We're still full swing into the time of year where single ladies are flying off the market and I love it because that means new brides, new grooms, and new adventures. So in the interest of always being prepared, we're diving headfirst into Engaged 102 (brush up on Engaged 101 in case you missed it).
I had tunnel vision on my wedding photographer and I stalked the virtual hell out of her before I was actually engaged. By the time Justin officially proposed, I was blowing up her e-mail box like a bridal psycho - professing my undying love and hoping she'd feel the same way. (Kristen, LOVE ME!) My favorite part about working with her was her friendship. She never acted like a regular wedding vendor - she was a friend. A friend so good, I regaled her with a horrifying story about a botched bikini wax the day before my wedding and she didn't run out of the room screaming. But we checked Facebook together and she ate off my lunch plate and it was like having a dear friend with me all day rather than some stranger dressed in black with a metric crapload of camera gear.
We were a good match. But there's a lot of things you should consider when choosing a wedding photographer and I'm about to school you on a few of them. Here we go.
Personality: Are you really easy-going or more of a strict-scheduler? Do you want to think of your photographer as a vendor or as a friend? You'll spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than anyone else - even your new husband/wife. You should get along, feel relaxed, and trust them like a dear friend. More than anything else, I love forming friendships with my brides. I tell them ahead of time that I'll be like their favorite cousin on their wedding day only with a sexy camera. I like to be Brittany on your wedding day, not The Photographer.
Style: What kind of images are you looking for? Do you like old-fashioned portraits? Lots of standard poses? Or do you want something young and fresh? Do you like relaxed and natural shots with lots of candids? What is the post-processing like? Are the colors washed out and faded? Are they bright and vibrant? Do they use selective color? (You know, where everything is black and white except the flowers which are still bright red? That reeks of 2002 to me, no thanks.) Whoever you choose, you should love their style. Photographers spend a lot of time crafting their particular brand and asking a more traditional photographer to shoot a bunch of relaxed candids (or vice versa) won't yield the best images. Take the time to look at their work and decide if it's what you want.
Price: I know that price can make or break a decision to book a photographer. I'm also a firm believer that photography is a Get What You Pay For type of service. If you find someone off Craig's List and they're only charging you for $500 for 8 hours of coverage, you're probably going to get images that look less than professional. Photographers invest thousands of dollars into equipment, lenses, editing software, computer upgrades, website hosting, etc. not to mention countless hours of shooting to be prepared in any situation. I always cringe when I get an e-mail that says, "We're looking for an AMAZING photographer to give us beautiful images on a very, very tight budget!" I'm not saying you can't get a good deal with a photographer you love, but you probably won't get AMAZING images from a photographer who hasn't invested in their equipment and training. At the end of your wedding day, what will you have left? Pictures. Maybe some stale cake. Photography is a worthwhile investment.
Turnaround: Ask how long it will take to get your images back. Many photographers can take 12+ weeks to return images to you. My average turnaround for a wedding is usually 7-10 days for digital files to be delivered through PASS. Will previews be blogged? Put on Facebook? Don't be afraid to ask ahead of time so you're not wondering where your images are months later.
Use of Images: Will you get digital files? An album? What are your rights for printing? Don't be afraid to ask your photographer how the digital files can be reproduced. I provide all my clients a Print Release that details how images can be used.
Communication: For me, this is huge. Nothing is more stressful for a bride in full-blown planning mode to struggle getting in touch with her photographer. I always answer e-mails, inquiries, and phone messages as quickly as possible, usually within a few hours of receiving it. I work out timelines and family portrait time and everything else with a bride in advance. If your potential photographer doesn't respond in a timely, courteous manner (or respond at all!), you should look elsewhere.
Okay, I'm off to smack Justin around a little. Peace be with you.
P.S. I'm on Twitter now! I know, I'm so behind. Come follow me for an extra dose of sarcastic banter and pictures of my kid.