Yes, you read that right. WHY are you looking for a wedding photographer? Because you want awesome pictures of your wedding day, right? Because all that pinning on Pinterest would totally go to waste if you didn't get those images you desire, right? Because you spend SO much time and money on all of the little details for your big day and you want to be able to remember every. last. thing, right? And because you'd also like to have some nice photos of you and your spouse to maybe hang on that bare wall in the family room, right? Okay, so HOW are you searching for a photographer? Facebook? The Knot? Today's Bride? Wedding Wire? Pinterest? Word of mouth? There are tons and tons of photographers out there, so how do you know that you're getting a GREAT one? Not just a good one, but truly someone who excels at their job? Let me start by telling you how shocked I was to hear that some couples have booked a "photographer" through Craig's List. Please do not look through Craig's List for your photographer. Some couples have told us that they have asked their dear Uncle Marty to take photos with his nice camera he got for Christmas. Please, I'm begging you, don't do this. This is always a terrible idea.
I understand that weddings are a ton of money. Even when you try to be most frugal, it seems every little thing costs more and more money. But what you do actually get to keep after your wedding? Your dress, some stale cake and your memories...and those memories will be better kept through amazing photos! It makes me SO sad when people will shell out $1,000-$2,000 for a cake, but then want to skimp on a photographer. Who do you think is going to take a photo of that cake that will make it look completely different from the way you remember it? A good photographer will make that cake look like it was made by angels. A great photographer will make it look like it was made by unicorns. Okay, I'm getting a little carried away, but as you can see, Tony and I are very passionate about photography. For every wedding, we ensure that we get pictures of every detail. We don't just snap a photos of the cake- your Uncle Marty and Aunt Sally can do that. We take portraits of the cake. Like this:
Here are some helpful hints for you in choosing the right photographer. I've ordered them in my own opinion on what I think is most important.
1. First thing's first: ensure that your photographer is a legitimate business. Are they registered with the state in which you live? Make sure that ANYONE you conduct business with is licensed to do so. This protects you, should things not go according to plan.
2. Personal connection/trust/relationship. Besides assuring your photographer is legit, I think this is the most crucial part in picking any vendor for your wedding. Sure, you can price shop on the internet, but make sure your vendor is more than willing to sit with you for a consultation. This way, you can see what they are all about, get a feel for their personality and see if you jive. This is partly the reason why Tony and I offer a free engagement session with our brides and grooms. Even if we don't get the chance to meet with our clients prior to the wedding, we can still meet them at the engagement session and they can get a feel for what the wedding day will be like with us. We also like to keep in contact with our couples after the wedding. We love to establish new relationships.
3. Efficiency. All of our packages include a two person team. We won't send anyone else to shoot your wedding for us- It's always me and Tony. This also ties into number 1 a bit because this is also about trust and personal connection. Tony and I work very efficiently together. We have the advantage of being a couple, so we practically communicate to each other through our minds. Tony will work with the Groom and his Groomsmen prior to the ceremony and I will work with the Bride and her Bridesmaids. We can literally be in two places at once. During the ceremony we can cover multiple angles without being disruptive to the audience. During the bridal party photos and bride and groom photos, I can set up and hold lights for Tony while he gets the perfect shots. We feed off of each other's creativity. Tony might see an option for one shot, and I can see a whole different opportunity- even with the same pose. And since we're married, I get to yell at him :)
4. Lights. This seems weird, right? I'm not talking about a flash on a camera, I'm talking about real, professional lighting. Does the photographer carry lighting equipment? Are they able to light dark reception halls? Creatively light portraits at night? This seems silly, but a great photographer will be able to manipulate light, even in the darkest areas to create stunning photos.
5. Are they certified? A very small portion of photographers are actually certified. Certified professional photographers undergo an extensive exam and panel judging of images to validate their knowledge of photographic techniques and ability to adapt in various situations. Tony is a certified professional photographer. Boom.
6. Along the lines of professional lights, comes camera gear- while many people have the ability to afford one good camera- is their gear professional grade? Does it have the capability to produce redundant back-ups should a memory card fail? Does the photographer have back-up equipment in the event something happens to their main gear? Don't be afraid to ask to look at your photographer's equipment during a consultation. If they only own one camera, slowly back out of the room.
7. Are they members of professional organizations in the local and national area? What happens if your photographer is unable to complete your event due to illness? Do they have access to other professionals that can cover for them? These contacts are extremely important. We had to take advantage of our “Taco Tuesday Photographers Group” in Cleveland, Ohio when our daughter, Sophia was born in 2013. We had notified all the couples we were contracted to do business with around my due dates to let them know that we might not be able to photograph their wedding if I should suddenly go into labor. We had other photographers ready to step in at any point to help us out, if needed. Brides were comfortable with this, because we were honest and we had a plan (see, this ties in with number 2 again). This same group also came to the rescue of a photographer the weekend after the 4th of July when their car was broken into during the wedding and nearly $15,000 worth of gear was stolen. Within minutes, this group stepped in to ensure that this photographer had everything they needed to get the job done for the rest of the evening. How cool is that?
8. Do they have liability insurance? As professionals, we maintain a general liability insurance policy that covers us at any location we work. This covers us should anything happen while we are on the job, like Uncle Wally spilling his cocktail on our camera. Chances are, that friend or family member you ask to photograph your wedding will not have this coverage and could put you at risk. This is a very atypical event, but it's all about protecting yourself.
I really hope this has helped you in determining who is right for you! I'm worried that the art of photography is dying with the outpouring of smart phones and better, more affordable cameras. I hope you take your pictures as seriously as we do!