Selecting a Photographer

Etched in Time 2

2014 Engagement Session at the Boston Public Library

A photographer can make your wedding day really special. After all is said and done, a lot of your memories of that day will be a bit blurry. Whether it is being pulled in a million different directions, being really excited, or being on your 5th White Russian, many things and people will come together to sabotage any sharp memories you may have of your wedding . All you will have left will be the pictures. And no matter how sharp your memory is, you can’t be every where at once so it will be nice to have an idea of what your guests were up to when you weren’t around. This is definitely an area I would recommend you don’t skimp on or delegate to just anyone. Since we loved our photographer, I think we can share some tips on what we found worked for us.

  1. Let their work speak for itself: You must absolutely have a wide enough sample of the photographer’s work. Don’t settle for a few pictures, particularly not random ones. Ask for at least one album made up of an entire wedding. Why? Because if you take 2,000 pictures at 5 weddings, you can easily find 10 of them that are top notch. This doesn’t tell me anything about your ability to have great shots from start to finish at one event, it doesn’t tell me anything about your photographic style (candid? journalistic? combination?) and it doesn’t tell me how you perform in a variety of lightings. But seeing a whole wedding tells me all of those things. I will know how open you are to taking candid shots, how well you adapt to the different lighting as a result of the sun setting after taking pictures for 5 hours and it pretty much tells me if you totally suck.
  2. All work an no play makes for dull pictures: Find out if they know to have fun. If you hire a stale cracker of a photographer, you could end up with a wedding album full of stiff poses, forced smiles and no real story being told. If you get a fun photographer like we did, you will seem more relaxed in your pictures, everything will look natural and you can transition from traditional pictures, to candids and staged but fun shots that allow the real you to shine through. Remember, you will not only have this for the rest of your life, your children and grand-children will also be looking at them. It will be easier to convince them grandma knew how to get down back in the day if your wedding album has a bit of personality. The pictures will definitely give you some level of credibility!
  3. Have an engagement session: I cannot stress this enough. No matter how many selfies you take for your Instagram, nothing compares to having a stranger follow you around with a camera asking your to kiss your significant other. Having it happen for 5+ hours on your wedding day as all your relatives watch is kind of creepy. This is where the engagement session comes in. This is your opportunity to get familiar with your photographer’s personality and style, get used to being followed around with a camera and learn what works best for you. You can learn a lot from your engagement pictures: your most genuine smile, your best side, new poses etc. They are usually an hour which is just enough time to get a good set of pictures but not so long that you feel overwhelmed. Just because those pictures will not end up in your official wedding album, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously. We got so many great shots that we ended up using our engagement pictures everywhere we could. They were on our save-the-dates, our programs, and large canvases we had printed as part of our reception decor.
  4. Make sure you have the copyright to the pictures: Some wedding vendors love to nickel and dime you. They will quote you a “great” photography price only for you to find out after it’s too late that you have to pay an additional fee for the copyrights to be released to you. Photographers will sometimes give you a CD or website full of watermarked pictures that become essentially useless unless you pay them more money to unmark them. Furthermore, be aware that unmarked pictures do not automatically mean you are in the clear. You need to make sure that your right to the pictures are noted in your contract. From my experience with Walmart and other printing stores, they will not print pictures that they believe are professionally taken without the explicit permission of the photographer. The contract stating that you have the rights to the pictures is your most readily available ‘permission’. Call it the work of the photography lobby if you wish, but there are now several hurdles to printing your pictures  at a reasonable cost. Not having that permission could potentially mean you have hundreds of digital files you can’t frame or you might be force to shell out some bucks for a photo-printer.
  5. Make sure you are aware of all their fees: and act accordingly. My photographer charged $150 an hour PER photographer for any time over the contracted time. I had 2 photographers which would have resulted in an $300 charge (plus tax) if we were behind schedule. Knowing this steep price motivated me to keep things on schedule. I communicated that to all interest parties and stressed the importance of being on time. As a result everything was ready on time, yes, even the bride.