With a sea of wedding photographers to choose from in the phone book, we wanted to know what the best qualities are to look for in a wedding photographer. Capturing memories from one of the most important days of your life is in itself an important feat. We get tips from wedding planners on what to look for in your personal wedding day paparazzo.
First, start with a budget. How much are you willing to spend on your photography? As a guideline, typically 8-10% of your overall wedding budget will go towards photography. But there are other ways to capture memories on a smaller budget. (See “alternatives” section below.)
Second, give yourself a lot of time. Search at least 6-12 months before your wedding date, and if your date is during the busy wedding season, the sooner you book a photographer, the better so you can guarantee your date.
How to Choose
Ask friends and family for recommendations. This is the best way to start your search.
Once you’ve narrowed down some choices, look at each photographer’s portfolio. Make sure you like their style. Everyone is different. Also, ask to see all of the shots from ONE wedding, rather than the best shots from a variety of weddings (which is what most photographers’ portfolios are made up of). Styles include
Classic or Traditional, where the photographer poses subjects artfully and uses creative set-ups.
Photojournalistic style, gaining in popularity, chronicles the day as events unfold rather than as staged situations. The photographer will stop actions in progress to get a good capture, or click discretely for a natural look.
Interview him or her to get an idea of personality. You will be spending a lot of time with this person on your big day, plus you’ll also be a bit stressed out and emotional, so make sure that the person you choose makes you feel comfortable.
Find out what packages each photographer offers in terms of printing and collections. Prices vary, but here are a couple of typical packages to give you an idea:
A traditional/classic style package that gets you about 10 hours with the photographer, a wedding album with about 40 retouched 5×7 prints, and a CD-Rom copy of all photos costs $2500-3000
A photojournalistic style package that gets you a full day with the photographer ($1500 + $300 for film), plus 40 retouched photos ($500) costs about $2300-$2500.
When choosing a package, be realistic. Don’t go for that giant, poster-size photo unless you really think you’re going to use it.
Try negotiating. You can also try to customize your package deal if the photographer doesn’t offer something you want. Whatever you decide on, make sure you get it in writing with all the details and a final price. Plus, not all photographers will give you the negatives, but ask anyway.
Planning Your Shots
Once you’ve chosen your photographer, you’ll want to make a plan of the types of shots you’re looking for.
Locations: decide where you want the bulk of your pictures taken. Also, remember that Mother Nature doesn’t always co-operate, so have a back-up plan if you’re doing outdoor shots.
Groups: Make a list of people that you want captured together, and make sure they know where to be at what time. Give your photographer your list in advance so he/she can plan ahead to accommodate.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may try hiring an amateur photographer, like a fine art or photography student. Newspaper photographers will also be less expensive than professional wedding photographers and you will get more of a candid, photojournalistic collection.
If you like candid shots, add disposable cameras to each table at your reception. You’ll get some very interesting shots, although these are open to pranks as well.
Set up an online photo pool at a photosharing site like Flickr, Picasa, or even on Facebook. Invite your guests to share their own candid shots in this pool. You may find some gems.
Photo booths like you see at the mall or carnivals can also be rented for weddings. They’re a fun activity your guests can get involved in.
After the Honeymoon
Whatever you do, don’t put off finishing your photo album once you’ve got your collection! Put it all together and finalize while the memories are still fresh in your mind. When you come back to it months or years later, you’ll be glad you did such a thorough job.