What to consider when selecting a wedding photographer

Early in 2015, we found ourselves just not enjoying wedding photography as much as we were enjoying commercial, advertising, head-shots, family, senior, and other on-location photography. The entire process of wedding photography can take well over a year and we still have at least two couples who are due albums, but haven’t been able to take the time out to give feedback on the designs we provided, or even pick out their favorite photos for their album. I’m discovering that I’m not one for those long-term projects that hang over us for so long. So, we stopped booking weddings and are referring them to a few of our friends who are excellent wedding photographers.

There’s a lot to consider when deciding on a wedding photographer, and as overdue as this is, I’m just now finally getting around to penning these thoughts, as they may prove helpful to some of you who are making big wedding decisions. Feel free to share this with friends who are making plans. It’s not entirely specific to weddings, either, as any commercial or portrait photographer would benefit from these things as well.

So, what are some of the most important considerations when selecting a professional photographer?

  • First of all, I’d say the thing that differentiates each and every photographer is their eye… Their specific artistic style and the way they see things. If you’re not loving what you see in their portfolio, move along.
  • Make sure they’re properly insured. We’ve all heard horror stories of accidents and lost photos. The info here should greatly reduce the chances of you being the next crying bride on the “In Your Corner” TV news segment, if lightning does strike, being properly recompensed can help at least a little.
  • Adequate backup gear… And not cheap old gear as backup gear, but similar equipment to what the photographer is using as their primary. It’s inevitable that at some point gear will fail. Happened to us, and will happen to every other photographer out there sometime. If their backup camera is a 5 year old piece of junk that they hate to shoot with, your photos may very well reflect that.
  • Photographing to dual memory cards… Most professional modern equipment will write your precious digital photo files to two memory cards inside the camera simultaneously. Memory cards will fail… it just makes sense to have them backed up right from the start.
  • What happens if the photographer comes down with the flu the week of your wedding? Make sure they have a plan and network of other pros they can call upon to fill in for them if the unexpected happens and your photographer cannot be there for whatever reason.
  • Have an agreement/contract between you and your photographer that specifies all of the details and what will happen in every foreseeable circumstance that could possibly come up related to your wedding and the photography.
  • Be sure to have timelines outlined in the above-mentioned agreement, so that you’re not one of the many brides who is still waiting to see her photos 6 months after her wedding.
  • If possible, agree to make final payment (even if it’s just $50 or $100) when you pick up your final wedding photos from the photographer. It motivates the photographer to get it done. That’s one of the downsides to most photographers getting paid entirely up-front, in my opinion. (Of course, this is all my opinion… Do I really need to qualify that? =)
  • Ask about their professional memberships. For example, we are members of PPA and WPPI, and those memberships offer peace of mind not only to me, but to our clients. PPA (Professional Photographers of America) in particular is helpful with their indemnity insurance and agents who can help mediate disputes/problems.
  • Personally, I don’t believe certifications and other professional credentials from these organizations (or the lack thereof) reflect strongly either good or bad on a photographer. Photography is a craft that many have mastered without jumping through hoops setup to financially benefit these organizations. So, I wouldn’t judge based on credentials or the lack thereof, if you really like their work.
  • Personality may be one of the biggest factors in helping you to enjoy your time being photographed. Choose someone you click well with, that you have things in common with. If your photographer “gets” you, they’ll capture you more authentically, capturing the essence of you in a way that you will probably appreciate more.
  • One last thing to consider is height… Not to hate on vertically-challenged photographers, but consider that the photographer’s perspective is how all of your wedding pictures are going to look. In my opinion, if you’re a taller couple, you may want to consider going with a taller photographer. They can always kneel or stoop for creative vantage points and perspectives, but that four-foot-tall photographer is going to have extra challenges seeing and photographing you in a crowd of people, or possibly even on the dance floor when things are really livening up. Plus, we all tend to look better when photographed from above than we do from below.

That’s about it for now… I hope it’s helpful to someone out there struggling over who to choose as their photographer. Let us know if you find this helpful.

I’m sure I’ll think of more, and I’d be happy to add to this list if you think of something that should be on it if you’ll let me know. And if I can help with recommendations of photographers to consider for your wedding, I’d be happy to!

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