It’s that time of year. At the time of year, you may well be getting ready to pick a wedding photographer. You want a wedding photographer whose work you love and who’s personally a match for you. Any photographer worth their salt wants the right client for them, not just any client.
Today, we thought we’d boil it down to our most practical tips and tricks to help you find exactly the right match (or hell, to decide you’re going DIY on your photography). At Wild Romantic Photography, we have the best Melbourne wedding photographer to take memorable photos on your wedding day.
Tips for Hiring a Wedding Photographer
Savour every moment of your beautiful wedding day, but know that it goes by so quickly—plan to capture the special memories of the day by hiring a wedding photographer. For many couples, this is one of the essential parts of wedding planning because the right photographer can help them treasure the wedding for the rest of their lives. That’s a big task, so here are some tips on how to find a wedding photographer. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Before you begin to search for photographers, sit down with your fiancé and talk about your wedding photography priorities. Are photographs a top priority? Do you just want to capture some special moments throughout the day but don’t care whether your pictures are wedding blog-worthy? What you’re looking for and how high photos are on your priority list makes a big difference in the photographer you choose.
Create a Budget
You don’t need to set a number in stone, but decide together roughly how much you can afford to spend on photography. Take a quick look at what photographers in your area charge to give yourself an idea of what to expect, then create a rough budget. This will help you narrow down your options and avoid wasting time interviewing photographers out of your price range.
Choose a Style
Gone are the days when all wedding photographers shot in the same traditional style. Couples now have more choices when it comes to the look and feel of wedding pictures. Take time to browse wedding photographs and notice what style stands out to you and your fiancé.
While the standard advice is that you should pick a photographer based on their style (photojournalism, naturalism, modern traditionalism), you can skip those buzzwords and just ask yourself if you like the photographer’s portfolio. Beyond that, when talking to them, figure out if you want the way they work. If photojournalism means they’re not going to take a posed picture of your granny, that might not work for you. Worry less about what the photographer calls their style, and instead worry more about if their photos speak to you and if their style will work within the real-life context of your wedding.
Here are some common photographic styles:
- Documentary – Also known as photojournalism, the documentary-style focuses on capturing the day as it unfolds through spontaneous, candid photos. Don’t expect to see people looking at the camera with this style.
- Portraiture – The traditional style that emphasises classic portraits. This includes posed shots ranging from conventional, like the wedding party standing as a group, to more dramatic and artistic, like the couple holding hands as they walk down a dirt road.
- Fine art – This style gives the photographer greater artistic license to go for dramatic and gorgeous shots. Common elements often include film grain, motion, a blurred background, and black and white images.
- Edgy and bold – Even more dramatic than fine art photography, a tense and bold style uses tilted angles and unconventional framing for dramatic effect.
Wedding photographers may shoot in a mix of styles, but if there’s a style you love, look for a photographer specialising in that. If you want something more creative and artistic but still want portraits, check if the photographer does both or if you need to hire a separate photographer for a portrait session. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.
Start by asking recently married couples that you know for wedding photographer recommendations. Read reviews online and check out feedback from previous clients. Look at photography websites to view images of their work and get a feel for their style. You can also check to make sure their services fit in your budget range.
Reviews and Recommendations
Every photographer is going to have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s pretty easy to get a sense of what someone’s strengths are (let’s assume taking stunning photos is one of them).
The trick is to get a real sense of what a given photographer’s weaknesses are and then decide what you can live with. You can do this by a robust conversation with a photographer. (Just ask them to flat out what their weaknesses are. A professional will tell you. Runaway if they say they have none.)
Or you can ask to chat with a past client. Here are a variety of weaknesses I’ve observed in various photographers (most of whom are kick-ass people and artists): not super good time managers on the wedding day, slightly socially awkward, slow delivery of photos, dead or poor client communication, not cheerful and outgoing with the couple, don’t take direction well.
The trick is to figure out what balance of strengths and weaknesses will work for you. Many people feel the opposite way—they don’t care how excellent their photographers are, as long as they’re organised. As you’re interviewing photographers, figure out what your needs and deal breakers are. Just remember that you’re not perfect, and your photographer won’t be either. The photographer-client relationship is personal, so just figure out how best to be imperfect together. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Remember that it’s impossible to recreate photographs from another wedding, even with the same photographer. Different venues, time of year, lighting, and details produce different results. If you love the look of natural light, you’ll probably love the work of photographers who specialise in shooting with natural lighting. But if you’re planning an indoor wedding in the middle of winter, don’t expect the same results.
