This post is the first in a series offering some info to the engaged couple looking for a wedding photographer. After getting married myself (before being in this business), to now working with dozens of couples every year, I hope I can offer some answers to common questions and help in the process of selecting vendors who fit you and what you're looking for.
I hope to cover everything from how to approach the timing of your wedding day, the pros and cons of a "first look", traditions and how they're changing, and more. Starting off at the beginning...
We're looking to hire a photographer. What should we be asking them?
There are plenty of photographers these days and it can be hard to decide who is really experienced and who just thinks they are! The market is pretty saturated with photographers more so than other vendors so the first and best way to find someone good is by asking your married friends for recommendations. If you've seen photos from your friend or family's wedding and like them just ask them how was he or she to work with. This will give you a good place to start. Nothing is stronger than a referral!
Looking online is probably the most popular and obvious way to find vendors. This is where the saturation issue comes into play. There are so many! Where do I start?
Pretty much my sole task when my wife and I were planning our wedding was to find the photographer (go figure). Like I mentioned, this was before being in this business so I defaulted to Google as one does. In hindsight I wish I had done some more research but that's a story for another day. I wish I had known about websites like The Knot, Weddingwire and, locally, NH Wedding Magazine. These are great resources to not only find your vendors but also to do research. There is plenty of information in one place that can help you plan every aspect of your wedding from the flowers to your dress and what to expect cost-wise, etc.
Reviews... Look for a photographer with a decent amount of good reviews. Read enough of them to make you feel comfortable. Getting in touch comes next and, after you make sure they can work with your budget, I would recommend setting up a face to face meeting.
Why meet in person? Can't we get the same info over the phone?
Yes and No. I tell ALL my clients that wedding day is a team effort. The photographer should be working WITH you and not just FOR you. You obviously want good photos at the end of the day but you are also paying for the experience of working with one! That means you want that experience to be a positive one. You should really want to like your photographer as a person and you should want them to like you too! It's a two way street. Photos will be better the more comfortable everyone is. It's very hard to get a sense of this over the phone.
Ok, we are sitting in your office. Now what?
Personally, I don't have a set sales pitch for people. If you're in my office it's safe to say that you like my work so the meeting is to answer any questions and see if it feels like a good fit. Most people aren't too comfortable in front of a camera so you want to make sure the photographer is going to make you feel comfortable. Ask them how they plan to do that. How is the conversation going?
Is the photographer interested in you or just getting your business?
I always ask about a couple and how long they've been together. I met my wife on Craigslist many moons ago so I'm curious to hear people's stories of how they met. If a photographer doesn't ask about you they should. It's not necessarily a deal breaker but it feels good to see that they're interested in you. For the photographer, personal questions like that are good because it's all part of the fact finding mission to see if things are a good fit. The more I know about you and what you're looking for the more on the same page we would be on wedding day. I've got to like you too! ;)
My initial client meetings have lasted anywhere from a half hour to over two hours. Sometimes you just get talking about things and one subject leads to another. I think that's how things should go. I am extremely happy and grateful that the majority of my reviews talk about how I've worked with my clients not just on wedding day, but before and after as well. Remember, you want good photos but you should be thinking about a good experience from start to finish too! :)
Questions to consider asking a photographer:
- How long have you been doing this and what is your experience? (Remember, it's about good photos but also good time and people management!)
- How much coverage do you think I need and do I need two photographers? (Are they upselling you unnecessarily?)
- What do you need from us to make the day easier or less stressful? (Ask the photographer's opinions about your ideas. They will most likely have insights you may not have thought about.)
- How long does it take to get our finished photos? (I've heard the horror stories of 6 months to a year+!)
- How many photos will we get?
- What's the deal with copyright and usage rights? (Make sure you get usage rights!)
- Do you have backup equipment?
- What happens if tragedy strikes and you can't make our wedding?
These are just a few general questions which should hopefully lead to further questions and answers leaving you more knowledgeable by the end of the meeting and feeling hopefully good about the photographer. A photographer needs to also play the role of coordinator and confidant on wedding day too so go beyond thinking solely about the final photos and how he or she is going to go about getting them!
Some of these questions and details will be gone into in more detail so stay tuned for more blog posts that get into specifics.