Wedding pictures are a cherished keepsake, passed down through generations, and the only commemoration of the thousands of hours and dollars spent to plan one of the most important days of your life. Unlike other wedding vendors, photographs are not things you can hear, smell, taste, or even see at first, you do not really know what you are getting until the end. That means thorough research on photographer professional skills, artistic style, and personal attitude are just as important when choosing your photographer. When it comes to professional photography, most shutterbugs start out by shooting weddings. This can mean wading through many prospective hires before you find the right fit for you. The choice of the wedding photographer is the most important wedding-related decision you will make.
Select a style
Before you start researching photographers, you need to decide on a type photography style you prefer. That will help you to determine which kind of photographer you want shooting your wedding. There are many different types of photography styles out there, below are only a few are mention.
Instead of a series of posed photos, these are candid or spontaneous pictures of people, decor and the action. Typical shots might include the lavish raw bar before guests start digging in, your motley crew of cousins dancing or you and your bridesmaids laughing, champagne in hand. With a purely photojournalistic photographer, you will very rarely see people staring at the camera. The photos capture the moments exactly as they happened, and together they tell a story.
If you prefer classic portraits, go with a traditional photographer who specializes in portraiture. Posed shots of the two of you, friends and family in front of various backdrops are a few examples of portraiture photos. There is always room for a bit of creativity in this category. While some photographers will pose subjects in traditional spots like at the ceremony altar, out on the lawn of the country club and more formal poses. Other photographers take portraiture further into the creative realm with a more dramatic composition, the couple sitting on a lounge chair at their hip hotel reception venue, or the couple holding hands in the middle of a nearby dirt road with the mountains in the background.
Though it is similar to documentary photography, this style gives the shooter greater artistic freedom to infuse their particular point of view and style into your photographs. Therefore, while the shots reflect reality, it is the photographer’s reality. The photos are dramatic and gorgeous, but with a grainier, dreamier, more muted appearance. Usually the couple is in focus and the background appears to blur. Motion also looks very natural in this style of photography. Not all photographers who take a fine-art approach shoot portraits, so if it’s really important to have posed family shots, look for someone who does both, or consider hiring a second shooter for the portrait sessions.
The list of wedding photography styles is ever changing and new styles created daily. Also, many wedding photographers can do a blend of photography styles, and will do a mix of black-and-white and color images, but if there’s a special style you love, make sure to focus on photographers who specialize in it. At RC Studio, we take on a blended documentary and portraiture photography style to give our couples the best possible mix of photos.
Do your Research
Start your search by reading reviews from recent brides and browsing local listings. Carefully review potential photographers’ websites and blogs to check out photos of other weddings they have shot, this will give you an idea of their style. The design of the website may also give you clues about the photographer’s personality and sensibility. Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages too, if possible. Also, look for feedback from past client and how the photographer responded to them.
This is a decision that cannot be made on looks alone, you must meet your potential photographers in person. If you like what you see on their sites and their fees are in your ballpark range check to see if they are available for your wedding date. If the photographer is already booked on your date, you may want to see if they have an associate or can recommend another shooter with a similar style. Set up an in-person meeting with three to five potential photographers who are available on your wedding date to look at more of their work and assess whether your personalities mesh. Be prepared to talk about your venue, wedding style and what you envision for your photos. At RC Studio, we like to take it a step further by getting to know our couples more by asking about how you meet one another, how your fiancé proposed, and even what actives the two of you enjoy.
Do not base your decision solely on what you see in a photographer’s highlights gallery or album. For good reason, photographers show prospective clients a portfolio of their best pictures, all from different weddings, so you are seeing the best of the best. The problem with that is you will not get a well-rounded idea of their work. Ask to see two or three full galleries from real weddings they have shot so you can get a better idea of what your complete collection of photos might look like after the wedding. If you see that the full gallery photos are just about as good as the ones chosen in the highlight gallery, you are on the right track. Ask to see at least one or two complete albums of weddings that are in similar settings to yours. For example, if you are planning an indoor affair with dark lighting, do not just look at weddings shot outdoors in natural sunlight.
When reviewing a photographer’s album, look for the key moments you want captured. Did they get photos of both the bride and the groom when they locked eyes for the first time? Also, look for crispness of images, thoughtful compositions and good lighting. It’s also very important that you detect sensitivity in capturing people’s emotions; make sure the photographer’s subjects look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. While you two are, of course, important, you want to see smiling shots of your friends too.
