Book the right wedding photographer: 9 simple steps

Posted by Azure on February 23rd, 2011

Special to OneWed by David of Photos by DSB

Step 1- The pickup line: Picking the right photographer is kind of like falling in love. If you’re planning a wedding, falling in love is a subject you should know something about. When you first saw your fiance, something about them caught your eye. You thought, “Wow, how can I get them to talk to me.”

Picking the right photographer is sort of similar, except it’s pretty easy to get a photographer to talk to you. A professional will even travel some distance without any sort of commitment to get you to hire them. Back in the bar, something about the photographer's work has caught your eye: the style they shoot in, the way they frame their shots or the way they capture the perfect moment in time. Keep that in mind.

Step 2- Ask them out for drinks: Now comes the more difficult part: the first date. Some people know if they have chemistry with someone after just one date. When you’ve narrowed down your list of wedding photographers, (I’d suggest no more then five) it's time to meet. Chances are you’re probably only going to meet with a photographer once before you hire them, so you have to make it count.

Your husband or wife-to-be may have been awkward at first, but once they became comfortable around you, it all fell into place. You don’t have that opportunity with photographers and as it turns out, that’s a good thing. The photographer is often the unofficial wedding organizer, and of course they pretty much run the photo-session. They should make you feel comfortable right away. They should be friendly and instantly warm to anyone. The little known secret about photographers is the best ones get the best photos because people are instantly comfortable around them. It makes the posed pictures less stiff looking, and the candid’s more genuine.

Step 3- Find out if you’re compatible: Heisenberg says that whatever you study you change. But a good photographer can limit this as much as possible by blending into the background by making people feel comfortable with their presence. You want a photographer that isn't in the way of your wedding guests, but at the same time, isn't sulking around the outskirts of the party, awkwardly trying to get photos. This is guaranteed to creep out your guests.

Step 4- Talk about you: The general rule on first dates is to try and get the other person to talk as much as possible. The rule is the exact opposite when meeting a photographer. Chances are good that you both have busy schedules, so get right down to business.

So what do you talk about? A good photographer wants to know what you want. They’ve been to more weddings in the past year then you have in your entire life, but that does not mean they know you. Yes, they could probably photograph your wedding satisfactorily without any instruction from you. That’s why you are hiring a professional. When I sit down with a client for the first time, my first question is always “What’s the most important thing you want photographed?” I ask that because it gives me a sense of where the couple is coming from. This piece of information can set the direction for the whole meeting.

Step 5- Figure out what you want from your photographer: If you don’t know what you want in terms of pictures, start by telling the photographer details about the wedding. Date and wedding venue are important, but also describe the overall feel or vibe. What’s your wedding color palette? Is the ceremony inside or outside? How big is the wedding party? How many wedding guests? A good photographer will be able to take all this information and figure out what it is you’re really looking for. I often ask couples how they met, or their favorite story about themselves. Remember, it’s a first date, but it’s also an interview so a good photographer is going to try and get you to talk about you as much as possible.

Step 6- Do judge a book by its cover: You hire a photographer because of the way their photos look. Education and training are good, but not enough. I’ve learned more on the job then in any seminar or lecture. Let the photographers work speak for itself. Ask to see a collection of photos from just one wedding, not a mix of shots from different weddings. There should be 40+ photos that the photographer can show you from a single wedding. If they can’t or won’t, this is a red flag. If you like what you see then it's time to talk turkey.

Step 7- Decide the most you can spend and ask for the bill: Wedding photography can cost anywhere between about $1,000 and $10,000. There’s no good rule of thumb on how much to pay. If you find a photographer you love, it’s worth paying for them if it won't put you in debt. If you don’t have the money, then keep looking, but don’t expect to pay less then $1000 and get quality work. Also, when you talk price make sure you ask about printing rights. Have them explain what is included in the quote they give you. Some photographers charge a low rate for the wedding, but you have to buy all the albums and prints form them, which can be very pricy.

Make sure that you are getting everything you want for the price you are paying.
And unlike a first date, you know who’s going to be picking up the check. Photographers think long and hard about what price point they need to charge to stay in business. When they give you a quote, don't haggle. Take a deep breath and remember, “You get what you pay for.” Be prepared to spend 10% of your wedding budget on your photographer. Twenty years from now the only thing you will remember about your wedding day will be the pictures. This is not a place to cut corners.

Step 8- Talk it over and take the plunge: So now the dates over, you've got their number and the ball is in your court. Sit down with your future spouse and talk it out. Decide which photographer gives you that warm feeling in your stomach. If you’re in love, you’ll be ready to propose…to hire them.

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