When it comes to your wedding day, you need to hire a photographer you like.
To illustrate this, I’ve asked two people to share their stories. Both of these people felt unsatisfied with their wedding photography, and both of these situations could have been avoided if they had found one they truly connected with and felt like they could trust.
Case #1: We could have benefited from our photographer getting to know us and our venue better.
I chose our photographer because she had made mention of offering herself and another photographer. As I was planning the other details, I received a response last minute saying that it was just going to be her. It was too last minute to try and do anything other than accept it for what it was and make the best of it.
She came to the wedding, 15 minutes before the ceremony, with contract in hand (after her parents dropped her off???). It was like wow, uhm sure I will sign. It was definitely nerve-wracking. My family was even like what the heck.
I wish she would have said, hey let’s get together or go visit your venue and talk. All of our dialogue was via email. I did suggest her getting to know the area and made suggestions to check out specific areas beforehand, but when she arrived kinda looking around, it was evident to me that she didn’t follow through. I think she was not prepared for an actual customer, or at least it felt that way.
I wish we could have been given the chance to communicate our most important wishes. Our family, bouquet, and destination were important to us. There aren’t many pics of my family in their element – just “stand by each other and say cheese” kinds of photos. And our bouquet was symbolic – each family member brought their favorite flower, so this could have been a really beautifully captured thing.
Throughout it all, there were just a lot of little mishaps and over selling and under-performing – I felt like I had to do too much directing and time keeping, which does not make for a pleasant experience. I left the overall exchange feeling kinda eh.
As simple as it is, going through the who, what, when, where, why, and how is super important. Looking back, too, I would have allowed my photographer’s photos and portfolio speak rather than be sold on words.
I think getting to know your client and what is most important to them is key.
To add my own two cents, we’re talking about her wedding day. It’s not like there’s a redo button. This is supposed to be one of the most joyous occasions of a lifetime, and she ended up having to keep her photographer on track. Instead of looking back on these photos (which might I add are one of the only physical remainders you have after the day is over) with joy, she just has a “kinda eh” taste in her mouth.
Case #2: I don’t love my wedding photos. I hired a budget photographer, and I didn’t get the photos I wanted.
I hired a photographer for the “budget”. He had a pretty “shoot-and-burn” (high volume, low price) studio, and it seemed like he did lots of weddings each year. The photos on his website were pretty good, but even at first glance I didn’t fall in love with his style. It was very traditional, very posed, and very flash-heavy. But he was relatively inexpensive.
I remember the very first meeting, he kinda intimidated me. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but he didn’t make me feel comfortable. His energy was much higher than mine, and he was really overbearing. But he fit within our budget – and actually ended up giving us a pretty good deal – so we hired him.
When we met again a few months later to discuss the details, and he basically tore my timeline to shreds. He told me, your timeline won’t work (I think those were his exact words) and then he kinda forcefully changed nearly everything. Or rather he told us we needed to change everything. Honestly, it made me feel awful.
On our wedding day, it seemed as though he was all about following the timeline to a T. He kinda made me feel rushed, and I could sense this was kind of just another gig for him.
The way he posed us was very editorial-like – tons of that god-awful “prom pose” – and what I really wanted was photos of us smiling and laughing together and showing our fun sides because we’re total goofballs. The family photos ended up really overly formal too – my husband hated how he had everyone put their arms on each other because it was just really formal and unnatural.
When we got our pictures, I think he did an okay job taking the photos, and I did like them… but mostly because they were of my wedding day and it was a wonderful and beautifully decorated day. But when I look back at them, all I see is how uncomfortable I was during that portrait session. How I hated the poses we were in, and I just wanted to have some fun with my brand new husband. I hate how much I was asked to look directly at the camera, and how he posed my family with all of our arms on each other’s arms – it was just so unnatural and unlike us.
Also… he included too many photos. It sounds like the opposite of a problem, but it was just too much. He sent maybe 6-8 shots of every single family grouping, which is entirely unnecessary, and he didn’t bother to take out the ones where people were blinking or not looking, or not smiling. A few photos are just straight up blurry from motion blur – and not like in that artistic way that’s kinda edgy and cool. I look shiny in so many of the photos from my makeup and the harsh off-camera light, and he didn’t bother to make my teeth white (?!). I don’t know because I can’t be certain, it kinda looks like he didn’t bother to edit them at all, except maybe for exposure correction or color. It seems like they didn’t even hold up to the standard of the portfolio on his website, and I felt jipped.
