Download a printable copy of this article: FindingYourPhotographer.pdf
The time has come!! You have found the man or woman of your dreams! You are planning your wedding; you've set the date and have booked the venue. You have a wedding budget and are trying to stick to it. Next up is the wedding photographer, you have allocated your budget and want beautiful wedding images to share with future generations to come.
So you get started; internet search, Wedding Wire, referrals, bridal shows; you are rocking but WOW, you soon find out there is a vast difference in photographers, wedding images, price ranges, products, policies, processes and you don’t know how to navigate finding the right photographer to deliver the wedding photos of your dreams. How do you know the person you choose will not leave you disappointed on the biggest day of your life?
OK. Breathe. There is never a 100% chance that your wedding images will live up to your expectations. But, there is a way to dramatically increase the chances, and you don’t need to know anything about photography.
Let’s start with the obvious, looking at the photographer’s portfolio. They should have one. If not, it’s best to move to the next contestant. When you look at the images, either on the photographer’s website, at a bridal show etc. they should invoke an emotional response; like “oh my goodness, I love that, I want that!” Or “I can’t picture myself in this image”, “These don’t look like my style”, “they look too dark” etc. What is your gut reaction to the photographer’s style and image quality? Compare wedding photos from one sight to another. Pay attention to the light (or lack thereof) in the images. You will get a feel very quickly for images that are just OK, not so great, really nice, and EPIC. The photos should resonate with you and show beauty, emotion, vibrancy, romance etc. When you see the images that give you that “oh my gosh” feeling, you have found your style. Article continued below pictures!
No Look First LookStacy and Jade share a moment without seeing each other before their wedding.
Above, Stacey and Jade during a "no look first look". We recommend this to our couples who do not want to see each other before the ceremony.
Framing by AspensKirsten and Michael's beautiful wedding ceremony, Breckenridge, Colorado
Framing the shot through some aspens at Kirsten and Michael's Breckenridge wedding.
Bridesmaids Shout OutAnna shares a happy moment with her bridesmaids before her wedding at Ten Mile Station, Breckenridge, Colorado
Capturing emotion is essential to bring the wedding story to life through pictures!
A Walk in the MountainsA happy couple walking together after their wedding, Silverthorne, Colorado
You don't always need to see faces...this photo of Shanelle and Joey is a favorite!
I hear you but I can't see you!Jill and Brad did a very cool "no look first look" before their wedding at Valley Country Club, in Centennial, Colorado
Jill described her vision for this picture to Tom and I long before the wedding day. It's critical for a photographer to connect with a couple so everyone is on the same page.
Stunning Bride Kirsten strikes a pose on her wedding day in Breckenridge, Colorado
Kirsten looking stunning....OMG! We always get a portrait of the bride alone and the groom alone for the wedding album.
So now that you found a few portfolios that give you goose bumps, it’s time to ask some questions. An email inquiry is a great way to reach out to photographers. Include your wedding date to check availability and request pricing at this point as well. You may as well know up front where they fall in your budget. The response should be quick, friendly and informative. If it’s not, it’s an indication of what kind of customer service you will get later on, and that is critical. The photographer should also invite you to talk via an in person meeting or by phone. If the pricing is within your budget, don’t hesitate to accept a meeting. Tom and I don’t even mention booking at the first meeting unless the couple asks about it. If you are pressured, that is another red flag that the photographer does not have YOUR best interest at heart, which is finding the right photographer for you. It’s part of the booking process for photographers to meet with many couples. Some book and some don’t.
So you have a few meetings set up. Here are some questions to ask and how to evaluate some of the responses you will hear.
Now you should already have an idea because you looked at the photographer’s website portfolio but if you are not sure, definitely ask. Some photographers will put only a handful of pictures on the website but have shot a ton of weddings, others only have a handful of images because they only shot one wedding.
If the photographer does not have more than a few weddings under his/her belt, your risk may be high that you are not going to get the highest quality wedding photography. This will most likely be a reason for a cheap photographer; everyone has to start somewhere. The wedding photographer is challenged to work quickly, under a lot of pressure. He or she has to coordinate and pose not only the couple, but also large groups, families, children, rowdy groomsmen etc. Small details such as the rings must be captured in perfect focus and light. You have to know your equipment inside and out and be able to work in all types of light. Even with all the experience that Tom has, most weddings are very hard work. There are extreme pressures, time constraints, dealing with nervous couples, people everywhere, family dynamics and so much more. There are things that can, and do go wrong at every wedding. Once a photographer has shot a lot of weddings, they usually will no longer be the cheapest out there because they have paid their dues in sweat and realize how much is at stake.
Be wary of a photographer with little wedding experience, even if they have a fancy camera and have experience in other types of photography. A fancy camera doesn’t make an awesome photographer, any more than a great guitar makes an incredible musician. Many times when someone wants to be a photographer and is just starting out, they “don’t even know what they don’t know”, and your wedding is not their practice time.
