed at times with all the information, blogs, guides, tips, forums, etc... Just running a quick query of wedding photographers in my neck of the woods (South Bend, Indiana), I turned up no less than 47 self proclaimed wedding photographers. In this day and age of always available cameras, more and more folks are slapping up a website and advertising themselves as available to shoot your wedding, but if you're not careful, you run the risk of jeopardizing one of the biggest days of your lives.
I thought I'd put together a "must know" list of items that you should be covering with your potential photographer before you sign on the dotted line. This is by no means all the questions you should be asking, but is meant to cover the main items.
Does the photographer's "style" work for you?
Most photographers have a certain style or look to their work. Some may shoot very formal, posed photos where the majority of the shots are staged and the style is traditional. Others shoot primarily journalistic or candid, whereby they are capturing moments as they happen and don't intervene or stage anything. Some photographers process their images to look vintage or film like, while others offer bold, vibrant colors. Be careful about trendy looks, they may look good today, but in 10 years they may look out of date. Look for a good mix of formal and journalistic photography without over the top processing, so that you have a classic set of pictures to last many generations.
How will the final photos be delivered?
Many photographers (including myself) deliver the final photos as electronic files (JPG pictures). This is a convenient and modern way to archive your photos, however it truly is just that, an archive. It is not the best way to showcase or view your files. You absolutely want to make sure your photographer offers printed and framed pictures as well as albums. Digital files are cumbersome to sort through, getting to your favorites is time consuming, many folks of older generations have no idea how to view them, the files types of today may be obsolete in 5 years and the list goes on and on. None of these concerns apply to an album or framed picture. Make sure your photographer offers these options, you'll never regret it.
Make sure you know the details...
Wedding photography comes in all different sizes and flavors. Make sure you completely understand what is included in what you're paying for. Some of the key items to understand:
- Total hours of coverage should be spelled out so there's no misunderstanding.
- If you have a large wedding with multiple getting ready spots, limo rides around town and a large reception, you may want two or possibly three photographers.
- What is the guaranteed time frame for receiving your photos and/or albums.
- Do you have full print and sharing rights to the images? Most times the default answer is no, unless your package includes this specifically. The photographer owns all of the images and you must have permission, in writing, to print, share or make albums with them.
- What happens if the photographer has an unexpected event and can't make it to the wedding. Make sure there's a guarantee that he/she will send a backup photographer.
Does he/she use a contract?
This is probably the most important point. There are too many fly-by-night photographers out there and a contract is the absolute best way to protect yourself. Make sure this is signed before dishing out any money. Make sure all of the points listed in the details section above are ALL included in this contract. If the photographer has ANY reservations about using a contract, walk away and don't look back, they are not someone you want to do business with! Here is an example contract if you're interested in what to look for.
Don't just communicate via email...
It's absolutely best to try and meet with your potential photographer in person, not just via email. If you absolutely can't meet face to face, at least spend 20-30 minutes on Facetime or Skype with them. You will end up spending a fair amount of time with this person, between engagement photos, the rehearsal, getting ready pics, the ceremony, etc... You want to know if you click with this person and if they have a attractive personality, this is difficult to gauge via email or text only.
Hopefully this list gives you some pointers along our journey to wedding nirvana. I am always available to chat about this subject anytime you have questions. Shoot me an email or call me and let's chat!!