I have been doing wedding photography in Knoxville Tn since 2010 and am still surprised at how many people aren’t asking the questions and looking for the things I feel are extremely important when choosing a wedding photographer or any other type of photographer. Here is a list of 7 (well really 8) things to look for or at least consider before you hair your wedding photographer. You may notice that price isn’t on this list, but I am well aware that it will also affect your decision. My goal here is to give you information on the things to be looking for and thinking about no matter what your price point.
- Personality: The thing I feel is most important is making sure that you get along well with and enjoy working with the photographer you hire. After all it is as much about the experience you have as the finial images. One of the best ways to test your wedding photographer is with an engagement session. One of the reasons all of my packages include an engagement session is so my clients and I can get to know each other better and become friends before the wedding day. If for some reason you find that you aren’t clicking with the photographer during the engagement session it might be best to find another one for the wedding even if you had to lose all or part of a retainer.
- Style: Be sure you like the photographer’s style. Style can be a tricky thing to describe so be sure to look at the images in their portfolio and make sure you like what you’re seeing. Everyone has their own style and you want to make sure the photographer your hire has a style you like and want for your wedding day. I would describe my style as dramatic with a flair for the romantic. I like a little more contrast in my work and I like to separate the subject from the background using different lighting styles. I love to tell stories with my images no matter if its one image or a series that work together.
- Lighting Master: Make sure your wedding photographer can control the light in any situation.This is an area where I have seen many wedding photographers fall short. Many photographers start out using only the light that is in a given scene (natural light) and although beautiful images can be created using only natural light it can also be limiting. I use a combination of natural light and off camera lights so I can take control of the light in any situation to produce consistent well lit images from outside at high noon to a dark reception hall at midnight. Being a “natural light only” photographer outside on a nice sunny day fine but what happens if the wedding is at sunset, in a dark church, or the reception is only lit by the DJ’s lights? There are a couple of things to look for in a photographers images to make sure they can control the light in any situation. In outdoor shots look at the sky in the background to see if it is always solid white. If it is they probably aren’t using off camera lighting to balance the image and keep the color and detail in the sky or it could just be their style and done by choice. Next ask for examples of some of their work from indoor ceremonies and receptions to make sure the images are sharp and not blurry and in the reception images look to see that the background is well lit (not just the subject) and that the background isn’t orange or green (unless you like that look).
- Backup Plan for their images: Make sure your photographer has a solid back up plan in place for your images that includes some kind of off site backup because things happen.I keep my images backed up on two hard drives on site and I also use an online backup service, in case there is ever a fire or break in, until I deliver all products. After all products are delivered I still save the images on one on site hard drive and online. I always say I save them for 3 yrs but at the moment I am saving them much longer.
- Contracts: Get everything in writing. I use contracts for all my portrait sessions and weddings. In my contracts I have it outlined what my clients can expect from me and when. I have a completion schedule of when they will get to see their images, when they will place their order for prints and album, and when all the finished products will be delivered. This way they can rest assured that they are going to get their images when I say they will.
- Real Business: Make sure your photographer runs a legitimate business and has been around for a while. Make sure they have a business license, carry liability insurance (nothing wrong with asking for a copy), and pay sales tax. This way you know your protected if something happened and that the photographer is in this for the long haul. I have all of the above and have been in business since 2010. Also make sure that any second shooters or assistants that are helping have liability insurance or are covered under the main photographer’s policy. Most policies only cover the main photographer so if an assistant damages something it might not be covered unless they have their own policy or the photographer pays out of pocket for the damage.
- Sick Day: Make sure there is a plan in place in case the photographer is sick or for some other reason can’t make it on your wedding day. I have never had this happen but if it ever did I have a close network of trusted professional photographers with similar styles and skills that I could call at a moment’s notice and they would step in and cover the wedding. Also anyone that second shoots a wedding with me would be able to step up and cover the day if something happened last minute like a car wreck on my way there. Granted that would not be an ideal situation and I never have or would miss a wedding by choice, but things can happen and if they do you want to make sure your once in a lifetime event will still be captured the way you want without you having to stress out last minuet looking for a replacement photographer.
- I know I said 7 but making sure your photographer is full service and going to handle everything you want like retouching and designing and printing a beautiful wedding album is very important. Also making sure up front that they do or can offer all they products and services you want will ensure that you get everything you want and all from one place.