How Do You Choose a Wedding Photographer?

Wedding Photographer 3

Congratulations on your engagement! Pop some champagne and celebrate! Now, guess what? It’s time to narrow down the hundreds of photographers that are in your local market.

Many brides have found the process of vendor selection to be somewhat daunting. They are sifting through countless local photography sites and looking at so many pricing options that it’s all become mental mush.

After countless consultations, answering thousands of questions, and helping clients figure out what they’re looking for, below are my top ten things you should know before you hire a wedding photographer. This list is geared to help you narrow down between your top few “true” wedding photography professionals who make their living at photography. Questions like, “Do you bring backup gear” and “Do you have insurance” are assumed to have already been answered with a resounding “yes,” as questions like these are geared more for a wedding photography novice.

So, you have a dress, the suits, flowers, cake and a band….but what is the one thing that will remain an everlasting memory of your wedding day? Your photos should be a beautiful and timeless account of the most important day of your life and should help every bride and groom to relive the romance and excitement all over again.

Choosing a wedding photographer can be a daunting process, but hopefully, these tips will give you something to consider when making your decision. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Vines of the Yarra Valley has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.

As an additional side note, many of the pricing references below are based on what I’ve observed in the Ohio wedding photography market. Because there is so much diversity in the industry, not everyone will fit into these categories. We encourage you to meet photographers and explore on your own but use this as a general guide to help you get where you want to go.

Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

How To Shoot Engagement Photos 2

Your wedding photos are some of the most important images you will ever take in your life. These photos are priceless mementos that you will look back on frequently, pass down to your children, and display around your home. That is why choosing your wedding photographer is one of the three most significant decisions to make for your big day. No pressure, right?

Now, in choosing your photographer:

Do some research online.

Read reviews.

  • Check out websites.
  • Ask friends and family for their recommendations.

When you have a list of photographers, you think you would like, meet with them in person or at least through video chat if they aren’t located in your area. You can only find out so much from their website, and you need to make sure that their personality and style works with yours.

You can discuss what photography approach you like best, what they offer and get a sense of who they are. We suggest looking through a full gallery from an actual wedding they’ve shot so that you can get a complete view of their work, not just their highlights. Pay attention to the moments they capture and imagine if those were your wedding photos. Are they important to you? Would you like to hang that in your home?

Our next piece of advice is to get all the details upfront. You will want to find out if there is a deal-breaker beforehand. Some of those may include:

  • What is their turnaround time? It takes a considerable amount of time to shoot and especially edit your photos. You want to make sure that your photographer has the time and resources available for a timely turnaround to receive your highly anticipated photos.
  • Will they be the photographer on-site the day of? Some photographers book multiple weddings at the same weekend, then hire other photographers (or maybe a part of their team) to shoot a wedding for them. If this is the case, does that person have the same style as the photographer you want?
  • Their price point. What will you receive for your investment? How many prints you receive, and the prices for their images, besides their initial package, you would like to add more. Engagement sessions, how many hours are included for your wedding day, any digital files included, do they archive their images, online gallery, and social media sharing are also all aspects of what might be covered in your cost.
  • Second shooters on the day of. Do they use a second shooter on the wedding day, or are they solo? Is that an extra fee? Travel expenses? Will they have to travel, and will that be included in your cost?

Personality Is Huge!

You will spend quite a bit of time with your photographer, from meetings to your actual wedding day. They will be with you when you step into your wedding gown until you are whisked away to your honeymoon. It would help if you were sure that your personalities, communication styles, and visions click. An uncomfortable or stressed looking couple will show in your photos, and who wants that? Your photographer should make you feel safe in front of the camera and enjoy the process.

As a bride and groom, you put a lot of trust and faith in your wedding photographer. To get the best images and an accurate account of the most important day of your life, it is imperative that you feel comfortable and relaxed in their presence.

Within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone, you can usually tell whether you feel a rapport or connection. First impressions are essential, and if you instantly strike a bond, you are on to a good thing. If you feel uncomfortable around your photographer for whatever reason, this will become very apparent in your wedding photos.

Also, think of your guests. Suppose your wedding photographer is approachable, friendly and down to earth. In that case, your guests will be at ease, allowing the photographer to blend in and capture the day as it naturally unfolds rather than a forced and posed account. Remember, a genuine smile is impossible to fake, so choose wisely and ensure you meet with your photographer a couple of times before confirming your booking.

Their Photography Style Is Also Important.

Your vision for your day and your photographer’s vision for your photos may be two different things. You may think, “How can they be different? I mean, they’re taking photos of MY wedding?” Photography styles are a massive factor in determining how your photos will turn out after editing and even how the photographer takes the original image.

Some photographers lean toward a more traditional style of posed photos. You know the ones where you and your family are all standing together with big, happy smiles. Please take a look at your parent’s or grandparent’s wedding photos, and they’re pretty similar. They possess a timeless quality that will last generations. Most photographers keep aspects of this style while incorporating others too.

