- 4 years ago
- Wedding: April 2013
When I first joined this board, as a pro photographer myself, I enjoyed giving brides advice about how to hire a photographer and who they should hire. While there is nothing wrong with anything I said, I have to say, having gone through the experience of having my own wedding, and the terrible experience I had with our photographer, has very much changed my perspective. My advice now is much more complete, I believe, and I hope it will be helpful to others in avoiding the problems that I had! I have a unique perspective, both photographer and recent bride.
1. The best piece of advice I can think of is to really get to know your photographer before you hire them. I do NOT recommend you pick out the person with the best images. I recommend the person with whom you feel the strongest personal connection.
I am at a bit of a loss on this part, because I feel deceived. I couldn’t meet our photographer in person due to planning a long distance wedding, but I did speak with her on the phone. I won’t go into details, but in short, I feel like the sales persona and the actual personality and experience working together were very different for my photographer. So my advice: be wary of sales types! Hire a photographer that you can get to know as a real person. And make sure to actually do that.
You want to them to like you and care about you. They are much more likely to do a better job for you if they actually care about you. I honestly thought that all photographers would make the effort to do their absolute best regardless of the client (I do in my job), but throughout our entire process, I felt ignored and disrespected by our photographer. That may just be her personality, but on the other hand, her blog is so warm and personal and makes it seems like she makes a personal connection with each client. So either her persona is fake, or we just didn’t have that personal connection you need to have before hiring someone to do something as important as shoot your wedding.
You also want to make sure that you hire someone who gets along well with others. I had more than one vendor tell me (independent of anything I said to them) that our photographer was difficult to work with.
Bottom line: Hire someone NOT with the best images, but with the best images and with whom you also feel a strong personal connection. Do NOT trust anything you read on the blog to give you a flavor for their personality, only trust actual dealings with them. Meet them in person if remotely possible.
2. I spent more than I wanted to spend. Many, many times on this board, I’ve seen the advice to hire the best you can afford. Sometimes, this is good advice. It depends on the price range that you are looking at. Without going into specifics, there is a price point so low that you know that person probably doesn’t know what they are doing, and you don’t want to hire that. Please don’t mistake the rest of this advice as me saying you should hire your brother or the $500 photographer on craigslist. But on the other hand, once you get into the range where you are talking about actual professionals (the number I’ve seen around here is $2000+, not always true but a general guideline)….. once you get into that range, MORE money is not necessarily going to get you a better photographer.
Don’t hire a “famous” “award winning” photographer unless you really can afford them. Some photographers just don’t really offer anything in your range and choosing the bare minimum may get you overlooked in amongst their bigger budget clients. I have no doubt that this is not true of all photographers who charge the higher prices. But it was my experience.
Bottom line: Unless you really cannot afford to, or you can afford a super high level photographer at one of their bigger packages…. I recommend a middle of the road professional. Not the cheapest you find and not the most expensive either. This is pretty good advice for just about anything you buy, really, but I especially like it in the case of hiring a photographer because a) you are less likely to hire someone snooty and b) you save money for quite possibly the same quality of results anyway. I very much wish I had gone with another photographer I was considering that would have saved us over a thousand dollars, was a nicer person, and probably would have given us exactly the same results considering how lackluster the photos we got back actually are.
3. Don’t trust the blog.
I already talked about not trusting the persona the photographer presents on the blog. It may be who they really are or it may be just marketing, and there’s no way to tell. Now I’m going to talk about trusting the blog images.You should NEVER hire a photographer without seeing a full wedding that they have shot. If they won’t show it to you, regardless of how good their blog images are, move on.
When you look through this full wedding (or more than one ideally)… make notes of the following: 1) how many images total the client received vs the number of hours you booked for; 2) how many images of important moments were received: for example, if you looked at my full wedding, you’d note only two photos from the mother-son dance. Not enough. 3) How many candid as opposed to posed moments were caught. Now of course, all photographers shoot posed photos and you do WANT them too I promise. But you should also be able to get a good idea of how many CANDID moments they have captured in addition to those important posed photos.
If you don’t get the feeling, from looking at a full wedding, that the photographer has captured genuine emotion in the bride and groom, their families, and their guests… you don’t want to hire them. Even if they shoot gorgeous details and portraits.
4. Speaking of details… I recognize that I am likely to be disagreed with here, (especially by pros that love to shoot details and believe me I do too)…. but I firmly believe this is very important. Do not hire a photographer because they shoot gorgeous details.
Hire a photographer that shoots details well AND amazing candids. When you look at their work, put an emphasis on the candids.
Why? It goes back to why you are spending all this money and hiring a photographer and having a wedding in the first place. I’m guessing it’s because you are in love, and you have found the person with whom you intend to spend the rest of your life.
Meaning that in 10, 20, 50 years, you expect to be looking back on your wedding album with your husband and remembering how happy you were on this day… and not just you, but your families and friends, the people that care most about you in the world and that were also so happy to be there with you on your wedding day.
I know, I’ve been through it. Choosing your colors and designing the centerpieces and the perfect pair of shoes, and all of that amazingly fun stuff, is important. But it’s not MORE important than your happy candid emotions as you promise to love and be with this man for the rest of your life. Is it?
Many years from now, when you look back on your wedding album…. do you honestly believe you are going to care more about having the most gorgeous photo of your dress hanging from a tree, or are you going to care more about seeing the tears in your grandmother’s eyes as she watched you say “I do”….?
A wedding album of gorgeous details and artistic portraits of you and your husband is cold to look back on. Beautiful, but cold. A wedding album that tells the STORY of the day, including the details and the portraits, BUT also capturing the happiness of the people there, and candid moments with them, will be a treasured family heirloom, and that’s what you want to share with your children someday.
I can’t say it enough. Don’t make the mistake I made and choose a photographer that is more interested in shooting gorgeous details for Style Me Pretty than in capturing genuine emotion in you and your family and friends.
As photographers, we shoot details and artistic portraits because brides like them, but also because they are what gets us famous, gets us hired in the future. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there IS something wrong with it when it becomes our main focus, and it becomes more important than the reason behind a having a wedding in the first place: it is a celebration of love and lifetime commitment. That’s what the images need to reflect. I say that for future brides, and I say it for myself and for my fellow pro photographers that might have lost their way on this a little bit.
If anyone would like help in selecting a photographer, please feel free to send me a message. I am happy to assist and to offer any advice I can.
***** I have to say this. As I mentioned a bit earlier in this post, this thread is for brides that are already set on hiring a professional that knows what they are doing. I have a very different set of advice geared toward convincing a bride that she actually NEEDS that professional. This post is not about that, but I want to mention it anyway. You need the professional. Wedding photography is HARD. To do a good or even acceptable job, you can’t do it with any old “nice” camera, and you can’t do with very little experience. If you don’t have the experience and equipment, you cannot produce quality results – both from a technical standpoint, as well as knowing how to capture the genuine candid moments I put such an emphasis on in this post. And, you can’t run a successful and legitimate business without charging the going rates that most pros charge. Unfortunately, I wish we could.