Do not underestimate the importance of liking and bonding with your photographer. Ask yourself the following questions, is the photographer excited by your vision when you describe it? When they make suggestions, do they present them in a clear and respectful way, or are they timid? Are their mannerisms off-putting? In order to get the best photos, go with a photographer who has a firm grasp of social graces but is bold enough to go out hunting for great images and who, above all, puts you at ease and does not annoy you in any way. Remember, they will be shadowing your every move, and the more comfortable both of you are with the photographer, the better the photos will turn out. Likewise, you do not want the photographer to offend or annoy any guests, but to shoot them in their best light in an unobtrusive way. To get the best photos, your photographer needs to be assertive enough to seek out great moments and encouraging enough to coax out relaxed smiles and natural stances from guests and calm enough to be a positive force. They should ask many questions and be a good listener.
Confirm the Photographer
Many larger photo studios have more than one photographer on staff, and unless you specify it in your contract, the lead photographer may not be the one shooting your day. Since every professional has a different style, technique and personality, you need to make sure that the one you interview and connect with will be the same one who works your wedding. Also, include specific stipulations in the contract about who will cover for the photographer should something happen on the actual day. Check whether the photographer will bring any assistants to your wedding, and if so, how many? If you have room in your budget, consider hiring a second shooter. Many top-notch photographers include a second shooter in the contract, but if this is not a part of the deal, you may want to ask about the possibility. The main benefit to having two shooters is that you get twice the coverage. For example, during your formal photo session, one photographer can capture the formal photos, while the second one can get behind-the-scenes, photojournalistic photos. If you are having a larger wedding, you might even want to ask about having three shooters so that your photography team can be sure to capture the event from all angles.
You will not be able to nail down an exact dollar amount until you’re sure of what you want, how many albums you need and where your photographer is based, and packages range from $2,500 all the way up to $15,000-plus on the higher end of the spectrum. When interviewing candidates, ask for a general range based on the photographer’s standard fee and package, plus their standard rates for the type of album you think you will want and the amount of coverage you’re hoping to book them for (day-of, full weekend). It is important to find out what is included in the standard package, plus the basic range for any extras you may want, like an engagement shoot, special effects or additional coverage, so you can compare rates. In particular, find out exactly how many hours of coverage are included. Ideally, you want your photographer to be there for your full wedding day: from when you start getting ready until after you make your grand exit from the reception. While packages vary, most include about 6 to 12 hours to cover everything from pre-ceremony events (getting ready with your bridesmaids or first-look photos) to the end of the reception. It is usually better to pay for more coverage if there is a chance you will run over and you definitely want your photographer there until the end, usually overtime is charged at a higher hourly rate. Also, consider whether you will want to do an engagement shoot or have your photographer shoot other events during your wedding, bridal shower. Here at RC Studio, we provide our couples with a full customizable wedding package. Everything is always negotiable.
Your Photo rights
Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken at the wedding, even the ones of you. In other words, the photographer can use them promotionally, on their website or blog, submit them for publication and even use them in ads. That also means that you cannot just post the digital proofs they send you, most photographers have a policy that you can only share watermarked images or images with their credit on them. In addition, unless you negotiate otherwise, if you want to print the images yourselves or order an album from another source, you will have to buy the rights to the images. At RC Studio, all of our wedding packages come with a photo release giving our couples the ability to copying, emailing, and web publishing the images. However, we do limit the use to non-financial gain uses.
It usually takes at least a month to get all those photo proofs back from your photographer, why you may ask. Your photographer is shooting enormous raw files far bigger than your typical JPG. Shooting raw files gives your photographer greater ability to correct the photo, but it also takes a longer time to upload, process, and edit all those files. It varies, but many photographers say that they spend an additional 40 hours editing images from a single wedding, so it can take up to six to eight weeks or longer, depending on the photographer and how busy they are, to get proofs back. Here is what to ask: How many images should I expect? Will they be high-resolution or low-resolution? Am I able to get prints made myself, or does the photographer retain the rights to the images? Will the proofs I see be the retouched versions, or does that happen after I select the photos I want? Speaking of retouching, ask about retouching options and special effects, which can range from simple white balancing to beauty retouching and stylized art effects like super-saturated colors and the additional cost for both.
Remember, know what you want before you start searching for photographers. It is always better to have a plan but if you are unsure always ask questions. Communication is the key to achieving better photos. The average photography fee is about 10-15% of the total wedding budget, start saving early to be able to afford the photographer you like. In addition, the photographer personality is just as important as the photos, if you are unable bonding with your photographer it will show in the photos. This is a big decision so take your time, ask question, and remember everything is always negotiable.