Editing Style

The wedding vendor selection process has changed a lot since our parent’s generation, and in my opinion, for the better. Couples treat their wedding as a creative extension of who they are, which always makes for a memorable and genuine celebration. It’s only natural that the wedding photographer matches the couple’s style in the way they photograph an event. “But what if I don’t know what my style is,” you might ask.

You don’t need to know your style as much as you need to know what you like, and in that, you will find your style. Do you love beautiful vibrant, colourful images? Are you in love with a soft, faded vintage look? Are you drawn to contrasty, black and white photos? It’s essential to consider timelessness. Style and preference usually change throughout our lives. To your best estimation, do you think you will still like that photographic style 30 years from now?

Also, editing style is a great way to see a photographer’s experience right off the bat. If every photo in their portfolio is edited differently, the photographer you are looking at has probably not landed on their brand style yet. Always look for consistency. Consistency in editing style is a great signifier for professionalism and experience.

Raw Files

If you don’t know what a RAW file is, good. If you know what they are and want them as part of your wedding collection, you are most likely looking to hire a novice. A true professional will not even consider giving their raw files out, with some commercial exceptions. This is because editing style is very much a part of the photographer’s brand you are hiring.

As a client, even if you purchase the digital collection of images as .jpegs, editing these images to change them could very well be a breach of contract. If you are not going to allow the photographer to execute what they do best, why spend the money to hire them? With that said, some photographers have a price for everything, so with them, if you want to buy the RAW files, expect to pay some significant Benjamins.

Image Quality/style

The quality of a photographer’s portfolio should be the first thing that captures your attention. A good photographer should offer clients a variety of styles, capturing the personalities of the bride and groom and showcasing the happiness and fun of the day. Be clear on what style you would like, and make sure the photographer can provide this in their portfolio.

If you are drawn to a particular photographer, make sure you ask to view all of their images (not just the favourites they pick for their websites!) so that you can check the image quality is consistent throughout.

Be aware that photographers have different editing techniques. If an image is heavily edited, then chances are this will be a common theme within their photography portfolio and is usually an attempt to cover up poor quality.

Above all, the style of the images should say something about you both as a couple. Whether you are looking for relaxed and informal photography or going for a more adventurous and contemporary style, be sure to do your homework and shop around.

Value for Money/cost

This can often be a deciding factor for many brides and grooms, and although it is a vital element, it should not be the basis for your decision. High-end prices do not always guarantee the highest quality, but likewise, reasonable pricing does not always depict low quality.

A photographer should be open about their pricing structures, and in turn, you should be clear on your budget. Neither one of you wants to waste any time, so a clear dialogue right from the beginning will resolve this. Wedding-photography-paul-Willetts

Your photographer should offer various packages to suit all and should always be flexible with pricing and what is included within each package. Your photographer is providing a service, and each couple will have different expectations and requirements, so make sure that your photographer can tailor make a package to suit your needs.

Always remember to ask about any hidden extras. Some photographers charge an additional fee for editing, VAT, creating artwork for an album or even travel and food expenses. You should always ensure that all costs are detailed in a quote before entering into any contractual agreement.

Experience

The experience a photographer has will play a large part in the organization and structure of the day. Many photographers will agree that they have often played the coordinator, photographer, master of ceremonies and children’s entertainer. Taking photos is just a tiny part of being a wedding photographer. Without the necessary experience and the ability to perform under constant pressure, important moments can be easily missed.

Always try to choose a wedding photographer who has already worked at your wedding venue. This isn’t a necessity, but your photographer must show a willingness to meet at the forum regularly, exploring the best photo locations and opportunities as well as taking the time to run through the structure of the day. It is also a good idea for the photographer to meet with the venue proprietor/wedding coordinator to make sure everyone is clear on the day’s schedule from start to finish.

Ensure you ask how many weddings they have covered since they began trading and how long they have been in the business. This doesn’t mean that they are any less capable if they have only been selling for a short period but will give you a good idea of experience gained. Similarly, if a photographer has been in the business for years and has experience in abundance, you may want to check that their style has moved with the times and will meet a modern-day bride and groom’s expectations. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.

Recommendations/word of Mouth

A lot of my bookings have come through recommendations from previous clients and word of Mouth. If your friends and family have been happy with the quality of a particular photographer’s service and work, then chances are, you will be too. Again, this should not be the main reason for your choice but should be the jigsaw’s final piece.

Please speak to your friends about their experiences with their wedding photographer and try to use tips and advice from those who have organized their weddings. A good photographer will always be able to give you a testimonial from previous clients upon request or even provide you with contact details should you wish to hear from them directly.

Choosing Which Style Works Best for You

How Do You Choose A Wedding Photographer

Certain photographers mix a little from each style to create something completely individualistic. Some play with natural light for a candid feel but help make poses for you. Others may take a classic group shot of the wedding party with an unexpected background.

