I meet with A LOT of photographers, more than any other vendor. Why? Because photography is most often the number one priority for brides and grooms. Everyone wants gorgeous photography, but not everyone understands how much that costs and what to look for when meeting with photographers. Especially in this digital world, there are so many styles and approaches to wedding photography, ranging from the very natural and simple to the very artistic and stylized. And the price? In Nashville good photographers can range anywhere from $1500 to $15,000 and more. Yes, you read that right. I always tell my clients to meet with at least 2-3 photographers to get a feel for the range of styles, prices, and personalities. Here are some things to look for and ask about when meeting with potential wedding photographers.
The photos! Most importantly you should LOVE the final photos, since that’s what you’ll have forever. You should feel the emotion and the joy. The style and art should turn you on (hey, wedding photography blogs aren’t called wedding porn for nothing). Be sure to look through a full album so you can see the wedding day story from start to finish and how the photographer tells it. They might be great at posed bridal shots but can they capture the spontaneous moments beautifully as well? Also something to consider nowadays is the editing style. Some photographers heavily rely on Photoshop or Lightroom (and that might contribute to their artistic style) while some prefer to capture the photos “in-camera” only with very little post work.
Are you comfortable with this person? Do you like their personality? Do you trust them? These are all very important questions to ask because this person will be following you around ALL day. If you’re not fully comfortable with them, it’s going to show in the pictures.
Is the photographer organized and professional? Do they explain all their products well? Do they have a solid contract or letter of agreement? Recommendations? What type of cameras do they use? How do they back-up the photos? If their studio burns down, do they keep a second copy elsewhere? Do they belong to any professional organizations? Do they have a business license? You’d be surprised by all the “fly-by-night” photographers who decide they need a little cash so they buy a cheap camera, throw up a website with a few photos they took, and call themselves a wedding photographer. Very scary!
Along that same line is experience. What kind of training does the photographer have? Do they have a background in something relatable such as art or graphic design? How did they learn wedding photography? Did they second shoot or train with another photographer? Just because someone is a great photographer doesn’t mean they can necessarily shoot weddings well. There is a lot more that goes into shooting a wedding such as the timing, the ability to deal with hundreds or more people, figuring out how to light tricky areas, etc.
To most the biggest question is how much? Wedding photography is very pricy. Some people wonder why it costs so much for only one day? Well, for starters because it’s not just one day. You’re not just paying for the 10 hours or so on the wedding day, you’re paying for the 100 hours they probably spend editing, the countless hours they’ve spent training and getting experience, and not to mention the really really expensive equipment they use to get the perfect shot. Should you gamble and and go with a less expensive photographer? That depends, if you really can’t spend more than $2000 there are some great up-and-comers who are very professional. They may not have much experience or the same equipment as the more high-end photographers but some really do have natural talent and some training. This is one place it’s helpful to have a wedding coordinator who can recommend reputable and professional photographers in your price range without the risk of hiring someone who has no idea what they’re doing. If you do have the budget for a higher-end photographer, I highly recommend making the splurge. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $3500 – $10,000, but just think of it as an investment!
Be sure you understand the photographer’s packages and what you get for the cost. Often times it’s tough to compare photographers because you’re comparing apples to oranges. Does the package include an album? How many hours will the photographer be shooting? Approximately how many proofs will you receive? Will these be edited proofs? How will you see the final product? In a proof book or on a high-res CD? Do you get the rights to print the photos yourself? Or do you have to order them from the photographer? Will there be a second shooter? How much training and experience does that person have? Make sure you see a portfolio of the second shooter. What’s the point in having one if they can’t also take great photos?
And finally, is photography their passion? Do they love what they do and try to make each wedding a unique work of art? If every wedding they shoot looks the same, they probably use a similar formula for each one which lacks creativity. Find someone who loves working with brides and grooms and has a passion for weddings too!