With all of the excitement and anticipation that comes with planning your wedding, the day finally comes and passes more quickly than you’d even imagine. While you should savour each moment, one thing is for sure: you’ll want to relive it forever. The best way to draw value from all you put into your wedding day is to make these moments tangible. So we’ve asked a handful of our favourite pros for their best advice on choosing a wedding photographer to document this day.
Some brides make the mistake of selecting their wedding photographer without researching what they’re getting for their money. “You get your negatives” sounds excellent, but when do you get them? The original price sounds great, but how much are extra prints? So often, brides buy a package knowing they don’t want everything in it, but they think they’re getting a deal because it’s all together. Nope, sorry, photography is not like buying a “value meal” at McDonald’s!
To be sure, you must research before you decide. Visit as many studios as you can. As a courtesy, please call them first and set an appointment. If they’re friendly or if they call you back quickly, they’ll most likely have better standards of service. Ask if they have any information they can mail or email to you. Meet the photographer. Search through their website with a fine-toothed comb. Do you see any loopholes or issues? The biggest reason people make mistakes in hiring photographers is that they don’t have experience doing it! They’ve never had to hire photographers, and most likely, their previous experience with a professional photographer was a friend’s wedding. The grumpy, sweaty, old guy was either a bore or an annoying jerk. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
But you’re not destined to make a mistake. With weddings, you only have one shot at getting it right, but you’re already on the right path! By the way, most of this information can be directly applied to videographers (and other services) too!
How to Choose Your Photographer
If you are having a wedding, there are a lot of little details to think about. Where do you start? Maybe you know you don’t want to have a large wedding and instead plan an intimate destination elopement. Ditch the myths that elopements don’t require a professional photographer. My favourite affairs to photograph are intimate weddings or elopements.
No matter how large or small your wedding celebration is, hiring a professional photographer to capture all the love, emotion, and in-between moments during your celebration will be well worth it to have images of your celebration to hold onto forever.
Time to Research
Once you’ve set a date, it might be time to start researching wedding photographers. Generally, speaking photographers are booked six months to one year out. Narrowing down a photographer can be challenging. There are so MANY creative, talented individuals in this industry, and we had a massive list of potential photographers to choose from.
You have seen some brilliant articles about photography. Unfortunately, you have read some items that were solely geared to saving as much money as possible while planning a wedding (like suggesting you DON’T have to feed your photographer on a full day wedding) and those that did not value photography as an art or as an essential piece of your wedding day. While it is necessary to save money when planning a wedding, I believe you get what you pay for, and your wedding/elopement photographs will be what remains after your wedding day comes to an end and memories fade.
Land on a Budget
There are several things to consider when coming up with your number, and once you have it set, many ways to apply it toward the services you need most.
“The first thing I would suggest when setting your initial budget is to get into research mode! Please find a few wedding photographers in your area that post rates publicly on their websites so that you can get a general idea of what things cost and start with a realistic jumping-off point. The other big factors can be timeline and shot list expectations—for example; I offer a sliding scale depending on the length of hours I would be needed on the day. If you are trying to save money, but photos of the prep and getting ready aspect of the day is important to you, perhaps you’ll be willing to cut some time off capturing the reception. Things like adding a second photographer will also contribute to the final quote. Just be ready to think about those kinds of decisions and communicate with your partner about what is important to you both!”
– Kristine Cofsky
Know Your Style
Find not only what appeals to you now but will for generations to come. Looking beyond photography trends will lead you to discover your authentic taste.
“Even for the couples who aren’t photography savvy, I’d suggest making a collection of your favourite wedding photos that you’ve seen, and ask yourself why you like them — is it the editing, composition, their ability to capture emotion? Then find a photographer that does that thing well, and show them your collection to get aligned.”
– Hannah McSwain
Look Beyond Portfolio Highlights.
Viewing an entire gallery or two of real weddings a photographer has shot will allow you to see a more comprehensive range, from family portraits to reception detail shots.