Interview Wedding Photographers
Once you have a shortlist of potential photographers, contact them to set up face-to-face interviews. Talk with them about your venue, expectations, wedding style, and any questions you have. This is the time for both you and the photographer to look for a good fit in terms of expectations and personalities.
For some wedding vendors, you don’t need to care about their philosophy. Wedding photography is not one of those places. Chances are, you’re going to spend more time with your wedding photographer than with your maid of honour on your wedding day, so you want to make sure they’re someone you jive with.
The simplest way to start is to sort through the vendor listings of a wedding website where you feel like you fit in. Once you’ve found photographers you’re interested in, look at their About pages. Those pages are carefully constructed to give you a sense of who the photographer is and how they work. That sets out a very specific philosophy that might be right (or wrong) for you. Look for written philosophies that feel like they just click, and then see if that feeling continues when you meet with the photographer in person or talk to them on the phone.
Do You Like the Photographer?
Once you’ve narrowed down photographers whose work you like and whose philosophy you seem to gel with, set up an in-person meeting (or a Skype session, if that’s what works). Then, figure out if you LIKE them. If you don’t, please don’t hire them. You spend enough time with your photographer on your wedding day that you should find them generally pleasant at minimum, possible-BFF-forever at maximum. (Only you know how much you care about love-loving them, but make sure you like them.)
Ask to See Full Albums
Once you’ve got a sense of a photographer’s work through their portfolio, We’d strongly urge you to ask to see a full wedding. Some photographers produce twenty amazing images from every wedding, but the remaining eight hundred images are a bit uninspired. One to five amazing photos of your wedding is all you’ll use over time; it is important to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. A high-priced, experienced photographer should deliver consistently inspired work. A less expensive photographer building their portfolio should deliver you a few inspired images and a solid documentary of the rest of the day.
Remember that the shots provided on websites or in a highlights album are some of their best work. This is reasonable but doesn’t help you make a good decision between a couple of photographers you like. To give you a more rounded impression, ask to view a few full albums from weddings that they shot. Try to view a wedding similar to your planned setting because you want to know how the photographer handles that type of setting and lighting. Review the albums critically, watching for overall quality and details that are important to you. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.
Consider a Shot List
Some wedding photographers enjoy working with a shot list while others don’t. Find out whether the people you’re considering will work with one. Photographers often won’t work with a shot list because they find it restricting or feel like they’re being micromanaged; they want the couple to trust them to do their job and capture the day. If a shot list is important to you, find a photographer who likes to work with them. Otherwise, talk with your photographer about your expectations and mention any special photographs that are particularly meaningful.
Get a Feel for Personalities
The photographer is part of the wedding day, so it’s important that you get along well. You don’t need to be friends, but your personalities should mesh well, and you should feel comfortable with them. This makes a big difference in how your pictures end up looking.
Confirm the Shooters
Large photography firms often have more than one photographer, so if you meet with someone and view their work, make sure they are the ones who will shoot your wedding. Also, find out how many photographers you can expect on the wedding day. Some firms send two photographers or a photographer and an assistant; some photographers prefer to work alone. Having a second shooter gives you greater coverage but also is more expensive.
It’s difficult to compare photography packages because they often include different things and reflect other factors, like how much the photographer has. This is another reason it’s important to think about your priorities early on. Make sure anything that’s important to you is part of the packages. Look at what the standard package includes and how much they charge for extras, then try to find a package that best fits your needs and wants for the day.
Price and What They Offer
When looking at someone’s pricing, be careful to see what’s included in the package you’re looking at. Things like second shooters, additional hours, hi-res JPGs, albums, and engagement sessions may be included in the price quote or extra money. Just make sure you’re not signing up to pay more later for things you want (i.e., having your wedding photos taken isn’t worth all that much if you have to pay $3,000 extra to get the files). That said, things like albums and prints can always be ordered later when you’re not facing the burden of paying for a wedding, so if you love someone’s art, but they don’t include as many bells and whistles with their package, go for the art.