Epic Ring ShotRing shots are always a must have for the bride and make a great addition to the wedding album
Ring shots in perfect focus are tough; special equipment, manual focus, a steady hand and lots of experience required.
Special DanceStacey looks on as Jade dances with her daughter during the reception at Baldoria on the Water, Lakewood, Colorado
Although this dancing shot could have been captured from many angles, seeing Stacy looking on at Jade dancing with her daughter brings this image to the heart.
2. How will you light my ceremony and reception?
This is the mother load question; lighting can make or break a wedding photograph. If they say “I’m a natural light photographer” this may translate to “I don’t know how to light”. Follow up by asking, “what if there is no natural light such as at the reception at 10 pm?” We love natural light too and jump for joy when we have great outdoor or window light, however, it’s not practical to think you can get the best results without help from lighting. If the great light is not there, the professional wedding photographer has to create it. A good photographer should at this point be very clear about how he will light your wedding. He should talk about on and/or off camera flash, light modifiers, setting up light stands at your reception, being able to overpower the mid-day sun, what he will do if not allowed to use flash in the church etc. Once a photographer learns how to light, has made the investment in all the equipment involved and knows how to use it, it will make a huge difference in the quality of your images. When you look at a portfolio and can’t quite figure our why the images look so amazing, it’s most likely the light.
This is another factor that will separate cheap photographers from ones who charge more and it is well worth the cost.
BubblesHappy couple gets bubbly send off at Ellis Ranch, Loveland, Colorado
For Mallory and Eli's bubble exit, Tom provided some fill flash from the front and I was holding the light in the back. This brought the bubbles to life!
Sparkler heartKirsten and Michael's sparkler photo, the last shot of the night. Breckenridge, Colorado
Kirsten and Michael's sparkler heart was captured with a slow shutter speed, and lighting both in front and behind them.
3. How much direction will you be giving on my wedding day?
I wanted to bring this up as it pertains to weddings because I have an introverted personality and it’s always a hard part for me (thank goodness Tom is not afraid to take control of a group). It is practically impossible to be a 100% “photojournalistic fly on the wall” photographer at a wedding. Grandma is not going to pose herself and the groomsmen are not going to come up with ideas for shots. Your photographer is going to have to get in there and direct, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort when dealing with large groups (herding cats sometimes comes to mind). At the same time, they shouldn’t be rude, appear stressed, or be a jerk. A sense of humor and a positive attitude is vital.
Your photographer needs to be pleasantly persistent, communicate clearly, and have a plan to get the shots done and keep the day moving.
A Happy Bridal Party in MotionNana and Jared's wedding party walking on the golf course at Wedgewood Ken Caryl, Littleton, Colorado
We love to do walking shots with the bridal party... so much fun!
The Happy Couple and their Guests!All the guests pose for a photo at Nana and Jared's wedding reception, Wedgewood Ken Caryl
Photographing big groups can be a challenge; a loud voice is required. We often get help from the DJ.
4. Will you shoot my wedding personally? If not, who will?
There are many photography companies who use a team of photographers or a pool of photographers who are contracted. This is totally fine but it’s nice to meet the person who will shoot your wedding personally and ask them the same questions as we are discussing here. You cannot make assumptions. It’s been several years now but Tom gained a lot of his experience by shooting contract weddings and often did not meet the bride until the actual wedding day. Most of them turned out great but if you are looking for a more personal touch, this may not be the way to go. Also keep in mind that this is how many photographers acquire their experience. Be careful and ask the hard questions.
5. What about back up plans?
By back up plans, I’m referring to if something goes wrong or unexpected. Do they have a back up camera if theirs quits working? What if they get sick? Do they have liability insurance? Photographers should have a back up camera, a variety of lenses, extra flashes, memory cards, battery packs etc. so they can keep going in the event of equipment failure. They also should network with other photographers and second shooters to be able to cover for each other if someone should be unable to fill their commitment. Tom often says that “the professional should have backups for their backups and for themselves”. Liability insurance is an absolute necessity if someone trips over a light stand or camera bag and gets hurt. Some venues require a copy of the photographer’s liability insurance certificate.
6. Do you have an assistant or second shooter?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question but a good assistant and/or second shooter sure makes the day flow easier from a photography perspective. They can make a big difference in helping the lead photographer to do his best work. Assistants hold lights, adjust clothing, round up people, carry equipment etc. A photographer who works with a second shooter will most likely be more efficient overall, and get more images from different angles. Tom and I have this fine-tuned. Although I am the second photographer, his shots are the priority as the lead and if he needs help, that is my priority. We rarely split up on the wedding day but rather work as a team complimenting each other’s shots with different lenses, angles, vantage points etc. These complimentary shots are essential ingredients for a great wedding album.
Walking His Daughter Down the AisleThe wedding ceremony is about to start at Wedgewood Ken Caryl, Littleton, Colorado
During the ceremony procession, Tom will shoot from the front and I will hang back with the bride. Here Nana and her dad are beginning their walk towards the waiting groom and wedding guests.
