Picking out a photographer for your Wedding day can be a daunting task. I mean, it is the day you've been dreaming about since you were a child! You've got the perfect mate; the perfect dress; maybe even have your venue and color scheme picked out! So now, you have to make the extremely important decision of choosing who you believe will best capture that. Not just what you have picked out for your wedding day, but they need to be able to capture who you are!
So what are some ways that you can save time going through the countless number of photographers to find that perfect one that is juuust right? You should be able to find some general information on the photographer rather quickly without much effort, i.e. Will there be a contract provided; Do you work with a shot list; What if the photographer's sick; Do you edit the images; How long is the turn around time to receive images; Am I getting digital files or prints, and Can I print the digitals. (My answers to these questions and more can be found on my FAQS page)
While these questions are definitely important and can help you instantly weed out those photographers that don't fit what you need, you have to narrow your prospects down even further. So how do you do this? Once you have established that the normal criteria is fulfilled, these are the 5 questions you should ask to help determine the photographer you really want to work with.
What is your working style?
I see a lot of bridal magazines telling brides to start off asking "What's your style?", but if a bride can't tell what kind of style a photographer has, or at least see a pattern of similarity and consistency, then that photographer isn't going to deliver them what they are expecting no matter what style the photographer says they are. So, assuming you like the pictures and "style" because you have been looking through their portfolios, what you now need to know to help whittle down your list, is what their working style is.
Some photographers want to lead the entire day and tell couples where to go where to stand and what to do next, while others want to stay in the background and just kind of pop in and out at times to catch things. Most are somewhere in the middle, they are there with you every step of the day, but they aren't dictating your days' activities. So find out if the photographer likes to dictate, shy away, or be flexible. A lot of brides don't really know what they want or know a lot about how photography works and they need someone to kind of nudge them along and hold their hand during the day. Others want to focus on all the other aspects of their day, and just have a photographer around snapping the proceedings. So figure out what you prefer and then find out if the photographer fits that mold, or is flexible enough to make it work!
What is your favorite thing to capture during the wedding day?
To be fair, photographers will most likely feel they are in the middle of a sales pitch and will try to say what they think you want to hear, so you may need to follow up with a secondary question to get an idea for how they will treat your day. Ask them what their 2 favorite things are to capture on a wedding day. Give them examples, and ease their mind that you just want to know about them. This could be detail shots, ring shots, the first dance, or the look on the grooms face when he sees her for the first time (this is one of my absolute favorites, because every time I see that picture from my wedding with my ridiculous looking face, I immediately go back to that moment when I saw my bride!).
You aren't necessarily looking for them to answer with your favorite 2 because honestly, you don't know everything you are really going to care about on that day until it happens, and professional photographers are going to capture what you tell them to anyway. Instead, you are trying to get a feel for their passion. You are listening for their personality to come out here and get a feel for how they will interact with you on your big day. After they tell you theirs, maybe tell them something you really want captured and get a conversation started.
Are weddings your bread and butter?
While there are photographers who shoot other fields as their mainstay (landscape, commercial, etc.) that can shoot a wedding like nobody's business, most photographer's like to focus on one area of expertise to be able to keep their skills in check. If you don't know whether a photographer shoots weddings primarily or not, just check their stuff around the web and you'll get a feel for what they are really trying to push out there. Keeping one niche' doesn't mean they don't go out and try to shoot other genres though, I try to shoot other types of photography so I can learn from it and bring it into my wedding style. However, a lack of having expertise in one area of photography usually signals a red flag. Lot's of photographers love shooting everything, but professional photographers really want to hone their skills in one particular arena.
Don't get me wrong, your photographer doesn't have to only love shooting weddings, or just shoot weddings period... that could get tedious and repetitive. But you would probably prefer someone whose passion lies in wedding photography, and not someone who does it on the side for extra cash!
How are you going to make us feel relaxed in front of the camera?
The goal of the photographer should be to capture who you are, and the only way to do this is to make you comfortable around them and to make you feel like you can be yourself. If all they know how to do is pose you perfectly, then they aren't going to be able to get real pictures of you and capture candid moments.
Wedding photography is more than just taking portraits all day; it's one of the most memorable and important days in the clients' lives. I've seen footage of wedding photographers going through poses like a drill sergeant, hammering out one after the other, shifting a hand or shoulder where needed. That's great and all, but how are they going to get the bride to show her joy and excitement? How are they going to get a groom (usually the hardest to loosen up) to express his emotions and not shut off completely or be "blah" in front of the camera?
This is one of the skill-sets that separates the true professional wedding photographer from the dabblers!
Why do you want to work with me?
In reality, at the end of the day, you are a source of income. Still, most professional photographers don't want to work with just anyone!
Most professional photographers spend time trying to narrow down their ideal client to market to. This isn't so we can dream about that perfect client that will some day come through the studio doors, this is so that brides and grooms that aren't a great fit for our business and working style... don't! Asking this question toward the end of your conversation will help you know if that photographer really wants to work with you or not. Maybe you are getting married at a venue that they hate, or you are doing a beach wedding and they really don't like the beach! If they don't like something major about your wedding (maybe even you), then you really shouldn't have them as your photographer. Most of them will just say at some point in the conversation that it isn't a good fit, but some may actually charge you more or not perform at their best because they don't want to do it! You really don't want that; you want someone who wants to shoot your wedding, not just take your money!
Remember that everyone has a different idea of what's important. Everyone has a different budget and style preference. That is why there can be so many photographers within a small radius. But regardless of what is the most important aspect of the photography for your wedding, don't forget that this person will most likely be with you all day! So I suggest getting to know them a little bit better and deciding if their personality is something you can handle all day. This doesn't mean they must necessarily love Star Wars or The Devil Wears Prada like you do...(I absolutely love both, btw), it just means that you don't want someone that's going to get on your nerves hanging out with you all day capturing your special moments!