Check Their Post-Processing
A lot of the work in modern photography is done in post-processing. When you’re looking at a photographer’s portfolio, it’s helpful to know that images don’t come out of the camera how you see them. This will help you pick a photographer whose post-processing you like. The most common types of processing at the moment are:
- CLEAN: Process true to life.
- LIGHT AND AIRY: Dreamy, lots of light, almost translucent.
- FILM EMULATION: This can range from dark and moody to somewhat less vibrant colours. It’s meant to mimic the look and feel of the film (for cheaper).
Get a Contract
Make sure the wedding photographer you choose offers a written contract and review it carefully before signing.
The contract should include all the important details, such as:
• When the photographer will arrive and leave
• When you can expect your photographs
• How you’ll receive your pictures
• Any printing that’s included
• Who owns the rights to the photos
• Retouching options
• What happens in an emergency
Type of Photographers We Do Not Recommend You Use:
Hiring a Friend Who Has a Camera
On the surface, this looks like a great option because they have a camera, they are most likely passionate, and they are offering you a friend’s discounted rate. This seems like a great option because you trust them, and they seem to have what they need. The drawback is that you trust them, and if this is not their true profession, you likely are getting less experienced, using lower-end equipment and hasn’t mastered the wedding day flow. Sometimes we hear of this situation, and it is someone who got a DSLR for Christmas, and they have a couple of lenses. This person normally just shoots for friends, may or may not have a website, and does more family photography than weddings. We have friends who are not professional but do amazing work, so please don’t take it that we are saying this is always a bad option, but we are describing the typical situation.
Family Member Photography Enthusiast
We will find 5 of them at every wedding. They are often having fun and sometimes are using better equipment because they are older and can afford it. Most often, they are pointing and shooting. You will see them stepping out in the aisle as the bride comes down, holding the camera up high, and taking pictures of a beautiful gorgeous sunset shot we set up without any ability to overpower the sun. They might have some good lenses and a decent camera but cannot often capture low light or bright light situations. The best indicator of difference is a Facebook page. Everyone posts pictures of the wedding, and there is a blurry grain, washed-out flash look, or odd cropping of so many photos. You will probably get the best deal with a family member, but you will be at a greater risk to end up like the story above unless they are a professional photographer.
You will find this when you search ‘Budget’, ‘Economic’, ‘Inexpensive’, ‘Cheap’, or when you find someone tied to a larger photography firm. We’re not saying you will get someone bad with any of these but rather to be cautious. At the time of writing this, over 40% of weddings have spent under USD1200 on a wedding photographer. This market, however, is dying out and becoming more competitive. In the past year, 42% of the under USD1200 wedding photography businesses closed. This means that the pricing will be driven down by specials and offering more for less. One large reason is that this market segment is competing with our iPhones, and many people trying to start in the wedding business cause they see it as easy money.
Gimmick Deal Photographer
There is always someone out there that will be able to beat you on a price with a deal. The deal may come in the form of a free engagement session, percentage off when booked by X date, or by noting a straight-out price break. Think of it like this – the fact that they need to have a deal to win you over to them means their value at that price isn’t evident. We believe in competition, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of complication. Often the deals are thrown in out of desperation to get work. Learn from the many who have either passed over them or not gone for the deal at the needed quality expense. We have added in services or given breaks, but only when the couple has been a good fit, and it was typically a last-minute wedding for a date or time, we have open. Often, the best fit for us is not looking for a deal but more a good fit for them. You might find this kind of photographer in saying they are now booking for X year or are only booking X number of weddings a year. They want you to feel special, like they are accepting you. Of course, someone running a full business time will accept your business. Unless their weddings are all week-long events, know that this person at best is part-time. Often you will find this person “Now booking weddings for [Last Year]!”
Our last word of caution will be on the large firm photographer that spans many cities. You will likely see some great work on their site but fail to realise the photographer that took those photos will likely not be your photographer. It might work out, but we highly recommend looking at what that photographer has personally done. Related to this, if you go with a local photography company that has associate photographers know that they might be awesome and well trained. However, you still might not be able to differentiate between their work and the work of the principal photographer. Often the associate photographers can be good, but there is a reason they have a lower price than others.
