how to choose a wedding photographer

For many people, their wedding may be the first time that they've hired a photographer. With such a variety of options, it can be daunting to know what you're actually in for.

style

This should be the defining factor in your search. It's not a matter of finding the 'best', but rather someone who is on the same page as you in terms of what they're focusing on and how they capture it. Look through their portfolio, keeping in mind :

- are the photographs showing more candid moments, or arranged for the camera?

- what type of emotions have they captured?

- does the photographer lean towards photographing certain types of weddings? think larger/smaller, indoors/outdoors, location style
 
- what are the colours and editing like? are they consistent? are they natural/stylised, colourful/desaturated, lighter/darker? What is the mix of colour / black+white?

On the day, the photographer is going to spend more time with you than anyone else! It should be someone you can joke with and relax around. An in-person meeting is great if possible, personally I try and organise a Skype chat at the very least.

price

Photography prices vary a lot. The amount you spend will depend on your total wedding budget, how important photography is to you, and what you actually want to receive. Many photographers offer a multitude of packages, which can be confusing. It can usually be broken down into :

- how many hours of coverage?

- how many photographers?

- are the digital files included? If so, are they ready to print (high resolution, watermark free) and how large will they go? 

- are there prints and/or albums available? ask to see physical samples if so.

The most important thing is still the style of the photographs themselves - it's useless having a massive album & prints included if the photos aren't to your taste. Most physical deliverables can be ordered later on, but once the day is done the photos can never be re-taken!

availability

In most cases, your venue's availability will dictate your wedding date. I recommend asking what dates your venue and favourite vendors have within a 2 month period. This ups your chances of finding a date that works for more of your first choice vendors all together. Once you've narrowed it down, be sure to remember that most vendors will not hold a date without a deposit!

experience

This is a big one. Generally speaking, the more the better. Wedding photography sometimes means stunning locations with incredible light, but usually it means taking a limited circumstance and turning it into something amazing. An experienced photographer will keep their cool in tough situations, which will help you relax and enjoy the day.

A common thought is to hire a photographer who has shot your venue many times before. While this can be handy, it's far from a requirement. Experienced photographers are used to adapting on the fly, and with the variations inherent in weddings, what worked well last time may not be appropriate the next. Personally I always feel a little more creative when shooting in a new space.

There are also other things that couples should be able to assume of any professional photographer, but unfortunately are not always the case. Don't be afraid to ask!

- proper backup equipment. If there's damage / malfunction / theft of a camera at any stage, you don't want them fetching their starter camera that hasn't been touched in years, or worse, no backup at all. The same goes for lenses, flashes, cards, batteries + the rest of their kit. These days most professional cameras record to two memory cards simultaneously to protect against card corruption or loss. Whilst not technically required, for photographing never-to-be-repeated events such as weddings, I consider this essential.

- proper data backup. At an absolute minimum, images should be backed up on one main drive and one offsite drive. Personally I keep images twice over at home. Another set is offsite from the day after the wedding, and another set 100+ km away rotated bi-monthly. Once images are delivered, your online gallery is also a fifth backup. You don't want your photos vanishing from something as simple as a spilled drink in the photographer's office, and they should still be secure in case of fire, flood, theft or disk failure.

This covers images between the wedding date and when they are delivered to you. Once you receive your wedding USB, you should make a copy on your own computer, and ideally keep a copy offsite as well.

- fully insured. self explanatory.

access to full galleries

In each year of shooting I deliver over 30,000 images to clients. My current portfolio contains 89 images. Portfolios & social media are essential to get an overview, but they're not representative of the final product. It's absolutely essential to browse through at least two complete sets of wedding images from photographers you're seriously considering. Think about :

- do the photos show the story of the entire day?
- what is the image quality like? (crisp focus, pleasing backgrounds)
- what about photos taken in low light and through the reception?
- can they show examples of weddings in difficult weather?
- is there sufficient coverage of the guests or is it all focused on the couple?

location

This isn't critical as most photographers are open to traveling, however bringing photographers from further away with attract a travel fee. Check for this before making your comparisons.

Local photographers are also more likely to know their own area, which can assist with brainstorming photo locations and arranging other travel logistics and timings.
The best results will always come from a couple and photographer who trust each other. Find that, and everything else will come easily.
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