If I had my choice, I would go back and hire someone who more fit my style. I never really felt a connection to the way he shot – he used a lot of flash, even outdoors, and his style was much more traditional and formal than I would have liked.
I wish I would have spent twice the amount we spent on our wedding photos, or more. I wish we would have hired a photographer who cared – like, really cared about us. I wish I hired someone I felt comfortable around and be my goofy weird self, and who understood what I wanted, and who I trusted enough to get it. I wish he would have cared enough about us to ask if we wanted to get prints or a wedding album – which we still haven’t done a year later. I wish I would have gone with my gut. I wish I could go back and hire someone else, but I can’t. It was my wedding day; it only happens once.
Yikes. All I’ll say is… this industry has the potential to be SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT.
So, how can we learn from these stories?
What can you do to prevent this kind of story from happening to you? Here are my top 3 points to consider when searching for your wedding photographer.
1. Seek out a photographer who communicates well, and clearly lays out all expectations in a proactive manner.
The best wedding photographers lay out everything in front of you so you never even have to ask any questions. You don’t have to ask when you’ll get your wedding photos because it’s laid out right in front of you in their welcome packet. You don’t have to ask them whether or not they’re bringing a second photographer because it’s super clearly laid out in their pricing sheet. They’ve got a contract for you to sign, and they answer any questions you have about any legal wording in it. They let you take it home to read it if you want to, and you get a copy once it’s signed. (And on that note, NEVER hire a wedding photographer who does not give you a contract to sign. Run like hell and never look back.)
Expectations should be laid out – and that’s on both sides! If he or she doesn’t communicate openly with you, it’ll be difficult for them to understand your vision for your photos, and additionally you could find yourself misunderstanding the terms – turns out, you don’t get any digital files without an extra purchase, or even worse, maybe they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. There should never be a reason for them to mislead you or hide anything from you.
If you have a chance to meet them in person before your wedding, I urge you to do so.
Open, clear communication is essential not just through the planning process but on the wedding day as well – and it’s just that much easier when you like your photographer and can trust them. Maybe you feel like you can’t ask your photographer for special requests because they intimidate you, or they’re really overbearing when it comes to taking charge. Maybe he ends up posing you too much, when really you want those natural candid photos of you with your love just having fun.
2. Seek out a professional who knows what they’re doing and understands your vision.
A great wedding photographer is more like a day-of coordinator combined with an artistic director. And you’re going to spend a lot of time with this person on your wedding day – often more than your future spouse!
The more familiar they are with your day, your timeline, your vision, and who you are as a couple, the easier things can flow. They can take charge, call out names, and in general help with the flow of your wedding day – all while making you feel at ease and relaxed so you can go party. They’ll keep your story in mind and notice all those little moments that add up to tell the real story of your wedding day, rather than focus on their own vision of what a wedding ought to be, or pigeonhole you into taking photos you don’t really give a crap about.
Recalling the first anecdote above, you don’t want the added stress of having to keep your photographer in check – rather, they should be keeping your timeline in mind and gently reminding you of what’s next, where to go, and when.
3. Seek out a photographer you like spending time with.
The closer you are with your photographer, the more intimate and relaxed your photos will be, and the more you will love and cherish them.
If you hire a photographer that you feel a little uncomfortable with – maybe he’s kind of intimidating, maybe a bit too quiet for your likes, or maybe she just talks too much and you find it entirely obnoxious. If you’re able to get on with your photog, and laugh and smile freely and openly with them, it will show in the photos. I promise.
If your photographer cares about you as a person, she will view your wedding differently. She’ll take your timeline and your vision into consideration, not just her own artistic vision. She’ll understand that photography is a service, not just an art, and that it’s all about you, and very little about her. She’ll be there for any request you make, and she’ll make sure to capture all those little details for you because she wants you to have them forever. She’ll take the care to get you into the right mood for your photos, and see your fun side or your goofy side, or your romantic side – whatever that might look like for you – because she wants you to have photos that capture that in you.
How much is that worth to you?
4. Seek out the photographer that you best resonate with.
After all the preliminary boxes are checked: solid portfolio, professional presence, clear communication, etc… now it comes down to finding the photographer you best resonate with.
Look at their work. If seeing photos of strangers on their website makes you feel things, that’s a good sign. They’ll make you feel even more things when you’re in the photos. If they respond quickly after you inquire and want to set up a time to meet you – like actually in person – that’s another great sign. If you get along during your consultation, if they answer your questions, if you find conversation easy and if it seems like they actually give a damn about you and your wedding – a wonderful sign.
If you genuinely like them as a person and enjoy being around them – well, I think the decision is made.