“Look for honesty, truth, and emotional connection in a photographer’s work. Think back on an event that meant something meaningful in your life. Those meaningful moments in our lives are a series of images in motion. A single frame in our memory can contain incredible intimacy, joy, fear, love, anxiousness, or the “indescribable” we often experience. If a photographer captured those defining moments in your life, would they capture you looking right into a camera, wondering what to do with your hands? These moments aren’t planned. They aren’t staged. They are real. Honest. Raw. Not always perfect. They have motion. Movement. They are part of a MUCH bigger story. Just like your wedding day. What resonates within you? Look for that. I believe you’ll know it when you see it.”
– David Fiser
Consider the Lighting at Your Venues.
Whether it’ll be a sunny, outside setup or low-lit, indoor ambience, assessing the amount, source, and timing of light in your venue is key to making proper arrangements with the photographer.
“Light is the one thing that can truly make or break a photo. A fall or winter wedding (where cloudy days are more common) will look different from a sunny, summer wedding. A ceremony in the late afternoon (4 – 6 pm during the summer months) can be much better for lighting purposes over a midday ceremony. So my biggest advice to couples is to ask questions about light when chatting with a photographer. A true professional should be able to explain different lighting situations and outcomes easily and help a coupling structure a wedding timeline in a way that gives the best lighting possible throughout the day.”
– Jordan Voth
Use the Engagement Photo Session as a Trial Run.
An initial shoot with a photographer lets you meet each other in person, gauge chemistry, and see their style firsthand.
“I love having an engagement session. I think of it as practice. Most couples aren’t used to getting their picture taken, so having a little session before the wedding gives you time to get used to it. It also helps me see how best to encourage you, find out what you are comfortable with, and feel more like a friend the day of the wedding. Engagement sessions give people confidence—once they get the photos back and they see that they are beautiful and lovely and take a damn good picture, they are typically less anxious about the photos the day of the wedding.”
– Meghan Sadler
Ask the Overlooked Questions.
There are so many questions to ask, but which will yield the most telling answers? To get a good feel for your photographer, here’s one you shouldn’t skip.
“‘What is your approach to wedding day photography?’ It is important to know the photographer’s style of images and how they shoot to get those images. Are they like a fly on the wall, or do they like to get right in there posing people and create moments throughout the day? Do they capture a lot of candid imagery, or do they give a lot of direction? Your experience with the photographer on your wedding day can be just as important as the final images you receive, and this question should lend some crucial insight.”
– Shari & Mike
Understand the Rights to the Photos
The permissions and legal intricacies around rights to wedding photos can often be blurry, so any clarification you can get before signing off will benefit both you and the photographer down the line.
“For my clients, I typically own the rights to the images while giving the couple/family personal use to them. They receive high-resolution files to print and post on the internet for personal use as much as they would like, with the only modification allowed being cropping. Before using any couple’s imagery in a business portfolio, it’s best to check with them first. When it comes to any commercial usage or business usage with other vendors, it just becomes a conversation, but I am typically very flexible. I look at photo permissions on a case-by-case basis, and if you have specific desires for the images, ask so we can work something out.”
– Meghan Sadler
Get the Details for Editing the Timeline and Deliverables.
After the last toast and grand exit, the photographer’s work is far from finished. Knowing what to expect in the post-production process will help balance all that excitement and anticipation to relive your best day through photos.
“Our couples can expect to get exactly what they see on our website, and nothing less. Our turnaround time in our contract says about 12 weeks to receive their full gallery of images, including roughly 1,000 images fully edited in colour and black and white. While we typically deliver galleries within just six weeks, some photographers take up to six months. Some couples receive instant downloads for hi-res images and other tangible products and something to hold onto. Each package is different, so understand exactly what you’re getting and when upfront.”
– Jill & Ryan McGrath, With Love & Embers
Make Sure You Mesh
Look for an honest, organized, friendly photographer, because that’s who will be spending the day by your side.
“We find that it’s always helpful to arrange a video chat or meet before booking. This gives couples an idea of who we are and vice versa. There have been plenty of times we’ve talked to a couple, and it just didn’t feel like we’d be the right personality type or style for their day—and that’s 100% OK. You have to find someone you feel comfortable with, who you like, and trust because we are the artists you’re entrusting with your most precious moments and memories. Meshing well with your photographer means you can just let them capture your day and create in a way that is not only true to your wedding day but to who they are as an artist. It is just a win-win for everyone.” Looking for a Wedding Photo Company? Look no further. Boutique events group has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
– Jill & Ryan McGrath, With Love & Embers
So when it comes to selecting your wedding photographer, it all boils down to picking someone who jives with your visual style and you as a human. When you have a genuine connection with your photographer, they’ll do a better job capturing your emotions—your love, joy, and stillness. Years from now, your photos will be all you have to relive and reflect on this whirlwind, and you’ll thank yourself time and again for investing in them.