Photo-Journalistic Vs. Artistic/editorial Vs. Traditional Shooting Styles

There is a spectrum for photographic shooting style with photo-journalism on one end, traditional on the other, and in-between the two falls artistic. How do you know which shooting style is right for you and your wedding day? The answer is, which a lot of photographers won’t tell you, most weddings require a little bit of all three styles to create the perfect collection. It is how much of each type they utilize that will be what you’re ultimately deciding on.

Photojournalistic Wedding Photography Style 

Photojournalistic style is the new trend in wedding photography, and we can see why! These shots are wholly candid and capture the raw emotion during your wedding day. Think of it as visual storytelling. This type of photographer is excellent at blending in, and shooting the events as they happen, rather than posing you. These photographers will give you some direction when needed, but the result is a more casual, intimate feel, and my favourite! 

There is a true art to tell a visual story and not interject yourself as a photographer into that moment. Photo-journalistic photos are pure and true-to-life. They are taken from an observer’s perspective. A quiet, artistic fly on the wall. You will never hear a photojournalist say, “look at me and smile!” These photographers have an impeccable sense of timing and an innate ability for anticipating the opportune time to take a photo. Getting ready photos, ceremony photos, reception photos, and most importantly, some of the portraits require a photographer who has mastered this art.

Editorial Photography Style  

Fine art or editorial wedding photography uses different angles, creative lighting, unique backgrounds, and advanced editing techniques for a photo special. These are usually posed and highly unrealistic in terms of capturing the moment. However, the result is stunning and rare.

Artistic Photography Style  

Artistic photography is mostly about composition and fulfilling the photographer’s creative vision. Some photographers are more pose-oriented in this approach, while others are more prompt-oriented. This style allows the photographer to construct the shots and couple to make them look their absolute best while retaining artistic and creative ingenuity. These are the photos you will most likely hang on your wall or put in your wedding album, so a tiny framework is given to the process to ensure a stunning outcome. Many photographers call themselves photojournalists or documentary photographers but are mainly shooting under this artistic style.

Traditional Photography Style

These days, many clients are drawn towards a more natural approach to their photos, which does not typically include grip-and-grin photography and robotic line-em-up poses. They are also not too exciting or fun to go through for the photographer or the couple. Some photographers exclusively shoot in this style, but it’s an older style that seems to be fading by the wayside.

So why do any traditional posed photos? A lot of family members from older generations love these photos. Formal photos at the front of a church or outside are a great way to document what people looked like at the wedding time. As people grow older and life changes with its ups and downs, those photos become more valuable. It is not always possible at larger weddings to do organically inspired photographs for everyone outside of the bridal party, so the traditional methods serve as a quick and accessible way of including family members and people of importance on the wedding day.

Many couples reach out after their wedding thanking photographers for their posed family photographs, as members of their family have since passed. It’s one of the beautiful things about photography. Not to sound cliche, but it really can preserve the memory of those important people in your life. Not every couple opts to have posed family photos or any posted photos at all, but the photographer must know how to manage large groups of people quickly and efficiently when they do.

You’ve Hired Your Photographer! Now, What?

Once you find your perfect match and take the plunge, you’ll want to be open with your photographer about what you are looking for specifically. Let them know any significant moments that are crucial for you. If you want a first look, tell them how. Do you want your groom to be blindfolded or just turned around? Maybe you want a photo of your mom helping you get ready or a particular family member’s reaction. Even if they have a more candid style, they will know to be prepared to capture this critical photo for you.

However, don’t overpower your photographer with your entire wedding Pinterest board or a long list of must-have shots. If you like their style, take it easy and trust them to create those magical moments and photos for you!

Photographers bring to the table numerous creative ideas and expert knowledge – ask for their advice! After all, this is part of what you’re paying for. Their job is to document this day, and by asking for their opinions, you get first-hand trusted insight. These shots may very well turn out to be your favourites!

Don’t Feel Pressure to Hire a Friend or Family Member.

Your cousin just started her own side photography business and has asked to shoot your wedding, or a friend did some photos for her newspaper in college and offered to do yours for free. It’s hard to say no, as you imagine all the money you could save or the fact that they will be a part of your special day in a unique way. However! It would help if you weighed the risk against the benefit. Compare style, resources, and ability against those of a professional. Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean a better value, and there are no do-overs of your wedding day!

When hiring a professional, you are paying for much more than a few hours of their time. You can expect flawless prints, crisp focused images, professional editing and technical knowledge of lighting and angles (so you look incredible), and the list goes on! Not to mention the advantages of a seasoned pro that can handle any dilemma that might arise. The best wedding photographers know that emotions run high on these special days and bring a calming presence no matter the situation.

Some photographers do have a higher price point, and their work’s quality should show you why. Consider this an investment that will stand the test of time rather than a fee. After all, these are photos that will be passed down, generation to generation. Here at Vines of the Yarra Valley we have compiled an exclusive list of Melbourne Wedding Photographers to help capture your special day.

Conclusion

These tips should not be considered to be in any order of importance. Each point is as important as the next, and when choosing the right wedding photographer for you, a combination of all of these factors should be used as a basis for your decision. May I wish you all the best of luck in your wedding planning and a long and happy future together? 

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