Ten Questions to consider when choosing a wedding Photographer
The moment of capture, the focal length, the angle of view, the aperture, and the editing process; a photographer leaves part of themselves in every image they create.
Below is a piece I wrote a year or two ago. It was to help couples figure out how to choose their photographer as well as give the site a bit of an SEO boost. It was well thought out and still relevant but almost overdone. My best advice now: just find work that you connect with in a real way. Skip all the "creative shots" with flash and "wow" shots on the cliff. That's just photography candy and will be meaningless to you in about 5 years or less. The real images will make you feel there again, they will show you your family and your friends as who they really are. These days you can put any lighthouse, cityscape, for vista you want behind your wedding images with a touch of Photoshop; but you can't fake a smile or heartfelt laugh. So look for these shots. The ones that tell a story and make you feel like you were the best man or maid of honor. Pick that one, pictures like that can't be taught.
Josh - 8/2020
Just the thought of searching for and choosing a wedding photographer can be a bit overwhelming. Just plug in “Maine Wedding Photography” into Google and you get just over 1.5 million pages of great stuff to peruse through. So to help sort out the great from the bunch I’ve created a list of 10 questions or rather considerations to help you get the ball rolling in your search for finding your perfect Maine wedding photographer.
1. What is your style?
This is a great "tell me a bit more about yourself" kind of question.
The word style literally means a manner in doing things or presenting things. Typically wedding photographers describe their style with words like photo-journalistic, fashion, fine art, creative, vintage, traditional, classic, or natural light. These words help to describe how the photographer works throughout the day and the kind of imagery they produce.
To simplify and further understand style, ask yourself the following question when viewing a portfolio “do I like these images?” It’s a seemingly simple question but when done methodically you will start to figure out what style wedding photographer you’re looking for. The next step is to try to understand why certain images you like and others you love. It could be that certain images show true or raw emotion, or maybe the photographer uses different angles showing a new perspectives, or it could be the excellent use of lighting to add drama and excitement to the imagery. Style can also be the added effects after the image was taken such as a vintage or pastel look done by the photographer in Photoshop or Lightroom.
A good wedding photographer should be able to tell you all about their particular style, how it has developed and how it is injected into their photography. Most wedding photographers will be a sort of mixture of styles creating something uniquely their own. It’s not just by chance the one photographer always gets emotional images between the mother and the bride and it’s also not by chance that a certain photographers always seems to be in just the right place with just the right lighting.
2. Do you provide a contract of service?
The contract of service is a written agreement signed by both the photographer and the client stating the terms and conditions of the photography service provided. It is written to protect the client as well as the photographer and should have detailed information discussing topics such as event coverage, plan in case of illness, payment schedules, digital files and usage licenses, delivery times, and other services to be included.
For my own wedding I ordered the digital package from the photographer which included high resolution edited images from my wedding day. When the images were delivered they were sized to make prints no larger than 4x6 and therefore it would be impossible to create a large wedding album or canvas from any of the images. Had this been written in a contract of service this misunderstanding could have been avoided.
Here are some points to consider: Is permission granted to post images on social media? Is an engagement session included? How long will the images be available for viewing? How will the images be made available? How much editing will there be and is there a fee for additional editing? How will the album be proofed? Is a second shooter/assistant included?
It is in both parties best interest to have a written contact of service and the sign of a professional. I would be wary of any photographer where this is not built into their normal business practice.
3. Do you have insurance?
A professional wedding photographer will have a significant investment in time and capital in their business and should have the proper insurance to protect them as well as their clients. Be sure your wedding photographer has liability insurance. This is the coverage that protects you as the client in the event that the photographer was to cause any property damage or injury while working. What happens if a light stand gets tripped over and comes crashing down on Aunt Milly or the photographer backs up to far and knocks over the wedding cake? Additionally, some venues will require the photographer to provide proof of liability insurance before entering the premises. The short answer is that if the photographer hasn't taken the steps to insure their business properly then they are likely to have cut corners elsewhere too.
4. Do you offer an album?
With so much time and effort planning your wedding day there is no better way to preserve the memories than with physical printed images in a beautiful wedding album. The album offers the viewer an experience when thumbing through the pages that isn’t possible with a digital display. The wedding album is also something that is timeless requiring no power to view and no operating systems to upgrade. I am all for digital images for the ease in sharing and viewing but noting beats a printed image for preserving the moment. Your professional wedding photographer should have a variety of options to create a wedding album customized just for you.
Be sure to review some sample albums and ask about the design process. Will there be client input into the layout? Will the images be further retouched? How many reedits are allowed per spread? Are there options for cover materials, additional sizes or a discount for additional copies? Who makes the album?
