I sat at an antique dining room table. Stacks of dusty ring bound photo albums piled on the table. Sunlight poured into the room through creamy curtains. Boxes and knick-knacks crowded the room, making it feel stuffy. Prints hung on the wall of brides from what appeared to be the 1980’s. Big bangs, shoulder padded gowns with lace and veiling that swallowed up a bride in tulle.
I shifted awkwardly in my seat while the sweet older man talked to me about his wedding photography services. His wife was in the background. The price was very reasonable, but…was I going to look like a 1980’s bride in his pictures?
It was too much of a risk. My gut I knew we would not be the right client and photographer match.
Even though it was obvious, I didn’t know what to say to make a graceful exit. I said the only thing I could think of, “Thank you, I will definitely be thinking about it. I appreciate your time.”
Of course, I didn’t need to think about it. The answer was very obvious that I was not the right client for him nor was he the right photographer for me. I swallowed feelings of guilt as I moved on to the only other option in my county.
It was the fall of 2005 and I was planning my wedding in a small town in Florida. Options were very limited and the internet was just becoming a medium for connecting businesses with clients. Most of the local businesses did not have websites yet.
It was the peak of selective color (you know, where the bouquet is in color and everything else in black and white) and digital photography was just making its debut.
My options seemed limited with weak online presence. The work was more time-intensive on the phone and with in-person interviews.
Today, brides face a different challenge. There are too many options, thousands of digital portfolios to look through, ascertaining quality, personality, and consistency.
Your wedding photographer is with you more than anyone else on your wedding day. Make sure you enjoy their presence. Your photographer also interfaces with those most special in your life. How will he or she treat your grandmother, your besties, and those few awkward guests who may add a little drama? Make sure your photographer has strong communication skills and adds a lovely presence to your day.
Want to know more secrets to finding your match? Keep reading!
1. Understand Your Couple Identity
The better you understand who you are and the kind of wedding you are creating, the better you will be able to choose your vendors. This includes:
- Personality: are you the classic couple, stylish, fun-loving, sporty, beachy, adventurous, wanderlusting, small-town, big city, timeless, modern, vintage.
- Your dream wedding vibe? Romantic, rustic, opulent, classic, outdoorsy, boho, etc.
- Photography Style? Dark and moody, photojournalistic, light and romantic, classic, fun, vibrant, natural, or dramatic.
- Not sure? Consider your favorite dates, hobbies, even look in your closet, think about what your dream house would look like. All of those are clues.
2. Look For Work That Speaks to You
Use the search engine tool that is ideal for you. This will help you narrow the playing field.
- Pinterest – This is a fabulous tool for helping you find your favorite style. Are you drawn to natural light, off camera flash, cuddly posing, dramatic posing, etc.
- Instagram - I highly recommend Instagram and searching for hashtags. Search for city-specific locations as well as your venue. Instagram connects you with photographers who are showcasing recent work and tend to be more style-savvy.
- Google – This will help you only if you are willing to dig a little deeper. Go past “page 1” and also do specific searches like, “Jacksonville Fine Art Wedding Photographer” or “Tampa Photojournalist Wedding Photographer” that will help you narrow your field.
- Blogs – Wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty will feature fabulous photographers in your specific geographic area. Look beyond their “Little Black Book” and do a geographic search of your area or venue.
3. Study Websites with Intent
Once you have your top photographers lined up. Search their websites like an expert. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Mechanics – Does this photographer have quality skills? Is the picture blurry in the right places? Is the photographer using space well? Does the posing feel awkward? Is the subject properly lit? Is the editing matching the mood? Does the skin tone look natural? If you aren’t sure, pick up a copy of Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine. Look at the real weddings section. Those photographers are the highest standard of quality. Even if it isn’t your style, the mechanics are there.
- Consistency – Does this photographer have a distinct style and do they stay true to that style throughout all of the images? Remember, this is our best work that we are putting on the website.
- About Page – Really read the words they use to see if you could be compatible. Scroll past the parts where they love photography (hopefully that’s a given). Look for personality-specific adjectives. Words like, “goofy, friendly, reflective, fun-loving, adventurous” will all tell you a part of their story. See if there’s anything that connects you with who they are.
- View Everything – If you are considering a photographer, read every bit of copy on all of their pages. Look at every image they post. It will reveal more of the personality and level of skill this photographer has to offer.
- Reviews - Pour over any reviews out there. If there is consistent negative trend in one area, then you can expect that area to be lacking. As with any reviews, I always look for patterns. One outlier's negative feedback that contradicts the other abundant positive feedback would not give me alarm.
- Ask Advice - Ask for a girlfriend or someone who you trust for outside input on your candidates.
4. Ask Questions
Once you’ve narrowed your search (hopefully now to no more than 2-3 photographers), move forward with any questions you may want to ask of them.
- Date – You must first see if they are even available on your wedding date. Bookings take place more than a year in advance. If your ideal photographer is not available, definitely ask for a referral. They are in the industry and will have the very best suggestions.
- Budget – This is the time to start inquiring about their collections and all that is included in their offerings. Some photographers prefer to meet prior to revealing this. As long as you have an idea of their starting point, that will prevent both parties from wasting time.
- Full Gallery – This is also the time to respectfully ask to see (at minimum) one full wedding. This is the #1 advice that I give all couples. You need to see how the photographer captures candids, family portraits, dancing, and poor lighting. These are not usually showcased on our websites.
- FAQ – You can see a list of other questions that I am asked, on occasion, in my FAQ section of this blog. You do not have to ask these questions, but they are here in case you feel like you need a few more intelligent questions to ask in your dialogue.
5. Set Up A Skype, Facetime, or Coffee Date
Once you feel confident with moving forward, set up a time to actually see the photographer.
- Coffee Date – When possible, meet in person. This is a perfect time to view any of their products, including albums. Most importantly, you can feel their demeanor. If there is awkwardness or just uneasiness that you are feeling, don’t move forward. This person will be at your side the entire wedding day. You need to feel 100% confident that they will add beauty to your day in every way.
- Skype or Facetime – When distance separates your, or even schedule differences, simply use the wonder of modern technology to connect. It’s not the first choice, but it is important. This allows you to see the general demeanor and people skills of your candidate. Sometimes there is a disconnect between their work and real life personality.
Don't delay your decision. Go for it.
For those you do not hire (especially if you have met, in person), please send a kind little note. It is inevitable that you are going to find professionals who are not the right fit. That’s okay. We are used to that. Most of us would far rather hear that from you than move forward only to find out later that we are not compatible. Your happiness is priority.
- Rejection E-mail: send a simple, and kind, e-mail saying, “While we so appreciate you taking the time to share your work with us, we have chosen to go in a different direction." It’s that easy.
- Acceptance E-mail: secure your favorite choice immediately. There may be simultaneous inquiries. Priority goes to the couple who officially books with the retainer payment and contract signed.
All the best on your search to finding your perfect wedding photographer match!