Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

1. DO YOU LIKE THE PHOTOGRAPHER?
Once you’ve narrowed down photographers whose work you like, and whose philosophy you seem to gel with, set up an in-person meeting (or a Skype session, if that’s what works). Then, figure out if you LIKE them. If you don’t, please don’t hire them. You spend enough time with your photographer on your wedding day that you should find them generally pleasant at minimum, possible-BFF-forever at maximum. (Only you know how much you care about love-loving them, but make sure you like them.)

2. LIGHTING SITUATION FOR YOUR WEDDING
Before we get too far into this idea of, “Just hire someone whose work makes you feel happy inside,” let’s have a quick reality check. The easiest wedding to shoot is a wedding in the daytime, with a ceremony under shade and great natural light. If that applies to you, ignore the rest of this paragraph. If, however, you’re getting married in a dark church or you’re having an outdoor evening wedding reception, it’s really important that you specifically look for a photographer that’s skilled with those lighting environments. Don’t assume that experience equals skill in low lighting. Look for weddings shot in similar lighting environments in your photographer’s portfolio, and ask them specifically how they would handle your particular situation. (Some photographers use external lights for dark receptions, while others may rely on their camera’s ability to see well in the dark.) If you notice that after it gets dark, all wedding photos in the portfolio are processed in black and white, that’s a hint that the photographer may not be super comfortable in darker situations. (Please note: Your wedding in a Gothic cathedral is not going to look like a wedding in a sunlit field, no matter who you hire, so don’t expect magic tricks.)

3. REVIEWS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Every photographer is going to have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s pretty easy to get a sense of what someone’s strengths are (let’s assume taking stunning photos is one of them). The trick is to get an accurate sense of what a given photographer’s weaknesses are, and then decide what you can live with. You can do this by a robust conversation with a photographer. (Just ask them flat out what their weaknesses are. A professional will tell you. Run away if they say they have none.) Or you can ask to chat with a past client. Here are a variety of weaknesses I’ve observed in various photographers (most of whom are kick-ass people and artists): not super good time managers on the wedding day, slightly socially awkward, slow delivery of photos, slow or poor client communication, not cheerful and outgoing with the couple, don’t take direction well.
The trick is to figure out what balance of strengths and weaknesses will work for you. I could care less about photographers being good time managers or delivering my photos late. But I want someone who’s amazingly nice to me and does everything I ask on my wedding day, plus offers to loan me earrings if I lose mine.

4. PRICE AND WHAT THEY OFFER
When looking at someone’s pricing, be careful to see what’s included in the package you’re looking at. Things like second shooters, additional hours, hi-res JPGs, albums, and engagement sessions may be included in the price quote, or might be extra money. Just make sure you’re not signing up to pay more later for things you definitely want (i.e., having your wedding photos taken isn’t worth all that much if you have to pay $3,000 extra to get the files). That said, things like albums and prints can always be ordered later when you’re not facing the burden of paying for a wedding, so if you love someone’s art, but they don’t include as many bells and whistles with their package, go for the art.

5. DELIVERY
Once your wedding has happened, you’re going to want to get your hands on your photos. Now is the time to figure out how that’s going to work (and what’s going to work for you). Get a timeline for how fast or slow a particular photographer turns around images. Delivery of the full gallery can range from a week to six months. (Important note: Faster isn’t always better. A lot of really talented photographers who want to keep prices low shoot a lot of weddings during the high season. Taking more time to deliver images sometimes gives them the time to deliver you flawless work.) What rights will you have? Will you get hi-res JPGs (hint: you want those), or will you have to order prints through the photographer? What publication rights will your photographer have?
If you want control of where your photos are published, ask for that in advance. Sometimes asking photographers to not publish your work means they charge you a little extra, since free advertising is what keeps their costs down. Sometimes that’s worth it. And finally, find out if you’ll get access to your unprocessed images. Photographers generally request that you never publish unprocessed work, but styles change, and in twenty years, you might want them.

Check out www.clapperx.com to find a professional photographer at a affordable price near you.

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