Essential Qualities to Look For:
- Find someone who cares more about your wedding images than they do about their packages and policies. Someone you know will help your wedding run smoothly and efficiently. Choose someone you can communicate with, someone who truly understands how you want your wedding to feel. How do you know? When you talk to her, she’s more interested in learning about you than describing all of the print sizes and prices.
- Is this someone that will add to the fun and emotion of your wedding? Remember your friend’s photographer, the grumpy, sweaty, old guy that was a dull, annoying jerk? Steer clear of that! Get someone that will make the work of posed pictures fun, memorable, and exciting! How can you tell who’s relaxed? When you talk to the photographer, ask how she feels about your family members taking pictures over her shoulder! If she stays relaxed, then everyone will have a good time.
- Look for someone who has some flexibility in styles. See what they have to offer. Some of the techniques you may want to consider are Traditional, Black & White, Candid, Romantic, or Photo-journalistic. Check to see how they handle both indoor and outdoor situations. Can they do fine portraiture as well as a genuinely candid style? Find out what they have for you. Remember that the photographer’s creativity and personality (and your rapport with him/her) is what makes your wedding images unique and your expressions more genuine!
- Find someone who has as few restrictions as possible regarding packages, number of prints, limiting locations, and limiting the amount of Film they shoot. Prepaid, pre-designed packages restrict the creativity of the photographer. Creativity does not come from a pre-packaged album containing, for example, 24- 8x10s. If you’re paying for an album, it should look and feel like a storybook! Think of it, not like a photo album, but an illustrated storybook that uses no words to tell the story. In most cases, packages are NOT a good thing because the photographer “knows” beforehand what he needs to shoot and will only strive for those images. Limiting the number of locations is common among wedding photographers. They’re looking for ways to beef up that package you’re ordering. Limiting Film (aka digital film/exposures) is the worst thing a photographer can do when covering an unfolding event such as a wedding! Most package-based photographers will limit Film even if they say they don’t! What would stop them from shooting just a couple of rolls – especially if you purchased the “24-8×10 package”. Always remember, once the moment is gone, it’s gone forever. Limiting Film is the easiest way to lose a moment.
- Ask about their guarantees!!! They should have some performance guarantee – GET-IT-IN-WRITING! If something didn’t come out the way you expected, they should offer to recreate it somehow or give you your money back! As of this writing, one performance guarantee is to get “preview” images on a CD before you get anything else. These are miniature versions of your digital photos, like getting a sample before buying the whole scoop of ice cream. If you don’t like them, the photographer should give you your money back! In other words, you don’t buy the photographs until after you’ve seen them!
Here Is a Pet Peeve.
If you are looking for a wedding photographer, if you are looking for any wedding vendor, don’t inquire about said services and say, “I am looking for someone who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.” Long, deep sigh.
Most wedding vendors understand most people are not working with a bottomless budget, but everyone has a different option of what expensive is. Why not be a little upfront about your account and see what you might be able to get with that. If you haven’t done so already, check the photographer’s website and see if they already listed some pricing information. Time is valuable, and photographers don’t want to waste your time. So if they are way out of your budget and you can’t budge on budget or amount of coverage, maybe you should skip contacting them.
Once you have narrowed down your photographer, hire them for a “test” run and book an engagement session. This is a great way to spend a couple of hours with them and see if your personalities mesh, you feel comfortable spending hours with them on your wedding day, and you get great images you love. Win, win! This is extra helpful if either of you is camera shy as it will help you be more relaxed on your wedding day. If you are eloping, many couples choose not to have an engagement session, which is OK. You can opt to meet your photographer for a coffee or safely via Zoom (thanks, Covid) for an opportunity to chat and get comfortable with them. At Boutique Events Group, we have compiled a list of the Best Photographers in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.