Ask any bride or event planner on what they consider is the most important thing when planning a wedding and the majority would mention selecting the right vendors was the most important decision they had to make. A complex and budget constrained event as a wedding requires highly skilled and experienced vendors in order to make it successful. Hiring the wrong vendor can cause the whole wedding to easily become nightmare and very stressful.
While many couples hire a wedding planner to help them with selecting and hiring the wedding vendors this might not be feasible for many other couples. As many couples decide to research, screen, interview and hire vendors on their own, they are faced with an important decision to make: Who is the appropriate vendor to hire? Who to screen and what are the questions to ask? What I should be looking for and how to determine what makes a good or bad wedding photographer?
So many questions and surprisingly there are not easy to understand guides available. I have photographed many weddings in the past and had the opportunity to meet and interview many couples and wedding planners in the past, there were six criteria which started to repeat consistently a wedding after wedding:
- Photographer’s Personality
- Photographer’s Experience
- Photography Style
- Image Quality
I hope by explaining each one of these criteria and why they are important when selecting a wedding photographer would help any bride or groom looking to make the right vendor’s choice. The criteria are ordered by importance in my view but you are free to probe and eliminate in any order you find applicable to your wedding.
You have found online or got a solid referral to a wedding photographer you like. Great! Seems like your search is over.. Well, not exactly until you called the photographer only to find out your wedding date is actually already booked and he is not available. So before you go into deep research of anything else related to the photographer and its style, pricing, image quality, etc, ask the simple question: Are you available for my wedding date?
If yes, great. You just got closer to hiring the photographer you like. If not, you might have to consider other photographers in the area. Unless you are willing to postpone or change the date of your wedding when the photographer is available.
So you cleared the first hurdle of hiring a wedding photographer: Availability. Great! Now hold your breath and tread with caution. You are not there yet.
Before you all get excited about how cool and understanding the photographer is, how exactly he or she matches your personality and photography style taste, there is one important question to ask: Cost. Unless you have unlimited wedding photography budget or willing to stretch your budget or sacrifice lets say food, venue, flowers, etc in order to sign the photographer you like, you might have to make a choice.
If the cost of the wedding photographer is not something you can afford, there is no point to invest more time into pursuing this photographer. Unless you must have it and willing to make adjustments to your budget, or go over budget.
Time for the third criteria on the path to hire your wedding photographer. So far you confirmed your date is not yet booked on his / her calendar and the cost is something which works for your budget. I can see you smile and understand how you might breathe easier now. So after phone conversation to clear the first two, you are finally set to meet the photographer in person and talk about your wedding.
Well, good for you. There is nothing more important than meeting and interviewing your vendors face to face. After all, you will be hiring someone who will spend at least 6 to 8 hours with you, will be around when shed tears of joy and excitement, when your father and mother see their little girl or boy take on life on their own and kiss & hug you, when your friends cheer from happiness and you party all night long. So if you are looking for someone who:
- You can like simply like a human being and get along with
- You have the feeling understands your needs and you can trust to capture the best moments of your life
- You think would be liked by your parents and friends
- You feel like belonging to your wedding
then you need to like your photographer for the person he or she it is. Do they listen and understand what are you trying to say or keep going like a broken record according to their script and trying to push the services and products they can offer? Are they fun to be around or anti-social ignorant to your needs “photography artist” who treat you like you know anything about what you need? Do you get the warm feeling that this is a person you would meet outside of your wedding and have funny and pleasant conversation with? Do you think you can trust that person to deliver on its promises or he or she gives you murky and incomplete pieces of information and vague answers.
Take your time to probe this in-depth and trust your gut feeling. If you don’t feel good about it now, the chances are that later you will not only not going to feel better about this person but you will also feel sorry for choosing it.
And here we are. Availability: checked, Cost: checked, Personality: checked. Seems things are going smooth for you after all. Lucky or simply you are so good at picking vendors. Time to check the next criteria: Experience.
Why does experience matter you might ask. Well, your wedding photographer would provide an important service on your wedding and 99% of service based activities are mastered by practicing. Like a swimmer who wakes up at 4:00 am every morning and swims for miles in order to perform at its best, or like an actor who rehearses its act over and over and performs in front of live audience night after night, the practice makes it better. There is no pill or app for wedding photography experience. Skills are learned and perfected over long period of time, so if the photographer you are considering has little or no experience with weddings at all, you might be making a big mistake.
No or inadequate experienced vendor will stumble when faces with fast paced and challenging event like a wedding, might miss important moments of your wedding, or might not know how to capture your beauty and emotions in a pleasant to look later way. So don’t underestimate the importance of previous experience. One more reason not to hire uncle Bob for your wedding.
We are getting closer to narrow down to the right photographer for you. I can feel your excitement already. So what’s next? It’s something which cannot be easily explained in words as photography is a visual art: Style.
Like the latest fashion trend or designer clothing. I am sure this is natural to every bride. The feel, look and mood of each photo is either matching or not matching someone’s visual taste. Some like highly saturated colors in images, so like more mute and washed off colors. Some like the sunny and dreamy look of golden sunlight while some like more well-defined and contrasting transition between highlights and shadows. As the saying goes: The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No right or wrong. You have to like the photography style the photographer has and can show you examples of from his or her previous work.
You will receive lots of wedding images and if you order, a wedding album with your favorite wedding moments captured forever. There is no way to change these images later. Either you pick the right photographer for its style or you will spent plenty of time after your wedding hating your wedding photos. Make the right choice!
Congratulations! You have navigated successfully and feel pretty good about finding the wedding photographer you think is right for you. Before, go ahead and sign the contract, there is one more thing to consider: Image Quality.
The easiest way to see how your images might look is to visit the photographer’s portfolio and see the most recent examples of his or her work. Are the images in focus and you can see the details clearly? Are the people in the images have accurate skin color and don’t look orange like pumpkins or green like zombies? Are the images clear of distractions like partial body parts and are they aligned without tilted horizons and trees?
As this is very subjective criteria, again apply your own judgement. The chance is if you like the past photos most likely you will like the images from your wedding too. If not, try to explain your expectations. You need your wedding photographer to listen and explain how he or she can make them happen. If you feel like being convinced politely that this is not possible or doesn’t make sense, ask for explanation. After all, you will be the one looking at your wedding images over and over. You have to like them from the very first look and even years pass by.
Selecting wedding photographer for your wedding is a time involving and step by step process. It requires time and energy to get it right. There is also not a one way to do it, neither there is a one wrong and one right way of doing it. It’s similar like a buying a new car or picking a dining place for Friday’s night. What might work for some could turn out to be completely not applicable for others.
The six steps I listed about are just few of the criteria to focus on when picking a wedding photographer. The point is that better educated and armed with knowledge brides are more likely to make the right decision that the one who decide to “roll the dice” and trust the vendors would do the right thing.
You also need to be aware of the ways not to fall prey to wedding photography scams. For more on this topic, make sure you read the two parts guide on How To Avoid Wedding Photography Scams:
- Part 1: http://www.trifonanguelov.com/Bay-Area-Wedding-Photographer/How-To-Avoid-Wedding-Scams-1
- Part 2: http://www.trifonanguelov.com/Bay-Area-Wedding-Photographer/How-To-Avoid-Wedding-Scams-2
I hope this article helps brides in their planning and selection of vendors. If you are looking for additional information on how to plan your wedding day, make sure to read my Wedding Photography FAQ Guide.
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About the Author:
Trifon Anguelov Photography is a premiere wedding and events photography business based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area, CA. To review his portfolio and most recent work, visit his website.