Congratulations on your engagement – let the planning fun begin! This is going to be one of the most exciting times of your life. At times it may feel very stressful, when you’re trying to find a venue that’s available on the date you’d like, deciding how many people and who to invite, or even when choosing your vendors and trying to decide between a few of them, but I promise you at the end it is totally worth it!
I’ve personally been in the wedding industry approximately 25 years, from being a wedding DJ, to wedding photography and cinematography; I’ve seen a lot. I’ve heard some amazing stories of couples who absolutely loved their photographer’s service and their final product, and I’ve also heard the not so good stories. Today, I’d like to offer you some tips on how to choose a photographer for your engagement, elopement and/or wedding needs, so that investing in a photography company or photographer is easy, stress free and helps ensure you get the photos you dream of!
I cater my photography and editing style to what my couples want…we’re always willing to try new things to ensure our couples are happy!
1. Confirm your wedding date and maybe even your venues, before you meet with a photographer
The first part of your planning process should be finding a venue that meets your vision of your wedding day, and book and confirm a date for your wedding. Once you have a venue and a date, it will help you with the rest of your planning as it is likely the first question that will come up in any consultation to ensure the vendor is available. There’s been many times couples and I have developed great rapport and we would have loved to work together from a photography perspective, but unfortunately, I was already booked when they finalized their wedding date.
2. Consider the style of a photographer’s photos and envision yourself in them.
Every photographer likely has a style of editing for their photos and/or the style of photography they pride themselves on. One of the first things couples do is look through online gallery photos and social media pages to see what style of photos they like, but “style” could mean so many things. You’ll see photos that are pastel or neutral toned, dark and moody, or even colorful and vibrant. You’ll also see photos that are “light and airy” or “elegant and dramatic”, so take some time to sit down with your significant other and really go through examples of what you love, and also examples of what doesn’t really fit your vision. Personally, I cater my photography and editing style to what my couples want, and I have done both light and airy, or dramatic and elegant, from vibrant color photos, to dark and moody. It’s your shoot or your wedding day, so don’t be afraid to mention some of your ideas for shots that you had in mind, or send your photographer an image you saw on the internet; we’re always willing to try new things to ensure our couples are happy!
3. Meet with your photographer for an initial consultation, obligation free
I cannot stress this tip enough – meet with your photographer (the actual person who will be capturing your engagement, elopement or wedding). This is not just an opportunity to ask questions, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to get an initial gauge of working with this individual. I always tell my couples that it’s an opportunity for me to get to know you, hear your quirky stories about each other, tell me about how you met and what’s important to you from a photography perspective. Think of it as a 2-way interview! What’s important to me as a photographer, is that my clients trust me and we can have a good laugh and conversation over coffee – it makes everything so much easier throughout the wedding day when we all get along, everyone is comfortable with each other and we build that rapport and trust. I also believe in bringing your true self and whole self to the table as that always helps capture the most authentic photos! Don’t ever feel pressured into signing a contract at the initial consultation with anyone – feel free to take any brochures and information away, discuss as a couple and make a sound decision when you’re ready and that’s right for you. If your initial consultation goes well, chances are it makes your decision that much easier.
4. Ask yourself if you need one photographer or two photographers for your wedding needs.
Often times, I’ve seen couples immediately request two photographer packages, but unsure if it’s the right choice. I’ve also had couples think “more is better” and assume they need two photographers for that reason, but I always aim to understand my couples needs and understand the “why”, and then make suggestions or recommendations that meet the needs of the couple and provides an opportunity to save money where possible.
For example, having a second shooter available as part of your package is imperative if the “getting ready” portion of the wedding day is important to you and the distance between the two getting ready locations is far enough to warrant a second shooter. In these cases, I will station myself at the bride’s or primary getting ready location to capture the details, while my second shooter is stationed at the groom’s or secondary getting ready location. What if a couple is getting ready in a hotel, in two different suites on two different floors? In these cases, I work with the couple to time the getting ready portion between the two floors, which ends up saving them the cost of a second shooter.
What’s important to me as a photographer is to capture my couple’s love story, and that includes seeing everything from both perspectives. For the remainder of the wedding day, a second shooter can be important to capture that second perspective, or, often capturing candid shots or small details the primary photographer missed or could not get. For example, when I have my second photographer with me during a ceremony, one of us will focus on capturing the groom’s reaction as his bride walks down the aisle, while I as the primary photographer will capture the bride and her reaction while she walks down the aisle. Another example of the love story being told is during the ceremony, I love to capture a zoomed in (unobtrusive) shot over the shoulder of a bride looking at her groom and his facial reaction, and then capturing that same looking over his shoulder, capturing the brides reaction, especially as vows are read. While I do this as a single photographer, it’s easier when you have two photographers.
Do you absolutely need a second shooter? No, but it certainly makes things easier. If it fits within your wedding budget and makes sense to do so, it’s a wonderful addition to any wedding photography package.
A professional wedding photographer will always carry backup gear to ensure an uninterrupted wedding day for their couples.
5. Ask the photographer if they carry backup equipment
You’ve spent months planning your wedding day, everything is going smoothly and just as you imagined so far – the last thing you want is for something to go wrong. We’ve all heard the stories where a photographer experienced a camera failure, memory card failures and picture loss, or camera gear being stolen. These are true stories and do happen, and while it can happen to anyone, preparation is key.
A professional wedding photographer will always carry backup gear to ensure an uninterrupted wedding day for their couples. At Element Fusion Studios, both myself and my second photographer always shoot with two cameras at the same time, usually a wide angle lens on one camera and one zoom lens on the other. Both of our cameras also have dual memory card slots to ensure photos are captured to both cards as a form of redundancy. In an absolutely worst case scenario, we each have a third camera on hand in case one of our cameras fail, along with multiple memory cards and batteries. Our photography bags and cases never leave our sight and are never left unattended, for example, in a car. Once the wedding festivities are over, the photos are quickly backed up to 2 or more hard drives in the studio to ensure no moment captured is lost. This level of backup redundancy provides both the couple and the photographer with peace of mind that no matter what, a couple’s wedding photos and memories are preserved.
Some feel that a second photographer is “the backup plan”, but truth be told, a second photographer’s function is not to be a backup but rather a part of the wedding day – see tip #5 above. If you’ve invested in a two photographer package, you should be receiving photos from both photographers as part of your package.
If something were to happen to that one camera or lens, without backup equipment, how will that impact your wedding photos? That’s why we always capture your story with multiple cameras and lenses!
In closing, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these top 5 tips I’ve offered you as a professional engagement and wedding photographer, and I hope it has helped. Remember, this journey is incredibly fun from beginning to end, so when choosing a photographer, invest in a photographer that you feel you can absolutely trust and be yourself with. After all, it’ll make everything photography that much easier!