I was recently asked a question by a bride-to-be... "How do I go about finding a good photographer for my wedding?" She and her fiance are on a tight budget, and she's never had professional pictures taken. The wheels in my head started immediately turning, and I started thinking...
Then I thought this friend of mine is probably not the only bride feeling lost when it comes to wedding photography, so here are some pointers for finding the perfect person to capture your big day.
1. Budget - One of the first things you and your fiance (and parents if they are contributing) should figure out before you search for a photographer is the budget. The best way to figure out your wedding budget is to decide what the most important things are to you. For example, the most important aspect of our wedding was the photography. We were willing to pay the most for our photos. Second was our venue, then probably cake, and so on. To give you an idea about how much to plan for, wedding photographers in California can start between $1500 and $2000.
2. Research - Start by looking online at local wedding photographers' websites. See what kind of talent is available in your area. Also, check out some wedding magazines, or Pinterest for some creative ideas. Decide on what kind of style you like the best: do you like more candid, lifestyle photography, or would you prefer mostly posed pictures? What kind of lighting looks good? Can you imagine yourself in these pictures? Do they fit your personal style and the feel you want your wedding to have?
3. Make a Shot List - This is important whether or not you are on a tight budget because you want to be able to communicate to your photographer all the important memories you want captured. Again, research to see what couples are having photographed at their weddings. There's no wrong way to go.
4. Consultations - After you've done the research, start reaching out to some photographers and book some consultations. Consultations are usually free meetings with a photographer (or other wedding professional) to get to know one another, ask about pricing, check out what kind of products he/she offers, and most of all to see if you fit well together. This is probably the most crucial part of choosing a photographer because if you don't get along or your personalities clash, that will just add stress to your big day. This is also a good time to mention any budget constraints or concern you might have.
5. Beware of the "Free Photographer" - With digital SLRs being more affordable these days, many people think they can pick up a camera and become a professional photographer. It takes a lot more than owning a camera to be a photographer of caliber. It takes training and education and having a good eye. I'm not saying that all people who offer there services for free are terrible at what they do, I just want you to be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into if you decide to go this route.
Make sure (with any photographer) you see examples of their work. If they have no wedding experience, ask to see if they've covered events. Ask for examples of an entire event because, unfortunately, these days people can go on the internet and steal other photographers' work and pass it off as their own. So please be very careful. Remember, there's only one day to captures all these moments.
6. "Can't I just have the guests take all the pictures?" - Everyone these days has a camera on them all the time. Of course your guests will each have one and they'll all be taking tons of pictures throughout the day. So why not skip the pro photographer and just have all your guests upload them to you for free? A few reasons...
~ If all of your guests have their cameras out and are snapping away during the most important parts of the wedding, they will not be in the moment. They'll be focused on getting THE shot that outshines the person next to them's shot.
~ Your guests will not have access to the same vantage points as a pro would. Imagine all of your guests walking around during your ceremony looking for the perfect angle, or having four or five people around taking pictures of you while you're getting into your wedding dress.
~ The pictures won't be the same quality as a pro. Professional cameras (and even some entry level SLRs) can shoot RAW and take super high quality images. A pros know how to use the camera to the best of its ability.
~ Your guests probably won't know the key elements to creating good pictures. They probably weren't trained to find good angles, compose images so they are aesthetically pleasing or know how to use flash properly.
I hope these tips will help you in your search for your perfect wedding photographer. If you have any more questions, as always feel free to contact me here!