What Should You Look for to Find a Good Photographer?
If you are reading this before your wedding, you are in luck! If this is part of your story and the outcome was similar to one of the descriptions above, we are sorry for your potential loss. When we were married, we had to learn some things the hard way and understand how we feel. To avoid these stories, here are some things to look for in finding an excellent professional photographer:
Look for a Photographer Who Specialises in Wedding Photography.
This specialisation communicates a passion for wedding photography, an implied mastery of the wedding day flow, and likely success in the one category. The starving artist will photograph anything. With success comes selectivity. We are not saying if you shoot family shoots, you are a lesser photographer. Still, if you have every category imaginable down to dog photography, perhaps you are not a specialist with mastery and focus on what you do best.
Look for Someone Who Shows a Lot of Their Work.
If they only show 20-50 images and only have a few blogs the past year that communicates a couple of things. One is they are either new and do not have much work. Another is that they do not show a lot because they do not do a lot of good work. If you do not see many blogs, you can also assume they are not shooting much; therefore, other people are not buying what they are selling. If you do not see all parts of the wedding day, they might not shoot it, or it may not look that good. Years ago, we saw the ‘natural light photographers’ who love to do light green and airy fail in the wedding reception time because they do not know how to shoot in the dark. Today it is dark and moody, underexposed with rich browns and blacks because the trend is to go to the opposite extreme. If you see very little, why would you expect something different from what you saw? We are not saying to interrogate the photographer to see examples of every potential shot you want. Instead, if you do not see consistent work through the wedding day, do not assume you will magically get it on your wedding day.
Look for a Wedding Photographer That Uses Professional Gear.
For lenses, this would be lenses with an f/2.8 or lower aperture on a zoom, f/1.4 or lower aperture on a prime lens, and a ‘full frame’ classification for the camera body. Gear makes a huge difference in the lighting and clarity of your photos.
You need the best lenses for low light situations to get sharp photos of you celebrating at your wedding. It should be assumed that your wedding photographer uses pro-level gear, but as we have seen many photographers using junk equipment, we recommend you ask if you are not sure.
Most wedding photographers we have seen use two cameras and three lenses to shoot a wedding with a total value between USD3000-6000.
Look for Someone Who Has a Lot of Emotion in Their Photography.
Grandma will always want the standard stuff, but you will enjoy the real you. We recommend you look for a candid and photojournalistic style mixed with natural posing.
Some people are the life of the party and will always be full of emotion. A consistent ability to capture the emotion demonstrates past clients and wedding guests are comfortable around the wedding photographer, and they have fun.
Capturing emotion also shows that they have the experience to know when something is coming, such as the tear someone is wiping away, hoping no one sees it.
Look for Someone With a Predefined Second Photographer.
We believe you should have two ‘primary’ photographers who regularly shoot together. You should be able to know exactly who you will get when you book the photographer. If you are not sure who will be the second photographer and are only talking to one photographer, there is a risk you might get someone who is not as good.
The assumed value in a second photographer is that they can get more angles, with a different perspective, and therefore better photograph your day. Often the stereotypical second photographer gets the side stuff and is filler using less than adequate equipment. You do not want someone who is just starting or has not worked with your wedding photographer consistently.
Perhaps we are biased, but husband-wife wedding photographer teams seem to be an excellent pair for wedding photography. They know each other, they have been where you are, and they can adapt to many situations.
Look for Someone With Experience Making Couples Happy
We recommend you look at the reviews and not just for the quality of them but the total number, how to spread out they were, and how many specific details they contain. The most accessible consideration is the sheer number of positive reviews as most couples do not get to writing them even when they are so excited they ask you where they can review you. We note how to spread out because experience takes time, so if you see them within a short period of time, they are new, new at making people happy, or potentially fabricating them.
On that last note, we share the specific details because generic reviews with little text mean they were happy but not happy. Perhaps it is a personality thing on the reviewers part but if they are all short and generic, take caution.
If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
Choosing a wedding photographer is a big task, but it need not feel overwhelming. Use these tips to help you find the right photographer for your wedding. In the end, remember that the most important thing has pictures that remind you of the beauty and joy of your special day, and that’s not difficult to find in a wedding photographer.