Wedding albums are a high end product and only a professional wedding photographer will have access to the really great companies for creating the album. Check out the books by Madera Books or Graphistudio.
5. How are the images edited?
Uploading, collating and then editing the images from a wedding can take many hours to complete. This process is often so time consuming that many photographer are outsourcing this task to specialist companies. Be sure to understand how your photographer handles the editing process, how long it will take to see the final images and how the images will be presented. Will all the images collated be edited individually or will they be batch edited? Is there a limit to the number the photographer selects as “keepers” or will the photographer select all the images the meet the “keeper” criteria.
What does editing entail? Is it simple color correction or will there be digital dodging and burning and skin retouching applied if needed. Simple color correction can take seconds per image while skin retouching other corrections can be much more time consuming.
Another consideration is the style of editing. Be sure that you are happy with the photographers editing style. If all of their images have a bright low contrast pastel look and your not sure if you like that than this isn’t likely the photographer for you. Again, look for consistency with color and style from each wedding from start to finish. The consistency and branded look will show a photographer that has honed their craft.
6. Will you be my wedding photographer? Do you have a back up?
This might be a no-brainer but it still warrants asking as some larger wedding photography studios have multiple photographers. Imagine on the day some other person shows up with his/her camera ready to go. Usually any photographer using their own name in their business title will be the primary photographer but this isn't always the case.
Do you have a back up photographer in case you are sick? A good professional will have a network of photographers who can cover an event on short notice so your not left stuck on the day.
7. How much experience do you have shooting a wedding like mine?
Weddings come in many shapes and forms and a good wedding photographer will be able to produce wonderful images anywhere and anytime. Mid day photography at the beach pose different challenges than an evening wedding at a barn in the farm. When viewing a photographers portfolio look for contrast in locations, seasons and times of day. Always view an example of a wedding from start to finish to get a good idea of how the photographer handles different light and locations.
Ask your photographer how many weddings they typically photograph per year. Then follow up with how many commissioned events they also photograph and the kind of events they are hired for. Look for a photographer that works solely as a wedding photographer or a photographer that photographs at least 12 weddings per year as well as a healthy number of lifestyle, engagements, or family sessions. A photographer that photographs primarily landscapes or newborns will have a very different skill set than a wedding, fashion or family photographer. You want someone who is well rounded in their skills with a concentration on photographing people (documentary, fashion, event and portrait).
Your wedding photographer should have their own website dedicated to wedding photography. What might be a seemingly great deal on sites like Craigslist but the odds are if they haven't invested the time to create a website showcasing their work then they haven't invested the time on their craft, equipment, or insurances.
8. What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment or a plan for equipment failure?
Great equipment does not necessarily make great images but it sure does help the process. A professional level camera will enable the photographer to adapt easily to complex lighting problems as well as take the physical abuse often demanded throughout the wedding day. A good pro body will be weather sealed and impact resistant which on a wedding day is required. Excellent glass (or lenses) is equally important and will help the photographer deliver in low light situations, especially in areas where flash is not allowed. A good lens will offer faster focusing, better sharpness, and create something called bokeh. Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the out of focus area in an image - that lovely creamy out of focus background making the focused area really pop.
Have your photographer talk about their equipment and how it relates to their photography. Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc - the camera system really doesn't matter but instead they should be talking about things like bokeh, selective focus, low light capabilities, macro lenses (for ring shots) and even frames per second (for the kiss shot). Your wedding photographer should definitely have more than one camera body and one lens. Two cameras on person (or with an assistant/second shooter) and redundant everything from camera lenses to flashes is typical.
Another important consideration is the footprint of the equipment used. Will your photographer be using off camera lighting during certain parts of the day and if so what will it look like? A large 4 foot umbrella or softbox on a light stand will likely be obtrusive at a wedding.
Ask your photographer if your images will be archived and if so, how long. Will they be on multiple hard drives in different locations, burned to disc, or on a cloud based back up system. Whatever the plan is really doesn't matter, it's really more about figuring out if there is a plan in place.
9 and 10. (this one is a big one and get both 9 and 10) Do you like the wedding photographers personality?
Can you imagine anything worse than dealing with a wedding photographer who arrives late wearing inappropriate attire, is condescending to guests and barking orders at you all day long? What a buzz kill! Personality is one of the most important aspects of a really great wedding photographer. When you choose a photographer you are investing in a person and with that comes more than just their technical skills with a camera. Prerequisites for the great wedding photographers include kindness, good moral stature, cool under stress, creative desire, dress sense, manners and definitely a sense of humor. Basically - amazing skills combined with cool and fun.
Look for a photographer that is open to your suggestions is thoughtful and offers good advice when needed. No diva-tographers needed!
Joshua Atticks | Maine Wedding Photography