Ready to Go!Kirsten admires her dad while waiting for their cue, Breckenridge, Colorado
Dad, Perry, and dog, Remington, waiting to walk Kirsten to the ceremony site.
Man's Best FriendWe love it when dogs are part of the wedding day! Breckenridge, Colorado
Here Comes the Bride!Jill walking to her groom and guests for the ceremony. Valley Country Club, Centennial, Colorado
You can see Tom capturing Jill's walk from the front and I am in the back. What a great moment!!
7. Exactly what is included in your fee?
Don’t just breeze through the contract and pricing materials. Everything should be spelled out and if you have any questions get them out on the table. Make sure you know if digital negatives will be included; how many wedding images will there be; how many pages are in the wedding album; are prints included? How many hours of coverage are included? What editing, if any, is done to the images? Don’t leave anything to chance; find out what you are getting and when you will get it. A good professional photographer will not just dump images right out of the camera to a flash drive and be done. You should expect professional products of high quality, exposure and color corrected images, and outstanding customer service.
8. How long after the wedding should I expect my images?
Get an answer to this and hold them to it. When the wedding is done, the photographer’s work is just beginning. Several days are now spent on culling, exposure and color correcting, basic edits, etc., in order to prepare the images for delivery to the client. Once images are presented to the client, album preparation can take several more days. One wedding can indeed be a full time job.
Tom and I go above and beyond for our couples and try to do a lot more than many wedding photographers. We will get very excited about our client's wedding images! We will generally share a few of the images within days of the wedding, and have a picture viewing party about one month after the wedding. This is where we present our couples with a slideshow of our favorite images and deliver the crystal USB drive that we include with our packages. We will also look at wedding album options, cover materials, etc. From that meeting we will formulate a plan for the album, and take a look at other products, such as thank you cards, framed artwork, and other print options.
Every wedding photographer will have his or her own postproduction method. Make sure your know what to expect, how long the process will take, and how the images will be delivered to you. If you are given a specific time period, and that has passed, by all means contact your photographer to get a status.
9. Take me through the flow of a wedding day from the photography standpoint.
This will get your photographer talking and he should be very specific about how things will go. Of course you have say in the day but he should be able to explain everything about the flow at a typical wedding. This should be very detailed because he has done this time and time again and so you can begin to envision how everything will play out.
Tom and I explain the day while looking through an album because it shows it all in pictures and tells the story of the day and how we work. We explain this in great detail so that the bride and groom know exactly what to expect and what shots we are going after and when. We then complete a detailed timeline worksheet approximately 30 days before the wedding so that everyone is on the same page. Our brides are so well prepared that sometimes they ask us “is it time to go outside and get our backlit shots?” or “just let me know when you are ready for my Dad to come in and see me”. They know what shots are coming because they saw them in the albums and are excited about getting their own versions of these shots. Preparation is key!
Beautiful Happy Faces!Nana with her flower girl. So cute! Wedgewood Ken Caryl
So after you have concluded the meeting and evaluated the answers, there is another critical factor. Assuming everything is sounding good (you like the wedding photographs you have seen and you like the answers to the questions) ask yourself; do I like this person? Does he or she mesh with my personality? Are they excited about shooting my wedding or just kind of “business as usual”. Your wedding photographer will be in your most intimate space on the biggest day of your life. You should feel a sense of comfort and trust that you don’t have to worry about your photography; THEY’VE GOT THIS!
And finally, has what you have seen and heard make you totally excited? You should be. If the answer is “YES”, this is a good candidate to shoot your wedding. But take your time; interview the other photographers you selected so you have some comparison.
Once you are sure, complete the contract; pay the deposit and BOOK THEM! Because, like all the other vendors, photographers meet with couples all the time. It’s “first come first serve” for an available date. Good luck and enjoy the process!!
Download a printable copy of this article: FindingYourPhotographer.pdf
A Funny Moment!We love it when there is something to crack up about during the ceremony. Anna and Dan at Ten Mile Station, Breckenridge, Colorado
It's always great when something funny is said during the ceremony.
Funny brides are the best.Kirsten was as funny as she is beautiful. Breckenridge, Colorado wedding.
We love funny brides!
Happy Couple and a Great Car!Shanelle and Joey by her dad's car. So amazing! Silverthorne, Colorado
Dan and Moose!Groom takes a quick break with his dog at Winding River Ranch, Grand Lake, Colorado
Help from the Triplets!Anna gets help from some friends on her wedding day at Ten Mile Station, Breckenridge, Colorado
Sunset on Lookout MountainA quick ride from Crystal Rose, this was taken at Lookout Mountain Park, Golden, Colorado
Milestone Imaging is a husband and wife team who strives to provide their clients with the best wedding photography, engagement photography, and high school senior photography, in the Denver, Colorado metro area. We consider anywhere in Colorado, to be home, and have proudly photographed clients in Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, as well as the front range cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Lyons, Boulder, Evergreen, Pine, Conifer, Larkspur, Colorado Springs and downtown Denver.