Finding and picking your wedding photographer is daunting and can be like finding a needle in a haystack. You’ve found the wedding venue, now you want to find the perfect photographer that suits your style. Where to begin? Here’s a step by step guide to finding the perfect photographer for your needs.
1 – How much do you value having wedding photos? Is this a priority? If it is, start your search. If it’s not something you really care about, look for a bundle package with an outfit where you won’t know or be able to pick your photographer.
2 – If your wedding photography is a big deal to you, here’s a big shocker; a high price tag does not always equal quality and the best photographers do not necessarily charge the most!
3 – Google phrases like this; “Best Wedding Photographer in Metro Detroit”, “Award winning wedding photographers in Detroit”, “Favorite wedding photographers in Detroit”. Some of the best of best will show up in multiple searches. Winning awards from other brides and grooms from places like “The Knot” and “Wedding Wire” require the photographer to keep their clients happy and be able to produce great results ALL the time. You’ll start to see some of the same names show up again and again.
4 – Start checking out the styles to see what appeals to you. It’s often hard to tell by how photographers describe their own styles. They rarely use the same terminology, but might mean the same thing. What is modern? What is romantic? What is contemporary? It’s all very subjective and isn’t usually very helpful. Instead, look at the images. Do you like them? Do they make you feel something? Do they seem to fit you and your venue? Could you see yourselves in their photos? Are they dark and moody? Are they filled with joy and emotion? What makes you smile? What images make you feel like you were there at that wedding? Do you want someone to tell the story of your wedding day or are you looking for a few great shots that look like they belong in a bridal magazine? Pretty soon you’ll start to see what you really like. The largest difference is whether all their weddings have the same type of shots and poses over and over again or are they all slightly different? Some couples love knowing their photos will look “just like” the gallery they saw online. Others want to make sure all their unique choices and personalities look just like their own unique day. What’s your preference?
5 – Evaluate their work. This is a BIGGIE! Look for photos taken indoors. Most wedding ceremonies are indoors and almost all receptions are indoors. They are pretty caves. Many, many photographers do not have photos on their websites that are taken inside because many of them cannot handle crappy light. Making your beautiful venue look beautiful is super challenging. It takes a lot of lighting know how make it look as good as it does to the eye. If all their indoor photos are in black and white, it’s probably not a style thing, but a lack of technical knowledge. If you don’t see anything online, ask to see some indoor work to check out their lighting skills. It’s a MUST.
6 – How do you feel about having photographers around? Some love the paparazzi feel of having a team around them all day while other clients are really low key and want their photographers to fade into the background and become invisible. Almost all photographers will direct their clients during portrait time, so don’t worry about needing to find one who will “direct” you. That’s part of the job. It’s extremely rare for clients to ask for no poses photos at all. Even though it’s not the most fun part of the day, keeping things light and people happy is all part of the job while also watching the clock and creating unique, dramatic and fabulous wedding day portraits!
7- Figuring out your budget. Arguably, this could be one of the first things to decide on, but different couples place different values on wedding photography. The average wedding budget in Detroit last year was $26,000. Most photo budgets are around 10% – 12% of the total budget. Some photographers clearly post all their pricing on their websites, some hint at it “Investments start at…” while others post nothing and expect you to call (which always makes me wonder if they say something different to every person who calls, which they probably don’t, but I’ve always thought “if I have to ask, I probably can’t afford it). If you find someone you love who is out of your range and photography is your biggest priority, there are ways to cut back on other items. I know personally that some clients have stretched to hire me, while others tell me they I was the biggest bargain of the day and that they spent three times as much on their flowers! So value is different for everyone.
8 – Read their online reviews. You will learn more about them, how they work and what your day with them will be like by reading multiple reviews. If there is something even a bit “off” or a teensy bit not great about that person or their business, you’ll see if sneak in every few reviews (like tardiness, didn’t deliver photos on time, came dressed badly, was rude or not very nice, etc.). You may even find a bad review or two about your favorites. Do those not so nice reviews seem to be really out there or do they seem to go along with some of the other things other reviews have hinted at? Photographers do not get to pick their clients and sometimes every once in a while, it’s just not a great fit for reasons the photographer cannot control. But overall, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll get to know a photographer just from reading a lot of reviews about them.
9 – Start culling your list down to favorites and start calling! Once you have a list photographers who are within your price range and who are available on your wedding date, things will need to move fairly quickly.
10 – Google your top photographers by name and by business names. If someone is awful, they might change their business name, but you’ll still be able to see the good, the bad and the ugly by searching their names. It’s a great final tool to weed out any fly by night or super newbies.
11 – If you need to chat or meet with them before hiring them, do it. Be sure to ask questions about what exactly you are getting so there won’t be any surprises later. Many photographers use different terminology and sometimes even I don’t know what they mean. Like what on earth is a “high resolution digital proof” other than an oxymoron?! If they provide a USB or a link to downloads, why are they talking about the ability to “purchase the files”? You’re investing a lot, so make sure you’re all on the same page. So interview them with all your questions, but pair down a face to face interview with just your very top choices. Almost all photographers work on a first come, first served basis. If you love them, book them. If they have an amazing reputation and you love what you see and you’ve got a great vibe from your emails with them, jump in and book them! They may be gone if you don’t. Most of us are juggling multiple meetings with different dates each week and it can be hard to keep them straight. If you’re feeling the love and you’ve done your homework, just do it. If you wait, they may already be booked and you’ll be back to square one!
12 – Keep in touch with your photographer. This is probably the first time you’ve tried to coordinate all these moving pieces and it can be hard to know if you’re doing it right. Your photographer has probably done with hundreds of times and should have a really good idea about how your timeline should work. Most of us love what we do and making sure that your wedding day is the most fun and best day it can be is a top priority for us too!
Happy wedding photographer hunting!
If you’d like to see more of my work and learn about how I run my metro Detroit wedding photography business, check out my site at www.marcicurtis.com. I have pricing, availability, wedding tips, tons of samples and so much more on my site. There is no such thing as giving a potential client too much information or showing them too much work. I love to have clients as informed and happy as possible.
All of these photos are from my 2017 weddings and if you’re curious to know, every single one of them has been lit. Not one of these would look the same if I didn’t add lighting into the photo!
Most of the blogs you see here are photography tips. If you’d like to see my “Sneak Peeks” posted within a few days of the wedding, those can be found on my professional facebook page at; facebook.com/marcicurtisphotography